The cake has been cut, the bouquet tossed and the dress lovingly packed away. Your wedding day may be over but it will never be forgotten and your wedding photos are the one tangible item that remains to remind you of every moment of your precious day. There really are no second chances with wedding photographs, so choosing your wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions you will make.

So what do I need to know? The photographer is a very important part of your wedding day. Because they work very closely with you, they can have a huge impact on how well the day goes and how well it is recorded for posterity. The better photographers do more for you than just take photos. They will help with planning, timing, the fine details, calming nerves and many other things. Establishing a good, open and honest relationship with your photographer is critical. It is important to understand a bit about the industry, it’s basic business practices and how things work before setting out to find your ideal photographer. I hope the following inside information will help you to make a wise choice.

Why do I need to hire a professional when my friend has a great camera & has offered to shoot my wedding? “That meal was delicious… you must have really good pots” would be a similar reaction to a good meal. “I read that new book by Steven King last night… it was great… he must have a really good typewriter” “I love Picasso’s paintings… he must have really good brushes” “I love your new house. Your builder must have nice tools” Hopefully you see my point… our cameras, lenses, flashes and so on are merely tools — like a set of pots, a typewriter or painting brushes. A skilled wedding photographer could make great pictures with a disposable camera. Not a smart choice technically, but they could. When you pay a wedding photographer to photograph your wedding… you get much more then a good camera…. …and there is a twist on this concept as well:  “I-have-a-pair-of-really-sharp-scissors; may-I-cut-your-hair?  Think about that! Because better cameras are now more available to everyone, there is the temptation 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 $750 on it -— it better be nice! And I know them… and they will shoot it for free. Right? Generally speaking, it doesn’t turn out as fabulously as you think it will.  The photos MAY be OK, and you MAY like them, but…. There is a reason why good wedding photographers cost what they do.  Equipment, talent and the time they invest in your wedding are all reasons. But if the idea that your “Uncle Fred” or your friend with a nice camera seems like a good idea, I would read through these tips and comparisons between your friend and a hired professional before making that decision:

  • Your friend has a nice camera. It set them back a good $750.
  • A professional photographer has a nice camera, multiple expensive lenses, a nice back up camera, and lighting gear. It set them back upwards of $15 000.

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. Their 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 without 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 an “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 $1 000-$3 000 and upwards each (yes, that is just the lens, not the camera body or any other lenses) and can shoot in really low light while being hand held and not getting a shaky picture. And without having to turn the flash on and ruin the feeling of the moment or the atmosphere, or get really grainy images that really aren’t ‘nice’! My experience has been that most couples who are considering using a friend or relative to provide photography do so because of budget. As you may expect a wedding photographer to point out… this can be a mistake : ) A wedding photographer must be a jack-of-all-trades AND the master of all, not just some. When I talk to couples who took that risk and were unhappy, it’s almost always because of a few key things. The photographer they chose (for free or at a very low cost) did not understand what to do during the day. They didn’t know what their role was. They lacked the experience to take control and get the pictures made when they needed to be made. They often lurked in the background taking pictures that were either poorly posed or not posed at all. Backgrounds were distracting, not all the subjects were looking in the same direction and so on. Nobody looked happy. And then there are the equipment issues. Flashes that quit. Running out of memory card space. Using too low a resolution setting. Lower quality lenses that do not function well in dark places like a church or a reception hall. There are lots of excellent professional photographers in the world who will not photograph weddings. Not even for friends. Nada. They find weddings very stressful and demand skills they don’t have (or care to develop). I have been hired on short notice several times in the past few years by couples who became nervous as their wedding drew near, that Uncle Joe was in over his head. Good gear and a wall full of nice sunsets taken on vacation do not qualify a photographer to take on a wedding. The word photograph literally means “painting with light”.  The ability to see the light, see the surroundings, and see desired result to capture unique and poignant images is what professional photographic coverage is all about. Caveat Emptor

Questions to ask your friend or uncle who has a nice camera:

  • Does your friend have a backup camera? Backup lens? Extra batteries? Enough storage memory?
  • Will they miss half the photos from your wedding because they forgot to charge their batteries the day before?
  • Will they use RAW format that allows maximum quality, or just shoot JPG files, and what JPG settings?  Did you know that JPG format has many options – some of which will produce small and poor quality images that are barely printable – even from a good camera? Hey, I can actually set up my $3,500 cameras to take poor quality, small, crappy images – but why would I?
  • Does your friend take good pictures of the wedding details (rings, invitations, table settings, etc.), architecture, stylised 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 himself 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 of 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?
  • Is your friend going to think about getting detail shots of all the things you spent the past year deciding on? The rings, the dress, the bouquet, the church, the venue, the musicians, the food ‑ these all took time and effort on your part to choose.  Don’t you want a reminder of each and every one of them?  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 they are merely OK pictures and obvious moments have not been 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 professional can produce consistent results regardless of the various challenges that weddings present. They know how to make the best use of light and can adapt quickly to the constantly changing circumstances. The very best professional photographers will not just “take” photos but will “create” images using their skills in composition, lighting & direction. 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! Just remember that after the wedding is over, much of what happened on that day will no longer exist.  The cars are gone, the food and drinks consumed, the flowers in the church have withered and died, the music forgotten, the rented suits returned, and the guests have all gone home.  You may have the wedding gown, and the bridal bouquet pressed and dried.  And you will have memories.  But the photographs remain.

I have a million questions. How do i know that you’ll be the right photographer for our wedding? I’ve got a million answers to that. I have a comprehensive list of answers to virtually everything that you want to know about wedding photography. I’m happy to talk to you to alleviate your concerns, guide you through the day and provide you with the perfect memories of that special day.

So, how much will all this cost? I have full wedding packages starting from $750. Each package is designed to provide full coverage of your wedding day. Of course, I can also customise any package, or provide you with a unique coverage to suite your tastes. Contact me for more information.

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