“Yeah, those photos are nice, but I have a cousin with a camera who would love to do this for us.”
I wish I could say that I have heard this only once, maybe twice, but this is a common punch line during client meetings that is no joke. It is 100% understandable–between the food and the venue, the attire and the flowers, there are a lot of hands out waiting for their cut on your wedding day. As a hardcore DIY-er, I am with you with wanting to save a buck, and can totally see why a family member serving as a photographer might be the perfect solution to a budgetary crisis.
While I will never tell you where to spend your money, I can tell you here what I often tell those who ask about the value of photography on your wedding day, and explain why you may want to budget for professional photography services. Yes, this may be a bit biased; however, it is not intended to sell, but rather inform and give something to think about...
1. Practice makes perfect! There is a good chance your photographer has shot multiple weddings, and therefore has a trained eye for your day. They also probably have timeline advice to allow all parts to be photographed in a manner that flows with the events of the day. For example, I was at a small wedding once where there was no photographer, just one of the parents. Having never shot a wedding before, the parent didn’t think of how to save time to guarantee certain shots, and therefore some were missed, and others were so crunched (such as bride and groom portraits) that they were of lower quality. We want joyful, happy images that allow us to relive the moment–not images that remind us of how crunched and stressed we all were.
2.Not all equipment is created equal. When I look into my wedding day camera bag, I see all the options: I have lenses for portraiture, I have lenses for details, I have wide angle for the dramatic full-ceremony shots, and I have zoom for my paparazzi moments, just in case. I carry at least six lenses with me to be sure that I can capture every moment perfect. This is not to say that a photographer must have all of these to do a good job, but I do want to illustrate that not all lenses can do the same job, so it is important to think about expectations over reality. I love ring shots, for which I use my 105mm macro, which allows me to get right in there; this isn’t achievable with an 18-55mm. You might see an image you love in a bridal magazine or on Style Me Pretty, but that might not be achievable with the equipment available. When looking at the price of photographers, do not just see there hourly fee, because they have made the investment in equipment to provide you with a beautifully curated gallery with a variety of shots for your enjoyment in the years to come. PS: Don’t be afraid to ask any potential photographer what is in their camera bag and how they use it–anyone who is doing this gig will most likely love to explain it to you! A few examples are below…
The image to the left was taken with an 85mm, and the one on the right was with a 14-24mm. This difference was because of the lack of space; if I would have toppled right over a wall had I not used this lens (wide-angles allow the photographer to need less space).
Oh, the macro…It’s my love. Look at that clarity, the crispness. I love that lens.
One more of the macro…look at the detail! So clear and in focus!
Mr. 50mm. Good, solid, versatile. A staple for any wedding day.
Another gem from the 14-24mm ultra-wide. A 35mm might have worked, but again, I couldn’t go out onto London Road to take this, and trees were right behind me. I only had so much room to make this drama happen, and thankfully I had the right tool for the job.
3. A photographer is essentially your journalist for the day, taking down every little thing that tells your story so you can remember it forever. You are spending money on the venue, right? And flowers, dresses, cake, etc., yes? What happens to all of those the day, week, month, year after? As much as we want to think we will remember everything forever, we don’t. Photography is the only way to really be sure that we secure and promise ourselves a moment that we love for our future as well as future generations. You have spent all that money on the other elements; not investing in photography is leaving those expenses behind as the mind (and time) marches on and the memories begin to fade.
4. Let your friends family be friends and family. Having been THAT friend and family before, I know how badly they want to do this for you…but you can say no. You can tell them that you want them to enjoy this day with you, and that cannot be done if they are working. I love this current culture of photography were so many people are passionate about it, but you can politely decline their offers, especially if they are going to walk the line between photographer and guest. I want to reference my parent photographer from the first point; how effective do you think they were at the reception, as they were greeting guests and trying to enjoy the day, too? If a friend or family is doing this as a favor while being a guest, there is no guarantee of the quality of coverage, as they will want to have fun, too! For this reason, it might be best to leave this task in the hands of professionals.
5. Wedding photography is way more than just pretty pictures: It’s an experience. Photography should never, ever be viewed as just a regular transaction–your photographer may see you in your skivvies on your wedding day, which I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s not how it goes at Target when I buy something. Going into this thinking that having a photographer is something that you must do rather than get to do is going to make it easier to feel that this task can be handed off to someone else, but if it is considered more of a service (such as getting that oh-so-lovely massage or a fun mani or pedi) is it much easier to think about the investment into it. What makes it that much more fun and worthy is that it is an experience that it is one that comes with a tangible product: Your amazing wedding gallery! If you take the time to talk to a potential photographer and see how their experience lines up with your expectations, I bet you will find the perfect photographer that you will find worth it!
Ultimately, this decision comes down to what fits your wedding day as well as your wallet. We all value different things; no matter what, it is of upmost importance that you decide what matters most for you and your love and your vision for your day, and how you want to view it in the years to come as you move from “I do” into your happily ever after.