The pro’s and con’s of using a friend or family member to shoot your wedding.
Being an experienced Birmingham wedding photographer it hasn’t escaped my notice that the average cost of a UK wedding last year was over £27,000. That’s a rise from the previous year of a whopping 9.6%. In this climate it is not surprising that couples are looking to make savings when arranging their wedding. It may be tempting to ask a friend or family member to take your wedding photographs. If you are thinking of doing this, here are few things you will need to consider first.
How skilled is your friend/family member with their camera?
There’s more to photography than having a nice camera. A professional photographer has experience of taking photos in different light, different conditions, composing different shots and executing it perfectly. The camera doesn’t do this, the photographer does and this results in consistency meaning that you get not one or two stunning photos, but a whole albums worth.
Wedding venues like churches, barns and castles can have poor light. Professional photographers know how to get the best shots even in the trickiest of lighting. They know how to work with the sunshine to grab the best opportunities for outside shots. A professional has doubtlessly shot weddings at your venue before, they will have an established working relationship with your venue and will know the best backdrops, positions and light when photographing you and your wedding guests.
If your friend is a professional photographer then you’ve really lucked out but if they’re an enthusiastic amateur with a new toy that they’re keen to try out on your wedding day then you may want to reconsider.
Does your friend/family member have the right equipment?
On the day your friend or family member will, as an absolute minimum, need:
- Two Camera Bodies (one to shoot on, one as a backup)
- A fast wide angle lens
- A fast telephoto lens
- A spare lens
- Two speed lights (flashes) and batteries
- Around 100gb of memory cards
What is you and your friend or family member’s backup plan if something goes wrong?
Ask your friend or family member what their backup plan is if something goes wrong. A backup camera is essential as is a backup photographer. Who will step in? A professional photographer will always have another professional to contact who could step in, should for any reason they not be able to make it. You will have to make a similar plan yourself should your friend of family member be unable to attend on the day. A professional photographer will have seen everything that can go wrong and will have prepared for it.
On the day is your friend/family member a guest or working?
Establishing some ground rules will be important. If you use a friend or family member to shoot your wedding, it is likely that your other guests will know them. They are inclined to want to chat with them. Professional photographers move around weddings unobtrusively barely being noticed, if you’re friend or family member is known to other guests this will make this difficult for them. You don’t want a critical moment of your wedding not captured because your photographer’s attention was momentarily diverted by another guest.
Are there any hidden costs of doing it yourself?
Sometimes doing something yourself on the surface seems better value for money but properly weigh up the additional cost and time it will take you to organise a photographer yourself, to discuss everything you want with them, to have a walk around the wedding ceremony and venue with them so that you are confident in their abilities and they fully understand your wishes. Also, you’ll need to do your maths to work out the actual cost of prints, albums, frames and electronic images. You will need to think about how your guests can purchase images as well. A professional photographer will have these all of this agreed with you in with your price from the outset.
Are you happy to put in more work yourself?
Whoever photographs your wedding needs to understand what you expect from your photographs? What is important to you? What the style and theme of your wedding is? What atmosphere you are looking to create? They will need to know all the best places to take portrait shots at your ceremony and the reception. They will need to understand the light, the time of day, and understand how to play things to make the most of the weather on the day. A professional photographer will instinctively know how to work these things and in your pre meetings will give the benefit of their wisdom. If you’re using a friend or family member you will need to have these conversations with them yourself before the day so that you are confident that they understand exactly what you want and will carry out your wishes.
How good do you want your wedding photographs to be?
If you’re happy with one or two wow shots, some good ones and some not great ones then using a friend could be a workable option. But to have an albums worth of beautiful timeless images that tell the story of your wedding day will require a professional photographer.
Wedding photographs have changed since your parents’ day. Back then one nice shot would be put on display and everything else boxed away. These days professional wedding albums look more like expensive coffee table books, containing high quality images that wouldn’t look out of place in a high end glossy magazine. They are designed to match your home and are kept in your lounge ready for anyone to look at. A lot of these album companies will need the person ordering it be a professional too, to gain access to the site.
Is it fair to expect your friend or family member to shoot your wedding?
If your friend is a professional wedding photographer then I can see there’s no risk to you getting them to shoot your wedding. The only thing I would check is that they are happy to lose potential income shooting somebody else’s wedding on that day so that they can shoot yours for free. Also, they may just for a change, want to be a guest at a wedding and relax and enjoy themselves with friends and loved ones like all of the other guests.
A professional photographer has signed a contract, they have to provide you with an excellent service and outstanding images as it is their reputation and livelihood at stake. That’s quite a motivation! They are at your wedding for one purpose only and that is to tell the story of your wedding day with beautiful images of you and your guests at your wedding.
Think about how things will play out for your relationship with your friend or family member if something goes wrong. What if:
- You’re not happy with the photographs?
- They’re sick on your wedding day and can’t show up?
- They have a terrible day because they are so stressed about not letting you down?
Whether you asked your friend or family member to shoot your wedding day or whether they kindly offered, it is a lot of pressure on them. Be realistic about what they can expect of them and what they can achieve for you.
The pressure getting too much!
This is something I have witnessed a few times. A Bride getting in touch with me at least a week before the wedding, looking for a Photographer because the friend capturing the day has backed out. The pressure of getting it right for the friend has got too much and they would prefer not to have that responsibility.
Ask people who have done this what they learned and what they might have done differently. Having your friend or family member shoot your wedding is fine if you’re aware of the risks and you’re realistic about what you’ll get as the end result.
After the day it is the photographs you will turn to recall those special memories and good wedding photography will not only remind you of how your wedding looked but also capture every emotion of how it felt. That is what good wedding photography does. You’ve got just one chance to get it right.