I came across a post on Rock My Wedding earlier this week that literally made my jaw drop open. It’s written by a bride who asked a friend to take photographs at here wedding and, rather than the usual list of reasons why it was a bad idea, she bravely posted a number of his photographs in the post. Predictably, the pictures are absolutely awful and I don’t mean just bad, they are the type of images that make you groan and wince when you look at them. It’s like scrolling through photographs of a car crash.
This brought home two really important facts to me:
- Firstly, from a professional’s point of view I knew exactly what had gone wrong with each of the pictures, why and how the photographer had got such terrible results and also exactly how to fix them. I realised that I have actually kind of forgotten how to take bad photographs. Now that’s not meant from an “aren’t I wonderful” point of view but I realise that, as any good professional will be able to do, I can take good quality consistent images almost without thinking now. This is A GOOD THING as it means I can concentrate on photographing great moments and being creative rather than twiddling with the camera settings! This is immensely reassuring for both myself and my clients as this type of ingrained skill and technique takes years of practice to develop.
- Photography has little to do with the camera. The friend in the blog post had a big flashy digital SLR camera and the bride knew that he had taken some great pictures of cars. As the saying goes “size doesn’t matter” (just don’t get me started on photographers who have massive lenses and multiple lenses slung around their necks!) and just because someone has a large camera it doesn’t mean they know how to use it! It’s a bit like the fact that everyone owns a pen but few of us are really great writers for example. Modern cameras are great and they do a generally good job even on auto settings but if the person behind the camera doesn’t know what they are doing the resulting images will be poor. Great photography is to do with seeing, thinking and instinct. These are skills honed after years of practice and very few amateurs will be able to work at this level even for a short time never mind over several hours over a full day’s wedding. I honestly believe that a good professional photographer could photograph a wedding on a cheap point and shoot camera, or definitely an Iphone or similar and get great results. It would be more difficult than with a professional camera set up but possible. It doesn’t work the other way round. Putting a novice behind a professional camera doesn’t necessarily produce great results.
Well, those were the two main things that sprung to mind but there is a third as well. The bride in the article mentioned that the photographer friend was great at photographing cars and this again highlights another common misconception. I think that many people (some photographers too) think that if you are good at one aspect of photography then you must be able to photograph a wedding. After all, photography is photography is photography? Well, not exactly! I have to be honest (I’ve mentioned this several times on the blog before) and say that I’m not all that great at landscape photography for example. I’m actually also not all that good with studio lighting although I can get by and this is fine by me because I know that I have other skills. I’m good at reading natural light for example and I’m a good “people” photographer. Photographing a wedding calls upon a vast range of technical skills from a photographer to be carried out over an extremely prolonged period of time often with punishing time constraints. You might be able to photograph a sports car nicely at your leisure in lovely sunshine but try capturing a great expression from a bride and groom coming out of church in the dark whilst walking backwards with all your equipment on your back is a totally different matter. (By the way that picture WILL be there, there is ALWAYS a picture to be taken, a glance, a knowing touch or whisper in even the most inhospitable photographic environment – you just have to learn to look for it!)
So, I guess rather predictably, I’m saying “don’t get a friend to photograph your wedding”. Well not exclusively because, if photographs aren’t your main priority then go for it. In fact I wrote a blog post here advising that if photography isn’t your main priority then go and splash the cash on extra Bollinger for example! I have to say that, if I ever got married again, that’s exactly what I would do – but that’s another story! But, if you know that you will want to keep the memories, you know that your photographs are going to be important you will never ever regret spending money on a good professional wedding photographer. Good wedding photographs are like emotional currency in the bank, they will bring back memories for years to come, be treasured by your children and will help carry you through the bad times.
Oh, and BTW here’s the link to the Rock My Wedding post.