Having a Friend or Family Member Shoot Your Wedding

The following is an example story of what we hear consistently and our best explanation as to why we consistently hear these unfortunate stories.

The typical story we hear from parents, friends of the bride or groom and guests attending the weddings we capture.

Wedding Guest: “Wow, just wanted to tell you guys that you’re doing such a great job! You guys are all over and capturing everything so great.”

Us: “Thank you, we love what we do!”

Guest: “And it definitely shows!  We wish we hired someone like you to shoot our wedding!”

Us: “Really, what happened, you don’t love your photos?”

Guest: “Well, we had our close family friend shoot it.  They are a professional photographer and have great equipment and we have seen their photos and they are wonderful, and they just gave us such a great deal we felt we shouldn’t pass it up.”

Us: “Well, we hate to hear those stories, and unfortunately your definitely not the only one.”

Guest: “It’s definitely the one regret that we have and we wish we could take back.”

Us: “Well, we totally understand, here is our card, let us know if you would ever like to do a awesome couples session.  We will offer you a 100-dollar discount to help make up for what happened.  We hate hearing those stories.”

 How it typically starts with a potential bride and/or groom:

Couple: “We are on a limited budget and our Uncle Frank has good camera equipment so we may just have him shoot our wedding. He loves photography and he’s pretty good at it!”

What you should understand about hiring Frank

While Uncle Frank may be very good, here are a few reasons to go with the professional wedding photographer.

As we have previously said in the “10 things to consider when choosing your Wedding Photographer” section, wedding photography is so much more than just having a nice camera. 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, and at the same time he has the best camera money can buy. Even more so, Uncle Frank loves shooting in his spare time so much that he even bought a full set of Canon L Series lenses and accessories ($25,000).

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 Uncle Frank frequently goes out, once or twice a month and shoots nature and urban scenes with all of his great equipment. Uncle Frank even had some of his work published.

Wedding time comes, and Uncle Frank is feeling great and confident that he is going to do an awesome job. Uncle Frank starts with some outside shots of the preparation location and everything is looking good. Then Uncle Frank steps inside where the preparation is taking place. Uncle Frank doesn’t like manually exposing his pictures, so he shoots with the cameras help. Unfortunately, the camera is only so smart and can’t always do the proper exposure for you.

Uncle Frank starts snapping preparation shots and notices that his lens isn’t wide enough. So, he quickly goes out to the car to swap out his lenses since he wasn’t anticipating this problem. When he gets back, the bride’s makeup is done, and now they are working on the hair. Uncle Frank didn’t take any time to check out the lighting prior to the shoot, so he has no off camera lighting, or any additional lighting equipment. So, Uncle Frank figures that he can just raise his ISO settings super high so that he can capture enough light to properly expose the scene. This works, however, little does he know, that every picture shot will be too grainy to blow up beyond a 4×6 print without loosing detail.

Uncle Frank now heads over to shoot the groom. Uncle Frank looks at the scene and adjusts his camera settings based on how the camera reads the exposure. 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 realize though, and just kept shooting away.

Let’s say this is a simple wedding and now it’s time for the ceremony. Uncle Frank scopes out a great spot, pops on his zoom lens, and waits. The groom makes his way in, and Frank shoots him like a pro snapping 50 shots as the groom is coming down the aisle. The only problem is that all 50 shots are out of focus because the subject was walking towards Uncle Frank, and his focus settings were not set for moving subjects.

The father and bride begin coming down the aisle, and just the same, Uncle Frank fires away taking 50 more shots, none of which are crisp and in strong focus.

The wedding ceremony is going great, and Frank grabs several great shots. And at the same time Uncle Frank realizes again, that his camera lens isn’t wide enough, so Uncle Frank 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. Uncle Frank missed it. He also didn’t think to shoot any of the bride or grooms family during the ceremony, as he was trying not to miss anything in the ceremony.

After the ceremony, it’s time for formals. Uncle Frank guides everyone to his favorite spot outdoors where he has a beautiful shot of the view. The subjects are facing away from the sun, so that he can capture the grandeur of the scene. Because the formals are being shot in the bright noon-day sun, Uncle Frank doesn’t realize that the camera is under exposing the entire scene since the background is so bright.

Uncle Frank takes only a few family formal shots, and only one shot of each set. Little to Frank’s knowledge, every shot is coming out too dark and completely underexposed

Reception time has arrived, and Uncle Frank has already worked 10 hours! He figures that he should relax and enjoy the wedding too since he is family. So, he gives his camera to his young son who loves photography and tells him to shoot.

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 money, and doing it for so cheap that he figures it shouldn’t matter anyway.

Since Uncle Frank doesn’t have the software, or even know how to post produce images. He simply gives the bride and groom a DVD with all of the images burned to it. The bride and groom sit down, dying with anticipation and pop the DVD into the computer to start looking through their uncles beautiful work!

About 200 pictures into the 2,000 pictures Uncle Frank shot, the bride is already in tears, as every photo is too dark, too bright, blurry, or just not that great. Furthermore, the bride and groom notice that there is no shot of their first kiss, 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 we wedding photographers hear about all of the time. In fact, so many of our client’s guests have approached us during a shoot to tell us about their “Uncle Frank” experience, and how they wish they had hired professional photographers like us to shoot their wedding. So, why does this happen with the Uncle Franks of the world? Because the bottom line is, while Frank had all the professional gear and a good intention to shoot your wedding for nearly nothing, as well as the experience shooting nature and outdoors scenes he may not have the following:

What separates a quality or professional Wedding Photographer from the Uncle Franks and Hobby Photographers in the world?

– The ability to quickly adjust camera settings based on different lighting situations, which are constantly changing during your wedding day. Most of the time wedding photographers have 3-5 seconds to adjust exposure settings on the fly, any more than that, and the wedding photographer is almost guaranteed to miss something.

– The knowledge of how their camera reads and interprets light in order to compensate for under or over exposure with your images. In these situations the wedding photographers must rely on their 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, or have shot the venue other times before.

– The carrying cases needed to always have his necessary equipment and accessories on them at all times. Professional wedding photographers will always have their equipment readily available, or readily nearby.

– Experiences in shooting fleeting moments that you only have one chance to capture, such as your first kiss, which 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 anticipating angles and approaches to each and every scene. Knowing where to stand, and what angles to shoot are something that only comes from wedding photo experience.

– The energy to work non-stop for 12-18 hours if needed with a limited meal break. This is a wedding photographer’s job; they don’t rest or take breaks. Our team staggers their breaks during non-crucial moments of the day, and even then a good wedding photographer is exposed and ready with their camera on them in case of an unforeseen event.

– The ability to create unique lighting scenes, and supplement natural light with their own lighting. Understanding light and lighting is something that comes from study, training and wedding lighting experience in multiple different types of wedding venues. Being a master of lighting is impossible unless you have tried shooting in every possible lighting situation and can master it on the fly.

– Experience in 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, wedding party and their family and friends?

– The knowledge of advanced focusing 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.

Customizing your wedding photography package

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 professional wedding photography team on your side.

Often times, wedding photography studios such Jeff Plus Amber, will work with clients in customizing their dream wedding packages in order to fit within their budget. If that is the case, choose quality over products. Choose to have 2 photographers rather than just one, and forgo the album, prints and slideshows for now. Jeff Plus Amber understands that newlyweds are often on a budget, as they are starting their new lives together. So, wait on the products until later in your life if need be and set a goal to purchase the album and other fun memorabilia on each anniversary. Three, four, even five years from now when you and your family are more established, go ahead and order that album, or those large prints. It might be better to wait to buy gorgeous and real imagery, than to have low quality photography slapped into an album and ready for you when you get back from your honeymoon. You can always order products later, however you can never order better quality and more creative imagery after your special day is over.

Posted December 27, 2012
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