If you’re asking, “should I hire my friend as my wedding photographer?” there’s a pretty good chance that you’re trying to save money. While there are many scenarios where it would be fine to cut corners, find a bargain, or save a buck, your wedding photographer should NOT be one of them.
Yes, I may be a little biased, but I’m not trying to convince you to hire me.
I’m warning you not to make the same mistake I made.
Other than your actual marriage, your pictures of your wedding are going to be what last. They are a physical representation of the memories you will make at your wedding. When your children and grandchildren ask to see pictures of you on your wedding day, what will they see?
Blurry, unedited, unimportant pictures that you hate? Or will you be able to show them a physical replica of the joy and emotions you experienced that day?
A few years ago, I made the mistake of hiring a family friend as my wedding photographer.
I didn’t ask the right questions and trusted that this person knew what they were doing based on the way they presented themselves as a photographer. When I received my pictures almost three months after my wedding, I was heartbroken. I only received 114, and there were only 6 portraits of just me and Dan.
I later found out that they used a cheap, amateur-level camera and only used one, inexpensive lens the whole wedding. Every time I think about my wedding photos, I get a huge pit in my stomach and am reminded of my disappointment all over again. Even while writing this, I can’t help but tear up thinking about all the memories that were not captured and that I will never be able to share with my children, family, and friends.
Based on my own personal experience (along with several others that I will quote) here are 5 reasons you should hire a professional wedding photographer:
Wedding photography is unique as far as the photography world goes. There is SO much that goes into the whole day.
Lighting constantly changes, you are shooting in new venues all the time, you take many kinds of photos (portraits, details, dancing, groups, documentary shots, etc.), and you have to be prepared for countless unexpected surprises.
We all have friends who do “photography,” but that in no way makes them qualified to shoot weddings. Photographers who do portraits, landscapes, travel, or just take photos as a hobby will probably not have the right equipment or gear required to shoot a wedding.
Every wedding photographer should have multiple camera bodies, a variety of high quality lenses, lighting equipment, extra batteries and SD cards, etc. For example, imagine if your “friend photographer” experiences technical difficulties with their camera during your wedding. The chances are that they won’t have a backup, so instead of getting decent quality pictures, you get none at all.
The gear a photographer uses is a HUGE factor in getting your dream wedding pictures.
2. Artistic Ability
One of the biggest suggestions I give to potential clients is choosing (or not choosing) me as a photographer based on my photography style.
I ask every potential client if they’ve had a chance to look at my portfolio to see if it matches what they are looking for. It is a waste of both of our time to discuss shooting a wedding if they don’t vibe with my style. And I honestly don’t mind if someone is looking for a different style! But anyone who hires me should be confident that my style is what they want to receive.
As far as wedding photography goes, there are several factors that go into good photo results – posing, angles, editing (color, lighting, skin tones, etc.) and knowing what settings to use in different scenarios. All these factors will determine the artistic style of any individual.
An inexperienced photographer will have a hard time managing all of these factors to produce the style/outcome that you are looking for.
That being said, sometimes a photographer will know how to use their camera comfortably and understands camera settings, but they lack the artistic ability to create stunning images.
I trusted that my photographer knew how to use their camera, but I did not anticipate their lack of artistic or creative ability. That is the problem with hiring a friend without a solid, consistent wedding portfolio. You won’t know for sure if they have an eye for wedding photography, or more importantly, the artistic skill when editing the photos.
3. Experience + Professionalism
You’ve been dreaming about this day for a long time, right? The last thing you want is for the most important day of your life to become stressful due to an inexperienced and/or an unprofessional photographer. Aside from your wedding coordinator, your photographer will likely play the biggest part in how smooth and seamless your day flows.
For example, in between the ceremony and cocktail hour, you might have very limited time to get portraits taken. An experienced photographer will rally your bridal party, gather your family and keep everything moving – all while producing high quality photos.
A friend of mine recently got married and hired a photographer that held up their reception by over an hour.
Yes. I said an hour.
They did not communicate adequately to the whole bridal party, and a bridesmaid drove to the wrong location for portraits. Despite urges from the bride, even after the bridesmaid finally arrived, the photographer moved very slowly and caused the bride to be stressed/unhappy on her wedding day.
Without enough wedding experience, your whole day could be ruined by a single person (who you probably paid real money to).
Another horror story that I thought I’d throw in here for emphasis was sent to me via DM on Instagram. A woman reached out to me about re-shooting her wedding photos AFTER 20 YEARS of not having a single good picture from her wedding day. Here is the message she sent me:
“Hi Laura…I am reaching out regarding your “wedding retakes!” So my husband and I were married 20 years ago this June. Unfortunately, the photographer we hired was too hung over from the night prior, so he sent his 17-year-old son to take our wedding photos. Needless to say, we had little options in the end, and I have spent 20 years longing just to have that wedding picture with my husband. We eloped in a kitchen in Utah as we were a military couple and had no pictures. When we renewed vows in NY, we ended up with candids of my in-laws arguing. I am all about finding a dress and giving it a whirl again.”
Professionalism can make a big difference.
This is something that is very important and yet so often overlooked.
Accidents always happen, but for some reason, more tend to happen at big life events. We’ve all seen those “wedding fails” videos of brides falling into lakes or a photographer knocking over the cake. You can never anticipate what will go wrong at your wedding, but you can make sure that everyone is legally protected and safe. This is why 1) photography insurance and 2) contracts between the photographer and couple are SO vital.
If my photographer would have actually given us a contract to sign, they would have been legally obligated to send me more than a measly 114 photos.
A contract would have laid out every detail about what I would have received, what would have happened if I was dissatisfied (which I clearly was/am), and what each party was legally liable for. Unfortunately since this was a family friend, I didn’t feel as though I needed a contract. Turns out I was very wrong.
Thankfully, there were no accidents during my wedding. I could only imagine what would have happened if a server would have accidentally spilled something on the photographer’s camera, or if the photographer broke something at the venue.
Photography insurance would cover these kinds of scenarios, but I could have potentially been held liable if something like that would have happened.
If you hire a friend as your photographer, chances are they will not have a contract for you to sign, and they will probably not be insured. Make sure you’re ready to take that risk.
Let’s face it: nobody is perfect. No matter how good your friend might be at photography, there is still a chance that you will not be 100% satisfied with the photos they deliver.
When you hire a friend to shoot your wedding, it becomes very difficult to communicate your dissatisfaction for fear of offending your friend or potentially even ending that relationship.
I did not feel comfortable communicating how angry I was at my photographer due to the fact that this person was a family friend. On the other hand, if they were a professional photographer, it would have been much easier to mention my dislikes and handle them in a professional manner, because I would have hired a business rather than someone I had a relationship with.
Multiple people have shared a very similar experience with me, and it seems to be a common trend when asking friends to take pictures at their wedding.
Another bride told me that she hired a friend to take her wedding photos, which turned out terrible. She couldn’t complain, but she wanted better photos SO badly to capture the memories from her wedding.
When I offered to take photos of her and her husband in their wedding attire, she told me that she actually cried.
Based on my experience and what I have heard from so many others, I can confidently say that hiring a friend puts that relationship at risk.
In summary… should I hire my friend as my wedding photographer?
I know it’s tempting to accept when a friend offers to shoot your wedding for free or dirt cheap.
It seems like a great way to save money and get some pictures of your wedding. However, as I mentioned above, the pictures of your wedding are going to be what lasts beyond that day.
You will probably never wear your wedding dress again. You will wash off your makeup. Your flowers will die. The food will be gone and forgotten. Your friends and family will travel back home.
Other than your marriage itself, your memories will be the only lasting thing from your wedding day (and even memories can be forgotten). Your photographer should be the last thing that you cheap out on.
Take it from someone who made that mistake.
The reason Dan and I are passionate about doing wedding photography is because we don’t want other people to experience our disappointment. It really isn’t about the money for us. It’s about making our clients remember the overwhelming joy and precious memories (not the stress) of their wedding day.
Based on my personal experience and from other saddening stories, you can trust me when I say that you are better off spending the extra money to hire a professional wedding photographer.
It is worth the investment.
// Are you looking for a wedding or elopement photographer? Our names are Dan & Laura, and we are wedding photographers in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. You can check out our work here or contact us here!