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Wedding Wednesday Discussions: My Friend is taking the Pictures at my wedding……..discuss!
As a wedding planner I am here to advice and guide my couples in every aspect of their wedding, but never too take over their plans. That’s why when a bride or groom tells me they are not having a professional photographer as ‘they know a friend who has a good camera’ or ‘we’re going to let our guests take the pictures’ it fills me with complete dread! What do I say? Do I scream at them NO don’t do it? And hope that they don’t sack me, or let them get on with it and hope that they don’t come back to me after the wedding and ask me why I didn’t stop them?
There are lots of reasons why couples choose not to have a professional photographer, and most of them come down to budget, but I do feel that every couple should have a professional do the job.
Now I know most of the photographers reading this will be agreeing with me, but I guess some of the brides and grooms still won’t get it until the big day when it’s too late!
I have heard too many brides say to me after the wedding ‘I wish I’d got a professional to do it’ or ‘the one thing I regret is having my friend to do the photos’ why? Well I will explain.
1) You friend is not a professional and may have never shot a wedding before. They may take nice holiday snaps but this is not a holiday, this is the best and most important day of your life and you want to remember it properly. The last thing you want to do is look back on the photos and regret your decisions because they didn’t capture the moment properly, or they were blurred, or not the right style, or didn’t get all the shots that you wanted.
2) A professional does this every weekend so they know the drill, if there isn’t a planner involved the photographer is often left to take the lead and tell people when things should be going on. They know the timings of things and will know which ‘classic’ photos need to be taken
3) Your friend tacking those pictures is most likely going to be a guest as well…….and believe me they can’t do both, and it’s not really fare to expect them to do both!
4) Your friend won’t have all the professional equipment that a professional will. Yes they may have a fancy SLR but will they have the right lighting, back up batteries, back up memory cards, lap tops to upload onto during the day, will they have insurance in case the worst happens and it all goes wrong…………..the likelihood is that they will have none of these things.
5) What happens if your friend is ill on the day and can’t come? You have no photos! If a professional is ill and can’t work they will have either a 2nd shooter or a backup who can step in at the last minute
I have heard some horror stories from both side of the camps, brides who have got married and hated their ‘friends’ wedding pictures. I have also heard professionals who have told me stories of brides and grooms coming to them to have photos re edited, or touched up as they were unhappy with the results. Brides going to professionals for an after shoot, a cherish the dress. or rock the dress to make up for the bad ‘friends’ photos.
So unless your friend actually is a professional photographer it is never going to be a good idea to get them to take your wedding photos. Even if photography ‘just isn’t your thing’ and not something that bothers you, remember these are your memories! The day will come and go but you will only have your photographs to remind you of that day.
Now yes I know it is very well for me to say all this, It’s not me paying for your wedding and yes I know a lot of photographers don’t come cheap, and if you have a limited budget then this may be the obvious option to loose. But there are ways around itphoto creditL Eliza Claire Photogarphy
1) Find a photographer who offers packages by the hour, or a half day packages. I do think it’s best to have them there all day and for at least an hour of the evening reception…but a compromise is to have them there for less time and will certainly save you money
2) Find a photographer who offers a digital package. More and more photographers are offering high resolution CDs with their photography packages and lots of them are happy to offer this instead of an album which can also save you money. You don’t have to get the album made up straight away, this can be done 6 months – 12 months lasted. Maybe you can use your wedding present money to get the album made up?
3) Pay in instalments. Some photographers will offer payment plans, they may not advertise this but ask.
4) If you are having a wedding that may be a bit different find a photographer that fits that style and tell them, the chances are for a wedding that is less traditional, or a certain style the photographer may be willing to offer a discount? It’s going to make their portfolio look great!
5) Ask your guest for photography vouchers as wedding presents. You will get wedding presents weather you ask for them or not, so why not get your guests to donate towards you photography? You may think it’s cheeky but it’s better than getting 4 toasters that you don’t want!
So let me know your thoughts……….are you a bride who had a friend take your pictures, where they good or bad, would you do it again? Are you a Photographer who has experience of this? Are you currently planning your wedding at the moment and struggling with budget and considering ditching your photographer?
Tell me your thoughts I am dying to hear your stories!
Right on sister!
We are always happy to discuss budgets, and it is far better to have a professional photographer for the main part of the day, ceremony, family and couple pictures and have a friend cover the evening event. That way you make sure the key pictures are good.
I agree with all you have said, and after the Big Day the pictures are your only reminder. No second chances
Fantastic article Kelly!
Getting a friend to take your photographs can be hit and miss. Sometimes you can get great images, and sometimes you can’t. It really comes down to what you expect to be honest.
We also shouldn’t forget that some professional photographers started out by doing friends and family weddings.
I used a family member to take my wedding vide. It is much better than my sister’s ‘professional’ video, which was shaky, the colours weren’t right, and they printed my sister’s name wrong.
So like I said, hit and miss.
Oh and my cousin’s wedding photographs, taken by a ‘friend’ new to wedding photography, were better than her sister’s who had paid more than double that.
Bang and to the point! It is the last thing you have of your day after all the celebrations… And would you rather be crying with happiness at how fab your pictures are and how they capture the day perfectly or crying at how bad they are?
A great article, Kelly! Yes, a lot of pros start as being the “friend with a camera” but as long as the couple is OK with that and understands that then it’s important. However, I also think when planning a wedding, photography should be THE MOST important thing to consider. After your wedding is over, the cake will be eaten, the flowers will die, but the photos become part of a couple’s life and ultimately a family treasure. Therefore, I don’t think this is something couples – regardless of budget – should take lightly.
Lastly, I’m in the camp of limiting my digital package. Wedding photos are family heirlooms to marvel at someday with your children and grandchildren. With the changing technology, today’s discs – just like cassette tapes and floppy discs – will become obsolete. Many people who get the disc, forget about it. Life gets in the way and there’s no time to get prints. What will you do when you dig out the disc 7 years later and find your computer no longer “reads” it? You may lose that heirloom for good. I just think that’s something ALL photographers need to consider before just throwing it all on a disc that will be most likely be hiding in a desk drawer.
Really great post Kelly – spot on!
As a wedding planner and bride to be, I completely understand how important wedding photography is. For me, wedding photography is right up there with the venue in terms of importantness.
I do love your Wedding Wednesday discussions.
Couldnt agree more with most of this – in these times its hard to argue against the budgetary decisions but what the client is paying for is the creativity of the photographer – Ive had first hand experience of this over summer with the Uncle Bob (who actually charges for weddings) producing a set of – I use the term loosely – images from the wedding of his neice – I was booked to shoot her brothers wedding later on in the year. As these were close friends I offered to design and produce an album from his images – he had given the images on CD as a wedding present !! He used the same camera but used budget lenses. The two sets of images couldnt be more different – it was like stepping back to see how it was done 30 yrs ago – and done badly ! Bad composition, harsh flash,zero creativity and poorly processed images. And he apparently charges about half of my standard fee !! Caveat emptor !!!
Totally agree!!!! Great post Kelly! We have been planning our wedding for the last 16 months and we booked our photographer as soon as we had a venue and date. It was right at the top of the list because the pics (and if course the marriage ideally) are the only things that will last after the wedding itself is over. That is how we will capture the memories of the day. We are having our photographer for half the day because he is not cheap and we are also not having an album. This is our way of compromising without missing out on what is important to us. We would rather have a fantastic photographer who produces work we love for a proportion if the day, and have to wait a while before we can pay for our album, rather than a cheaper photographer all day when all of the images could be dreadful! I also believe personally that guests should be guests and suppliers should be suppliers on the day. It’s unfair to expect anyone to do a good job of both.
I’m a florist, not a photographer so have nothing to gain, but I would ALWAYS, always, always advise couples to use a professional photographer. I just don’t think it’s worth the risk, I think good pictures of the day are probably the most important part of the wedding and you will have them for the rest of your life.
Completely agree – some of my friends who are already married have received some great photos from guests which add to the professional ones but there’s no way they could replace them. Like you say, if someone is a good enough friend to be trust with such an important job then surely you’d prefer them to be a guest and enjoy the day rather than take all that responsibility! I wouldn’t dare not have have a prof. photographer (or a videographer actually).
I completely agree with what you’ve said Kelly, it’s too big a job for a friend attending the wedding and too important an aspect to have any element of risk involved.
A good friend of mine got married this summer. We have a mutual friend who is a professional photographer (we’re all old school friends) but it would have been unfair to expect her to do as good a job as she would have wanted to, and enjoy the wedding at the same time. The friend getting married therefore hired a professional, someone that she felt “got” the kind of vibe she was looking for i.e. nothing cheesy, not too staged, very natural and capturing the moment.
Our mutual photographer friend brought her camera with her so was able to take some amazing shots as well, which the photographer may not have been able to capture without intruding too much on groups of friends chatting, but they were all in addition to the main photographer’s portfolio. I think this was the best of both worlds.
I think I would say that if you do have a friend who loves photography and is a dab hand behind the lens, encourage them to bring their camera and join in where they want to, but have a professional to fully cover the event. It means that your friend can relax and actually be in some of the photographs, plus they get to make a personal contribution to your big day. You’ll have such an interesting and varied portfolio at the end, it will be amazing.
I agree that getting a friend with little or no experience is generally a bad idea for the reasons you state. One thing I might suggest is asking a photography student to do the job. Going on flickr.com you can find many talented youngsters who are:
A) Very enthusiastic
B) Very talented and creative
C) Up to date with modern techniques and styles
Of course, this still doesn’t get around the fact that they wont have much wedding photography experience, but I would suggest that they would probably have more skills, talent and knowledge than ‘a friend with a nice camera’.
If I was on a very strict budget this would be my preferred option – I would rather pay £500 to a creative and talented student than a friend with a camera, or even a relatively experienced wedding photographer who’s work is uninspiring and dated.
I agree with David. If you have no room in your budget for a decent professional photographer then try to find at least a final year photography student, recent graduate or someone who is just starting their own photography business. Quite often people just starting up have worked for larger studios and have a fair bit of experience but no portfolio to show around as the images will belong to their previous employers, so they work for almost cost price until they have enough images to put some albums together. Also, people skills are a big part of a wedding photographers’ skillset so be comfortable that the person who is taking your pics can handle large groups of people without becoming stressed. If you use a friend or ‘someone with a good camera’ then prepare yourself for possible disappointment. Not everyone is as lucky as Kirsteen (see above) and it can be hit or miss as she says.
Wow loving the responces, thank you everyone for adding your thoughts and opinions. great point made by David about hiring in a photography student, i’d not thought fo that great idea. And anoter great point about the service and personability of non professional!
Keep them coming this is making for very interesting reading!
I totally agree with everything you have said, as a former wedding photography assistant I know all the pitfalls, and you are bang on!
I got married last year and contacted an old colleague who agreed to use my wedding as a training session for a very creative photography student, we only paid £300 and we are overjoyed with the results – which I know would have cost nearer £3000 (yes!!) from the studio I used to work at.
The wedding couples need to ask themselves – how important are these photos to them? – because after their big day the cake will be eaten and the flowers will have wilted, and all they will be left with is a big white dress in the attic, and these pictures. The day will pass in a blur for them – these pictures will bring it all back, and then some.
And definitely go digital – ask for the negs but no prints, and then you can build your own slide show to music on your home PC (parents and relatives will love to receive the CD!), and put an album together later when you have paid off all the other bills…
Great discussion topic!! :-) xxx
Fab article, I totally agree. I am recently married well two years and the photographs are the most important thing I have. Memories are fantastic but I have done so much more with those wonderful photographs. The thought of having badly taken images on the most important day of my life fills me with dread. Yes I am a wedding planner too but don’t take commission so nothing for me to gain but PLEASE engage the services of a professional you wont regret it on the days you curl up with your scrumptious husband and look back on a day you can totally relive through your photographs.
Great blog Kelly. xxxx
Interesting discussion Kelly! I think unfortunately, there are always going to be a number of couples who find out how important photography is when it’s too late and they’ve only got the snapshots that friends have taken. It’s very easy to tell yourself that your friends photos are going to satisfy your requirements when you’re thinking about saving money, but from my point of view as a photographer (obviously!) photography is not an area that couples should compromise on.
It’s so much more than how good a camera a person’s got. Of course, as professional photographers we have the best kit- we have to rely on it, and we’re usually obsessed by it! But to be honest, give me an entry-level SLR camera that can be operated on Manual and I would still come out with great photos for my clients. Wedding photography is a specialism- you need people skills, you need to know your camera like the back of your hand (and the theory behind shutter speed, aperture size, ISO level etc), you have to go above and beyond to get those really special photos, you have to know what’s happening to who and when, you have to keep up what can often be a very fast pace of events, you have to deal with extremes of lighting- midday sun, dark churches, night time dancing, strong backlighting…and it goes on.
What’s more than that, the time a wedding photographer spends on the wedding day itself is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the time involved, and in general, I don’t think amateurs can have an understanding of what it takes to produce professional quality photos and the vast majority of friends think their photography role ends when they download the photos straight to disc. There’s the pre-wedding shoot, the preparation and organisation for the big day itself, checking of gear. We get home from the wedding having stayed from early until late, we backup photos a number of times, we shortlist, we do in-depth processing/editing, we upload to your own webgallery, we design your album, we deal with print orders from your family and friends etc etc.
Lastly, I really identify with what Shuva wrote about digital files as your only wedding photography product. I have lost count of the number of guests I have spoken to at weddings who have said that they only got a disc of images from their wedding, and years down the line they still haven’t done anything with them. Discs at some point will become obselete. Printed photographs have and always will provide the lasting memories from the events we photograph, and professional wedding albums are only available through professional photographers- they are a world apart from what can be bought online or in WHSmiths, Tesco etc. There is something in a printed photo that isn’t there when you look on a screen and people often tell us that our photos look even better when printed. It might sound over the top but we put our life and soul into producing wedding photographs for our clients and it would be soul-destroying to think of them sat on a disc in a drawer somewhere!
There are alway going to be up and coming amateurs who could make it in the wedding photography industry, so I’m not saying that just because somebody is an amateur it means that they won’t take good photos. Calling yourself a professional photographer essentially means nothing and I find myself getting angry when I see some of the poor work that people are paying money for from so-called professional photographers. It sounds harsh but I think unless you produce work of a basic quality, you have no right to charge for it, even if you’re a ‘budget’ photographer. There is no excuse for photos that are poorly exposed, blurry, badly composed, or of missed moments- these are the very basics of wedding photography. So how do you tell whether an amateur would take good photos for you? Just use your eyes, but make sure you compare it to what a (good) professional can deliver. Then you can decide if the money you’ll save is to you worth the difference.
I think I wrote an essay!
I started out by doing friends weddings — BUT they also hired me AS their photographer and knew previously that while I may have been inexperienced in the wedding field, I was experienced and qualified in the photography field (I spent time in a studio setting prior). To this day if my friends hire me as their photographer? Then I am their photographer 110% — that means no dancing, no drinking, and limited socializing with our other friends who might be present because I am WORKING.
The friends who realize that I will not jeopardize my professionalism or their photographs for a glass of champagne or the cha-cha slide often times hire another photographer to cover their wedding so that I may attend completely as a guest (and it’s a nice “change of pace” for me) — I often will capture their engagement sessions or Cherish the Dress sessions. Those friends who can’t live without me as their wedding day photographer? Know that I am there 110% as their photographer.
Most photographers, especially in this economy, are MORE than willing to discuss budgets, and there really are amazing photographers who are capable of meeting nearly every budget…it might be a student photographer who’s just starting out or perhaps a second shooter (some photographers offer packages that their second shooters shoot as first shooters — hopefully that makes sense, lol! — Ultimately you still get that same company’s look & feel, but at a reduced cost) — but there are definitely a variety of options out there! Don’t be afraid to ASK — all they can do is tell you no — and perhaps, they’ll tell you yes! :)
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