Wedding Planning Wednesday: I’m not having a Photographer at my wedding as our Budget won’t stretch………..think again! Here are a few ideas.

Wedding Planning Wednesday: I’m not having a Photographer at my wedding as our Budget won’t stretch………..think again! Here are a few ideas.

As a wedding planner I get to work with lots of different brides and grooms, some with big budgets, some with medium sized budgets and some with really tiny budgets. I won’t harp on about the misconceptions that we only work with couples with loads of money, as I may have covered that last week……..but yes some couples employ me and many other wedding planners alike to guide them on their wedding budget, and save them money.
I am currently working on a complete mixed bag of weddings, and some of these couple have told me that they are forgoing a wedding photographer as their budget just won’t stretch.
Often being told ‘we are letting our guests take the pictures’ or ‘our friend has a good camera, so they are going to do it for us’……at this point I put my head in my hands and scream NOOOOOO

lisa jane photography

Now I may have covered some of these points in a former wedding Wednesday discussion, BUT I feel very strongly about this and having recently worked with a couple who told me just this I feel I need to share my experience with you.
This is what I told them when they said they were trying to keep cost down by not hiring a wedding photographer and getting their guest to just take pictures

s6 photography

Point 1) Your guests are there to watch you get married, not take pictures, yes they will take the odd picture here and there, and some of them may be good, but are they going to be standing in front of you while you are saying your vows in the registry office…no they will only get the back of your head.
Point 2) using your guest pictures mean that there will be no continuity in Pictures, lots of different cameras means lots of different styles
Point 3) group shots won’t work as your friends won’t be in the pictures.
Point 4) Friends get bored of tacking pictures after a while and that is when the key elements can be lost, for example as traditional as it is how would you feel if you didn’t get a shot of you cutting the cake of that Kiss
Point 5) do your guests have a backup plan if the camera brakes or the memory card gets deleted?
Point 6) do they have insurance?
Point 7) will they get all those little detailed shots that captured your months of hard work, table decorations, seating plans etc. can all get lost
Point 8] this is your wedding, THE most important day of your life, do you really want to leave your memories in the hands of a few drunken guests?

So with those points made, (a little more subtly than that I have to say) my couple then agreed with me and said that they really did need a wedding photographer……..BUT how do they get over the issue of budget??
Their budget hadn’t change, they still couldn’t afford the £1500 – £5000 it costs for an average wedding photographer, so I told them I would go away do some homework and see what I could find.
And that is just what I did and I can tell you I was blown away with the responses!

I asked my friends on twitter first of all if they could advise me, and to my delight in 24 hours I had 7-8 solid responses back from professional photographers all willing to take on the challenge and offer my couple the wedding photography they wanted……….but how?
Here are the key elements to look for:

PH weddings

1) Less hours – yes it’s great to have a photographer there all day from your getting ready to the first dance, but if you can’t afford this then how about getting coverage for just 3-4 hours? This means that at least you get good professional photographs for the key and most important elements of the day, the ceremony, the first kiss, the reception, a few group shots and the toasts. In an ideal world yes you want someone where all day, but at least this way you get the main bits covered.
2) Disc only – a big part of the expense in some of the photography packages is the album, so how about you forget about this for now and ask if your chosen photographer will do a disc only option (maybe you can use your wedding present money to buy an album later on?) this way you still get the key shots to print out and put in frames around the house.
3) 2nd shooter – have you considered looking at hiring a 2nd shooter? These photographers are people who have good experience working with professionals in their filed, who may be in training. They often relish the idea of having their own wedding to shoot, and would love to shoot your wedding for a smaller price to gain the experience. This way you get a photographer all day at a fraction of the cost.
4) Student photographer – Have you thought about contacting your local university and seeing if any of the photography students are up to the job? Students are often crying out for experience
5) Alternative wedding– if you are having a wedding that is alternative, off beat, or un traditional, you may find that you have photographers falling over themselves to take your pictures. Many photographers want to shoot weddings that are different to add some new images to their portfolios, so if you tell them your wedding has an alternative edge you may see the prices drop
6) Late availability – you may also find that if you book late you may get a cheaper price…many photographers may be booked up, but those that aren’t may offer you a discount for doing the job on short notice (don’t hold me to this, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get!)
7) Shop around – ask the question, you never know what you may find. Do your research and you may be surprised with the results…I have to say I was!

Andy Rapkins Photography

So I hope that has helped? And for those photographers out there that may be reading this, by no means am I suggesting that all couples do this, these ideas are there for people who really can’t afford a professional. In an ideal world everyone will have to photographer of their choice, have a lovely engagement shoot with them, build up a great relationship with them before the wedding, and then come away with gorgeous photography and a gorgeous wedding album…………BUT if you really can’t afford the full package their other options out there for you to try.

But PLEASE, PLEASE PLEASE do not get your friends to take your pictures for you, I have heard too many people say after their weddings that this is what they did and totally regretted it.
Remember you only get married once, and you want those memories to stay with you forever…..your wedding photography is going to be your memory, so make sure you get some good ones!

serendipity photography

Oh I forgot to mention…My couple! After my research, I gave them all their options and they decided to go for a lovely photographer (I won’t name names) who offered a digital only all day package for a fraction of the price, to gain some more experience after being out of the market for a year. The couple are over the moon that they listened to my advice and now have a professional photographer all day at a price they can afford!……every ones a winner!

howard lucas
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    Having recently got married myself, I can’t agree more about the photography. The important things on our list were 1. Saying our vows 2. Having our family and friends there and 3. Photography. Of course, flowers were on the list too, but that’s a given!!! We chose the incredibly talented Jill of http://www.jtjphoto.co.uk and we were not dissapointed – it’s soooooo important to capture the day – doing it again is not an option! We wouldn’t have changed a thing about the day and the top three were all satisfied. We didn’t have an endless budget and we didn’t do it all! I’d have loved a ‘Cheese’ wedding cake for our evening reception, or stayed in a five star hotel on our wedding night, but when it came down to it – that’s all gone by the morning but your marriage and your photography is for life! x


    Great post Kelly,
    As photographers we want you to have great photographs so most things can be negotiated, just ask. An email asking for prices won’t tell you much but call instead have a chat and then see.
    The thing is there is nothing worse then having a couple come to you after the day and yes you can do individual shoots to make up for it but you can never recreate breathtaking moments these happen once in a lifetime.


    Totally agree! It really is worth making your budget stretch to include a professional photographer. I know lots of people who just had their friends take their wedding pictures and now they are really disappointed and wish they had got a professional to do it. There are lots of great photographers out there that don’t cost the earth so it really is worth looking around and booking one.


    Well done for takling a tricky subject (once again!). This is a really great post that I will be sure to share!

    Helen @PH Weddings

    I couldn’t agree more, its a complete misconception that its the easiest job in the world and anyone could do it. Its not just about being able to take a good photo, there is a huge amount of organisational skills involved, I do feel for the guests whose role this is as they are in effect missing out on enjoying the day.

    Kay Gill

    Great post Kelly. However, you say Kelly that you only get married once but Sophie & Tony are doing it for a 3rd time on March 5th! This time in New Zealand for the Kiwi side of the family. She will have achieved the lowest cost per wear of any wedding dress I reckon!

    Rob Brooks

    Excellent post. So often we get comments from guests say they’re amazed that we shoot pretty much non-stop throughout the day. It makes me why their expectations would be so low?

    Your Day - Your Way

    Great post Kelly – of course couples must have ‘proper’ wedding photos irrespective of their budget but it does seem to be the area where they decide to skimp. I especially love the action shots of the photographers in your post! Great idea. Enjoy your Wednesday Kerry xx

    Myrrh Fletcher - Wedding Muse

    This is such a good post and such good advice. We use a 2nd shooter do our wedding. She works with a really good photographer and has loads of experience but little on her own as the 1st camera. She was excellent on the day, super organised and our photos are breathtaking. It would have been a shame to relay on Uncle Richard as a source of the pics.


    The compact camera industry has to take some of the blame. So easy to fall for their clever marketing. Now everybody can take pro shots at the touch of a sticky finger on a bright LCD screen!

    Pamela - Weddings in Surrey

    Another great post Kelly and a tricky subject. I believe that the shots taken by your guests are great in ‘addition’ to the professional tog. But to avoid disappointment try any means possible to use someone who knows what they are doing with a quality camera.

    You get only one shot *pun* at creating an everlasting memory of your wedding day, don’t blow it, or blow the budget.

    Pamela – Weddings in Surrey


    Great post Kelly. If only you had written it before I got married – I may have more than one wedding pic*sniffs*
    I would advise anyone to follow this advice – it’s a once in a lifetime experience and those images count!

    Martin Roe

    Well said Kelly. I’ve recently delivered an album to a couple who spent a very large chunk of their small budget on my services.
    They were pleased to bits with the results and commented that they had most definitely git their priorities right. They’ve since gone on to have family pics done by me.
    I now consider them both amongst my friends.
    Most of us offer cheaper options when asked, and I for one am a sucker for an unusual wedding, or romantic tale.
    Bear in mind that it’s not unusual for dissapointed brides who’ve had their big day photographed by friends to come back to us for a post wedding shoot!

    Philippa Gedge

    This is something I have wanted to blog about for some time now and I am so happy that you have addressed it because it reinforces what us photographers all think. I hear so often that couples are disappointed with the ‘friend’ who photographed their wedding for free and wish they had hired me to do the job. It breaks my heart every time and I’m not even married! Beautifully written too and very helpful for clients considering a friend over a pro.

    I’d like to share this if that’s OK and will be sure to direct you to the link.


    A lot of people CAN afford a photographer but do not see the value in allocating budget for that because photography presents delayed gratification, as does videography. Instant gratification comes through the venue, decorations, food and alcohol. And, being in a society and culture in America where delayed gratification is not as revered as instant gratification, especially when others are there to witness and partake of it, photography often gets thrown by the wayside. When photography is considered as a priority, the budget can be realigned to allow it.

    Now, there are some people where everything in their wedding plans is “low budget” so to speak and they simply cannot afford it. The dress, venue, food and minimal alcohol will reveal that and that is a different case. These couples have to look for photographers they can afford or consider some of the options that you wrote in this post.

    However, if surf and turf and an open bar are in the plans and yet there is no money for photography, another situation is occurring entirely.

    Photographers have to be cognizant of both situations when accepting clients.


    I’m so pleased that so many people agree with me, I was a little concerned that those photographers out there will think I am doing them out of a job by offering low cost alternatives.
    yes feel free to use the post as you wish, just link banck to me if that is OK?

    Kirsten Mavric

    “4) Student photographer – Have you thought about contacting your local university and seeing if any of the photography students are up to the job? Students are often crying out for experience”

    Great post. I worry about the statement above though. A student who is just starting out is potentially going to be at the same level as your guests.

    Jonathon Watkins

    A good article. :-) One detail is that often the disc will be more than the cost of the album from good photographers. The reason being to compensate for the loss of income from prints & loss ofcontrol over the images. I.e. if I design the album and deliver prints then I can make sure my professional printer gets it spot on. If someone takes the disk to a cheap high street printer and they mess it up (as has happened a few times) they tend to blame it on the photographer. I had to get exactly the same images redone with my pro printer to show that there was nothing wrong with the images. In the end, our name is on the final result. A nasty cheap badly printed colour casted print does not show all our hard work, talent, creativity, experience and skill off well. :-)

    craig watkins

    I agree with the article in that a professional should take the pics at a wedding. My advice for people is to shop around, I for one balked at the idea of spending £1500 on a photographer for the day. I had a budget in mind the style of photos I wanted, which was more traditional photos as for me there appear to be fads in styles of pics being taken. I stuck to it and found a photographer with years and years of experience and took some fantastic photos. Photos that my wife and I were happy with and will stand the test of time and at a fraction of the cost. If you shop around you will find a decent photographer at a respectable price. The price that I paid was just shy of £700 and an extra £30 after wards four all the unused prints that he printed.

    Bethan Jones

    This is a GREAT post!! As a photographer I give it a big thumbs up. There is a world of difference from your friends and family taking pictures (as good as they might be) to having the skill and continuity of a professional photographer there. We aren’t cheap usually but we do work bloody hard (a wedding from start to finish usually takes more than two solid weeks of my time from meetings, shooting, editing and putting an album together) and equipment/servicing/albums are also a huge cost. However I am ALWAYS happy to work out a deal that suits each couple though and all of the points you have listed eg disc only, less hours etc are fantastic!!! And as the saying goes, if you don’t ask you really don’t get :)

    Michael Scott

    I agree with all of your points, a wedding is such a big event in your life that to leave photos up to the relation with the nice camera, or even just your friends, is a big risk. It is always worth looking around for a photographer who will do the job at a budget to suit you.

    You missed one subset of photographers from your list – the new or semi-pro photographer who will work for you on your wedding as a way of getting valuable experience or to build up a portfolio. I class myself in this bracket and provide a disc only service for this year at a price that is chosen by the client – if they are willing to take the risk on a photographer with little experience, then they can name their own price!

    Clare FitzGerald

    I can’t agree more! I don’t think people realise just how much work is done by your Photographer, from pre-wedding meetings to the final product being handed over you could be looking at approximately 2 weeks (sometimes more). I have various packages I offer but I am more than open to work with a Bride & Groom to their budget. As a recent Bride myself, that was one area I just couldn’t leave to family & friends to capture – although some of their pics are great, there’s nothing like having professional shots to look back on & show off! ;-)


    Awesome article, It was passed onto me by a new contact over in Huddersfield. Good call on the student photographer perhaps someone has a good point above but the key factor is that a student isn’t a guest.

    All in all though it’s just important that someone is there in the role to document the day, it’s a big selling point I use, I’m there to document the day not orchestrate it.

    I’ve heard so many bridesmaids who’s turn it is tell me that they have seen photogs try and move brides around into light whilst they are having their hair and make-up done – don’t go there.

    Anyways keep up the good work

    John Mather

    Ah great blog,the ever present “family friend” or relative! That shadow Professionals at the wedding like leeches,duplicating every pose etc.
    Would they allow a friend to make the wedding cake ,design the dress? I’d have a guess that the answer would be “no”. Brides be sympathetic ,photographer’s need to make a living too.


    Hi Kelly. Thanks for the post. I’m becoming increasing nervous about my choice to ask my cousin’s husband, who takes lovely pictures and has a great eye, to photog my wedding. I haven’t asked yet. I am in the boat where I literally do not have money for a photographer. My entire budget, including rings (engagement and wedding bands) and the dress, is $5000, and I’m trying me hardest to stay under that. So, I haven’t even put photography in my budget, which means that I’d be adding onto what is already very small. That being said, you mention some possibly cheaper options. My question is: where do I find these second shooters and how do I contact them? All the sites I’ve found are job listings, and that doesn’t help me.

    I am having an alternative wedding (Halloween party, with costumes mandatory), and I want less hours, but all the places I’ve spoken to have minimum number of hours (usually 6+), are way above my budget, or include things such as engagement shoots that are gratis, meaning that if I don’t choose to do them in an effort to reduce costs, it won’t reduce the costs, and generally aren’t flexible with their packages.


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