Your Wedding! Your Photographer! Family/Friend Vs. Pro

January 14, 2018  •  Leave a Comment
I recently ran into a situation where a bride was unhappy with her wedding photos taken by a friend.  She was almost in tears as this situation had torn their friendship because of her expectations.  Her friend had an OK DSLR camera with the kit lens that had come with it.  She showed me other pictures of dogs and cats that he had taken as he was an avid animal lover.  She had only viewed what he had posted to social media, which looked OK on a mobile phone.  She never took the time to see photos on a PC, a website, or prints to determine if he was a good photographer.
 
My response to her was "No ma'am.  I cannot edit your photos."  Even though I wanted to help her, he had taken photos with a straight flash on top of the camera with the result being underexposed in many images (dark photos), overexposed in others (too light), and most did not have a proper focus to capture the eyes of the main subjects.  I could tell that he had put the camera in Automatic and just clicked the button at different scenes with no concept of lighting.  Many of her photos had the redeye and raccoon eyes.  Unfortunately, this is what she signed up for.
 
My reasons for denying her request were:  (1) I don't edit photos without copyright releases. Her relationship with her friend had gone sour.  Plus she did not think the friend would want to sign such as they did not even sign a contract.  (2) They were done for free by a friend who they thought had a good camera. (3) You get what you paid for. In this instance what you did not pay for. (4) There's a value in hiring a professional photographer who is insured, trained in lighting and compositions, keeps backups of all photos, has different lenses for different situations, and is in business to prevent situations like this.
 
I have been videoing and photographing weddings since the late 90s.  I will tell you it is hard work to capture all the moments that are important to the bride and groom.  As a photographer, you have to pre-prepare for a wedding.  The preparation includes good communications with the bride covering their timelines, expectations, lighting situations, location scouting, and a host of other areas that need to be ironed out.
 
The primary goal is to help the bride and groom remember the excitement and beauty of the day.  Were the people who mean the most to them captured that day?  After the cake is eaten up, the day is over, and everyone is gone by their ways, how will the bride and groom remember the day?  Much of the day will be unknown to them as they only see each other a few minutes during the wedding ceremony and then afterward.  What were their facial expressions? What were their guest's facial expressions?  How were the many small beautiful details of the wedding?  What happens when Uncle Joe's needs to re-use his camera's card and his hard drive crashes?
 
When it is all said and done, it is up to a bride and groom for their photography budget.  But remember that an untrained friend or relative will not get the same results of a pro who has invested in your memorable day through training, experience, and in learning to use the right combination of equipment for the proper situations.  Most professionals have backup solutions for all of their photographs.  Most are insured so that if a piece of equipment injures someone, you are not liable.  If you are genuinely convinced that your friend or uncle will do just as good of a job with your lifelong memories, here are some tips for him or her.
 
  • Scout out the wedding venue and reception venues during the same time of the day that your events will take place so that they may have a good understanding of the lighting.
  • Have them to determine how they will use any flash or lighting for the day of the wedding at both the wedding and reception as well as if pictures will be taken elsewhere.
  • Do have a rehearsal at the same time of the day of your wedding and use the intended lighting that you will use on the day of your wedding and reception.  The lighting is one of the most important aspects of capturing your most precious moments.  If your photographer is unfamiliar with lighting aspects, he or she should consult a pro for advice.
  • Consider having it very lighted for your most important parts of the day including the wedding ceremony and many aspects of the reception (wedding party entrances, toasts, bouquet throwing, garter throwing, first dance, cake cutting, etc...).  Lighting is essential, especially if your photographer's equipment is not appropriate for low light situations.
  • Plan your ceremony at a time of the day based on giving your photographer the best chance of capturing your special moments.  Without the appropriate professional cameras with good ISO levels and lens with good aperture levels (minimum of F2.8), then your photographer does not have a fighting chance to capture all of your needed scenes.  There are not too many bright, bright light weddings as weddings usually are more lowered light and intimate.
  • Ensure that your photographer is fully confident in getting smiles and expressions from guests who are not familiar faces.  Weddings are about both families, both sets of friends, and captures the many special moments of the day from all, not just the bride and groom.
  • Does your photographer shoot entirely with a flash on top of the camera with no light modifiers?  This will possibly result in redeye or raccoon eyes.  Does the venue allow strobes for better lighting?  Does your photographer shoot only in Automatic that may not be the best setting for your scenes?  Is he or she skilled enough to change camera settings on the fly? 
  • Does your photographer have a second camera or second shooter?  There are many times where a camera may fail in the middle of a wedding.  With a second camera, it is un-noticed.  Your moments are still captured!
  • Is your photographer experienced in posing?  If you are just looking for an average looking photo, then this may not be important.  However, if you are looking for your photos to be admired because of a head tilt vs. a nose up in the air, then you may consider ensuring that posing and freezing action (preventing blur) is a big part of your photography scenarios.
  • Is your photographer capturing the photos in RAW and using an appropriate White Balance setting to create a possibility for fixing the exposure in your pictures if they are not correctly exposed?  Do they use software like Lightroom, Photoshop, Capture One, or some other software to enhance those photos that may need such?
  • Is your photographer insured?  What if your friend, Jane, is standing behind him or her, and he or she swings around and bumps her in the eye with his or her lens?  Do you want the liability or medical bills?  Does your photographer have a business license?  This becomes very important if there are apparent issues regarding your wedding.  In the show, "Good Times," where JJ is in the aisle when Keith and Thelma are getting married, Keith trips over JJ's foot and injures his leg.  This further prevents him from furthering his career in football.  Yeah, you say, that is only TV.  In real life, this happens, and people sue.  It does not have to be the bride or the groom.  It could be a guest.  Are you willing to put your friend or family member photographer in that position?  Are you willing to put your wedding participants and guests in the position of possibly being injured with no one to sue but you?  Think about it.
  • Are you signing a legitimate contract?  Are you signing one at all?  You should always ensure that you have a solid contract that backs you up.  The contracts control your money as well as the products and services utilized on the day of your wedding.  Brace yourself if something goes wrong.  Contracts are not just for photography.  What if your flowers arrive too late?  What if the band packs up in the middle of your reception?  A reasonable contract can solve those disputes.  At the least, a contract will allow you to pursue legal remedies for ill will vendors through the court system.  Usually, a good contract can solve these situations and provide a quick dramaless resolution.  A contract will also prevent ill will and family/friend fallout relationships from those who may do your photography for you to help you save on your wedding budget. 
 
These are only a small list of areas in which you will need to place focus for your photographer to capture your lifelong moments of the day.  Your photography and videography become Family Heirloom Treasures that you may have to pass down to your children and grandchildren.  They become a significant part of your family tree.  The above experience with the bride happens all the time.  It is well costly for a photographer or graphics editor to edit the photos taken improperly by someone to recreate them as useable photos.  That $2000 wedding may be costing you $3000-$4000 now.  If your memories are not that important to you, then this article is of no value.  However, if they are, consider hiring a photographer who will not only meet your expectations, but who will WOW! your expectations!!!

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