“Why should I hire a pro? My cousin is a great photographer and is cheap!” (Replace ‘cousin’ with neighbour, friend, therapist, parole officer, etc… as needed). I’ve been asked this question by all kinds of people, and thought I’d offer somewhat of an answer.
For one, the cost of hiring a professional is a sizable part of the total wedding expense and can range from very simple hand-shake agreements to long drawn out contracts spelling out the full obligations for both sides. Sometimes it would be easier just to have a friend/neighbour/uncle do the shooting and not have to worry about any contract and save some money. It seems that these days, just about everybody with a camera can produce some great results from time to time. What about that amazing shot of the rainbow over the waterfall that your cousin Greg took? How about that fantastic picture of the dog leaping off the end of the dock at the lake? The shot of Suzie with ice cream all over her face? Photography is such a broad and all-encompassing subject that to call oneself a photographer is to paint with a very broad brush. It’s true that having a creative eye gives one the ability to jump from shooting landscapes to shooting people, but these two kinds of photography are incredibly different especially when it applies to a wedding day. Whereas if the picture of the waterfall doesn’t turn out as planned, it’s no big deal. A wedding day happens fast, and you really only get one shot at it.
Professionals invest their lives into what they do, and have a very clear understanding of what level of work they need to produce time and time again. To attain this level, a pro is constantly looking to grow their creative repertoire while maintaining a consistently high level of work. This is in part obtained by using the professional equipment that we rely on, as well as having full backup systems should our primary one fail. We carry multiple cameras, lenses, memory cards, and flashes, as part of a creative kit that doubles as a fail safe if needed. If you shoot for long enough, it’s only a matter of time before a shutter jams, or a lens seizes. It happened to me this past year while in the middle of a wedding shoot and having a backup DSLR body meant the difference between losing a minute of shooting time, and a lost day, (income, reputation or worse).When it comes to wedding photography, one thing that doesn’t often get mentioned but I believe to be important is the skill of time management. I have shot weddings as short as a couple hours to multiple days. The best use of the time alloted to the photography allows me to give my clients the best selection of beautiful images possible. While shooting on the wedding day, I need to keep an eye on the time, juggle it with changing weather, traffic, lighting, all to keep the day moving smoothly. I’d say it’s a matter of respect, for the couple, the caterers, and for the wedding guests, to have them back to the reception on time. As an amateur I found this stressful. As a pro I see it more like a fun challenge.The legal aspects of being a professional also carry some important considerations for the couple looking to hire their photographer. As part of my business, I have liability insurance that covers the types of risks inherent with shooting on location. Through the contract, there is also a legal obligation to be there for the couple, and perform the services as promised. Everything from the number of hours, locations, travel time, costs, albums – all are covered in the agreement. It also lets clients know when they will receive their images following the wedding, in what format, and how they can be used.Using a friend/family member as a photographer (be it a pro or amateur) carries it’s own special set of considerations. A friend could have an insight into the couple from knowing them for so long, or a member of the family from simply being related. They might even understand certain nuances to different friend/family relationships better than an outsider would. The very first wedding I shot was for two of my best friends from university. I have never been so nervous – didn’t sleep a wink the night before. I had covered all the bases when it came to equipment and ideas, but I was worried something unforeseen might happen during the shoot that could affect our friendship. In the end, everything went great, and is one of the reasons I’m still shooting weddings 10 years later. But the risk of losing a friend because of a shoot going sideways is a lot to stomach. I’ve since found that for all the advantages of being a friend of the couple, being an outsider allows me to have a more impartial view. Family politics, and friendship dynamics don’t negatively influence how I capture their wedding.A wedding day is an amazing and dynamic experience that I feel so lucky to get to enjoy so many varieties of year after year. I am one of those people that get to proudly say they love what they do. Everything from the people, the stories, the places, and the emotions all make for wonderful and cherished memories. The close friends I’ve made through my work, the feedback that I get from couples, and the images that represent the miniscule slice of time, yet mean to much. Behind every image there is a story – from an outpouring of tears from a proud father, to a flower girl admiring that gorgeous white dress.