Wedding Photography...should I hire a pro or an amateur?

Recently, we had a bridal booth at a local bridal show. As a bride and her maid of honor walked past the booth, I could overhear their conversation. The bride said "No. We don't need a photographer. My friend has a camera and she can do it." Well, that got me thinking. Would a bride ever have a friend make her dress because said friend has a sewing machine? Or, would they not need a caterer because one of their friends has an oven? I seriously doubt it! Using a professional photographer is not just wasted money on one of the biggest days of our lives? Or is it? Lets explore some differences between a friend/amateur who owns a camera and a professional.

There are some obvious differences right away. 1. Knowledge: Most amateurs who own a consumer grade camera really don't know how to use the camera to it's full potential. There is a setting on almost every camera that says Auto. This means you can shoot just about anywhere and the camera is making all the decisions for you. That's fine when you are taking photos of your kids, nature or pets. However, if you do not understand how to change the settings for shooting, in a hotel room where the bride is getting ready, the church where the ceremony takes place, the bright sun or, the usually dark environment of most receptions. If you take a bad photo of your dog, you can try it again. There are no do-overs at a wedding. Miss the first kiss and the bride will be very angry! Any professional photographer that uses their camera in the Auto setting, is not a pro at all! One of the biggest tasks for a professional is being able to understand their environment and manipulating the camera to match the environment. 2. Gear: Most amateurs have one camera and a 1 or 2 memory cards. Professionals travel with a minimum of 2 back-up cameras, dozens of memory cards, several lenses, flash units. Most pros have $10,000 in their camera bag and an assistant or two. Just because we have expensive gear, doesn't mean much unless we know how to put it to use. If we didn't, why would we spend big money?  In an average 8 hour wedding, a professional can fill several memory cards taking thousands of pictures....that's not including their assistants images. 3. Lighting: Amateurs use the little pop-up flash attached to the camera. This is great if you want red eye for any shots with people looking directly into the camera. Those look great! The use of professional flash can light up an entire church or reception. The pop-up flash on a camera only works from 1-15 feet. A photographer doesn't always have the luxury of being 1-15 feet from every shot they take. 4. Post Production: Professionals use tools like photoshop & lightroom to color correct the images and enhance your photos. Amateurs don't really know how to do that. Most amateurs shoot images in jpeg format. Professionals shoot in RAW format. What is the difference? Raw photos allow the photographer to do their magic to to the images in post production. Jpeg images only allow a very limited amount of editing. The difference, side by side, is  not even a real comparison. 5. Vision: To be a great professional photographer, you need to see the shot before you take it. Amateurs just take photos without any thought going into it before it happens. A good or great wedding photographer doesn't wait for the shot to present themselves. They anticipate what is about to happen and get in position to get the shot before it ever happens.

These are just some basic things to consider before asking your friend who owns a camera to shoot your wedding. Otherwise, ask your friend who has a sewing machine to make your dress. To many times I've heard brides say, I wish we had hired a pro. We didn't even get our photos. That means nothing to remember, no pretty prints hanging on your walls or a heirloom wedding album. Ultimately, the decision is yours. Should you budget for a wedding photographer? Only you can decide that! Before you spend $3k-10k on a dress, ask yourself if you want cherished photos of you wearing it. Wedding photography...important or not.