Thursday, March 15, 2012

Professional Photographer vs. The Friend with a Camera

Once in a while I receive a panicked phone call from a bride who's looking for a photographer at the last minute. The reason? The couple originally opted to let a friend or family member shoot their engagement pictures or even wedding pictures, and now...well, they're having second thoughts.

Usually this scenario develops due to a combination of two main factors --

1. a desire to save money on wedding expenses
2. and/or a relative or friend who pushes the couple to let them take the pictures "because they have a professional-style camera."

It's easy to see how couples might opt for the friend photographer. Not only are they knocking out the expense of a professional shooter, but their friend gets an opportunity to expand his/her portfolio. Everyone wins and everyone has more fun that way, right?

Only it doesn't always work out quite that well...which is why I get those last-second calls from people desperate to find a good photographer.

Let's start with number one in our list above -- the desire to save money on your wedding expenses. I can tell you that your photography probably the last place you should cut corners. Why? The answer is very simple. You don't get to keep anything else to remember your wedding 20 years from now. The cake will be long gone. The dress will be gathering dust. You'll watch the video two or three times and be done with it. And all of the expensive flowers? Right.

But still images are different. They freeze bits of emotion in time; they snag drama and story and encapsulate them into images that rekindle a feeling. So as mementos of an important day, pictures are irreplaceable and vital.

Then there's point number two. Yes, the price of digital photography equipment continues to drop, making great gear more affordable for people who take up shooting as a hobby or even as a part-time gig. And yes, the camera and lights are important.

But a lot of people who own that equipment don't really know how to use it. That's true even if they can show you a few nice pictures that they took.

In addition, here's what non-photographers often misunderstand -- photography isn't about cameras and equipment.

Making great pictures is about connecting with people...and it's about service. Your friend or relative will certainly have your best interests in mind, but their perspective will be entirely different that than of a professional who is there for the express purpose of making the best possible pictures of your day.

So as you're planning your wedding, be sure to prioritize the things that are most important to you. If timeless, powerful photography is near the top of your list, you'll want to find and hire a photographer you like and trust to handle your big day...because you'll never have a chance to do it over again.

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