To all Brides and Grooms considering the offer from a Family Friend to photograph their wedding, or couples who have been told that "Uncle Joe" always takes the photographs at all of our family weddings.
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As regards a friend of the family offering to do wedding pics for you, by all means go ahead with this if you are happy with this. This particular family friend may be a talented photographer who may progress on to becoming a very well known wedding photographer, but just a few things to look out for which may be of help to you in deciding. These are things that I had to consider before tackling my first few weddings. I know when I began photographing weddings years ago I used film cameras and you did not know until you got the films developed whether everything had worked out OK. These days with digital cameras you can check your work as the day progresses.
Well as I said there are a few things you should consider before making up your mind on this decision, sometimes you are afraid of offending a member of family who has put forward the suggestion and if this is the case either let them read this or simply mention some of the points raised in it to them.
1. Is the friend a member of a camera club ? If yes that is an advantage as they will have experience of displaying their work and having it critiqued by other members. Most professional photographers came up through the ranks of camera clubs.
2. Have they done a wedding before or will your wedding be their first attempt ? If your wedding is the first that they have done will it affect your stress levels and your ability to relax during the day? If they have done other weddings before try to get to see the results of those weddings.
3. Do they have quality equipment such as a good quality 35mm SLR camera or a digital SLR camera with a minimum of 10MP resolution with a variety of lenses such as a good wide angle lens for fitting everybody into group shots, a telephoto lens for getting intimate shots during the ceremony without crowding you, a quality low light lens for taking shots during the ceremong in case flash is not allowed and a sturdy tripod to hold the camera steady in this situation. Do they have a good quality flash unit to give sufficient light where this is allowed during the ceremony and to use as fill light outside in areas where shadow could be a problem. Will their flash unit charge sufficiently quickly to capture those spur of the moment incidents which can really portray the mood and emotions of the day. Do they have sufficient memory capacity to store the 500 -800 plus photographs that a professional wedding photographer would typically take during the day or possibly 20 - 30 rolls of film if they are using a film camera. Do they have sufficient battery capacity to handle all of the necessary shots to be taken during the day?
Are they confident in knowing which lens to use in a particular situation ?
Do they have back-up equipment to cover all of the above in case of equipment failure. I carry 2 of everything for such an eventuality and I carry sufficient memory capacity for up to 3000 photographs? Remember if a camera or lens or flash starts to act up you have to be able to change over instantly and continueshooting.
4.Will they be able to choreograph group shots and are they good at working with people that they have probably not met before the wedding day ?
5. Will they have laid out a mental script for themselves so that they capture all of the main elements of the day and do not forget to capture vital shots which cannot be repeated ?
6.Will they have an understanding of posing for the Bride and Groom to get those intimate romantic shots and also for posing the families and bridal Party?
7. Will they be able to capture all of the shots that you require in a limited timeframe or will they keep you away from your guests for longer than necessary?
8. Will they be constantly on the look-out for those casual and candid shots that can really add to the atmosphere ?
9. Will they have the skills to work with, yourself and your fiance/husband (as the day progresses), the bridesmaids, the groomsmen, a flowergirl, a pageboy, the parents of the flowergirl and pageboy, the parents of the bride and also of the groom, grandparents, aunties and uncles, the cousin who wants to feature prominently in most of the photos, the priest, the videographer, the drivers, the reception co-ordinator and the rest of the guests while keeping his or her stress levels and nerves under control?
10.After the wedding day is over do they have a good photo editing programme to sort through all of the images from the day and carry out any necessary cropping and editing in the form of adjusting highlights and shadows and any touching up or airbrushing that may be necessary in order to show you top quality images which would be suitable to present in a wedding album or will they simply present you with a CD of un-edited images which may or may not require considerable work carried out on them before they can be printed or presented in an album?
I know that I spend an average of 3 days viewing and editing the images from a wedding in order to produce the stunning results that every bride and groom have a right to expect. The professional photographers job does not end when they pack away their equipment at the end of your wedding coverage. The unseen and also sometimes forgotten elements then come into play such as the editing and selection of proofs, the presentation of the proofs and subsequent viewing of proofs and then the choices for layout of the photographs in the album. Then the ordering of the prints and assembly of a traditional wedding album or designing the layout of a storybook album and sending off the order for it. Then the best part in my opinion, the delivery of the wedding album to the happy couple and the expressions on their faces as they re-live the day all over again through their wedding album that tells a story of a magical day that they will treasure forever.
11.Does the friend of the family have access to professional quality wedding albums if that is the way you want your wedding photography presented?
Everyone who has an internet connection can get access to digital photobooks but they are great for general use the quality or durability of these photobooks cannot compare to the look and feel and general presentation of a professional wedding album.
12.Bearing in mind all of the above are you going to save a lot of money over using a professional photographer for your wedding rather than a friend of the family and wiIl your nerves and your stress levels stand up to it?
If the friend of the family is a part-time or hobby photographer they probably do not have any form of insurance either.
So in conclusion a professional wedding photographer has to be skilled and familiar with his or her equipment, they need an artistic eye, they need to constantly look for those candid and casual shots, they need to be cool, calm and controlled in potentially stressful situations, they need duplicates of all essential photographic equipment, they need negotiating and crowd control and general people skills.They need the ability to blend into the background and operate un-obtrusively. They need access to good post wedding editing skills or have the ability to do the editing themselves. They need to have access to professional wedding albums and or framing materials. They need access to a good quality professional photo lab and they need to be able to do this day in and day out while keeping their own stress levels and blood pressure under control.
All of the above has to come into consideration when you are deciding whether to book a professional wedding photographer or trust this very important day to a friend of the family.
I hope this helps in the family friend with camera versus the professional wedding photographer choice.
I am sure there are some points I have forgotten so please feel free to add any that you consider relevant.
Feel free to print this and pass it on to the friend of the family as in agreeing to photograph your wedding they may not have taken all of this into consideration and may not feel so happy to do the job for you when they realise exactly what is involved. It may be easier for you to show them this, ask them to read it and then consider if they still wish to act as photographer for your wedding, rather than trying to figure out how to turn them down without offending anyone.
However I would not like to discourage aspiring wedding photographers as they could well be the top class award winning wedding photographers of the future.
Remember when the guests have gone home from your wedding and the honeymoon is over and the last of the wedding cake has been eaten and you are enjoying a blissful and contented married life... Then the only solid memories that you have of your magical wedding day are your wedding album and photographs and possibly a wedding DVD
I would love feedback on this posting so please leave your own comments and replies on the posting