When it comes to planning your wedding, choosing the right wedding vendor is important. These days, much of the industry has gone DIY, even when it come to photography.
We’re all looking to save money. Who wouldn’t be these days? And while saving $500 now feels like a very big deal, whether you spend it today or not won’t matter too much ten years from now. But the photographs captured on your big day will still matter. They’ll matter a lot. For this reason, instead of hiring an amateur photographer from your pool of friends and family, I suggest you seriously consider hiring a professional.
Google searches find horror stories about professionals of all kinds who didn’t do their job. That’s terrible. But when you read reviews reporting negative experiences with businesses, you have to keep in mind that most people don’t complain about how great something was—they only complain about how bad it was. It’s just human nature. But here’s the tricky part, when talking about amateurs in just about any field who have botched a job, it’s just the opposite. Why is that? You can find blogs and forum posts on the Internet where brides share their success stories about using amateur photographers. But this can be misleading. A bride who used an amateur has little motivation to complain online if it went poorly. The disappointed bride wouldn’t post about it. Why would she? After all, it wasn’t a business that let her down, it was a friend or relative. For every positive experience you read about an amateur, there probably are several bad ones you don’t read about. They’re just not reported. For professionals, it’s the opposite. For every negative experience reported, there are far more positive ones that never are acknowledged.
Coming from a professional photographer, this may sound like a smear campaign against the amateur. I was an amateur once, too. And if I could go back, knowing what I know now, I would never agree to shoot a wedding as an amateur. There is simply too much at stake: the loss of precious photos, friendships, money, and reputation. Instead of taking a chance on an amateur, I suggest finding a professional wedding photographer who you’re really comfortable with, one who adds to your peace of mind that all will go well on your wedding day.
Here are three good reasons for hiring a professional that you may not have considered.
1) Professionals Have All The Gear They Need
The exact gear in a photographer’s bag isn’t the issue here. Expensive cameras don’t equal great photographs and cheap cameras don’t equal bad photographs. A great photograph is captured because of the mind behind the machine. A professional knows that without his gear, there is only so much he can do. But even then, the professional will probably use whatever he has available to him—however limited—better than an amateur will.
Most enthusiastic amateurs with an eye on the professional market will have a camera that is more than sufficient for the job and a lens that will ensure sharp images. They probably will have a flash unit that is tough enough to handle a big dark room and maybe even a stand to prop it up on for interesting formal photographs. This is all well and good, and provided nothing goes wrong, they will have the tools to capture the images you want. They might even have an eye for what makes a good formal photograph.
But what if something does go wrong?
Professional photographers don’t carry two of everything. That would mean having to lug two gigantic bags all over the place. But a professional will have redundancy in all of the most important equipment (camera bodies, flash units, batteries, memory) and a contingency plan for the unlikely event that something they don’t have redundancy for fails. Professionals will be ready with backups of the crucial gear, and the knowledge of how to work around gear that may have conked out. This usually isn’t the case with amateurs, and it isn’t fair to expect it of them.
2) Professionals Have the Time They Need
A wedding is a big deal. It’s eight or more hard-core hours of shooting with very little time to collect your thoughts and figure out what to do next. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In an eight hour wedding, your photographer will capture anywhere from 1500 to 2500 images. That is a huge number. Have you ever gone on vacation and taken that many photos? It’s a lot of photographs to deal with. And while you probably didn’t do much with the photos from your vacation, your photographer will need to meticulously comb through all the photographs one by one, removing the duds and tweaking and processing the rest.
For an amateur with established workflow to keep him organized and on-track (and motivated, I must add. Trust me, it’s hard!), it probably will be a long time before you see your wedding photos. Three to four months might be optimistic. After all, they have jobs, families and lives to attend to. A professional, on the other hand, has an established workflow, will have budgeted his time, and will be able to deliver your photographs in their best condition, and in a timely manner.
3) Professionals Have Plenty of the Right Experience
Shooting non-wedding events—parties, concerts, etc.—does not adequately prepare a photographer to shoot a wedding, though it does provide a necessary foundation. Professionals have followed a variety of paths into wedding photography and have had plenty of time to learn what to do and what not to do.
Your wedding day will be a complex event with a lot of moving parts. Your photographer, while capturing images of you and your spouse getting ready, will have to find time to snatch shots of the details—like your rings, dress, shoes, jewelry and decorations. When you have finished getting ready, he’ll have to shift gears immediately into the ceremony where he’ll need to remember where he can and can’t go without disrupting the ceremony and distracting the guests who are trying to focus on the commitment you’re making. Then, almost instantly, he’ll have to arrange and pose a big collection of people he doesn’t know and who aren’t accustomed to being photographed and really just want to party. And, he’ll need to do it in the 50 or so minutes available. When that’s over, he’ll have to change gears again to shoot in a variety of shifting light situations where the ‘auto’ mode on the camera is woefully inadequate.
There are countless things that could go differently than expected. What if the DJ brings some dance floor lighting effects? The professional photographer knows how to make his equipment meet the challenge. An amateur might not. What about a guest with a camera fighting for your attention too? The professional knows how to handle them gracefully without sacrificing the images you’ve paid him to create. What if the wedding planner hasn’t warned him that you’re about to cut the cake? The professional will be ready and forceful enough to wedge through the crowd to catch it in time. As an amateur, I had a great deal of difficulty with that sort of situation. As a professional, I’m not at all shy about it.
But the topic of experience goes even farther. The professional will be all over the place, capturing images of a huge array of people. If the amateur photographer is a friend, other friends of his probably will be at your wedding also. Most amateurs will be drawn to spend a lot of the time in the company of, or near, the people they know. This often results in a huge number of photographs of a few particular people, and the loss of other images that may be more important to you. Even if the professional you hire is a friend, his experience will keep him on track, not distracted by guests he knows.
Additionally, professionals will see their attendance at your wedding as a service to you. Some amateurs may not. If the amateur sees himself as a guest, rather than as a vendor adding to your total wedding experience, you may end up without some images you wished you had. The amateur photographer might also be unacquainted with important wedding vendor etiquette. This could range from very minor things, to much bigger problems (Though it’s far from typical, as a child, I attended a wedding where an amateur photographer, a friend the bride thought was ready for the challenge, became intoxicated and there were no usable images! Snapshots by other guests are all that she has.) The professional, on the other hand, fully understands why he is there and he will act accordingly.
You may not have considered these things, but the professional has.
In conclusion, everyone has to start somewhere, but save money elsewhere.
There are lots of ways and places to save money on your wedding. But don’t risk losing something you’re going to cherish for the rest of your life. Save on the cake, or the flowers, or the decorations, or the food—the things that will be gone the very next day and forgotten in a week by almost all of your guests. But trust the important, life long things to a professional who fully grasps the importance of the job.
Every professional was once an amateur with a lot to learn. If making mistakes is key to learning, you don’t want your wedding day being the classroom. Instead, if you have a friend who wishes to build a portfolio or get into the game, ask your professional photographer to allow him to shoot as well. With a little coordination between your professional photographer and your amateur friend, you can rest easy knowing the photography is under control and you can feel good about giving your friend a chance to gain experience he might not otherwise get.
After all, friendships are important and you don’t want something like bad images, or worse, no images, destroying them. Hire a professional, and set you mind at ease. On this matter, anyway.