Wedding Photography: Hiring a pro vs your friend with a DSLR
It probably sounds cliché coming from a wedding photographer but literally one of the most important things you will do for your wedding day is hire a professional to capture the day. While there are plenty analogies out there I could quote, let’s face it, the photos are the one thing you will have left over to help you relive your journey and take you back to that special place over and over. One of the things that makes us cringe for the couples we ‘almost’ got to work with was not when someone said, you’re a little out of my price range or we think we found someone who better fits our needs, but when someone says “Our friend has a nice camera and takes a lot of photos, I think we are just going to get him to do it.” From personal accounts of people we've had the privilege of working with who’ve told us about their friends who did that and had a horrible experience, to the myriad of forums out there for professional photographers and consumers of professional photography who’ve also had bad experiences with this move, it really does behoove you to not take this chance on something so important on one of the biggest days of your life. In one of our previous blogs we wrote about the average cost of a wedding photographer and what goes into that, but for this we wanted to further educate potential clients and those in the market for a wedding photographer what you can expect from a reputable professional vs a hobbyist.
Now let’s start with a simple differentiation between a professional and a hobbyist. A professional is someone who makes from money (and possibly a living) from the business of photography. A hobbyist is someone who does it just for fun. While both should arguably love every minute and aspect of what they do, a professional is completely committed (or should be). For a professional, it’s not just showing up to take a picture, slapping a few edits on it and delivering the final product. It’s doing your research on the location you will be shooting and possibly scouting it beforehand. It’s figuring out the best time of day for that date and location in terms of traffic, lighting, and weather. It’s being flexible to your client’s needs and understanding what concerns they may have going into the shoot/event. It’s communicating with your clients before, during, and after so that they are comfortable throughout and receive not only your service, but the experience you provide. It’s being a customer service professional and adjusting when things don’t go according to plan. Lastly, it’s taking photos and delivering a final product that your client’s will remember for the rest of their lives. Now, not everyone who presents themselves as a professional will hold themselves to this high standard, which is why you will often hear us say “reputable professional.” Someone, who by way of word of mouth, reviews, and overall portfolio/business practices embodies everything previously described above.
One of the most, if not the most important thing a reputable professional is going to bring to the table is experience. What we as professional wedding photographers gain from this experience is what ultimately makes the difference on your wedding day. It may seem simple but subtle things like where to stand, holding your kiss a few seconds after saying I do, or politely asking guests to adjust their location so they can help make for a better shot. One of the biggest things that comes with experience is the instinct of anticipation. In our opinion, this is one of the most important aspects of shooting a wedding. Many times you have a moment that you want during the day or a particular sequence of events captured that may only last a few seconds, this anticipation helps us make sure that even the smallest of moments won’t be missed. These can be things like the priceless smile of a mother as her daughter walks down the aisle, or even your father’s soft tears as he holds you for the father daughter dance. When you hire a reputable professional, you also have someone comfortable in all situations and settings. But more-so than this, an experienced professional can also help you make the most of your day by helping you make necessary adjustments to your timeline, photo location, and setting things up so that you look your best on the day of!
Another huge factor to consider when trying to figure out whether or not too invest in a professional wedding photographer vs a friend with a DSLR, is comfort in all situations. Jenny and I can tell you from firsthand experience that during the hustle of a wedding day, you as a photographer are going to run into some situations that may not be comfortable, a reputable professional knows how to handle these situations, an amateur likely will not. There may come a time when you need to be assertive and tell a guest with a cell phone to get out of the aisle as the bride is walking down. You may have to tell the bride’s mom who simply could not resist to bring her point and shoot that you need her out of the way for the first look. Assertiveness and anticipation of what to expect, what to look for, and things to squash so they don’t ruin a particular moment are all things you develop as an experienced professional and should be things that are brought to the table when shooting your wedding. One of the other aspects when it comes to ‘comfort in all situations’ is shooting on the fly, in multiple lightings, with multiple external factors at play that could affect your photo. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve shot a first dance in a covered pavilion with half of the dance floor covered by harsh light, and the other soft shade. Being able to adjust your settings without so much as a split second thought back and forth a couple dozen times as the bride and groom swing from one side of the dance floor to the other is important in this situation. Being able to get the bride as she’s walking down the aisle and then turn to capture the expression on the groom’s face with a custom white balance adjustment because he’s in a completely different purple lighting as he’s on a church stage while the bride is in white lighting as she walks? A reputable professional will have a game plan for this and will ultimately be able to quickly adjust on the fly. You hear it all the time about how fast a wedding day goes by, but coming from the perspective of someone whose there observing all the details and events of the day, it not only goes by quickly, but it moves at a fast pace. Being able to adjust and adapt to situations that may arise at the drop of a hat is another reason hiring a professional wedding photographer is a must!
Lastly, peace of mind and assurance that you are 100x more likely to get what you want out of your wedding photos by hiring a pro. Being able to enjoy your wedding day is what it’s all about. You shouldn’t have to worry about what your wedding vendors are doing throughout the day or if they are doing what you want them too. When you hire a reputable professional you can rest assured that the communications that have transpired between both parties will be effectively put into action. In the case of hiring the right wedding photographer for you, this means the peace of mind of being able to enjoy your wedding day from beginning to end and then being able to relive that day over and over because you invested in a professional. Several times this year we’ve been contacted by people who had a friend shoot their wedding and we’ve been asked to help edit their photos because their friend didn’t or they were partially edited, but many small (and big details in some cases) were completely missed. This is another aspect when it comes to hiring a reputable pro that you typically won’t have to worry about. All of the professionals we know in our network deliver a high quality final product that has been given their special touch. In addition to editing, most reputable pros will edit to their client’s liking as well, as some client’s will prefer brighter photos with lighter colors, some will prefer darker colors and more contrast, but ultimately you want your images to have the final look that you desire. This isn’t something you’re likely to get when using a friend.
Now, there is one exception to all of this, if your friend is a pro then you’re good to go! Lol. No but seriously, our purpose in writing this is as most of our blogs are, to help all the couples out there make an informed decision when figuring out the details of their wedding. It is by no means a knock on aspiring pros who are building their portfolios and improving their craft as we have all been there at some point. We believe in helping others who are up and coming in the field as it lends itself to a sense of community. This is more for those who expect a high standard of quality in their wedding day photos and experience. As with all things in life, you are more likely to get what you want/need by investing in the right areas. Just as you wouldn’t hire a general physician to complete your heart surgery, you likely wouldn’t want to choose your uncle who does studio photography as a hobby to shoot your wedding. If you know in your heart that photos are going to be one of the most important aspects of your day, then it behooves you to look into hiring a pro. As with all of our clients, we encourage you to make this decision based on their portfolio, how comfortable you with them, what past clients are saying, and your budget!
We hope this has helped shed some light on the priceless intangibles that you get when you hire a professional over a friend.
Joe & Jenny