If you were reading the tabloids last week, or watching posts on wedding forums you might have seen a story that was doing the rounds. It involved a young student photographer who was hired by a couple to take their wedding photographs. I won’t go into the ins and outs of the story, but let’s just say it didn’t end well for anyone. They took her to court and now there are all sorts of accusations flying around between the parties. The thing is, the couple paid her £500 to photograph their wedding. Now, I’m sorry, but no-one in their right mind should pay that sort of money for a full day’s photography and expect to get professional photographs. Yes, you’ll get photographs, but should you expect them to be of a professional standard?
Why use a “professional” photographer?
The photographer apparently referred to herself as a professional and was an “up an coming photographer trying to make a name for herself“. Funnily enough, I met up with one of my couples the other weekend to talk through their plans and they mentioned this phrase. When they were looking for ideas for favours the Bride went onto a wedding suppliers group in Facebook. She was immediately bombarded with messages from photographers who were “up and coming” and who offered to shoot their wedding for just a few hundred pounds. After less than a day she’d had enough of this and left the group, even having to block one or two photographers who kept on harassing her. Now, anyone can call themselves a “professional”. There are no mandatory qualifications and no courses that you “have” to attend.
There are lots of hobbyists who like to take wedding photographs at weekends, to supplement their “day job” and to earn a few pennies to help recuperate the cost of their camera equipment. For many people, myself included (many, many years ago!), it’s a way into the industry. Some of these hobbyists are very good and produce really nice work (which is when they tend to migrate into full-time photography – if they feel that’s a life they can cope with). However, some of these photographers are, to be brutally honest, absolutely awful.
Problems arise when someone calls themself a professional and they’re not capable of producing high-quality images, consistently, week in and week out. In all sorts of weather. At all sorts of venues.
I’m afraid that some of the blame in cases like the one I referred to at the start, has to lay with the couples. We have a problem in this digital age that people’s expectations on photography have dropped. When I started shooting weddings (it was after the dinosaurs had disappeared) everything was shot on film. Professional photographers shot with medium-format cameras like Hasselblads which used larger film that gave much better quality images than 35mm (like the difference in size between the size of the sensor on a phone compared to a professional DSLR). These cameras cost thousands, even back then, so there was a sizeable investment required if you wanted to shoot professionally, and most couples wouldn’t consider using anyone except a professional to photograph their wedding. Roll the clocks forward to today – iPhone and iPad photos are OK for sharing on Facebook and Instagram, but they’re miles away from professional images. As time’s gone on people have become used to seeing cameraphone shots on Facebook (which, by the way, absolutely destroys image quality when photographs are uploaded) with the consequence that when they see a mediocre wedding photograph they think they’re getting the “real deal”. The appreciation of quality photography’s become diluted. As a result, the market’s become flooded with “wedding photographers” who think they’re the next “big thing” or “superstar”.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Photography’s always evolving. I’m sure that the photographers who used plate cameras threw up their arms in horror when film became available. I’m not a dinosaur living in the past. I’ve embraced digital and love the freedom that it now gives us to document the wedding day and tell a story.
Weddings are expensive
I know how expensive weddings can be – honestly, I do! Not everyone can afford £1500 or more for the photography, especially if you’re on a tight budget. If you’re spending £30k on a wedding then yes, you should be spending at least that on the photography. However, if you want a simple wedding and have a small budget you can still get really nice wedding photographs. “Friends with nice cameras” can give you perfectly acceptable images from parts of your day, and if that’s what you want I have no issue with it (so long as you remember that they’ll want to enjoy the day, not spend it working behind the camera).
What’s the problem?
As I said earlier, the problem comes where people don’t understand the difference between an acceptable snap from a friend, and a professional image. Some people just don’t “get it”. And I understand that.
Let’s use an analogy – food. I can “cook” in that I know how to use the oven, can get ready meals out of the freezer and create a supper that I enjoy. It’s certainly not MasterChef and a zillion miles away from haute-cuisine. But I enjoy it. I also wouldn’t pay a couple of hundred pounds for a meal in a Michelin starred restaurant, because that’s not the type of food that appeals to me. I appreciate the skill and expertise of the chefs that create these masterpieces. But I have no interest in it and so would never pay those sorts of prices. Someone else though, who LOVES their food would quite happily pay for that experience. The same goes with the photography – we all value goods and services differently. If you’re happy with the quality of work that someone produces that’s fine. But if you’re on a budget don’t expect them to be able to create something that you’ve seen in one of the Bridal magazines.
The truth is out there, or is it?
Of course, there is another little issue here – believing what you see on a person’s website. There are numerous cases of people stealing other photographers’ work and claiming it’s something they’ve shot. If you’re unsure, then ask to see more images from that wedding. I’m not suggesting you ask to see the complete wedding (although some wedding magazines would suggest you do that), but if you see 50+ images from a wedding and they’re all correctly exposed, have a consistent (and accurate) colour balance and are well presented, that’s a good indication those images are actually owned by the photographer. Ask to see prints as well. If someone’s stolen images from the web and tries to print them they’ll usually end up with horribly pixelated images if they print them at a reasonable size.
What price wedding photography?
At the end of the day, quality wedding photography is never going to be “cheap”. In the same way that any professional service isn’t (believe me, paying a solicitor £180 an hour hurts the wallet). Being a professional photographer is about much more than having a nice camera and Photoshop! If you want to cut costs then do, but always remember there’s a risk associated with a “bargain”. Saving money by buying a wedding dress on-line from a factory in China may turn out to be one of the best decisions you made. However, it might also turn out to be one of the worst! The same goes for the photography.
If you’re happy with friends taking photos that’s fine. If you’re happy to give an inexperienced photographer a chance to take their first step on the ladder to becoming a professional that’s fine. Just remember that, with all things in life, there’s a risk. Heck, there’s even a risk with a professional, but it “should” be a lot less.
Of course, if money’s tight you could always hire a professional photographer for the key parts of your day – the arrivals, the ceremony and the family/couples photographs, then let friends shoot the rest of the day.
The choice, as they say, is yours! The only thing I’d say is this – your wedding day is very special. It’ll be over in a flash. The photographs from that day will give you the memories you’ll treasure for a lifetime. Only you can put a monetary value on those memories.
If you’d like to find out more about the photography that I offer then take a look around my website and if you’re interested, get in touch for a chat.
If you found this Blog post interesting then why not head over to my “Advice for Brides” section where you find useful articles about the whole process of planning a wedding!
Ian is one of Dorset’s leading wedding photographers. Based in Bournemouth and with over 20 years of experience photographing weddings across Dorset and Hampshire, Ian’s the perfect choice for couples who want unobtrusive, discreet wedding photography that captures the emotions of their special day. Read more about his own personal style of documentary wedding photography on this website.
Proud to be a recommended photographer for a number of leading Dorset wedding venues.
Blog post: What price wedding photography?