Words We Cringe At: We’re Having a Friend Photograph Our Wedding

This is not a shameless marketing ploy, rather an article to let you know how passionate we are about wedding photography, and how important it is to the people who book us.

Recently we attended a bridal show at one of our favorite venues.  The atmosphere was great, the people were chatting and loving our work.  We met several people who we were able to exchange information with and set up a few meetings to learn more about each other.  One particular couple LOVED our work, and seemingly would have nothing else as a substitute.  They needed time to discuss booking us with their families who were paying for some of the wedding.  A few days later, I inquired to see where we stood and if they would like us to hold their date.  I got this email as a reply:

“Hey Chris I am so sorry!  I meant to call you back last week. We are going with a friend just because of the budget and she really wants to do our wedding. I will def refer y’all because I love y’all’s work!”

There are two parts to this particular message, and I’ll use both to make my point today.  First, she mentioned budget, which is a completely understandable reason for not booking the photographer of your choice.  Not everyone has $2-5000 to pay for a photographer, and we get that.  But, “she really wants to do our wedding” is something that sent me to the keyboard soapbox.  Up I go…

I let a friend photograph my wedding

We recently photographed a small wedding in Ft Worth in a cute little church.  On the day of photography, the conditions outside were perfect, for just about any “level” of photographer.  We had overcast skies, it was later in the afternoon, and there was really not too much you could do to make a “bad” picture given a decent level of competence.  On the outside, it was PERFECT.  On the INSIDE, was a completely different story.  One word.  D A R K.  So dark, in fact that our Nikon D4 body was stretching into its upper limits of capability in producing a quality image (by the way there is NO camera on the market more capable).  Our other camera, a Nikon D700, which is excellent in low light, was pushed to the maximum allowable settings for low light

I let a friend photograph my wedding

photography, and I ended up putting it on a tripod with a cable release just to photograph a few good frames of the ceremony.  This is all fairly normal for us.  Low light photography is what we do.  I was thinking ahead, so as a little experiment, I set my camera on the tripod (something most photographers don’t use) and set the camera to automatic.  The first frame you see is what the camera “thought” should happen.  The bright light from the stained glass tricked it and it underexposed the part of the photo we care about.  Notice that it NAILED the stained glass window, yippee.  Then I set the exposure using what I know about the situation and got the proper result, and now we have a beautiful image we can use in their wedding album.  But what if the dark frame had been the first kiss, or the moment she laughed at his fumbling of the rings, or even when her dad kissed her for the last time as a single woman?

So now, back to the email above “We are going with a friend…”.  I wondered, does your friend have the most capable equipment for these bad situations?  Does your friend know that her camera is looking for a “balanced exposure” and may not always “listen” to what she is thinking?  Does your friend know that there are about 150 ways you can mess up a shot like this, and only about 2-3 ways to get it right?  And is your friend prepared if her BEST camera falls out of the car on the way into the church?  Does she have a backup body or lens that is its equal?  Does your friend have a second photographer with her so she can be in “two places at once” if she needs to be?  Does your friend have insurance so that if she loses all of your images when her one hard drive crashes, she can pay to have your wedding recreated?  Better yet, did she back up your files on a redundant hard drive?  These are all of the questions you should ask yourself before you let a friend, or family member, or student photograph your wedding.

We are talking about the most important photographs that will ever be made in your life.  Each moment is literally a ONE TIME opportunity to capture or create a memory.  We are talking about the last time you might dance with your grandmother, the first time you will kiss your husband, and the only time you will say “I do”.  Are those really the things you want to take a chance with?  Like I said, paying for a wedding is expensive, and everyone has their limitations on what they can spend on a photographer.  We get that, and we would love to offer a solution to people on a limited budget.  BUT, when you are having your wedding ceremony at the most expensive venue in town, and your reception at the most upscale country club, and you are serving the finest wine, and eating the best cuts of meat, you have no excuses for passing the burden and responsibility of photography to a “friend”.  For all I know, your friend may be an amazing photographer.  But having your friend say “I can do that” is a far cry from what we say… “That’s what we do”.  Don’t risk it.  Don’t let a few dollars be the difference in a decision you’ll regret and one you’ll never forget.  We’ve heard too many times, and you can read so many photography horror stories online, why fall into the trap yourself?

Thanks for listening.

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