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January 14, 2012

A thorny dilemma for newly engaged couples

There's been a fair bit of talk on the wedding blogosphere recently along the lines of who you should ask to do your wedding photos - hire a pro or ask a friend? It's really not surprising that this should be happening right now given that we are in the midst of a biting economic downturn. We are all finding it tough, and we are all looking to save some money - I know I am.

January is generally a time when we wedding photographers get a burst of enquiries for our services - "are you available on...?", "can you send me your price list?", "do you travel as far as...?" and so on. And this hasn't changed this year (much, I would venture to say the phone and inbox have been a little quieter this year, but only a little). But I have been getting a new response quite often on my follow ups - "Oh, we've decided to use a friend - he has a good camera". And you know what? That's fine, I did the same for my wedding (although he had never shot a wedding before, he was someone I studied photography with, he knew his way around a camera very well, and I loved his work, I wanted very informal pictures and I knew he was good at that). Thankfully he did a great job, especially considering he was doubling up as my best man too! But I'll be honest, when I get that response, my heart sinks a little, and not because it means I'm losing work, but because I really hope they still get the pictures they want and will look back on with smiles for years to come. Your pictures will remain with you long after the cake and decorations. It's a big decision.

I read a great post this morning over on the very wonderful Rock 'n' Roll Bride website that pretty much gets the issue bob on! If you are planning on getting married, and are thinking about asking a friend, I recommend you give it a read. It's not trying to persuade you against using a pro (and I wouldn't either), but it does ask you to consider some pretty important things that will help you get the pictures you want.
  • A good camera does not a good photographer make - this can barely be stressed enough, so much of my work is about understanding light, it's about about looking, and seeing, and being in the right place, it's about being good with people, and making them feel comfortable. It's not about having the best gear.
  • Has your friend ever shot a wedding before? An obvious question maybe, but a good one. Shooting weddings is hard work and it's not the same as taking a few snaps of your kids birthday party. It requires some pretty specific skills.
  • Does your friend have backup? He/she may have a top notch DSLR but even the best gear can break down at the worst possible moment.
  • Have you met up with your friend and talked through the day? what will happen when? where it will happen? what are the important things/people you don't want missing? what you are hoping your pictures will be like? have you shown them the kind of pictures you like and discussed how he/she will approach getting ones like them?
  • Have you visited the venues together, at a similar time of day to the wedding time, have they taken test shots in appropriate lighting conditions?
  • Will they be shooting RAW or jpeg?
  • Will your friend be editing your photos or giving you them straight out of camera? Have a look at this page to see the difference.
There are many more questions I could suggest, but I'll stop because it sounds a little bit like I'm saying 'don't do it - hire me instead' and I'm really not. It's your day and no-one can tell you what to do, or how to spend your money, least of all me.

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