It probably seems a bit odd that a professional wedding photographer such as myself would be writing a blog post on having your friend photograph your wedding, and you’d find many other photographers completely and utterly advising against the notion, and they have very good points. However I’m of the opinion that sometimes having a professional wedding photographer is not for everyone… but probably would be for most people. Having a keen amateur photograph your wedding that might produce unrelated arty photos would not have the experience organising people and coping with the pressures that become apparent whilst photographing a wedding. On the other hand however 99% of wedding photographers got their break by shooting a friend of a friend’s wedding and from then on held a passion for the art. So having your friend photograph your wedding might not be a bad thing, just so long as you’re happy with someone with little experience making a few mistakes and you both understand what is expected.
I’ve put together a bit of a list of things you really need to think about and ask yourself when considering having your friend photograph your wedding for you, as if you do not consider these points you will set yourself up for a disappointment when receiving your treasured memories, and you will possibly put your friend in an awkward position not being able to produce something that you expect.
Understanding what is expected
Sometimes wedding couples don’t want nor need beautifully crafted pieces of artwork to put on their walls to commemorate the happiest days of their lives, but are content with having someone simply record what went on during the day. When having a friend photograph your wedding you must be prepared for many of the images that looked so good in your head not turning out as amazing as you thought. But like I said this may not be a concern for you, but if they are inexperienced and you have higher expectations than just getting a few ‘snaps’ then you’re actually putting a whole lot of pressure on them and also setting your expectations higher than what is possible.
Will they be shooting all day? Will they get a break? Are they part guest and part photographer? If they are a guest will they be allowed to drink a bit too much and spend the evening taking photos of people’s shoes and waistlines? How about the flow of a wedding? They may know how to handle a camera, but having done dozens of weddings in the past, myself as a seasoned professional would know when the kiss will happen, or predicting when someone will begin to laugh. Do they know when the best light will be for portraits, or will they try to photograph you squinting into the sun?
Will your friend be dedicated to you?
You may think that having someone simply document your day will better enable your friend photographer to be freely wandering about capturing all those natural smiles and giggles that makes the difference between a natural looking wedding photographic album and a ‘posed’ one. However one of the main reasons why you’d hire a professional wedding photographer is the experience behind that photographer, and with that experience the knowledge of where to be at the right times to capture those images. It’s something that only comes with experience and your friend, unless they are a professional wedding photographer themselves, is not going to have that.
Will your friend get every angle during your ceremony, or take one or two photos then sit back and watch? Can they organise a crowd of people not too keen on having group photos? Will they wander off at prime photo taking opportunities?
What about equipment?
Yes, your friend has the new super dooper whizzbang camera they bought at JB Hifi during the boxing day sales, and it even came with two lenses! This may all be well and good, and they may even know how to use it too, otherwise you wouldn’t even consider them to photograph your wedding right? Their portfolio of landscape work and arty photos they post up on Facebook show skill way beyond the simple use of instagram filters. Great! But can they go from taking a well illuminated shot of the bride and groom at the altar of a church to shooting a cheeky little boy who’s playing around under the pews within the same breath? Good wedding photography is more than a fancy camera and general photographic knowledge. Good photographers spend thousands of hours gaining the experience on how to use the tool that is called a camera to produce their work, it is not the camera that does this. There’s a common joke about this in photography circles..
A chef was really enjoying some photography at an exhibition and remarked to the photographer “Wow! these are great! You must have a really good camera!”
To which the photographer replied whilst munching on the chef’s cocktail horderves, “Thankyou! These are great too! You must have fantastic pots and pans!”
A non-professional also won’t carry back up gear with them, a professional will. This means that if anything goes wrong with one camera then they will always have another one with them. It also means that they will know what to do if a memory card corrupts or if the battery runs out they will always have a spare one.
Regretting having your friend photograph your wedding
There was a survey done a while ago with newly weds and one aspect of the interview was if they had any regrets at all, and the number one main regret was the fact that they had not invested in having a professional wedding photographer present at their wedding. The photographs, or video that your photographer and videographer produce will be the only thing that survives longer than your wedding day, with exception of gifts and decorations, etc. But it’s the memories these images evoke that make them priceless. You cannot redo your wedding day, so what can you doo when you have your friends photograph your wedding and it’s not what you were expecting? Having your friend photograph your wedding can be very hit and miss, an amateur will not take your wedding as seriously as a professional would. Here’s a quote from a bride Christie Osbourne who had a magnificent DIY wedding, but unfortunately regrets not investing in a professional photographer.
We DIY-ed everything: our cake, the favors, our invitations, the bunting and pinwheel decorations, our centerpieces and flowers, the wine labels, and the iPod “DJ”. Everything but the bouquets and the clothes. It was an amazingly cute wedding. Many of our friends remarked that it was “so us,” and “so much fun” What more could a bride want?
Right now I want beautiful pictures to match the beautiful wedding we put so much time and love into creating.
Don’t you want your friends to enjoy your wedding?
Hopefully you do. Well unfortunately having your friend photograph your wedding would probably cause that friend to not enjoy your day as much. Most of my weddings, I’m starting at around from 10am-11am and won’t finish until 11-12pm. Do you really think your friend will keep going for this time? Chances are important shots will be lost as your friend gets bored and wanders off to enjoy themselves.
Don’t get me wrong- there CAN be friends that help out with your wedding who will do a great job, in fact I myself have shot weddings for friends before and will do so again. Having your friend photograph your wedding can be a very cost effective way to save some money, but like I said before please do make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to expectations for the quality and work rate on the day.