Why Hire a Professional Photographer and Not A Friend or Family Member Who Has A Nice Camera?
A good friend of mine, let’s call her Andrea, is very unhappy with her wedding photos, taken for free by a family member who had a nice enough camera and liked to dabble (not professionally) with photography. Here is her experience:
“My husband and I were offered “gift” photography of our wedding by a family member. This particular family member had an art degree, had spent a considerable amount of time working in photo processing, and I had seen her work from college. I loved the idea of her photographing my big day. She was a cherished family member (still is!), was my inspiration for majoring in photography myself, and was offering her services for FREE (our budget was pretty tight).
What I didn’t take into consideration was that she had no real experience photographing weddings. She had been doing photo work for a long time, but not weddings. Combine that with the fact that her style did not match my own and that her equipment was of lesser quality than the hobbyist gear I used for school… In the end I was disappointed.”
Andrea has told me on more than one occasion that she doesn’t even like to look at her wedding photos and wishes she had gone with a professional. She married the love of her life (an event that can’t be repeated) and doesn’t have great photos that make her happy! Her family member’s heart was in the right place, but she took on a job she was not prepared to handle. I have heard of many other people who had a non-pro shoot their wedding and the results ran from disappointing to disaster. A lot of the time the friend or family member is just trying to help, usually offering the photography free as a wedding present. The couple, at first, thinks that this is a great deal—Hey! We don’t have to pay! If you are not concerned with the quality of the photos then it’s not a big deal, but if you are really expecting something special to enjoy for years to come, you should make room in your wedding budget to hire a professional photographer.
Here’s exactly why:
• A professional photographer has some sort of education in photography. It could be a college degree, workshops and seminars or they could be self taught from books and the Internet. Most pros keep studying and learning after they start their businesses, to stay in touch with the latest technology, software and trends. It is a skill, a trade that has to be studied and learned. Non-pro friends or relatives with nice cameras (we’ll call them Amateurs for the rest of this article), are not as likely to have college degrees in photography and although they may take a workshop or two, it’s not anything they are serious about.
• A professional photographer makes their primary living from photography. They have the time to give their work and their clients all of their attention. The photography jobs they get pay their mortgages, groceries, photo equipment, business expenses. It’s how they LIVE. They are invested in the job you hired them for because it’s all they do and it pays their bills. Amateurs do photography in their spare time only. They do it for free or super cheap because they know they don’t have the experience. They have jobs in other fields. Photography is a hobby for them and nothing more.
• Professional photographers have experience. Buying a high end camera and printing some business cards does not make an instant professional. Like all trades, it takes time, effort, study, education and lots and lots of shooting experience. Pro wedding photographers have photographed hundreds of weddings and know how to handle any situation on the wedding day. This includes not only the production of beautiful photos but also expertly dealing with the bride and groom and their entire family (no, simple task!) Amateurs may have never shot a wedding before, or have only done a few as favors. They don’t have the experience of dealing with such a big responsibility and can crumble under pressure. They could get cold feet and back out before the wedding or worse yet, on the day of the wedding. I have heard of people who do this and I find it appalling. But what could anyone expect of them? They have no experience, no vested interest in shooting those weddings, they’ve been paid very little or not at all, they don’t depend on the shoot to make a living—why should they truly care? What if their kid is sick the day of your wedding? They’re going to say “sorry” and stay home, that’s what. If they do make it to the wedding and shoot, what if the photos are terrible? You can’t redo a wedding day and if you didn’t even pay them, where is any kind of restitution?
• Professional photographers use professional camera equipment. They only use top of the line cameras, lenses, flashes, etc and keep them in good repair. They also carry backups for everything: backup camera body, backup lenses, backup batteries, backup lighting. They do this because they know that things break, malfunction and wear out and you have got to say “no problem!” and just grab a replacement right out of the camera bag. Amateurs might have the same equipment, but not the education and experience to know how to fully use them. Some may have a mid-range camera with a pop up flash and a cheap lens. They have no extra lighting. Backups are probably not an option or even a thought. They might not even remember to charge their batteries or bring enough data cards.
• Professional photographers have a working relationship with their clients. They email, phone and meet with their clients many times before the wedding day. They work on the booking and contract with you, the engagement session, the wedding proofs, the album design and delivery. This person is reachable and has answers for any and all questions and concerns of their clients. They have business insurance, pay their taxes and often have an official business entity, like an LLC. Pros have a higher duty to their clients, a positive businesslike attitude and practice good business ethics. An amateur has no reason to have any of the above, they don’t need to be insured—they are liable for nothing. You have no contract with them, so they have no obligation to you. They don’t have to show up, they don’t have to do a good job. They don’t even have to be nice to your family on the wedding day. There is no customer service with an amateur. They show up, shoot and if you’re lucky, the images won’t suck. That’s it.
As a professional photographer, I have run into the “I have asked a family member/friend/student to photograph my wedding” scenario over and over. I have even heard back from some of those people after the wedding about how much they hate their photos and wished they had hired a pro. It makes me sad. Wedding photography is what I specialize in, I love it and it’s what I do the best. Everyone should have beautiful, fun, amazing looking photos from their wedding day. It’s what I strive to create for my clients. I wanted this article to be more lighthearted and entertaining, but it is about a serious subject and deserved serious treatment. There is nothing funny about a bride crying over crappy wedding pictures.