I talked to a bride the other day that had hired a family friend to photographer her wedding. She wasn’t really onboard but felt obligated since she had known them for so long. As a result, her day was chaotic, stressful to the point of tears, and the images she received over 10 months later were terrible. I really felt for her. When I hear that a couple isn’t happy with their photographs and/or how their photographer treated them, it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me. It literally hurts my brain. I strive every single day to give my couples 110% of myself because I know this day will only happen once and the photos will be the only thing left once its all said and done. This inspired me to write about why it’s so important to hire a professional and not a friend, amateur or anyone that’s not an actual wedding photographer.
Let me start by saying that I’m not writing this because I’m trying to persuade you to hire me, I’m writing this because I want to educate couples about what is likely to happen if they don’t hire a true professional.
“My friend has a nice camera/took photography in high school/will do it for free.”
Your friend has little to no experience with shooting, let alone coordinating and executing a 8-14 hour day of consistent problem solving, standing all day, keeping 30+ people organized and on time, and of course, having an artistic vision at any moment. That last one is the hardest, in my opinion. It’s easy to be brilliant when you’ve got nothing but time, however, a wedding requires brilliance at the drop of the hat.
WHAT TO PHOTOGRAPH
On the topic of artist brilliance, your friend has zero idea how to pose you or even what photos they are supposed to get. Do you really want the photographer at your wedding looking at Pinterest for posing ideas or checking off a shot list during portraits? It will slow down your day and cause you unnecessary stress.
A friend or beginner photographer is not a storyteller. They haven’t photographed enough weddings to know how to tell your story. There will be moments missing that are essential in telling your complete love story. A professional wedding photographer is an experienced storyteller. They know when moments will happen, how to plan for them, capture them, and recreate them. Precious moments won’t be missed because a professional has the experience, the disciple, the right equipment, the right relationships and the artistic vision to capture your love story.
WEDDING DAY STRUCTURE
Your friend also won’t know how a wedding day is supposed to go. Yes we’ve all been to weddings before but a wedding to a photographer is very different. How long does getting ready take, what restrictions are there during a ceremony, whose supposed to be in the family formals, when do you cut the cake, and so on. You’re basically asking a brand new driver to suddenly know how to be a race car driver… yikes!
If you’re friends with this person, odds are, he/she will know a good portion of your guests. This becomes a major problem as your photographer is now mingling and talking with friends and just missed great grandma Betty’s heartfelt speech at dinner. Now that moment is gone and there’s tension between you and your friend.
Don’t expect your friend to have the right equipment for all lighting situations, if they even have lighting equipment at all. Photography equipment is very expensive and can take years to accumulate all the necessary gear a wedding photographer needs. I, like most photographers, rented what we needed until we could afford it. My motto was, just because I couldn’t afford the best, didn’t mean my couples didn’t deserve the best. So I would rent the best gear so that I was prepared for anything. Your friend won’t know about renting or even if he/she does, he/she is shooting your wedding for free so they’re not going to invest any money into your day.
Editing images and preserving them at their highest quality takes the right tools and discipline to pull off. Your friend will need to know how to store the images safely, have the software to read the files and edit them so they all look like your day, not an instagram filter. An editing style is something you learn over time and since your friend doesn’t have a style yet, it’s likely you’ll see a gallery of images that will look like they’re from 5 different photographers. Strange filters, weird crops and incorrect exposure will run ramped through your images.
Another huge part of editing, (and the one most people never think about), is discipline. It takes great self discipline to sit at your computer for 8+ hours looking at thousands upon thousands of images without anyone telling you to do it. Time management and discipline will ensure that you get your images long before your 1 year anniversary. I’m not exaggerating, I’ve heard from several couples that they had to wait an entire year to get their images and/or album. It’s pretty common.
Your images are edited and finally in your hands… now what happens if you lose them? Your friend doesn’t have the 7 redundant backup systems that ensure your wedding will never be lost. Odds are, once they hand over your images on a CD or flash drive, they have deleted them from their computer. Years from now when your computer crashes or your CD gets scratched and is unreadable, your day will be gone. Biggest heartbreak ever.
You might be saying to yourself, “Okay Sarah, but what about a person just starting out in weddings but has photography experience?” Great question! A person who is new to weddings will face some of the same challenges I mentioned above. He/she may not know how the timeline of the day should run, they might not know all the rules for certain traditions or ceremonies and they may not have the correct gear for a wedding day. It all boils down to this… a friend or amateur photographer is using your once-in-a-lifetime day for practice.
This is your day. Stop stressing that your friend will miss something and hire a true wedding professional. You’ll be so glad you did. – Sarah