The last couple of months, I have been amazed by how many DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras that I am seeing people have. Digital has finally gotten to the point where even DSLRs are affordable for the regular picture taker. And, because of digital and the instant gratification of being able to see if you like the photo you have taken, it has taken the mystery of a lot of these cameras. Because nicer cameras are now more available to people, there is the tempt for brides to look around, find a friend with a camera and decide to cut a major budget corner by having their friend take their wedding pictures. I agree, it sounds like a tempting choice. They have a nice camera right? They spent like $900 on it, it better be nice! And I know them... .and they will shoot it for free. SCORE! Right?

Generally speaking, it doesn't turn out as fabulously as you think it will. There is a reason why good wedding photographers cost what they do. Gear, talent and time they invest in your wedding, are all reasons.

But if the idea that your "Uncle Bob" or your friend with a nice camera seems like a good idea, I would read through these tips and comparisions between your friend and a hired professional before making that decision.

  • Your friend has a nice camera. It set them back a good $900.
  • A professional photographer has a nice camera, multiple expensive lenses, a back up camera, and lighting gear. It set them back a good $10,000.

I know the argument brewing right now. "It's the photographer not the gear." I agree to a point. You give a professional the simplest gear, and they will come back with a great shot most of the time. Your eye, composition and knowledge of exposure makes a big difference, but if you are getting married in a small darker room, your photographer should be able to change the setting on their camera w/o a blink and be able to capture a great shot. Most people can get a great shot in open shade on a beautiful sunny day. It's the professionals who get a great shot in a crappy lighting situation on a moments notice.  And, not just a "ok" photo, but one you would want to put onto your wall and admire.

This is where that really expensive gear comes in hand.  "Fast" lenses are lenses that are usually $1000-$2000 (yes, that is just the lens, not the camera body or any other lenses) each and can shoot in super low light while being hand held and not getting a shaky picture. And without having to turn the flash on (especially on auto) and ruin the feeling of the moment or atmosphere!

  • Does your friend have a backup camera? Back up lens? Extra batteries? Enough memory?
  • You don't want to miss half the photos from your wedding, because your friend forgot to charge his batteries the day before, or some thing like this happens.

And granted... this happened to a professional who wasn't paying enough attention to his surroundings. Watch the video again though, and pay attention to the person who comes and grabs the camera (not the person) out of the water. That was the photographers assistant or second shooter. He was probably getting pictures from another angle so those pictures weren't all lost. And that other photographer knew that the camera and the images inside were the important thing to get out of the water first. Not the photographer. He can dry himself!

  • Does your friend take good pictures of details, architecture, stylized portraits, and people being candid? It takes different skill sets to take those drastically different types of pictures. That is why many professional photographers choose not to photograph weddings. Weddings are hard work. HARD work! It takes a certain personality to handle the stress of a wedding, knowing there is no redo available... and to still be fun to be around all day even with that stress!
  • Is your friend willing to work nonstop for 7-10 hours, only stopping for a quick bite to eat when the bride and groom do? Or is your friend going to hang out at your wedding, thinking mostly of him having a good time, and capturing pictures every once in a while when he thinks of it?
  • Does your friend know his camera like the back of his hand, able to switch to a different mode if the light drastically changes right when you are walking back down the aisle? Or does he a) keep it on auto and hope the camera knows what just happened? or b) has to stop and ponder what change he is going to make while missing your walking down the aisle with your new husband?
  • Is you friend going to spend a couple DAYS editing your images, making sure take out any bad expressions, bad exposure,  and fixing mistakes? Is he going to spend the time to process every image and make sure that it is a cohesive group? Is he going to give you the best of the best that you will want to look over again and again? Or is he going to burn everything to disc without looking at anything, give the disc to you and expect you to know how to make the images look great?

For example, you can see the images above. This is the same file. This was a harder lighting situation as the bride and her dad were in sunshine a couple of steps before. My camera (set on manual) was set up for the sunshine exposure. I took this shot before having a moment to change exposure to the shady area they were now in. At first glance of the photo on the left, it isn't very remarkable because it is a bit dark and a bit blue. But, it was totally a usable file as long as I spent a couple minutes on the computer. The picture on the right is the final picture. Now that is an image you would want on your wall. That is what spending the time processing ALL the images can do. It makes sure all the good photos are the best they can be. Now, if this was photographed on auto, the bride and her dad would most likely be so dark because of the bright sunlit building behind them, that no usable image would happen. You would have a couple silhouettes and that's it.

  • Is your friend going to think about getting detail shots of all the things you spent the past year deciding on? Does he have a lens that can get those good detail shots?
  • And most importantly, do you want to get your images back from your photographer and burst into tears because of all the moments they captured that you had forgotten about? Or burst into tears when your friend hands you a disc with ok pictures and obvious moments not captured?  Both scenarios will cause tears, it's a choice between tears of happiness or tears of sadness.

I'm not trying to say your friend doesn't take good pictures with his nice camera, but is this the day you want to risk to find out how good and dedicated he is?

A good wedding photographer does all those things and captures all the moments that make your day, so when you look back in 20 years, you feel like you are reliving the moment while letting you have a great day not having to think about it!

Comments are welcome below!