A question that frequently pops up for discussion in the world of wedding photography is would you let a friend take your wedding photographs. Kelly Hood, wedding expert, planner and editor at Boho Weddings posed this exact same question over on the Huffington Post and accompanied it with some very good common sense advice. I thought it might also be useful to back up the points Kelly makes and give some insight into what I deliver as your professional over and above the final images you will receive. To see Kelly’s full article click here.
1) “Your friend is not a professional and may have never shot a wedding before. They may take nice holiday snaps but this is not a holiday, this is the best and most important day of your life and you want to remember it properly. The last thing you want to do is look back on the photos and regret your decisions because they didn’t capture the moment properly, were blurred, not the right style and you didn’t get all the shots that you wanted.”
I have been shooting weddings professionally for many years now (and portraits for quite a bit longer than that!) I can also take a mean holiday snap but in a similar vein probably wouldn’t be all that great at shooting a Premier League football match or capturing a Golden Eagle in mid flight. Whilst the basics might remain the same, the skills required to capture each image are altogether quite different. Having shot many, many weddings I know through experience when key moments during your day are going to happen and where I will need to be positioned (and what camera settings I will need to use) to capture them when they do. At the same time I also have an instinctive feel for when ‘unscripted’ moments might occur naturally and always have my eyes wide open for these too.
2) “A professional does this every weekend so they know the drill. If there isn’t a planner involved in the wedding, the photographer is often left to take the lead and tell people when things should be going on. They know the timings of things and will know which photos need to be taken and when.”
Planning is most definitely key. If a planner is not involved then very often the photographer will also take on the role (along with the help of a willing bridesmaid, best man or usher) of guiding the couple gently through the day with as little fuss as possible. Let’s face it, you definitely won’t want to be cutting the cake at midnight but on the other hand, nor do you or your guests want to be barked at ‘sergeant major style’ to get in line for group shots before the starter goes cold. A week or two before the big day I will either meet with you or discuss over the phone or via email your schedule, as well as finalise a list of group/couple/must have shots and agree on when they will be taken and let you know how much time will need to be allocated to this. If you have appointed a planner then I will contact them for these details. I will have also visited the venue(s) in advance to scout out the best places to shoot so that you can maximise your time enjoying your day and not spend fruitless hours trekking through mucky fields looking for the perfect spot for that perfect shot.
3) “Your friend taking the pictures is most likely going to be a guest as well…and believe me they can’t do both! They may be OK to do a few at the church and the group shots but believe me, eventually they will get bored and want to enjoy the day as a guest! Especially after a few glasses of fizz!”
So true! When I am a guest at a wedding I want to relax and really enjoy my friend or relative’s big day and this includes being able to have a couple of glasses of champagne to celebrate. You simply cannot rest on your laurels when you are to all intents and purposes doing a job – and a great job to boot – for the couple. It takes stamina and focus to keep shooting more or less continuously across what will very often be a 12 hour day once travel and transfer times have been factored in. I am being paid a not inconsiderable sum of money to capture a wedding and a friend more often than not won’t be offered similar levels of financial recompense for his or her time. As a result I will want without question to give the couple my 100% best while a friend might well think that enough is enough after a couple of hours. What’s more this IS my job and I love doing what I do. I have chosen to do this for a living and know what to expect and what will be asked of me week in week out. At no point during the day will I be thinking about when it will be my turn to switch off the camera and make a start on the killer dance floor moves because I will be too busy capturing yours!
4) “Your friend won’t have all the professional equipment that a professional will. Yes they may have a fancy DSLR, but will they have the right lighting, back up batteries, back up memory cards, lap tops to upload onto during the day. Will they have insurance in case the worst happens and it all goes wrong… the likelihood is that they will have none of these things”.
One thing you soon get used to as a wedding photographer is carrying or wheeling around a large, very heavy camera bag – mine is bright orange for the record 😉 On your wedding day I will have on me at all times my primary camera (read fancy DSLR!) and Speedlite (read fancy flash gun!) plus back up if one or other or both were to fail (this has never happened but being a Girl Guide in my youth I was always taught to be prepared and prepared I am!) In addition to this I carry a full set of different lenses, a whole host of memory cards, batteries, chargers, cleaning equipment, tripod and have Public Liability Insurance. Once I arrive home from your wedding I download and then back up all of your images. Your images will then be fully tweaked and edited in Lightroom/Photoshop, converted from RAW files to high resolution JPEGS, beautifully wrapped and delivered to your door within 6 – 8 weeks of your wedding date.
5) “What happens if your friend is ill on the day and can’t come? You have no photos! If a professional is ill and can’t work they will have either a 2nd shooter or a backup who can step in at the last minute”.
That’s right! And no photos of your wedding is not even worth contemplating. Unless I am bedridden I will be shooting your wedding come what may. Rest assured the night before I won’t be wolfing down a dodgy curry and sinking a few pints with the groom-to-be until 3am! However if I were in a situation where I had to appoint another photographer to shoot your wedding at short notice as a result of illness/injury/act of God etc, I work with my own trusted second shooters who could step into the breach on my behalf. Furthermore, in the unlikely event that this were not an option I know that I could reach out quickly to a large and wonderful group of photographers locally who would be able to help.
I hope this has proved a useful insight. For the record I whole heartedly believe that no matter how much you trust and adore your friend, unless he/she is actually a wedding photographer you could be at risk of real disappointment on what is supposed to be one of the best days of your life. It is certainly worth remembering that once the food has been eaten, the cake cut and the flowers have wilted all you will have left as a permanent and complete record of your day are your memories and of course the photos – and you want them to be good ones 🙂