It always starts with the same line…
“Why waste money on a photographer? My Uncle Frank has an amazing camera, I am going to just ask him to shoot our wedding.”
This is one of the biggest misconceptions i hear as a photographer, just because Uncle Frank has an amazing camera can he really shoot a wedding?
It’s fast paced, stressful and hard work. With added pressure of the constant need to change settings within seconds to accommodate the different scenes and lighting conditions, lack of knowledge of how to use manual control to get the best out of the camera, lack of experience, wanting to enjoy himself and join in the celebrations, no insurance (Which is required by most venues), no experience with venues or registrars/vicars, no experience with weddings and timelines, don’t know how to instruct or guide the bride and groom or their guests to get the professional look to the images and lack of knowledge to adapt in extremely low light situations, the list goes on.
As previously said in the “Top Tips to finding your perfect wedding photographer” blog, wedding photography is so much more than just having a nice camera.
I had a delicious meal at a restaurant the other week and complimented the chef not the oven. I have met my fair share of people at weddings that wished they didn’t rely on family and friends to capture their wedding day. While Uncle Frank may be very good, here are a few reasons to go with the professional who specialises in weddings.
So, Uncle Frank may have a nice camera, in fact, let’s say Uncle Frank is a Doctor and photography is his passion. So, not only does he have a nice camera, but he has the very best camera money can buy at the moment. Even more so, Uncle Frank loves shooting in his spare time so much that he even bought a full set of the best lenses and accessories to go with his top notch camera.
Already, we are assuming that this Uncle Frank is much more prepared than 99% of the Uncle Frank’s out there. Now let’s assume that he frequently goes out between his very long and tiring working hours he has to put in at the hospital. Once or twice a month and shoots nature and landscape photography with all of his great equipment and even had some of his work published in magazines.
However, wedding day comes, and Uncle Frank is feeling confident that he is going to do an amazing job. He starts the day off with by taking photos of the landscape and venue of where the bridal preparations are taking place, and everything is looking pretty good, remember, this is what he shoots once or twice a month, he is in his element. He steps inside where the bridal party are, he doesn’t like to manually expose his pictures, so he shoots with the cameras help and turns on the Automatic settings mode. Unfortunately, the camera is only so smart.
Uncle Frank starts snapping preparation shots and notices that he can’t get everything he wants to in the photo, his lens isn’t wide enough. So, he runs out to the car to swap out his lenses since he didn’t want to carry around a big heavy bag throughout the day, and he wasn’t expecting this problem. When he gets back, the bride’s makeup is done, and now they are working on her hair. Uncle Frank then notices the room is really dark with only a small window allowing very little ambient light into the room, he didn’t take any time to check out the lighting prior to starting to shoot, so he has no off camera lighting, or any additional lighting equipment, so he decides to just boost up his camera sensitivity settings super high so that he can capture enough light to properly expose the scene. This works, he looks at his images in camera and they look great, however, little does he know, that every picture shot has lost significant quality and will be too grainy to blow up beyond a small 6x4 print.
Uncle Frank now heads over to shoot the groom, has a quick look around, and once again relies on his camera, he adjusts his camera settings based on what the camera reads. Unfortunately, because there was so much black in the scene from the suits, the camera was over exposing all of the shots to compensate. Uncle Frank didn’t realise though, and just kept chugging away.
Let’s say this is a simple wedding and now it’s time for the ceremony. Uncle Frank finds a great spot, pops on his zoom lens, and waits. The groom makes his way in, and Frank shoots him like a pro snapping shot after shot as the groom is smiling and greeting the guests coming down the aisle. The only problem is that all shots are out of focus because the groom was walking towards him, and his focus settings were not set for moving subjects. He doesn’t get time to check all the images as the father and bride begin coming down the aisle, and just the same, Uncle Frank fires away taking more shots. Again, none of which are sharp and in focus.
The wedding ceremony is going great, and Frank grabs several great shots of the bride, but he realises that his camera lens isn’t wide enough to capture a photo of the bride and groom, so again he runs to his bag to grab a different lens. On his way back, he sees the couple just as they kiss for the first time. He missed it! He also didn’t think to shoot any of the bride or grooms family during the ceremony, as he was trying so hard not to miss anything in the ceremony.
The the ceremony is finished, it’s time for formals. Uncle Frank is not used to this and struggles to get people outside for the shots. Eventually he manages to guide everyone to his favourite place outdoors where he can get a beautiful shot of the landscape.
He starts with a family photo, the family are facing away from the sun, so that he can capture the grandeur of the scene. Because these formals are being shot in the bright high sun, Uncle Frank doesn’t realise that the camera is under exposing the entire scene since the background is so bright. After taking so long to get people outside for these shots, he is under pressure from the wedding coordinator to hurry up as they are ready to serve dinner. As a result, he only takes a few family shots and only one of each and not able to capture what the bride and groom wanted. To make matters worse, and little to Frank’s knowledge, every shot is coming out too dark and completely underexposed. After working up such an appetite, he is also ready to put down his camera and have some dinner.
Dinner has finished, and speeches time has arrived. Uncle Frank has already worked 10 hours and now finished a 3 course meal with a couple of beers, he figures that he should relax and enjoy the speeches too since he is family. So, he sits back in his chair and shares those emotional moments of toasting to loved one lost and laughs at the hilarious roasting of the groom by the best man instead of capturing them.
Reception time has come and Frank decides to give his camera to his young son who loves photography and tells him to have some fun. With no external lighting equipment and the room only being lit up by the DJ lights, he figures there is not much he can do about capturing those hilarious dance floor moments.
Besides, Uncle Frank is so exhausted that he doesn’t shoot for the rest of the night. I mean, he is helping out the bride and groom so much by saving them a lot of money, and doing it for so cheap that he thinks it shouldn’t matter anyway.
Now, the day is over and now it’s time for editing, but Uncle Frank only has basic knowledge of the editing software, and he doesn’t have the time to go through all the images and edit them with the amount of hours he has to work at the hospital. He simply gives the bride and groom a DVD with all of the images burned to it. The bride and groom are getting over the wedding blues and sit down, dying with anticipation and pop the DVD into the computer to start looking through their uncles beautiful work!
The couple get through 100 pictures into the 2,500 pictures Uncle Frank shot, the bride is already in tears, as every photo is too dark, too bright, blurry, or just not good. Furthermore, the bride and groom notice that there is no shot of their first kiss, speeches and the only reception shots were of Uncle Frank’s son shooting all of the kids at the reception.
While this story in particular is fictional, each one of the events and outcomes are from real situations that i hear about all of the time. In fact, so many of my client’s guests have approached me during a wedding to tell us about their “Uncle Frank” experience, and how they wish they had hired me to shoot their wedding. So, why does this happen to Uncle Frank? Well Frank had all the professional gear, and experience shooting nature and landscape scenes he doesn’t have the following:
The ability to quickly adjust his camera settings based on different lighting scenes. Most of the time wedding photographers have 2-3 seconds to adjust settings on the fly, any more than that, and the wedding photographer is almost guaranteed to miss something.
The knowledge of how his camera reads and interprets light in order to compensate for under or over exposure. In these situations the wedding photographer must rely on his experience rather than the camera’s readings.
The foresight to be prepared for each situation with a secondary camera prepped with a different type of lens. Professional wedding photographers will always scope out the wedding venue and scenes prior to the wedding and plan ahead.
The carrying cases needed to always have his necessary equipment and accessories on him at all times. Professional wedding photographers will always have their equipment readily available on their person, or nearby.
Experience shooting fleeting moments that you only have one chance to capture. A first kiss typically only lasts 1-2 seconds, and you don’t necessarily know exactly when it is going to happen. The wedding photographer must be staring through his lens, ready and prepared for this moment to happen.
Experience and knowledge required to anticipate angles and approaches to each scene. Knowing where to stand, and what angles to shoot is something that only comes from experience.
The energy to work non-stop for 12-18 hours without breaks. This is a wedding photographer’s job. I will come away during non-crucial moments of the day, this is usually when my clients are having dinner and even then I am working by backing up images i’ve taken so far in the day and making sure i am prepared for the remainder of it.
The ability to create unique lighting scenes, and supplement natural light with his own lighting. Understanding light and lighting is something that comes from study, training and experience. Being a master of lighting is impossible unless you have tried shooting in every possible lighting situation, especially under pressure.
Experience in taking control of the day when needed too, guiding and directing large group formals. This is where the wedding photographer’s personality and tact are so important. How do they interact with the bride, groom and their family.
The knowledge of advanced focus techniques.
Experience in taking extra shots of crucial pictures such as during formals in case of blinking, awkward expressions, etc.
In addition to all of this, there is so much more that Uncle Frank would need in order to take professional quality wedding photographs from start to finish.
While there are a lot of areas in your wedding budget that you can save money on, wedding photography should not be one of them. If you want to have professional quality, creative imagery of your wedding day that will be timeless heirlooms to be shown and handed down to your generations to come, you will need a reputable professional wedding photographer.
You have heard the phrase, you get what you pay for, a professional photographer who is experienced and trained in all these situations are worth their weight in gold and you are certain to come away with spectacular images from your wedding. If someone is cheap the chances are they will not exhibit any of these traits therefore putting you at risk like Uncle Frank.
Often times, wedding photographers, will work with clients in customising their packages in order to fit within their budget. If that is the case, choose quality over products. I completely understand that newlyweds are often on a budget, as they are starting their new lives together. But, choose quality over quantity and price. I see so many people invite relatives to their wedding who they have never met or even spoken to and pay a lot of money in doing so, instead they could have spent that money on a premium photographer that will give them incredible memories they can cherish forever.
To sum it up, you can never order better quality and more creative imagery after your wedding.