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Hire a professional...PLEASE!

There is an article floating around the web today about how Jeb Bush's (yes, that Bush family) wedding photos were taken, and ruined, by his brother. I won't delve into the article here, but you can read it for yourself by going here.

What I'm here to talk about is why you should NEVER never hire a friend or family member to photograph your wedding.

This is a true story.

About a month ago, I received a frantic call from a bride's mother asking if I was available to photograph her daughter's wedding....IN. FIVE. WEEKS.

Silence followed for a few seconds.

"As in March 7th?" I asked. "Yes, you heard me right." Mom stated.

"She's been engaged for over a year and our photographer who is a family friend just backed out on us telling me he didn't think he was qualified or would do a good job."

I sat there stupefied that anyone would back out on photographing a wedding with five weeks notice. But then again, it was a family friend. The only bright side is the family friend realized BEFORE the wedding they were not qualified. It would have been an even bigger disaster in the aftermath of bad photos.

Thankfully I was available and I am photographing the wedding this coming Saturday. The bride and her family are lovely as is the groom. They are wonderful people.

The reason I am telling you all of this is simple: It's never ever a good idea, under any circumstances to have a family friend, or even a personal friend, photograph your wedding. The ONLY, and I mean ONLY, exception is if your friend is someone like me. A true professional with years and years of experience. I myself photographed a friends wedding last year, but I have 20 years of experience behind the camera. And they paid me. I gave them a deep discount. And they understood I was there to work, not to socialize.

Why?

There are countless reasons why you should never have a family friend photograph your wedding, but I am going to list a few:

Equipment: Family friends (unless a true professional) never has professional grade equipment. They usually have some kit camera and lens package like the Canon Rebel or Nikon DSLR  or the like. And likely, they own JUST THIS CAMERA and nothing else. And I am sorry if I've pissed off someone who owns one of these cameras. I'm sorry, this is NOT a professional grade camera. This is what we (professionals) call a "prosumer" camera. It's perfect camera for any family to capture daily life at home, but not a wedding.

What happens if their camera starts to malfunction or shut down entirely? Do they have a backup? Probably not. If that happens, you're S.O.L.

A true professional has high-end cameras (and likely multiple bodies) and a wide array of lenses, ranging from a super-wide to a zoom. I have two 5D MK III bodies, six lenses, two speedlights and countless of other support lights that I know how to use...and use them well.

Skill: Ask your family friend how many weddings they've photographed in the past. Ask to see the photos. If they cannot show them to you, run.

  • Do they how what happens behind the scenes of a wedding?
  • Do they know how to wrangle and organize people for photos?
  • Do they know when, and how, to use natural light and artificial light? Do they understand what that even means?
  • Do they know where to stand for optimal angles?
  • Can they think fast if something does not go according to plan?
  • Do they know what to anticipate BEFORE IT HAPPENS?
  • Can they operate their camera on anything other than the "Auto" or "Program" settings?
  • Do they know how to manually focus? Yes, manually focusing IS a problem for some.
  • Do they understand the basics of composition and framing?

Will they actually work: Another issue of having a family friend photograph your wedding is they don't actually work. Sure, they will photograph the ceremony, but what about the reception? I've heard horror stories about missed photos, key photos, during the reception because the family friend was too busy chatting with family members they haven't seen in years. They socialize rather than take photos. Sure it's OK to chit-chat with guests, I do this all the time. But during the first hour of the reception which is usually have your key moments: first dances, cake cutting, toasts, etc., I am focused solely on the bride and grooms and their parents.

What happens after the wedding:

  • Will your family friend properly edit and color-correct your photos?
  • Will they make you an album?
  • Do they use a professional printing service? (this is NOT Walgreen's or WalMart!!!!!)
  • Do they archive your photos for safe keeping?
  • Or will they just dump on a CD or a USB and just hand everything over?

I could go on....and on....and on.

These are serious questions you need to ask your family friend before you even consider having them photograph THE most important day of your life. If you don't hire me to shoot your weddings, that's perfectly OK with me. My style is not for everyone. But please....hire a professional. I cannot stress this enough.

Sure, your friend says they want to do this for free as a gift to you. Politely turn them down.

And let them buy you a nice Kitchen Aid stand-up mixer instead.