Is it really that important to hire a professional photographer for my wedding?

This should be the question you’re asking but in reality we all know how it goes.

You plan the venue, the cake, the food, the flowers, the dress, then you get to the photography…

and this is what happens...

Someone makes a post saying “Suggestions on wedding photographers, cheap or free please!”  or “Anyone know a cheap photographer for my wedding?”

We also see those photographers who offer to shoot weddings for free just to get to shoot one for their portfolio when they see the above mentioned posts. Trust me I’ve been THAT photographer and now I know how wrong I was for doing that. There are so many variables to a wedding day, and when you hire a photographer for your wedding day you need someone who knows this and how to handle it because this is your first time doing this. They’re supposed to be the pro.

So I’m here today to tell you the important things to consider, the things you don’t even realize you need, and the most important things to account for when making your decision.

Now don’t get me wrong I’m a budget kind of girl, but quality is important in everything in life.

Let’s say you’re reallllly craving some sushi but decide you would rather get a ton of sushi than go to the high end sushi bar. So you go to the local China buffet and snag some sushi from the SELF-SERVE bar. Do you see where this is heading? No one wants to deal with the aftermath of sushi that may have sat on a bar for two plus hours, just like you don’t want to deal with the aftermath of inexperienced photographer who doesn’t know how to SERVE you on your day.

Let’s dive in, shall we? We'll start “simple”!

THE IMPORTANT THINGS YOU MAY NOT EVEN CONSIDER 

  • WHO you hire matters. You probably don’t even realize how much time you actually spend with your photographer the day of. In fact you may not realize it but you will spend more time with them than anyone else. So who you hire matters on so many levels. You don’t want to spend your day with someone who’s personality you clash with. I’m the kind of person that I need a cheerleader and peace keeper by my side when I’m under stress so for me I want that positive but also well organized person who I can talk with all day to keep me feeling good. Some people may want a fly on the wall, or someone to hold their hand. I want my handheld! Lol Also, connection and trust is SO important. After all if you don’t connect to your photographer (they’re human too) how can they capture your connection with others. They can’t, because they don’t know you enough to know how you connect                                                    
  • Trust, wow trust goes so far in this. After all there is ONE shot to get these moments and they can’t be redone. There is no do over. Which means there is no room for mistakes. We’ve all heard those nightmare stories about how after the wedding a memory card was corrupted or damaged and ALL the photos from the day were lost. Or the first kiss as bride and groom wasn’t captured. The list goes on. When you hire a professional they’re going to reassure those fears you have and let you know they have a system to prevent that from happening so you can TRUST they’ve got this! Those endless Pinterest posts that tell you to plan a shot list for your photographer aren’t made for a pro. Why? A pro knows the moments that need captured, from the rings to the first kiss to you talking with your great grandma during your reception to the close of the night. You shouldn’t have to give your photographer a list of moments to capture, in reality that list goes out the window the day in the hustle and bustle of the day there isn’t time to pull out a 200 item list of shots to snap, you should be able to trust that this is second nature to them.                                                                                 
  • You aren’t just paying for the day of your wedding to be captured, you’re paying someone to tell the story of your day so 25 years from now when you’re showing grandchildren your wedding album you don’t have to hesitate to remember every detail and moment, it’ll all come back to you like it was yesterday. The only thing that truly lasts after the food is eaten and the lights are turned off are your photos. You want to look back and remember the songs that you and your bridesmaids danced your booties off to, the way you and your new bride laughed and sang to your favorite songs. You’re going to want to feel all of that again and if you don’t have a storyteller behind that pro camera you hired, you’re just going to get some better than average phone pictures to remember the way things looked.

Let’s pause the lists for a second and go back to when I mentioned I’ve been THAT photographer who saw a post when someone was looking for photographers and offered to shoot their wedding for free.

Do you know why someone offers their service for free? Is it because you’re just really good friends or is it because they aren’t confident charging for their service? It’s more than likely not just because they like you that much. I’ve offered my “service” (I say service lightly because I didn’t know the first thing about serving a client at the time) for free when I really NEEDED a wedding in my portfolio but knew there was no way anyone would pay me to shoot a gorgeous portfolio worthy wedding. Just like you shouldn’t let your friend shoot your wedding just to do them a favor. You should hire someone who is going to serve YOU, this isn’t about you serving them the perfect opportunity.

Okay back to it!

THE THINGS YOU'LL NEED BUT DON'T EVEN KNOW IT YET

Someone who is going to help you get the most out of your day, while it may seem like photographers have a very hands off job, it’s actually quite the opposite. We are your timekeeper, your magical moment maker, and the person that brings out the best things about you and your soon to be spouse. At least that is what a pro does! 

1. Timekeeper: You want someone who knows how, when and where things need to happen so the important opportunities aren’t lost in the moment. Having someone who knows how to perfectly plan the day of timeline for photography to cover everything you have planned and also create opportunities to capture some extra magic is key! Every wedding runs late, it’s not a matter of if but when. If you have no timeline or buffer time between things when one thing runs behind you’re likely to completely lose out on important moments. For example, there was a wedding that I wasn’t the one who planned the timeline and getting ready took longer than expected so by the time the ceremony ended the sun had set and the chance to take gorgeous sunlit portraits had come and passed. Had I been in charge of that timeline and the timekeeper that day we would have some amazing forever magic to show for it.

2. Magic Maker: The most magical wedding portraits you see are normally taken during what we call the golden hour, if you don’t know this and don’t have someone to direct you on this then you miss a solid 20 minute window of the most breathtaking magic moments you and your new spouse can have for portraits.

3. Storyteller: If your photographer doesn’t take the time to become your friend before your wedding day then they likely won’t catch on to you and your lover singing to your favorite song or know that you like quietly loving on each other. Imagine if you and your fiancé are the type to sit around and have coffee snuggly by your window at home and your photographer decided to have you guys go frolic in a field for the first time in your life instead of getting you two snuggly and quiet to be yourselves? Or vice versa. Again, connection matters!

Finally, down to the nitty gritty.

WHAT TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT WHEN MAKING YOUR FINAL DECISION

There are no second chances, you can’t redo a first kiss, you can’t redo that moment when your dad passed you off to your groom and whispered how much he loves you in your ear. Plain and simple if it’s not captured you can’t stage it and make it happen for a picture.   

  • You get what you pay for. We hear this all the time and normally only care if it’s referring to clothing quality right? Your main focus may be on the place and the details because that’s what everyone sees but the thing is they only get to see it for a short time. All the rentals are returned and the flowers die or get hung to dry, your dress is stored until an opportunity to show a daughter or granddaughter comes along. The photos of your day let you relive it all over again! As a photographer it’s not only our job to capture the expected moments as they happen but also to turn those moments into art after the fact. A photo can be perfectly composed and focused without it being a work of art. They need some magic touches after the fact too. Don’t just hire someone because they have a “nice” camera, hire them because they create something with it!                                                                                                                 
  • Money makes things happen. Seriously.  If you’re paid to do something normally you’re going to do it. Let’s say you offer to do a favor for a friend, then the day comes and you just don’t feel like it or something comes up but since it was “just a favor” you decide you’ll make it up next time. That’s the risk you take when “hiring” a free photographer. Nothing is holding them accountable to showing up the day of your wedding. There is no monetary value for you to seek compensation if all fails. If you pay someone to do a job and earn your payment then they’re going to work to that level of standard you’ve set. You won’t have to wonder if you’ll get your images in a timely manner or never at all.

Now all that being said, just because you pay someone thousands of dollars to photograph your wedding doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to be the best fit. Money doesn’t completely dictate everything. That’s why the first thing I covered was WHO you’re hiring. Trust is important, and the experience your photographer provides from the moment you seek out their information is what matters. So please don’t be the couple who regrets just picking the cheapest option because they have nothing to show for it after the fact.

Chose someone who you value not just for their quality of work but also as a person, trust me they will show you the same respect! They should be just as invested in you and who you are, as you are in their service. No one wants the self serve sushi bar at the local $9 china buffet, they want the real deal! ;)

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