There is a lot that goes into planning a wedding. Like, a lot. As a wedding photographer, I only plan one small role in the overall success of a wedding. I've been able to work with some of the best wedding vendors here in San Antonio, from planners to venues to florists. I read too many wedding magazines and blogs, and today I want to address one of the biggest questions I see asked by engaged couples. It's also one of the most important questions to ask because making a decision without all the information can be very a very costly choice.
Why Hire a Professional Wedding Photographer When an Amateur is a Fraction of the Cost?
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the million dollar question that so many brides and grooms have when they start their wedding planning. Once you start adding up the cost of your dream venue, florist, dress, shoes, caterer, cake, and decor all of a sudden you are staring at this large, scary number. Let's be honest - weddings can be really expensive. Photography & videography are one of the first areas people look at to cut costs because it is the one thing that doesn't have quite as big of an impact on the wedding day, or so you may think. The catch is that once your wedding day is over and done, you're only left with 4 things: your spouse, your marriage certificate, your wedding rings, and your wedding photographs.
Let's start with the obvious differences between a Professional Wedding Photographer, and an inexperienced amateur - we'll call the amateur Uncle Bob.
Quality of Photography
Uncle Bob has a professional camera, a flash, and he takes a lot of photographs. On Facebook he has some really good photos of landscapes, he captured some great moments at the last family reunion of kids in action - amazing candid shots. He's never photographed a wedding but he is offering to photograph your entire wedding as a gift! You're about to save thousands of dollars! You know he's not a professional so some of the images won't be AS good but you are saving so much money that its worth it, right?
Probably not. When I started photographing weddings I had no idea what I was doing. I had no experience. I was Uncle Bob. I didn't know how much time formal portraits would take, I didn't know when to say "no we really need to get this shot" and when to go with the flow. I had no clue where I needed to position myself and when, through the day. I had a lot of experience shooting outdoors with natural light, but no experience inside dark churches or reception venues. But I wasn't charging thousands of dollars, either, so it was okay, right? Sadly, no. The photographs I was taking were going to last the rest of these couples lives. They were going to be what this couple relied on in years to come to remember their wedding day. So let's say the images aren't all as bright or perfectly lit as the could be. Is that the end of the world? No, it isn't. But when moments are missed and not captured because Uncle Bob (or 6 Years Ago Parker) doesn't have the experience to anticipate what is going to happen next you will be missing those moments for the rest of your life. Weddings are once in a life time and can't be redone the next day.
Uncle Bob doesn't have the experience to
- Ask what family heirlooms you're including in your wedding, and make sure he gets photographs of them
- Know when to, and when to not, take photos of your guests (no one, and I mean no one, likes being photographed while they're eating)
- Know what to do when no one can figure out how to bustle your dress (even though you made them practice at the store)
- Look at a very tight timeline and know that he won't have enough time for portraits after the ceremony, and talk to you about doing a first look
- Know when and where the best lighting will be for your portraits
- Know what part of the bridal suite to clean up for beautiful getting ready portraits
- Keep an eye on the clock and timeline (while photographing everything) during getting ready, portraits, and the reception to make sure your ceremony doesn't start 30 minutes late, that dinner isn't getting cold because the reception is starting late, that the venue isn't kicking you out before you've had time to do the garter and bouquet toss.
A professional wedding photographer is so much more than someone who can take pretty photos. Not only are you hiring someone that can consistently take high quality photographs in virtually any lighting situation, but you're hiring someone who has helped countless brides get into their dresses. Someone who understands the flow of a wedding day and has seen things go wrong - and knows how to fix them. Not only are you risking the quality of your wedding photographs, but you're risking the experience of your wedding day. The experience that a professional wedding photographer has is the most valuable tool we can bring to the job. Our equipment is expensive, but our experience is priceless.
PRE-WEDDING AND POST-WEDDING SERVICES
So besides the whole wedding day experience and the quality of the actual photographs, what are the other differences you can expect when you hire an amateur photographer, Uncle Bob, instead of a professional? Being a wedding photographer is not just showing up at your wedding, pressing a button a few times, and then we're done. There is a lot more that goes into a wedding than that.
I spend at least 40 hours working on the average wedding - including the 8 to 10 hours of photography on the wedding day. Prior to the wedding my biggest concern is making sure my clients and I are on the same page and that we're both prepared so we can get the best photographs possible on the wedding day. This involves consultations and lots of e-mails, texts, and phone calls prior to the wedding. Having photographed many weddings in San Antonio, I know that you likely have not hired a wedding photographer before and have no idea what to expect. Besides educating you on everything you need to know, I'll ask questions that will help me create better and more personal wedding photographs for you. I need to hear about your wedding day, the different aspects that are most important to you, and what makes you two as a couple unique and perfect for each other. I need to know what you guys love most about each other so I can focus on capturing that in the photographs.
I need to educate you on what you can expect, and what you can't expect. If you're wanting gorgeous photographs of the two of you in gorgeous natural light, but you are planning a sunset wedding ceremony, we need to do a first look and take the portraits before the ceremony. If a first look is not an option for you then we'll need to schedule a day-after shoot, and if that doesn't work at least you are aware ahead of time that you will not be able to get natural light portraits after your ceremony because the sun will have gone down. I don't want any wedding day surprises to impact your experience of your wedding day. In our consultations we'll also go over what you want to do with your wedding photographs, and how to make the best use of your budget in telling your wedding story. Make it's an album, a book, or wall portraits - we'll figure out the best solution for you and your budget.
After the wedding your images enter my work flow. I won't bore you with all the details, but my workflow is designed to have your wedding photos ready for you to view two to four weeks after your wedding date, on Facebook and Instagram you'll see sneak-peeks before then, and of course the blog post! Because I've photographed so many weddings I know what how to photograph things on your wedding day so I can process your images faster and with less editing - getting it right in camera makes the editing process way more efficient.
Not only do I have access to the top of the line software and products, but I have the experience to know how and what I need to do to give you the highest quality products, and the best experience of your photographs. I will not dump files on a CD or USB drive and hand them to you and wash my hands of you. These are not college essays, or spreadsheets for work, they're your wedding photographs and I will treat them with the respect they deserve. The products I offer are all top of the line and built to last. While most people won't have biographies written about them, your wedding album is one book that is all about you and your love story - and if you choose it can be a family heirloom passed down to your children, and their grandchildren.
Should you spend the money on a pro photographer?
Only you can decide if this is the right path for you. I genuinely mean this, while I wish everyone could have professional wedding photography I know that isn't realistic. Some couples genuinely do not value wedding photography, and that's fine. Others are working with budgets that don't allow for it. Just be sure to keep this post in mind when you're making the decision.
Yes, you'll be saving a few thousand dollars - and that is a lot of money. But is the trade off worth it?