Wedding budgets are often being stretched to the limit these days and I frequently hear from brides and grooms that anything with the word “wedding” attached is twice the normal price! Couples are increasingly having to be selective about where their wedding budget goes and are often prioritising one area of the wedding over another. This makes perfect sense but you really do have to be clear about what your main priorities are. Do you have to have an fantastic car to travel in? Could you compromise on the cake? Do you need expensive floristry at the venue? Are your shoes really a major priority? You get the idea!
Some couples, perfectly reasonably, decide that having a professional wedding photographer isn`t a priority and spend the money elsewhere. This seems a perfectly reasonable course of action apart from the fact that many couples also decide that it is a good idea for a friend to do the photography, perhaps someone who has a good quality camera and is a good amateur photographer. If the photography genuinely isn`t a priority this is a great idea but, if you have any thoughts of having the photographs from the day as a keepsake, heirloom or record to look back on then I really do think you should think again. Far too many times I have heard of couples regretting their decision not to employ a professional wedding photographer due to photographs being lost, not coming out, being of poor quality, not providing sufficient coverage of the day or simply sitting unedited, unloved and unused on a hard drive somewhere. So, what to do? Here`s my best advice and opinions:
1) If your friend has a great camera it will help but it will not make good photographs. The camera doesn`t matter very much. I frequently go to weddings where guests have similar equipment to me. This doesn`t bother me in the slightest because it is my professional eye, experience and the result of sheer hard work and practice that gets the results I am looking for.
2) A professional photographer will carry back up equipment, will be fully insured and will have rigorous systems in place to back up and secure images to minimise risk of loss. I have a double copy of all the images from a wedding before I leave the reception venue and then a triple copy from then on in two separate locations. Few non professionals will have security like this in place.
3) A friend at a wedding is going to get distracted. They are going to chat, socialise and take part in the proceedings. They will inevitably miss important moments. A professional is there purely to concentrate on the photography, there will be nothing else on their mind apart from getting the best images possible for you throughout the whole of the time they are with you.
4) Editing is an art in itself. After a wedding I edit the images to create a final selection. I have had years of practice at this and use specialist software. If a friend photographs the wedding they are more than likely to present you with 1000 unedited images, you will need to sort, order and edit them. You need software, masses of time and a system. It`s all too easy to accidentally lose or delete what you want to keep and, more than likely the job will never get done.
5) Retouching. I professional will retouch every single image to ensure optimum quality from the file. A friend may well be a bit of a whizz in Photoshop but it is likely that the results will be inconsistent and many of the images will not get done. This process can potentially take DAYS.
6) Final products. Using your friend to photograph your wedding and then give you all of the images allows you complete freedom to choose your final products. There are now loads of great places where you can order albums, books, frames, slideshows etc online. Many of these are great quality at a great price and it is very tempting indeed to look at these and think that they will be a good way to save money in the long term. If you have a fantastic set of print optimised images to choose from (see above!) then this can work really well – price wise they are great value for money and the quality is reasonable. Printed books are a good example of this, it looks relatively easy to upload 100 images and make them into a book and it can be done for less than £100. However, how long will this really take and will you ever get round to doing it? Will you be able to individually place images on the page and design the book so that it works? Do you understand about file size, sharpening and colour management to get the best results? The answers could well be yes to all of the above but inevitably a professional will do it much better and the quality of products used much much higher.
I guess there is an inevitability about the above coming from a me but I do also think that there are many times where just having a friend do the pictures is a good idea. If you know that photography isn`t your priority then it`s a great idea – go blow the photography budget on Bollinger! However, I have heard some terrible stories both personally and professionally about couples who have RELIED on a friend to produce great photography at their wedding and it is here that all the problems occur!!