Most brides have some kind of budget to stick to for their wedding. I’m sure you’ve wondered time after time how to cut down the costs of the day that just seems to build and build up. “What can we save money on?” you’ve said to your husband-to-be, “do we really need to pay for a photographer? Your cousin got that nice professional-looking camera for Christmas. I bet he could take our photos!” The answer however in anyone with any small amount of photo experience, is yes, you should pay for a professional photographer.
That’s not to say that cousin Terry can’t come along and take photos for you too – the more the merrier! Just make sure you remind him to not get in the way of the professional photographer’s shots – the best rule is “always stay behind the photographer when taking photos”! And leave the professional shots to a professional.
There are wedding planning sites and tons of unprofessional advice that will tell you to go ahead, save that money and don’t bother hiring a professional. I mean, you’re free to do whatever you want – it’s your wedding, but if I were you I would never do this. I’m not talking here about hiring a friend or someone you’ve found who’s already a professional photographer – who’s perhaps second shot a few weddings and is really looking to build their portfolio and branch into the industry. Granted, you’re not guaranteed to have the best quality photos in the world here, but you can pretty much assume you’re going to get some nice enough photos and save money if you have a very tight budget. No, what I’m talking about here is when Grandad bought cousin Terry a £400 DSLR camera for his birthday and since then he’s been snapping photos of all the pets in the family and everyone’s faces!
The image below is just one example of the difference between professional photography and your friend’s picture snaps at the wedding. Take it in heed, this may be a selfie with an iPhone – but could just as well have been taken with a DSLR by someone who isn’t ‘photographically educated’.
(Image from Stephanie and John Warren)
Now, don’t get me wrong I am not a snob; nor am I rich and able to afford whatever I want. I struggle with budgets and money myself. I’m a full time mum trying to make my business work. I don’t have a huge income, I have debts and still struggle sometimes. But I work in this industry and I really do appreciate the value of professionalism. I really do understand that photographers seem expensive (and some of them really are) but I also want to take a second to remind you that for every image taken, we will spend 5-30 minutes editing it. So, if you receive 800 images and every image only had 10 minutes spent on it… we’ve spent 133 hours alone on editing/processing! Then, take into account culling, re-culling, uploads, downloads, consultation time, travel time, product printing/production not forgetting the actual 9 hours shooting on the day and you’re already at minimum 150 hours (going on 800 images with 10 minutes on them each, this can be higher or lower dependent on whether the photographer batch processes [doesn’t edit every photo, just selects process and does large amounts] or high-edit retouches faces, skin etc for every photo). The minimum wage is currently £6.70. 150 x £6.70 = £1005. So by this calculation, technically anyone working under this rate, producing 800 images to a high standard of individual editing is working for less than minimum wage for you. While every photographers hours will vary, I hope this may help brides to understand why our charges can seem so high! You pay for a lot more than just “taking pictures” on the day. I’ve included two examples below of before and after professional processing and editing alone.
Photo: Leah @wowapic
Photo: SLR Lounge
You also pay for posing, composition and lighting techniques.. See below again!
(Images source: John Nader)
Consider also that your photographer is fully trained and comfortable using their camera. Your friend with a new little DSLR is most likely going to shoot all the images on Auto mode, which will produce nowhere near the quality of the images a photographer does. Do they know how to use bounce flash? Off camera lighting? How to shoot in low light? Do they know how to shoot in manual mode, adjust aperture, shutter speed, ISO to the right values for each individual situation? Can they fix any photos that may get blown out if they don’t have good knowledge there? Are they well versed in Lightroom and Photoshop to process these photos? Or do they just shoot in JPEG on auto mode? .. these are serious questions to consider.
Can their £400 DSLR kit really compare to professional equipment? Bare in mind, most professional lenses we use cost upwards of £500 alone – let alone the camera bodies which are around £2,000 new. And then there’s the lighting, flashes, adaptors, stands, multiple high speed memory cards and hundreds of other little accessories that we bring to every wedding. While a good photographer will make a £400 work somehow too if that’s all he has to work with, I guarantee your friend doesn’t have that kind of training. What if your friend’s camera breaks? Does he have a back up? I’m guessing not – whereas every professional will have back-up gear in case of any situation along with insurance.
What if something else goes wrong? Can they find someone else to shoot? Wedding professionals have a huge network of professional photographers they can contact if they are struck ill on the day of your wedding – and we have a fully legal contract with you to back everything up in case the worst happens..
And then there’s the million dollar point… We have experience. Shooting weddings is not easy. You need experience, direction and confidence to address the day in the best possible way to get the right images. A professional will help with your schedule – even a documentary one. The last thing you want to be doing is figuring out the schedule for your “photographer” (friend with a camera ) for them while planning your own wedding – and then directing everything yourself!
Onto products and prints.. do you want high quality, long lasting products? We have access to the highest quality albums and fine art prints and these vendors will only deal with professional photographers, meaning you can’t purchase them as a client. We make our own professional products too, sometimes!
You can relax and know that when you hire a professional, you will get great photos. There will be no worrying about your photographs. You will just get the best! Hiring a friend or family member will strain your relationship, I guarantee. They won’t be able to enjoy your wedding as a guest – instead they’ll have to focus on working and the camera. You may argue if they disappoint you and it may put a very awkward weight on your relationship. They may even feel obligated to do it, and resent you for making them work for free. Maybe their results are very poor and you don’t know how to tell them… is it really worth ruining your relationship to save some money?
Now yes, occasionally you do hear of someone who’s very happy with the pictures a friend took for them, but the quality is never the same as a professional – remember that. Sometimes things go great if this friend just happened to also be a PRO – and that’s great, but this isn’t just Uncle Bob with his camera. There are sometimes fairytale endings where hiring a friend turns out okay.. But I guarantee, I hear many horror stories about hiring very cheap “professionals” (who aren’t professional, they just own a DSLR) and friends with DSLR cameras in my network every week. I have never heard anyone complain about regretting booking their awesome professional wedding photographer…
At the end of the day, it’s your wedding so do what you want to do. But if there was one thing in the world I had to choose not to “skimp” on, it would be photography. If you have a low budget, contact a professional and ask if they could discount their price by working for less hours. As a wedding photographer I can say, we are always happy to help.
(Photo credit: Freire photography)