Should I Book a Professional Wedding Photographer or Get a Friend to do it for Free? A Cautionary Tale…


Photography Credit: James Melia (full wedding)

You’ve probably seen similar discussions to this on other wedding blogs, however today I wanted to share with you this cautionary tale from a bride who had personal experience of taking the cheaper option and was unhappy with the results. Now, I know spending £2000 on a wedding photographer isn’t possible for everyone, however the point of this post is not to bully you into paying for someone you can’t afford. No, I wanted to share this story with you so that you make your decision with your eyes wide open. I just want to be open and honest with you and to let you know that, as with most things in life, you really do get what you pay for…and if something sounds too good to be true then it probably is.

If wedding photography isn’t that big a deal to you, the great – who am I to tell you that’s wrong? However it breaks my heart when I hear from newlyweds that say “I wish we’d thought more about our photography. We spent more on the cake/my dress/the flowers and now we have no good photos to remember our day”.

OK, Over to you Mrs X…

♥  ♥  ♥

I have asked for this post to be anonymous so that people reading this don’t think it’s a shameless marketing ploy. I may now be a professional wedding photographer myself, but I didn’t want to write this article to promote myself. No, I really just wanted to share this cautionary tale with those of you who might not understand the importance of having great wedding photographs.

It’s been a few years since I got married but when I think back to it I get a sick feeling.  It wasn’t the family argument that happened (don’t get me started on that!), nor was it the fact that we funded it with a loan which we are still paying off.  Nope, the sick feeling is purely centred around my foolishness and the pretty terrible images we now have to look back on for the rest of our lives.

Here I am a few years later, now a ‘pro’ photographer myself (who knew that would happen!!) and I now have a new found understanding of the skills required to shoot a wedding. I find myself wishing I knew then what I know now. You may have read articles from photographers before staying how important it is that your wedding photographer has experience, knows how to handle lighting and uses the right equipment etc, and while I am here to reiterate these points, I’m not here to say these things to pimp my own services. I figured this article could be a little cathartic for me and I really hope I can help you think a little bit more about your decision – whether that be to spend money on your wedding photography, or to go for the cheaper option of hiring someone with no experience – maybe a friend with a nice camera who has offered to do it for free. Please note that a ‘nice camera’ does not a good wedding photographer make!

We got married in December and I now appreciate that winter weddings, where you come out of the ceremony to the cold and dark, are bloody hard work and really difficult to photograph.  I understand that romantic candle lit receptions might look gorgeous in ‘real life’ but require a certain level of skill to capture on camera, and above all I now know that all of the money I spent making the venue look beautiful and cosy was pretty much wasted.  OK so our guests will always remember how beautiful the venue looked, but for me the day flew by so fast and I don’t remember much of it myself!  Every time I mention my wedding my Mum says “But it looked so beautiful” and whilst I’m sure that’s not just her being kind (it’s really not her style) it has made me hate my own wedding because I don’t look back at my photos and see a beautiful wedding, I look at them and see horribly dark and blurry photos.

You see, not realising the true impact of what I was doing, I asked my friend to shoot my big day.  He had a DSLR and could take amazing pictures of cars so he must be able to shoot my winter wedding right? Wrong!

It wasn’t his fault really, I should have learnt more, understood a bit about light (or lack of it) and made things easier.  But here’s the worst part, I wasn’t on a £1000 budget, I spent quite a lot more.  I prioritised wrongly.  I spent more on bridesmaids dresses than I did on my photographer, more on pretty decorations than pretty images…simply put, I was a fool!

Don’t get me wrong, I know not everyone has the budget to pay much for their wedding photographer and this is not an article to make you feel bad.  I say use whoever you want – a professional, a friend, whoever…it’s your wedding after all. But I urge you to do your research first and go into it knowing that the results of the cheap option just won’t be the same as someone with experience shooting weddings.

If you aren’t using a professional then you need to take some responsibility and help them out a bit, consider it a creative project.  Here’s the things I wish I had done…

♥ Took them to the ceremony venue at a date and time with similar light (light is so important, I can’t stress that enough) and took sample images to get the right camera settings.

♥ Showed them the way I intended to light the reception and had fun taking practise images with them to get a feel for the correct look.

♥ Checked their kit included at least one low light lens (2.8f or lower…it’s the number that’s important) and if not budgeted to hire them one for the day (try

♥ Showed more interest in their work and ensured they had practiced shooting in similar lighting situations – shooting static cars in the middle of the day is nothing like shooting a wedding, with loads going on, when its dark!

♥ Had my wedding earlier in the day…to give them a fighting chance.

♥ Turned the lights up a bit for important things like the first dance and the speeches.

♥ Most controversial of all, perhaps I should have held my wedding when the light was better and not in the winter.

Sadly I only realised how important my wedding pictures were after the big day.  I waited for months for images that I am now too embarrassed to show people!

My parting words are these.  If you can afford a professional wedding photographer then please please please spend as much as you can to get the best! These images mark the start of your family album and they can’t be easily redone.  If you use a non ‘pro’, be sure to put some work in yourself, show an interest and consider the previous tips.  Oh and finally, if your shooter is using a DSLR (and they have enough memory…RAW files average 28MB each) ask them to shoot RAW images as well as JPEG (they can set their camera to do this automatically).  RAW files are much easier to correct in Photoshop afterwards if you do have problems with the images, plus you could always pay someone to edit the RAW files in the future when you have the budget for it. Just remember you’re still not going to get the same results as with photos that were shot by a skilled professional (you can’t polish a turd after all!) but the images may be able to be improved with some clever edits in Photoshop.

My final words of advice are this, please be careful when choosing a friend or family member to shoot your wedding. If they do a bad job it could even ruin your relationship. It kind of did ours, and that makes me even more sad.

If my words don’t convince you then take a look at my wedding photos! If you do recognise me…ssssshhhhh Mum’s the word!

It’s actually hard to put in to words how upsetting it is to look at these but mostly because I know it’s a problem of my own causing!

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  1. What a great article. Yes I have heard several similar stories. I cringe every time I hear another. Oh well you pay (or do not pay) for what you get has never been a truer statement. Even today I get messages from brides telling me that a family friend has agreed to do the wedding. So it seems no matter how many times we hear stories like this we will continue to do so. Some people will never learn

  2. World Elegance

    I have an idea! Make a “Fix the RAWs competition”!

    Yeah, I have heard these stories already. I was even asked to edit (sort, choose, remove) photos taken by a “professional” photographer.

    This might be off-topic, but I once had a bride who hired me to shoot her wedding. Seeing her background as a fine arts major, I was more than happy to oblige. I always go for natural and genuine moments because I believe it becomes their memories. She hated the photos. The reason? They weren’t “formal” and the photos show them being intimate with each other because she wants to show that she is a “formal” person and that she is a “professional”. I regretted shooting her wedding. Seriously.

    There were those who regretted not having me take their photos, but regretting getting me for taking those “sweet photos” was so shocking, I laughed when I arrived home.

  3. Neil

    I think there is a lot of common sense advice in the article for prospective couples who are planning their wedding.

    However I do think some degree of balance is needed.

    I’m primarily an amateur photographer. I’ve shot a couple of weddings as either a friend or relation. But I’ve also undertaken a lot of training and tuition in photography as well as gaining experience over many years (since the mid ’70s)

    Amateurs do not have the monopoly on poor service. With my own wedding (back in the ’80s) we had such poor service by the photographer from a well respected studio on the day that he failed to take photos specifically requested, quality of many was mediochre and we only agreed to pay their fees once they had processed and mounted photos from a friend who also had taken shots that day. As mentioned in the article – it is so upsetting that we know there were moments that were supposed to be captured and were not. So the problem is nothing new, but neither is it limited to amateurs.

    I would suggest that your advice to couples not only applies to when a friend or family member is taking the photos but also to when you engage a professional photographer. Not all of them have been in business or have as much experience as many amateurs.

    But, and this is why I wouldn’t become a professional wedding photographer, in my opinion the biggest thing you pay for is ability to organise people. Taking a photo is the easy part – getting people where you want them and how you want them is not. I’m not a people organiser which is why on those occasions I have undertaken a wedding shoot I have made it clear that I am an observational photographer – if they want something organised they need to get someone else to do it. But the people I did the shoots for understood this got someo to organise the people and were happy with what I produced for them.

  4. Barok Yangco

    Your story is so familiar to me except I was the photographer who knew nothing about photo equipment other than a lens, a camera and a borrowed electronic flash with no extra batteries. Then, on my own wedding, I did not think of the pictures at all so I ask a friend to photograph my wedding who was like me, naive.
    Lesson learned and now I wish I can go back.

  5. Fiona Conn

    Wow I’m shocked! This shows that you definitely shouldn’t trust your wedding day in the hands of someone who doesn’t have a clue. I used a wedding photography duo called ‘Picture the Day’ they were great and would highly recommend these guys passionate about what they do & with great rates…

  6. As a professional wedding photographer, I see this phenomenon happen a lot more since the digital era because everyone is used to having pictures instantly as snapshots and therefore forget or do not know what is the difference between good and bad photography, not to mention better photography!
    Therefore, it is our duty, as wedding photographers, to spend time educated and explaining what is the real difference between making a snapshot and being a real wedding photographer, with every skill needed, either photography-related or other skills (sociability, professionalism,…). But it is true that some people tend to not believe you and only see the difference after their wedding, when you cannot do a lot of things!

  7. Jo

    I agree with your article except the part about asking for RAW files. Most photographers would never supply the RAW files because they are exactly that – raw. If you supply RAW files it is because somebody wants to edit your images which is a breach of copyright unless the photographer has given you written permission to do so. I do understand that it may have helped a little in your case to have the RAW files to perhaps save some of your images from your wedding but paying someone else to edit those files without written permission from the photographer would be illegal. I’m sure, as a professional photographer yourself, that you wouldn’t waive all rights to your images by signing over copyright to a client?
    On a different note – I am always telling people to budget for their photographer before the dress, venue, bridesmaids, food, flowers because of exactly what you said – at the end of it you only have your photographs to look back on and they’re the start of your family album. I only photograph newborns in a studio but I still constantly tell people the pitfalls of using a cheap photographer, especially ones using GroupOn!
    I’m sorry you don’t have beautiful images of what looked like a beautiful day x

  8. As a fellow “Pro” I have also observed this more and more. More worryingly I have noticed that couples are hiring so-called professional photographers for truly rock bottom basement prices. For example, I went to see a prospective client recently, the bride said she loved my work, but she had just called a another professional who would spend all day at their wedding, shoot 2000 images and give them to her on a disc for £249. I asked her about the editing, colour correction, etc. Her answer was “We might not get all of that stuff, but he is cheap which mean’s I can spend more on my hen week in Tenerife”.
    The old saying “You only get what you pay for” is very true, especially in the wedding photography business.

  9. Paula

    Goodness me! Poor you! I have to say he shouldn’t have accepted though – I have been asked before (as an amateur with a DSLR) and refused point blank to be official photographer as I just don’t have the skills, experience or equipment… and I don’t mean to be arrogant, but I have taken standby photos for a wedding in case of corrupted cards etc and the results were definitely not what you are seeing here 🙁
    Always pay for a professional! This coming from a rank amateur who KNOWS she is an amateur!

  10. Wedding is a memorable event in everyone’s life and photos of wedding can preserve this memorable day for long time. Definitely wedding photography is so essential for every wedding event. I appreciate you to sharing your views here………

  11. Will

    Thank you for your story. For many years I have loved taking pictures. But never had a DSLR but still been able to take good pictures with a vary good all round camera. But my wife treated me to a DSLR early this year. I love it. I have been to two weddings since. At both people thought I was the main photographer. One of the weddings the BnG want to use some of my pictures in the main album. I have been asked to do a wedding and have said NO! I want to work with a photographer ( do like an apprenticeship, I am a carpenter by trade so been there) to get the experience in exchange for taking extra photos for free before taking the big step. If anyone can help please let me know. Will

  12. Adam

    A very good reminder why you should always use a professional photographer with a proven portfolio of wedding work. There portfolio should also include images from the whole day, and not just a few of there “signature shots” to wow you. Remember you should be happy with the photographers coverage of the whole day.

    When the party is over, the cake has been eaten and the honeymoon has finished, the only memories of the day will be the photos! Quite an important reason not to cut costs with the photographer.

  13. Thank!mI’m going to share this blog on my photo page. Only last week I got am email from a client I had already booked, saying they have changed their mind and a family friend with a nice camera has become available to do their wedding. I am in two minds to send them this, not because I want them to go with me but because I can just imagine their disappointment when they get their amateur photos back 🙁

  14. Allea Marie Santiago

    Thank you for sharing your story. In my opinion I would rather hire a professional toronto wedding photographer to my big day. It not because I don’t like the work my friend. but I want to see the best moment of my life on the pictures. Another I want the idea of the professional photographer in capturing dramatic scenes. But nevertheless it was you who will decide and if you find your brief is good as professional then why not choose him.

  15. oh, you poor thing. Similarly, I was a bride before becoming a wedding photographer. I eloped and rationalized that I couldn’t afford a photographer. We had our witness take pictures with a point and shoot and I cried that night out of regret. We spent more on the rings (but we both have since lost those..again:tears of regret)

  16. A young couple approached me a couple of years ago asking for a quote for their Wedding Photographer, which I duly supplied. It was out of their budget so they opted for the ‘Friend with a really nice camera’ option. The week after the Wedding the bride, Jo, rang me in tears as she had just received her ‘proofs’ and asked if their was anything I could do. The pictures were underexposed, out of focus, over exposed poorly orchestrated and the vast majority were beyond hope.
    So, I asked them if they still had access to the dress and suit. I rang the venue, as I had worked there a couple of times before and got permission for a portrait shoot. The three of us spent an hour at the Wedding Venue and ‘re-created’ the Bride and Groom portraits to salvage some memories of their special day. But this only happened because of the kindness of the venue and suit supplier, not everyone will be this lucky.

  17. Kat, I would definitely have a professional photographer, but I would like to point out not all photographers are the same. When I got married we went to see three photographers – one we just couldn’t stand and did not want at our wedding – the second photographers work we did not like and the third we chose because we liked his work and seemed like a nice person. However he turned up late on our civil wedding day and missed capturing of our vows, so no photographs at all.
    It is because of that experience i became a wedding photographer and as I do not want other couple to go through the stress I will do anything to make sure the couples get way beyond what I promised them as you can see on my site

  18. Oh, wow. What a shame. Well, even though you can never redo the day itself, you can at least dress up again and get some portraits done by someone whose work is outstanding.

  19. Oh God you have my sympathies as something similar happened to me but with videography (I use the term loosely). After paying for a photographer (who wasn’t great), we didn’t have a budget for a videographer so left it to my step father and some member of my husbands family. They constantly bumped into each other during the ceremony, had shakey hands, were moving around during the vows so missed most of them, and gave up filming after the ceremony as soon as they started drinking. In fact, unbelievably I never even got to see the footage taken by my husbands family! I watched my stepfather’s a footage once and all I can say is after crying, I wanted to kill him! lol
    So yes, whatever you do, spend as much on photography as you can, and see a whole wedding they have shot at the time if year you’re getting married. Oh and don’t use family!!!

  20. Ally

    As someone who has been the friend doing the photography for free a couple of times I’d agree with this – pay a pro for guaranteed results!I’m an enthusiastic amateur with more portrait experience than events but agreed to help friends who were on a budget. Whilst I’m pleased with my work I struggled with the lighting particularly, could have done with more suitable kit and was quite stressed I’d mess up the important moments (photos they keep for a lifetime -no pressure!), so couldn’t be as involved in the event as a guest. It was also many many days work doing all the editing, which I had to fit all round my (paid) job. Whilst I love photography it was far more work than I’d anticipated and I wouldn’t rush to do it again.

  21. Hi there I am soooo sad to read this…I myself have been in the industry for more than 10 years…
    I urgently want to make brides aware of this…
    In South -Africa the brides are bombarded with cheap ies…
    Please give me permissionto post this article with all the mages on my wall…Facebook as well as my website…

  22. Richard Watts

    my dad was a professional wedding photographer for 30 years & 90% of his work was on personal recommendation & unfortunately he had to close down the business because of have a go hero’s going out & buying a camera & shooting full days for stupid rates & I couldn’t agree more that you get EXACTLY what you pay for! Its not just the taking of the photos but it is also being able to handle a large group of people in a light hearted but firm way & getting the awkward individuals to do what you want them to do & that is the easy part of the job, its the days of post production after that people don’t appreciate & also being able to source & provide them with albums & prints that are a reminder of their special day! we ALWAYS had at least 3 photographers at every wedding, my dad, mum & usually myself to provide backup & capture candid photos with a long lense that people didn’t realise were being taken! this is an extremely well written article as well as a cautionary tale.

  23. A

    soo true, spend the most you can on pics and make sure you have a list of what you want. If your photographer is working on their own ask someone to assist them in making sure you get the right pics that you want. Unfortunately even with a professional who was given a list of must have pics, eg me and my mum among others, the pictures were really poor and missing so many key shots. Of the pictures with my bridesmaids one has shut eyes and the others are cropped so not showing the beautiful dresses that were worn. Really wish we spent more, but we decided to save money and opt for a cheaper photographer biggest regret of our day!!!

  24. Heather

    Really sorry to hear about your photos, maybe you could do a renewal, a redux of sorts? (I know money would be an issue, or even rent some wedding gear and get a portraiture session done).

    As a wedding photographer Myself I wouldn’t use someone with little experience and without a portfolio go back up their consistency and style – however – I have rescued two couples wedding days due to expensive photographers pulling out last minute and taken mock wedding photos to replace some that were below the expectations of the couple.

    I’m planning on photographing my own wedding (there is method in the madness don’t worry!), because I would be loathe to use some of little experience without having my own camera on standby as back up OR spending a lot of money and being let down by the photographer, because everyone can have an off day.

  25. These are particularly bad pictures, who ever took these didn’t have a clue what they were doing. I don’t see how its possible that this ‘photographer’ was able to present any sort of coherent portfolio that would lead someone to believe they were worth booking for a wedding.

  26. Not only should you get a professional photographer, you need to view their work and make sure they are very clear on the style you want and who is and who is not to be included in family photos, and what you want in the fore and background. I should have known something was not right when our photographer turned up in a pair of cut off Jean shorts and flip flops…in February. While my husband and I were shaking hands on the receiving line, he was busy lining my family up in front of cars and concrete walls to take photos. Our album was two 1 hour photo envelopes. He drew with marker on the back ‘A1, A2, A3’ and so on. He put them together wet, so our pictures were nicely smudged with markers. He didn’t give us the negatives to protect his copy right. Its safe to say, there was no fear of them being duplicated. Get a professional!!

  27. Beck

    I feel worse for the friend asked to take the pictures than the bride. As a graduate of photography I’m forever having friends ask me to take pics of big things that I know I wouldn’t be able to produce brilliant pictures of so they can save a bit of money. I try to politely decline as often as possible but end up feeling terribly guilty, this guy probably felt he couldn’t say no

  28. chewrocka

    Most pro photographers charge too much. Is it really surprising that people will pay what they can? My advice is to find a decent photographer with a decent camera and pay them a few hundred bucks. everyone’s happy.

  29. Ellen

    Couldn’t agree more! my other half thought I’d lost the plot when I told him how much I planned on spending on our wedding photographer, but after meeting her and seeing her amazing work in our engagement photos, he now totally understands and is actually quite excited now about seeing the photos from our big day in April!
    However, I’m truly blessed as a free lance photographer myself, to have a number of friends attending the wedding who are incredible photographers and artists in their own rights so it will be exciting to see our wedding day from their point of view too…there’s no such thing as too many photos!

  30. I am a florist that specialises in wedding flowers so encounter a lot of bridal couples in the planning stages. Please, please don’t compromise on the photos. It is at the top of the priority list not because you need to document how perfect it all was, but because quite frankly, no matter how much you ‘stop to savour the moment’like people tell you to – when you look back you won’t remember huge chunks of the day. At all. It goes too fast and you are too busy well, getting married. Every funny story, touching moment and important guest will be lost to you because you won’t remember even the half of it unless you can look through photos that invoke emotion and whip you back to that special day.

  31. helen

    Couldn’t agree more. We got married 5 years ago and my mum stressed to me the importance of a good photographer. I wwas really happy with our photographer and have some lovely photographs and a stunning album to show for the money (more than the whole bridal outfit but so worth it!) My mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer shortly after the wedding so those pictures are priceless to me, the last time we were all truly happy x

  32. Anonymous Wedding Photographer!

    Nobody wants to hate their wedding photos and events not captured on camera quickly become forgotten as though they never happened. If a friend with a cheap dslr took your wedding photos there is a good chance that are not of a professional standard but you still love them. Show the same bride the same events through the professional’s camera and they might then realise how much better they look. There is also a small chance that the guest photographer was very talented with skills taking portraiture, landscape, detailed shots etc etc and had a camera that could cope with all lighting conditions on the day. They would need to be dedicated to capturing the wedding and not be a guest at the wedding though for them not to miss anything. There is also a chance that the hired professional turns up with a cheap camera and has no talent whatsoever and the pictures look awful. I had a bride once who had a friend capture her day and she came to me a year later for a couple shoot as she hated her wedding photos. She absolutely loved what I gave her. If the bride and groom have no understanding of what consistutes as good photography or great moments captured well, then why bother spending the money on a pro! If on the other hand they do appreciate the work of a professional then they should hire one. I have the fastest DSLRs available and lots of experience and I still struggle and panic sometimes! Put a guest who doesn’t know what they are doing in very unfavourable lighting conditions and you might as well forget about having nice photographs. There is only one chance to capture the wedding day so I’d advise not taking the risk. Like buying anything you should do your research and learn as much as you can about something before spending out my advice to find a photographer that you can get along with and who’s pictures you love.

    Once the day is over, the venue kick you out, the flowers are dead, the food is eaten, the dress will never be worn again and the bride will probably never look as good again then on her wedding day, all you’ll have left to look forward and remember the day by are the photographs. Choose wisely!

  33. Your wedding photographs left me speechless! Completely agree with all your points and feel people should really do proper research before hiring.

  34. This is so sad! But it certainly happens a lot now. We’ve had many inquiries from people who have “decided to get a friend to do it instead” to avoid having to pay for Wedding photographer. With all that time spent choosing flowers, favours, dresses, details and personal touches making your Wedding day unique it is so sad to end up with no record of it all to look back at. My advice to people on a tight budget is to go with a professional photographer with a shorter package. Then you get all the main parts of the day documented beautifully without breaking the bank and the fun evening shots can be captured by friends. And be aware that any “photographers” charging only a few hundred pounds for the day will certainly not have sufficient training, experience or kit needed for the job. When hiring a photographer you’re not just paying for the hours of their time on your Wedding day. You are paying for the years of training and experience that led up to them becoming a professional photographer as well as camera equipment, insurance and editing time. It takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money to become a good photographer.

  35. I’m a full time wedding photographer and I am contacted by several brides a year asking if I can re-edit or “save” pictures like these.
    I don’t want brides reading this feature to think this bride was unlucky or in an unusual situation. This happens to a bride somewhere every weekend! If you book an amateur photographer who has no experience of low light event photography you should expect images like these.

    Miracles don’t really happen in photoshop – “photography miracles” come from the hours of practice real wedding photographers put in to this kind of work, and to the fact that we pay for decent equipment and learn how to use it.

  36. Those images are some of the worst that I have seen. I am so sorry that this happened to you. Planning is critical to any Bride, just as it is to the photographer, however hindsight is given to everyone!

    I too, detest my wedding photographs and since I became a photographer have made it my mission to educate people on what makes a good image as well as photographer. It is becoming harder to do with the rise of incomes and availability of DSLRs.

  37. There have been two experiences in my family where photography was not the priority for couple (as a professional photographer I think this is MADNESS). My sister paid a friend and got a selection of ‘nice enough images but the photographer missed out most of the key people. He didn’t take any photos of my mum and sister together, nor of her husband and his mother together. Both mothers were really upset about this. Then to make things worse there were no photos of my other sister or my step-nana. It’s like they weren’t even there.
    When you choose a professional you should be getting someone who is skilled and creative enough to capture your day, but also someone who is assertive enough to get the right people in front of the camera!
    A year later my mum got married for the second time, but this time her priority was the party afterwards. She only wanted a handful of photos of her, my step-dad and all the daughters. Nothing else. So she searched until she found a photographer who would work for a couple of hours mid-week in May. It was hardwork, but ultimately she got what she wanted on a small budget.
    Top tips:
    1) get a pro
    2) prioritise what images you absolutely want and work around that. It might take time to find someone but it’s worth it.

  38. I agree with the general message here, and am so sorry for your loss! However, I disagree with asking for RAW files, as Jo mentioned. It’s illegal to edit a professional photographer’s work without consent. And no pro in their right mind would allow that. Anyway! I also disagree with holding their hand through the process. You shouldn’t have to ask if they have a fast enough lens, if they know anything about weddings, they will have the right gear. To weed out the less skilled photogs, I’d just ask to see photos from dark receptions and/or weddings. No biggie. Just make sure you get a sense of their style and previous work.

  39. Post author

    She is not saying get the pro to give you the RAW files. She’s saying if your FRIEND or a non pro shoots the wedding, advise them to shoot in RAW

  40. Mark

    I was asked several times to photograph friends weddings I aways refused because I didn’t want the responsibility of wedding photography, particularly a friends.
    I have since worked several times as both first and second shooter at weddings the results were very well received by the couple. I still do not particularly like doing weddings.
    One question I always put to the couple at pre wedding meetings is in 10 years what will you have from your wedding day. Very few mention the photographs. I advise them to check the photographers previous work, and to make sure they have pro level equipment I tell them what to look for. I also advise them do not hire on a budget as the after the day long after you have forgotten the meal, the cake or the venue the only thing you will have are the photographs so make sure you have good ones. I tell them even if you don’t want me to photograph your day please get someone you feel will get superb results and you are comfortable with.

  41. Emma Brown

    My husband and I got married last year (June 21st 2014 – longest day) and, having learned a myriad of lessons from my sister’s wedding (28th December 2013), I knew how important having professional shots was going to be.

    My sister had to take the photographer which came with the venue (in Gretna, UK – I shan’t name and shame the venue). The awkward, obnoxious idiot who she ended up with made every single one of us feel uncomfortable and most of us angry – which doesn’t make for good shots. Even if he hadn’t angered some of us beyond the point of us smiling genuinely (there was definite grimacing going on!) his shots were sub-standard – better than the poster here’s were, but absolutely not bordering on good, average is an insult to other professionals and I’d go so far as to say poor.

    She didn’t have a choice of having a different photographer of her own at the venue, but at the time she was upset at loosing Granddad during the process of booking the wedding which had been scheduled in the hopes that he’d live to see it and having a great photographer to document what was going to be a painfully bitter-sweet day wasn’t top of her list.

    My Gran, who had lost her husband to cancer 2 months prior (his ill health being one of the reasons my sister and her husband opted for a winter wedding, as they are both Oz based and were coming over to the UK for Christmas… and we knew Granddad didn’t have long to live) was feeling really tearful and weepy – understandably – so I put my arm around her for one of the shots and was promptly told by *insert derogatory name here* photographer that ‘You aren’t down the pub, arm by your side please’.

    This was after we’d had to specifically ask for a shot of the four ladies (me, Gran, sis and Mum) and as he’d initially refused (that apparently isn’t one of his set shots) and we’d responded by saying;
    “Right, *friend with camera who had come along too*, please can YOU take this specific shot we want.”

    Photographer then responded, very grumpily;
    “Well I can take the shot but it will reduce the number of other shots I usually take.”

    Who should be deciding which shots they want of the wedding – the photographer or the Bride and Groom? Don’t get me wrong, the photographer is very welcome to guide and steer to ensure a great shot, but still…

    So when it came to our wedding, my husband and I were, understandably, not very keen on the whole photographer thing. Then I saw an ad for a GREAT photographer (she is actually on the R’n’R bride go-to list) and she had a space for our wedding and was doing a ‘2 photographers for the price of 1’ deal. Whilst she wasn’t cheap at £1,400 – the ‘fly on the wall’ style of photography, for really great and varied shots full of emotion, isn’t cheap – she was bang on the money compared to others out there doing a similar style and she is fabulous. We definitely were paying for what we were getting, and got so much more than we were expecting (her package states 500 finished, edited, polished photos and she gave us nearly 800 in the end, all of which are brilliant shots, as well as a few free mini-prints and a photo frame to put them in right away as they arrived). I even managed to convince the husband to have the engagement shoot too, and it totally changed our minds about photographers in general.

    Now, in comparison, nasty man in Gretna did a package and it came out around £150 – £200 for the 1 hour of shots at the venue and having shelled out the extra £50 for the full set of images on a disc, there were around 150 shots. All of them were dark and gloomy, most had red eyes, and he clearly didn’t have a clue about winter lighting. My sister couldn’t have changed the date to a more well-lit time of year – or indeed day, they booked the last available slot – and she was stuck with him. But had it not been for her photos, I’d not have thought twice about paying the money for a good photographer, nor would it have occurred to me to have a list of shots we wanted, to meet the photographer in advance and go through the types of things we like and what the photos were going to mean to us, what style our wedding was going to be (as in, relaxed and very informal!).

    As a result, we have some STUNNING shots, which are absolutely ‘us’ (I said “Husband is a little sulky and grumpy at times… I’d like a photo or two of him like that because that is him as much as smiles” because otherwise we might not have had a grumpy him photo!), reflect the fun and relaxed nature of the day… and best of all, it was light until gone 9pm because we opted for the longest day of the year. Partly to contrast with my sisters, partly because I’m a Pagan and longest day is symbolic, and partly because we wanted to be able to enjoy our outdoor venue as much as possible.

    I’m gutted, of course, for the reasons behind the lessons we learned in time for our wedding. But I’m pleased that we did learn the lesson. And I’d say to any bride-and-groom-to-be… if in doubt, cut everything else out (flowers wilt, the food gets eaten, the cake can be a plain sponge from M&S, the dress and suit can be hired or thrift stored etc.) but pay for a good photographer, being sure to spend some time with them – ideally in person and having an engagement shoot if you can – getting to know them and vice versa before your big day. If you do your home-work, you won’t regret it.

    And if you want a recommendation? Anna Pumer – Check out the Mad Hatters Tea Party shoot featured here. She has a few others featured on here that she’s done too!

  42. The sad thing is that this is all too frequent, maybe not to this extent, but there are a growing amount of so called ‘pros’ who deliver garbage, and the often the client will be satisfied, as they can’t tell a poor photographer from a good one, making it seem perfectly ok to hire someone of a lower calibre because they know how to do ‘selective colour’ and ‘vignettes’ … Sigh!

  43. Caroline

    It always amazes me how many people run the risk with their wedding photographs, at the end of the day that is all you are left with, when the post wedding blues hit.

    In the UK we moan at spending money on photography, yet it is just a fraction of what they spend in the states, and for me I was so glad I prioritised it, when budgeting.

    I used , not only is he an amazing wedding photographer travelling all over the world, he is also a music photographer, and I loved hearing all the stories he had about the famous people he’s worked with. Pick someone you get on with!

    Seriously spend the money on a professional, and cut back on something else. You may think you are spending alot, but actually paying someone for their skill and expertise is well worth it. I look back now, and my only regret is that I didn’t pay him extra for more hours, especially when i consider how much I spent on things such as the flowers or dresses, that are gone after the day is over.


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