Photography is a hot topic when it comes to weddings. Specially, should you hire a professional for your big day or task a family friend with a decent camera to document your wedding. It may seem like an obvious answer, but more often than we’d like to admit, we notice people cutting costs by asking someone they know or a student to shoot their wedding, and it can lead to some big regrets. For this month’s Ask the Experts, we talked with three local professional wedding photographers to get their insight as to why hiring a professional wedding photographer is a smart move that you won’t regret.
Our contributors are Jessica of Jessica Crandlemire Photography, Kate & Andrew of Visual Roots and Frances of Frances Beatty Photography.
Should you hire a professional photographer for your wedding? (The short answer: YES)
JESSICA: I shot my brothers wedding. I wanted to, in fact I would have been frustrated and insulted if he let someone else do it. I am a professional. I hired a second photographer to make sure we did a proper professional job. Even so, I couldn't look my brother in the eye till the reception because I had to keep all my feelings in check (there were a lot of them). I don't regret it but it was really hard, and like I said, I actually do this for a living. My sister watched this, and even though she promises I'm her favourite photographer in the whole world (I'm also the oldest and scariest sibling), she insisted on hiring someone else so that she could squeeze me any time she wanted all day, and so I could stand beside her where I belonged.
KATE & ANDREW: Many people have friends or family who are photographers. While we were going through the stage when all of our friends were getting married - we didn't photograph their weddings. The reason being that as a photographer we have a lot of things going through our heads while we are working, exposures, observing moments, what's going on around me... etc. All these things are very distracting from actually being truly in the moment. When my friends said their vows to one another I wanted to feel that moment and take it all in. I don't think anyone wants to see the world through a lens all of the time. So, that being said I think it's important to hire a professional photographer where they can manage all the distractions and your family and friends can be in the moment with you.
FRANCES: I have so many thoughts & feelings about this. On the one hand, I do not believe there are any actual "shoulds" for weddings. In my humble opinion, you do you. Everyone has their priorities and a budget that they need to stick to, and I 100% respect that. On the other hand, what tends to happen when couples decide not to hire a professional photographer is they have a family friend, or friend of a friend with a decent camera photograph their wedding and while that can turn out ok, it can also end in disaster. I have been a witness to family members and friends going that route and ending up with not a single decent image from their wedding, or with literally nothing.
At the end of the day, what remains after your wedding day is the ring on your finger, your marriage itself and your photographs. If you're spending a lot of time, money and energy on your big day, you're going to want to have images that take you back to the day and allow you to relive it.
Why should you hire a professional photographer instead of trusting your family friend who owns a good DSLR?
JESSICA: Weddings are expensive, looking for where to cut costs and keep the dream you've had about this day for so long can be tricky. These days a lot of people have great cameras, your cousin or uncle may have a super sweet full frame and be willing to shoot for extra wine at dinner. This is very tempting. Here's the thing; your family member or friend really loves you, they are at your wedding to celebrate your love, you're asking them to take on a high pressure job instead and put their feelings aside so they can focus. It's a big ask. You have also spent time and MONEY on details that are really important to you...dress, food, makeup, flowers...what if this person who is doing all of this for love and extra wine, doesn't have the instinct necessary to record these things? What if they get distracted by other friends and family and miss certain moments that are integral to the day? Things never go exactly as planned on the day of the wedding. Your professional photographer is also a professional trouble shooter. They have experience making changes and decisions on the fly. They know what to prioritize. They are also accountable to you for a job you've hired them to do, your friend is not. You're not wrong to give all of it some thought and in the end it's YOUR day and your choice but I can speak from a little experience on both sides of this.
KATE & ANDREW: After seeing hundreds of weddings- As professionals we can wrangle people, keep things running on time, find great light- do our job to the best of our abilities. The family friend is not going to have this experience - which can lead to things running late, okay light and general dis-organised day. If you are not happy after the day it can ruin a friendship.
Your friends and family want to have a good time (who can blame them) and not work a 100% of the time which might lead to missed moments.
Light and Equipment- Knowing how to light things properly at reception time, portraits and rainy weddings days. Also, having a variety of lens to help capture moments without distracting backgrounds or from really far away. Backup equipment in case of camera failure or card issues. Really I could go on and on about equipment, computers, software etc As Photographers we have tens of thousands of dollars invested in equipment to do our jobs.
1. A professional photographer will have experience with weddings and be able to anticipate certain shots, and the needs of their clients. They won't be changing batteries during your first kiss, or forget how important it is to help guide you through putting together a family formals list (as one small example).
2. They will have back-ups, and maybe even back-ups of back-ups, whether this is with gear or your files afterwards. Professionals don't tend to leave things to chance and have probably heard a horror story or two of something failing so they prepare ahead of time to ensure they limit the possibility of that. I always have multiples of everything. More memory cards than I need, more batteries than I need. Two or more cameras, many lenses, two more flashes. I also shoot all of my images onto multiple cards on the day of and then back-up to multiple locations. Before my clients receive their images, they've been backed up to 7 places to be super duper extra neurotically safe. You can't re-do a wedding day.
3. They will prepare in advance and be a calming presence next to you. A photographer is more than just a photographer on your wedding day (again, in my humble opinion). I believe in being there for my clients and helping keep them stay present and focus on enjoying themselves. I do not hit them with a million questions on the day of their wedding, we cover all of that ahead of time. We work through schedules, and timing and I work hard to keep everything on track, while also remaining flexible so that my energy keeps things calm. As a photographer, you are right next to your client more than their partner is, which means you have the opportunity to make or break their experience. I want to help make it. I offer hugs when things get stressful, delegate someone to get food/drinks (or grab it myself), I pin boutonnieres, and I have definitely had a pep talk or two.
How much can you expect to pay for a full-time professional photographer?
JESSICA: Ahh creative industry! When looking at photography quotes they can range all over the place. But it's an art as well as a skill. These things are built over time and experience. You pay more for experience, and you should, they've earned it. I charge 3000 for the days coverage, which is approximately a 10 hour day. I arrive when the bride is getting ready and keep shooting until the dance is well underway and the iPhones have taken over. I edit all of my images (colour, tone, clarity, basic corrections) and give clients print ready files gift-boxed with a keepsake usb and several sample prints. I will make adjustments for later hours, or for albums, or a second shooter, but I do feel strongly about recording the day this way because story is so much a part of how I approach a wedding. I want your images to be a time capsule for those little moments you might have otherwise forgotten.
KATE & ANDREW: Packages depend on number of hours you would like to have captured on your wedding day. Our typical day is 8 hours because there is two of us- we can be in two places at once! Our average package is $3700 - We commonly get clients wanting to add on albums for their parents or engagement sessions and other prints. We do create custom packages for weekday weddings and elopements.
FRANCES: Elopements start at $1500. Wedding packages are between $3200-$6200. Most of my clients tend to prefer full day coverage, as it tells the whole story of the day. To be honest that’s my favourite too.! It eliminates the stress of watching the clock to make sure you have coverage of everything that’s important to you, and ensures you get to relive your full day with your images from the moment you get ready to all the shenanigans on the dance floor. I try to keep my packages pretty simple, so that we can find coverage that best suits your needs. We can always add on second photographers, albums, engagement sessions, film photography or unique items. No two weddings are the same, so I don’t feel like a one-size-fits-all strategy works for wedding photography.
What's one thing couples may not consider when it comes to wedding photography that you think is super important?
JESSICA: Honestly, what I mentioned in that last sentence above. We can get a little caught up in the portraits, and done right these can still hold some of the magic, but often your memory attached might be an itchy tag, or the sun glare...or how hungry you are and when can you get a drink finally? The ones where you're fighting the tears because your dad is holding your arm a little tighter, or your husband is laughing from embarrassment as much as joy over his brother's tell-all speech, or your grandmother is there, where she isn't anymore, those are the ones I really want you to have.
KATE & ANDREW: Your photographer/photographers will be with you more then anyone else on your wedding day. I know it's kind of a strange fact. It's important that you like them and can see yourselves being friends- They will care and look after you keeping the day fun even when things are not going the way you planned- otherwise it could be very distracting and even overwhelming to not have someone doing what is best for you.
FRANCES: Meet with your photographer before you book them. If you can, make it face-to-face, whether through video chat or in person. It almost feels like a bit of a blind date, which can feel awkward for a nanosecond or two, but it's worth it. Make sure your personalities and vision click and trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, don't go with them, even if you love their work. The most important thing when it comes to photography is trust, and if you don't like your photographer's personality, you won't be able to trust them, no matter how much you love their pictures. If you have selected the right photographer for your day, you should be able to relax into the day and focus your energy on being present, rather than on getting images. I believe the best images come from being in the moment and forgetting the camera is even there. I'll help direct my couples into beautiful locations with pretty light, and then give them the space they need to be themselves and fall into their own rhythm. When there is trust there, that can happen more quickly and organically.