Friend or Pro?

I know wedding expenses can add up very quickly and before you know it you are already over budget. So, there you sit trying to find ways to cut costs. Most often, this usually results in choosing a friend or family member to photograph your special day over a professional. While I am all for saving money, hiring a professional photographer should be your greatest wedding investment.

Scenario: A friend or family member has a really nice camera and they have offered to capture your special day for next to nothing. You are thinking, “this could save me $1,000 - $2,000!!” Tempting right? You try to justify choosing them to photograph your wedding, so you count their passion for photography and weekend photography adventures as reasons enough. You already know them so you feel that is an added bonus. Yet, what you do not realize is that your “too personal” relationship with them is going to be the biggest conflict of interest on your wedding day.

I often worry when couples choose a family or friend to capture their wedding day. While I do not take it personal, I do feel sad for the couple because they are not going to get the experience they deserve! My biggest concern is the conflict of interest. Uncle Joe or Cousin Jane is going to have a hard time separating their relationship with you on such a wonderful, happy and joyous day. They will want to mingle and celebrate too. This means the minute they set their camera down, the professionalism is gone. As a result, this could lead to missed memorable shots such as cake cutting, laughing with a friend you haven’t seen in years, or your grandparents dancing the night away. Once these moments pass, you cannot recreate them. Secondly, how open are the lines of communication between you and Uncle Joe or Cousin Jane? Will you be able to effectively communicate your wedding photography needs beforehand? Will they listen and execute? What if you have a concern? Will Uncle Joe or Cousin Jane be able to address your concern without any damage done to your “too personal” relationship?

Photographing a wedding is a high pressure job. In my experience, I’ve had to deal with a broken external flash, dead batteries, corrupt memory cards, and major timeline adjustments. If this is Uncle Joe or Cousin Jane’s first rodeo they are not going to be prepared for these mishaps. In addition, while each wedding is unique, most have common elements and the experience of a professional will help anticipate these moments. Lighting conditions are always changing. Does Uncle Joe or Cousin Jane know how to work around this? What about portrait posing? Can they work on a minimal timeline so you can get to your reception and celebrate? Do they have a strong eye when it comes to detail? Will they be able to spot and fix a crooked boutonniere or remove ugly objects from their frame (i.e. trash cans) before shooting?

What happens post wedding? Will Uncle Joe or Cousin Jane put in the same amount of time as a professional to remove blemishes from photos and retouch each one? If so, will you receive your images in six to eight weeks on a custom USB? Will they offer you add-on services such as album design and canvases – which involves even more of their time AFTER the wedding is over?

My guess is no.

While I am sure Uncle Joe or Cousin Jane can take beautiful photos, I want you to know that this requires MORE than just a really nice camera. Shooting a wedding involves prep time, day-of time, and many hours post wedding. It involves problem-solving skills, attention to detail, efficiency and professionalism. When Uncle Joe or Cousin Jane said they wanted to photograph your wedding as a gift, I’m sure they didn’t intend to put in any more time other than the actual wedding day. So, if Uncle Joe or Cousin Jane does not have what it takes, don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Trust me. Instead, cut back on the food or cut costs by making your own bouquets. No one is going to remember those details anyway other than you, your mom and grandma.

My last piece of advice: you didn’t settle when you chose your mate, so don’t settle for anything less than professional frame-worthy wedding day photos.