There are a lot of semi-pro and novice photographers at the cheap end of the wedding photography industry, and for some people on a tight budget there can be the temptation to save money and hire a cheap wedding photographer or even to ask their budding amateur family member to shoot their special day.
Everybody needs to start somewhere, and a lot of wedding photographers begin their careers by offering their services free to friends or very cheaply to secure experience and a portfolio. My personal experience was to second shoot with a professional wedding photographer until he was happy I could go it alone.
If you really want to go down this route because you really haven’t got the budget, I would suggest at the very least that you do as much research as you can.
We All Start at the Bottom
You might be lucky and find a good wedding photographer who is at the start of their career. Or perhaps you might not.
I would hire a good wedding photographer just to shoot the bridal preps, the ceremony and some formals after. This will cost the same as a full day with a cheap wedding photographer. At least you know they will nail this relatively shorter period of your wedding.
This is infinitely preferable to at best, average photographs or at worst, a total mess of your day.
Now I am not here to scaremonger, I just want to make you aware of why a good wedding photographer charges what they charge. Would you entrust your wedding dress to a friend of a friend who did a course in dressmaking? Would you have the catering done by a budding amateur chef?
I hope the answer to these questions is a BIG NO. So why risk receiving crap photos when you have spent so much time and effort on the rest of the day? Having a digital camera DOES NOT make you a good wedding photographer.
Why You Should Hire a Professional Wedding Photographer.
It is not just the photographer’s time on the wedding day you are paying for. There are a lot of skills and costs to running a good wedding photography business.
A professional, well-established wedding photographer has spent a lot of money and time developing the skill set needed to provide a great experience for their clients.
A Good Website
A professional wedding photographer will have a well maintained professionally designed website that will have a lot of time and energy spent on it. A well presented professional wedding photographer’s website will have lots of previous work.
There will not only be a collection of their best images, but also samples of previous weddings. They will also have a substantial amount of testimonials of previous happy clients. (I personally ask my clients to leave reviews on my Google business page so they can be verified as honest).
In contrast, a beginner or low quality wedding photographer will either not have a website or a poorly maintained one. I think the real test of a wedding photographer is the quality of the previous full weddings they show. This is the only indicator of the work you are likely to receive.
Great Quality Albums
A lot of low end and amateur, or semi-pro wedding photographers will not provide wedding albums at all. If they do, it will be poor quality low cost albums to keep their prices as competitive as they can. A well-established wedding photographer on the other hand will have professionally hand made wedding albums in a wide range of sizes, and cover materials.
Another way to spot the beginner or low quality wedding photographer is the images in the albums. A sure fire giveaway are the images of random weddings with the same people continually popping up but separated in the album. This indicates not many weddings shot and/or the photographer is not confident in showing a full wedding.
In contrast an experienced quality wedding photographer will have a unique full wedding in each sample album. This will show you what your wedding will look like in an album and will also showcase the photographer’s skill in capturing the whole wedding day.
The choosing of images and the design process of the wedding album is a time consuming process. Most good quality wedding photographers will have spent a lot of money on bespoke software and training to achieve a high standard in the design of the album.
This time, effort and investment have been calculated into the price a wedding photographer charges for his services.
High Quality Image Editing
A professional wedding photographer will spend days after the wedding culling and processing your images. Using expensive software and their experience they will retouch and process your photographs until they look their best.
A good wedding photographer will have a certain look to their images, which will make them stand out against other photographers. They have the experience and skills to create their own bespoke look.
A low end inexperienced wedding photographer will have poor editing skills or will not even processes your photographs.
Expensive State of the Art Equipment (And Back Ups Too)
A good quality-wedding photographer will have top of the range, or near top of the range camera and computer equipment. They will also have back up equipment. As previously noted the price of entry-level equipment has really dropped allowing a deluge of budding photographers into the industry for little outlay.
This is all fine for outdoor work, and the average client could not tell an outdoor photograph shot on entry level compared to top equipment.
The big differentiator is indoor photography where a lot of money needs to be spent on lenses that can shoot indoors without the use of flash. A low-end photographer will not have this level of equipment, so your images will suffer as a consequence.
The purchase and maintenance of this very expensive equipment (one lens can cost upwards of £1500) is also factored into an established wedding photographer’s prices. The cameras, lenses, computers and software need to be continually maintained and updated and this needs to be factored into the price a photographer charges.
Limited Number of Clients.
A good wedding photographer will keep the number of weddings they shoot to a fixed amount. I personally find 30 weddings a year allows me to provide the best experience for my clients. I charge accordingly to make this financially rewarding while keeping fresh and able to give my clients my best every wedding.
A low cost wedding photographer will either have a day job, limiting the time he can give you or in case of a full time low cost wedding photographer, they will need to at least double that number to make a living. This will limit the quality of service they can provide you.
Years Of Experience.
I hope you can see that being a wedding photographer is not a case of picking up a digital camera and letting fly. Even the best commercial or portrait photographers with little or no wedding experience will struggle on a wedding day.
The wedding day is very high pressure and events like the bride walking up the aisle are one-time events! It takes a skilled wedding photographer to capture moments like the bride and the groom seeing each other for the first time or capturing big hugs from your friends and family.
An experienced photographer understands and anticipates the day’s events and also knows how to work with the light to create the story of your day.
The True Value of a Good Wedding Photographer
After the champagne has been drunk, the cake eaten, the dress hung up, the only things of real value from your wedding will be the rings and your photographs (and video if you have one).
A good wedding photographer will capture the story of your day whose value is truly measured in years to come when you are older with children and your grandchildren.
An experienced wedding photographer will preserve the memory of your wedding day so you and your family can relive it in all of its beauty and wonder.
This collection of photographs will form a family heirloom, which will actually become priceless to you as time passes.
Now what price do you think you would pay 30 years down the line for beautiful images of your family and friends which represent real moments, and have real memories attached to them?