Should you book a professional or use a friend?
As a professional wedding photographer in Shropshire, I was interested a little while ago when I found out that someone we know was getting married. They’d booked their wedding reception at a very nice location in Shropshire and out of curiosity I asked who was going to do their photography. Apparently a friend had made a very generous offer to do it for them.
It turned out that the friend wasn’t a professional photographer. When we turned up at the reception she was using a camera with a kit lens and pop up flash, in a dimly lit venue. You can probably see where this is going – I didn’t get to see the photos but putting it kindly, they didn’t really capture the day as well as a professional wedding photographer would have, which is a shame because an expectation had been set. Now I fully understand why people consider using friends instead of booking a photographer – the cost is significantly less. But there’s a number of reasons why professional photographers charge what at first glance appears to be a very steep price. The average cost of wedding photography in the UK is apparently over £1500.
It’s a lot to charge for a day
A lot of people may think that, but it’s actually significantly more than a day’s work (at least it is for us). A professional wedding photographer in Shropshire will have a meeting with the happy couple beforehand, attend the rehearsal and spend time putting a shot list together. They’ll clear the day before a wedding to get everything ready and check their equipment, spend the wedding day shooting and at least two days editing the photos, perhaps three. If the couple want an album then that’s an additional day to compile and format all the photos. So overall you’re looking at 4-5 days work. On top of that the professional photographer has a few things that an enthusiastic friend often doesn’t. Apart from the obvious experience to consistently get great photos, they’re able to calmly approach challenging situations (including what to do when the weather misbehaves), direct people for group shots and they will always have backup equipment. If a friend is doing the photography, chances are they have one camera and perhaps a few lenses (although in the case above it was just one lens). What happens when the camera or lens fails, or the single memory card that the camera uses is corrupted? A professional will have invested in a lot more equipment to ensure they can deliver great results. For example we bring three camera bodies, spare flashes and a range of lenses and these are all weatherproof and regularly serviced. Photos are backed up throughout the day.
Using stills from video
An interesting approach that I’ve seen is people economising by booking a videographer instead of a photographer and then asking for still photos to be pulled from the video frames. That’s feasible but likely to disappoint – professional videographers will often shoot with a cinematic style that reflects the romantic nature of the event. That style will “flow” and look visually very pleasing, but the individual frames will often have a slight movement blur. You certainly won’t notice it when the video is playing, but it makes pulling sharp stills from the footage almost impossible (try pausing a film and see how sharp it actually looks). Apart from videographers using different techniques to photographers, the camera resolution is often lower as well. It’s a compromise at best and unlikely to give you the results a professional photographer would achieve.
Remember that professional photographers like ourselves will be as skilled at editing photos as they are at taking them. In my view, a photo is perhaps 60% complete when taken – the real magic comes with editing the final image. That’s down to a lot of experience and knowing how to use both the camera to capture the shot, manipulating any lighting and the post production techniques to get the very best results.
Using a friend – some questions to ask
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with economising but don’t expect to get professional results on a budget, particularly if photos of the day are important to you. It would be better to find a professional photographer who can attend for just part of the day (something we do) and then ask guests to send over photos taken with their phone or with their own cameras – that way you’ll get some great photos at a lower price than having a professional for the whole day and plenty of variety with your friends’ photos as well. If you’re intent on using a friend though, there are a few questions you can ask to make sure that they’re up to the job:
- Have they photographed a wedding before? If not, be cautious. All wedding photographers will say that it’s one of the hardest areas to photograph and there’s a very good reason for that. See what their experience is with photographing fast moving events which involve handling adults and children.
- Does their equipment use more than one memory card? Most high end “prosumer” cameras offer this now and it gives some protection from a card failing.
- Do they have more than one lens? Photographing inside a church is often restricted, with no flash allowed. Professional photographers will use “fast” lenses that are able to capture the scene without flash. Simply expecting the camera to be able to cope with low light might be ok for family photos but the side effect is that it will introduce grain on the photos and isn’t a replacement for using the right lens for the situation.
- Do they have a spare camera? If their camera stops working or gets damaged (unfortunately it does happen) then they need to have a backup.
Finally, just like you’d want to see a professional photographer’s portfolio, ask to see your friend’s work. If they don’t have one, ask them to do an informal photo shoot for you so you can get a look at the sort of shots they’re capable of capturing.
If you want to take the stress out of your wedding photography then book a professional wedding photographer in Shropshire – there’s a lot of choice out there. We offer wedding photography with three packages to suit all budgets, ranging from ceremony only through to all day coverage. Contact us for our prices!