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why you shouldn't hire "a friend with a camera" for your wedding day photography

Hiring “A Friend Who’s Getting Into Photography”

June 25, 2020

Let’s say you have “a friend who’s getting into photography” that is interested in photographing your wedding day for a few hundred dollars. That’d sure help with your budget, right? Your friend is able to afford top-level equipment costing thousands of dollars, so they can take a great photo, right? And it’d be fun to have a friend taking the photos, right?

Well, I’m sure you and your friend could have a great time on your wedding day! And, assuming your friend has the necessary equipment and is skilled in a variety of types of photography and lighting scenarios, I bet they’d do a good job as well.

But let’s imagine for a second that…

…you and your wedding party are getting ready in a poorly-lit hotel room with very little natural light.

Your friends arrives with their camera in hand. As they start clicking away, taking photos of you getting your hair and makeup done, they realize that the space is too small and they need a wider lens. They weren’t anticipating this issue, so they left their wider lens in their car. They rush out to their car to get their lens, and by the time they’re back you’re already done with hair and makeup and ready to put on your dress. As your friend sets up to capture this special moment between you and your mother, they realize the room is darker than they are comfortable with, but they don’t have any off-camera flashes to help light the scene. No matter! Your friend turns on all of the room’s lights and opens the window shades. That helped some, but resulting images are still very dark and make you and your mother look orange…

why you shouldn't hire "a friend with a camera" for your wedding day photography

…you and your soon-to-be-spouse are just about to see each other for the first time on your wedding day.

Your friend is ready and in place. Your fiancé walks up to you and taps you on the shoulder. You turn and see each other for the first time. Your friend is able to capture your fiancé’s reaction to seeing you, but because they didn’t have a second photographer assisting them, there are no images of your reaction to seeing them, so the images only tell half the story…

why you shouldn't hire "a friend with a camera" for your wedding day photography

…you’re at the ceremony just moments away from your first kiss as a married couple.

Your friend hasn’t met with you or the officiant ahead of time to discuss the order of the ceremony. They see another mutual friend in the back row and catch their eye to wave hello. All of a sudden, you share your first kiss, but your friend misses this key moment!

why you shouldn't hire "a friend with a camera" for your wedding day photography

…it’s time for family formal portraits.

The location your friend picked out is in direct sunlight with a distracting cell phone tower in the background. Your friend is used to photographing landscapes and wildlife, so they aren’t experienced in placing human subjects in flattering lighting or compositions. Your friend didn’t make a family photo list ahead of time with you either, so they aren’t sure which photos you’d like. You spend most of this time wrangling family members, which takes twice as long as expected. As the minutes pass, you’re losing the portrait time you and your new spouse were most looking forward to…

why you shouldn't hire "a friend with a camera" for your wedding day photography

…it’s been 3 months since your wedding, and you still haven’t seen a single image from the day.

You don’t want to seem pushy or mistrusting, but your friend keeps dodging your calls and texts and you’re not sure when you’ll get to see your wedding images. Finally, you get your friend on the phone and they admit to you that one of their memory cards was corrupt and half of your wedding day images are completely gone…

why you shouldn't hire "a friend with a camera" for your wedding day photography

These scenarios may paint extreme pictures, but I promise you that they are 100% real stories that I’ve heard throughout my years as a wedding photographer!

In my experience, artistic photographic talent is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being a truly successful wedding photographer. What lies below the surface are the countless hours of training and continuing education, the investment in reliable equipment, and especially the hours of experience gained along the way. Below are just a handful of the added values that a professional photographer provide before, during, and after your wedding day:

  • having the proper equipment (and backup equipment!) with them at all times to ensure they’re prepared for any curve ball
  • managing and directing assistant staff working on their team
  • understanding different lighting scenarios and the best way to photograph in them
  • having the experience to proactively anticipate and create contingency plans when roadblocks (inevitably) arise
  • understanding how to guide large groups of friends and family for photos in a professional and kind manner
  • having the technical skill and foresight to prepare for key moments and images that are most important to you on your wedding day
  • creating strong professional relationships with fellow wedding industry pros, leading to stronger team dynamics on your wedding day
  • having access to professional print labs to create albums and prints that memorialize these once-in-a-lifetime images in the highest quality
  • maintaining a strong business with insurance and licenses to protect everyone’s safety
  • practicing proper image file safety and backup systems to ensure your images are properly processed and archived

I’ve written before about the reasons some photographers cost more than others (and why they’re worth it!) and I can’t stress enough the importance of investing in a reputable professional photographer for your wedding day. You are entrusting this person to capture once-in-a-lifetime moments for you!

Think of it another way: You wouldn’t ask a friend to cater your 150+ person wedding reception dinner (unless of course that friend was a trained chef with food safety certifications and the necessary equipment to prepare and serve that much food). So why would you entrust a friend to capture your wedding day photography (unless they were a trained professional portrait photographer)?

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