Why You Should Hire a Professional Wedding Photographer
Okay so this blog title probably makes me sound super biased. I promise this isn't a rant about how people "dabbling in photography" are saturating the market and making it hard for "real" photographers to get hired. That's not what this is.I have no issues with people growing their business and learning. However, when I meet with brides and they tell me that they are having a family friend/cousin/uncle who is "into photography" shoot their wedding, I get really sad. Not because I didn't get to book their wedding, not because I'm up on my high horse, but because of how much I value wedding photos. A wedding day goes by in a blink and what you have to remember it by is the photos. These are the photos that you are going to show your kids some day, that you are going to display on your 50th wedding anniversary, that your family members will cherish in days to come. To me, you shouldn't gamble your wedding day memories on someone who is just starting to get into photography. Even if they are good at photography, a wedding day is different than any other type of shoot you could possibly do, and if they haven't done one before, you really don't want your wedding day to be their guinea pig.
My first wedding I shot I had no business shooting. It was a friend of mine from college, and they had no money left for a wedding photographer. When she asked me to shoot their wedding day I told them they shouldn't hire me, since there was a good chance I could screw it up. She persisted and I agreed. It was very kind and generous that she trusted me that much, but it was definitely a learning experience and showed me how much I had to learn.
Many people bulk at the price of wedding day photographers. Why would they pay someone thousands of dollars when their friend will likely do an okay job and they will work for free? I am as thrifty as the next person, but let me give 4 reasons as to why you shouldn't risk it with your wedding day photos and hire a professional:
1. Professional photographers know how to adjust to bad lighting situations.
The biggest distinction between an amateur photographer and a pro is that they know how to handle a location with bad lighting. Most brides and grooms, understandably so, aren't really thinking about lighting when they pick their wedding day venues, and often times wedding venues have some pretty awful lighting. Most wedding halls, event centers, and churches that are inside are often times extremely dark. It gets even worse when the lights get dimmed for the reception. Even the nicest cameras in the world can't take great photos with no light. Your wedding photographer needs to have off camera flash to be able to light up the room to take photos.
Sometimes outdoor weddings are just as bad. Weddings that take place around mid day often leaves everyone squinting in photos and with dark shadows under their eyes. That is not a good look on anyone. A professional will have the knowledge on how backlight the photos so everyone still looks romantic and the photos are flattering.
2. Professional equipment
It goes without saying that a professional photographer has professional equipment. However, anyone with enough money can buy or rent professional level cameras and lenses, so how do you know who is who? While there are debates on what cameras or lenses are the best (the Nikon v. Cannon debate is more fierce than the Pepsi v. Coke debate), it's realistic to expect your photographer to have invested in a few specific things. First of all, they should have a full framed DSLR, not a prosumer camera, and have reasonable reasons for why they use that camera as their primary body. Additionally, they should have a backup camera, just in case something happens. If it is a wedding day and the camera is either damaged or just glitches for some reason, your photographer needs to have a backup camera to bring out and not miss a beat. They should also have extra batteries and memory cards, just in case.
Second, they need a standard lens and a lens that allows them to zoom in from far away. At least. I could go on for a long time about which lenses I like and why, but there are lots of different styles of photography and I would never presume that my preference is the correct way. However, your photographer should have at least one lens that is their preferred lens for shooting up close, and then they need one that allows them to zoom up close during the ceremony. Often photographers have more than two, but they definitely need at least those two.
Lastly, as mentioned above, they need some form of off camera lighting. This doesn't mean that they have to use it. There is the possibility that the lighting is decent enough that they don't need to use it, but it is important to have it just in case.
This equipment will allow your photographer to get above and beyond what an iPhone or prosumer camera would be able to do. I don't necessarily need to get into specs and details, but a professional photographer will have this equipment and a reason for every lens and body that they use.
3. We have tricks to make things look pretty
I used to think for a long time that what made a photographer great is that they shot weddings at these fabulous wedding venues. Their photos were great because they we blessed with beautiful subjects and locations to shoot. I've since learned that it is the opposite way around. Great photographers can take seemingly unimpressive situations and make it look fabulous. For instance:
This is a typical wedding day. Usually the getting ready room is a hotel room of some sort. It doesn't always have a lot of white light. So I huddle in a corner, drape the dress over a hotel chair, and get a beautiful detail picture that highlights the wedding dress and the rings.
In this wedding, the inside of the venue was very pretty but very dark, so we wanted to get outside for pictures. Unfortunately, it was just parking lot and then an abandoned lot next to it. As you can see in the first iPhone picture, there were trailers and cars behind them! Not necessarily the most photogenic place. Work a little professional magic and you get this beautiful sunset portrait.
For this last example, this was a night time wedding. There was no light coming in the windows and as you can tell it was very dark. The picture on the left was the best an average camera could do given that lighting situation. The one on the right has off camera flash and a pro camera. You wouldn't even guess how dark it was.
4. We have experience on how to handle a wedding day.
Wedding days are very interesting. For the bride and groom, it should be the happiest easiest day of their lives. Often times, however, it turns into one of the most stressful days of their lives, which really is too bad. As a wedding vendor, it's like a complicated play we are attempting to all put on together and have it go off without a hitch. Sometimes it goes fine, other times things go wrong. The best way to learn how to handle things going wrong is experience. You could have a photographer who is excellent at taking photos, but if they haven't every shot a wedding before they could falter. When things go late, when it rains, when family members fight, there's no rescheduling. If there is harsh light during the ceremony, you can't have everyone move. If everyone is running late and you only have 10 minutes for photos, you are still expected to deliver the same amount of photos and fulfill the bride and groom's expectations. You need to make sure your wedding photographer is experienced and is able to handle the "human" side of a wedding day well.
Being a wedding photographer can be one of the most rewarding jobs ever, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility. When you hire a photographer for your wedding, make sure that they know how to handle all aspects of it.
With all that said, I hope that you take all of this into account as you hire someone for your wedding. What's most important is that you find someone you trust, who's photos look beautiful, and who you LIKE. You are inviting them along on the biggest days of your life, so you have to make sure that you like them and that they get on with you and your family.