How To: DIY Wedding Photography


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

How To: DIY Wedding Photography | A Practical Wedding

I’ve been meaning to write about alternatives to professional wedding photography for ages, but this week I got two emails on the subject, and I decided it was time for us to chat. Here is the thing: I love photography as an art form, and wedding photography was really high on my list of priorities. BUT! I do not think that professional wedding photography is for everyone, and I don’t think it needs to be. Here is a snippet of an email I got this week:

 

How To: DIY Wedding Photography | A Practical Wedding

 

We’re getting married in 4 weeks, and yesterday I made the daft mistake of going for lunch with a lovely friend who is getting hitched in a few months. We’re having very different styles of wedding, but both really excited for each other. Here’s the problem: over a cup of green tea, she confided in me that she is really worried about our decision not to have a professional photographer. She has a couple of friends of friends who did the same and now regret it. She was dead serious, very concerned for me, and encouraged me to reconsider, and even though I was sure we’d made the right decision for us, I’m now fretting. We decided not to have a wedding photographer because:

  • We have loads of friends who are handy with a digital SLR. We’ve put together a list of important shots for the big day, and will divide them up, so nobody has to take more than 5 key shots (they have already agreed). Is this a mad idea?
  • The cost of the photos would add an extra 10% to the wedding budget, and we don’t want to get into debt. And frankly the average price of wedding photography makes me feel unwell.
  • We’re applying the infinite monkey theorem, whereby if we have enough people taking photos, we’re bound to get some album-worthy shots.
  • My parents’ photo album is really 70s, only has about 30 photos in it,* but is beautiful, and to be honest that would be good enough for me.

I think this bride’s reasoning is great. You don’t need tons of photos of your wedding, and you can absolutely ask friends to take each take some shots. I think that all of us (myself most definitely included) put way too much emphasis on chic wedding pictures. In the end, wedding pictures stand is small documentaries. We frame a few, we put the rest in an album. Our lives move on, and the album goes on the shelf where it will one day get pulled down by a tiny daughter, or niece, or granddaughter who will peer at the dusty pages admiringly. It won’t matter to her how much you spent on those pictures, just how happy you were, and how pretty you looked.

Now, if you can’t afford a wedding photographer (or don’t care to have one), but want a few chic pictures, some ideas:

  • Buy up some Polaroid film, and a cheap Polaroid camera (I know, it’s more expensive than it used to be, but you don’t need that much film). Ask a few of your friends to pass around the Polaroid camera during the wedding and take shots. You’ll have instant, stylish, and personal photos. We’re doing this (we were given a gift of Polaroid film) and we have a photographer.
  • In the same vein, if you want Polaroid style photos but don’t want to pay for film, do what this bride did and have friends and family take pictures, and then use this free software to turn them into fake Polaroids (I use this on the blog all the time, it is awesome).
  • Buy a Holga camera or two (you can’t get much cheaper than that) and have your friends pass it around. Enjoy the dreamy and surreal results.
  • Look into hiring a photographer who will do post production on your photos. Then shoot away and hand it over to a pro who will edit your shots to chicness.
  • Or, the most obvious answer: Let your friends and family take photos for you, and have faith. You’ll have simple, personal shots to remember your simple personal day. Done and done.

Other thoughts or suggestions? Supportive thoughts for the bride in question? Dish!

*Mine too! Remember, in the end you probably only really need one or two really great shots. That’s what the generations to come will latch on to.


First photo by Calin Peters. Thumbnail photo by One Love Photo (not DIY but indisputably great) from our wedding, of our fabulous friends’ Polaroids. Those Polaroids are some of the treasures of the day.
Post photo via Snippet and Ink

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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  • http://accordionsandlace.wordpress.com/ accordionsandlace

    Oh amen on this one. I’ve had a post stewing about photography for a while myself. While there are lots of amazing photographers out there and it’s easy to get excited about them (heck, we LOVE the photogs we booked), the current WIC obsession with photography is disturbing and seems to be spiraling out of control. We we want mementos of an important day or a fashion shoot? Stay strong, no photographer lady!

  • Anonymous

    I think another great option is to use the best digital camera that you can borrow, buy a huge memory card and a remote for the camera, set up a fun background, and let your friends take their own photos. You will get 1000 photos for no cost, and you can print (or upload to a website) the best photos of your friends having fun.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01739533284860045738 Nicole

    We hired a student at our university as a photographer. He’s charging us $600 for engagements, bridal portraits (if we want them) rehearsal dinner and all day on the day of. And they’re great pictures to boot.

    But I don’t think you need an elaborate photographer, just someone to capture what you want. Sara at 2000 Dollar Wedding had friends take her photos and she seems to be more than pleased with them. She opened a pro flickr account and told people how to upload them there. She’s written that they have over 2000 photos. How cool is that? You wouldn’t get that many from a professional.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11121613515553232067 joannezipan

    My parents did have a wedding photographer, but her was awful and didn’t get them any good shots. Lucky for them then that my mum’s uncle was a dab hand with a camara then and took all the pictures they ended up with in the album. I think sometimes you get a better result from family because they love you and some how that seeps into the pictures.

    We decided to hire a photographer, but not a wedding one, to do some journalistic shots during the day, and rely on friends and family to do a few formal shots. A decision my Mum and Dad were more than happy with bearing in mind their experiences.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17019906730951331777 KE

    My parents DID use a professional photographer – and the pics were awful (she keeps them in a drawer, out of sight). She always says she is so glad she had family members take pictures too or she wouldn’t have any ones she liked. Those are the ones she made an album out of. So, having a pro you love is a bonus, but you’ll still have SOME great pics if you encourage friends and family to click away too:)

  • http://practicallymarried.wordpress.com Leika

    Yes!! There are some amazingly gorgeous wedding shots out there. Some were shot by amazingly talented photographers, some were shot by amazingly talented friends and family. To echo Meg’s footnote, when it’s all said and done, everyone will only remember those one or two great shots anyway!

  • http://www.moderngirlinvitations.com/modernbrideguide Autumn

    I had the *same exact situation* happen to me. I decided not to have a professional photographer. Many of my friends are enthusiastic photographers, and I KNEW they would get great shots. Plus, I didn’t want a stranger following me around all day (for $5000 no less). I felt more comfortable with camera-armed friends who I could play around with.

    Regardless, I had a close friend sit down and have the same “talk” with me. It really upset me because my decision was made and I felt it was not her place to be so worried about what *I* was doing. Still, it shook up me up so much that I went on a hunt for a last minute photographer. Big waste of time because I knew in my heart that I wanted my friends to do the photos, and that’s what I ended up doing anyways.

    My pictures came out awesome! And more importantly, on the day of the wedding, I had 3 of my closest friends following me around like I was a supermodel and they were paparazzi. We made up all these crazy poses, ran all over the reception grounds, and just had an absolute blast! It’s a memory I will cherish forever. I would not have traded it for the world!

  • Anne

    Knowing that I didn’t want to spend lots of money on a photographer, I posted an ad on craigslist asking for a specific amount of time and offering what our budget could allow. I got a ton of responses, many of them from really talented photographers. We’re still deciding who to hire, but we have some great options!

  • http://www.unrelatedsidenote.com cindy

    You won’t regret it. We asked a couple of friends to photograph our ceremony and the pictures are wonderful. Plus, they were super excited to get to work the room and even framed a couple of pictures for us. Plus, we didn’t have a photographer in our faces as we were walking up and down the aisle. The ceremony was more about us and less about smiling for the camera.

    One friend rode in the limo with us and some of my favorite photos of the day came from her.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07417468013072955573 Julie

    My parents got married in NYC in 1970… afterwards, the car with the camera and film holding the majority of their pictures on it was broken into, and everything stolen. They only have a couple of pictures from the day — but they are fantastic! My dad has a ridiculous beard and ‘fro and my mom is rocking a minidress with her veil — and they look hapy and beautiful. You only need a few good pictures when all is said and done. I know my mom is still sad that they were stolen, but I love the pictures that she has… I think everybody has to do what’s right for their budget and there are no wrong choices here.

  • http://www.themaidenmetallurgist.com The Maiden Metallurgist

    We had a photographer (a friend of ours, but a pro nonnetheless) who took beautiful photos, but we have just as many great shots from all of our friends who are digital camera happy anyway.

    Turns out we framed more photos our friends took than ones the photographer took.

    Your friend sounds like she’s fallen into the WIC trance, give her a break since she’s probably stressed too- tell her you’ll think about it. Then sleep well assured that you will have great pictures taken by people who love you and more money in the bank when this is all over.

    Good luck!

  • Anonymous

    I am a long time lurker here but this post made me come out of hiding. Last summer my Mom got married in Central Park. She wanted things very simple and easy. There were 13 people including the bride and groom in attendance.

    Just about everyone was equipped with their own digital camera. Nothing fancy but I have to say we have TONS of great photos from all different perspectives. Her photo album tells the complete story of that day in beautiful detail. I am still shocked at how great our photos turned out.

    Don’t worry about professional pictures. Just make sure someone is documenting the day no matter amatuer or professional.

    Rachel

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07204889856385422586 ashley

    we couldn’t justify spending alot on a photographer since we were paying for everything ourselves, straight out of college.

    a friend of ours who has a pretty nice camera and is fairly artsy took pics for free at our wedding.

    100% honestly, I am a little sad at times that we didn’t hire a pro, but it’s not because I don’t have great pics, it’s just bc I see what I COULD have had… I don’t have fancy photos of my favors or journalistic pics of friends laughing at the reception… and honestly a lot of what I don’t have could probably have been captured if I had planned better and gave more direction.

    In the end though, when we combined his photos with those taken by 3 or 4 other friends and family, I have so many pics that I adore from different parts of the day and different views. I wouldn’t trade them! And I have had so much fun editing myself.

  • P.

    I’ve come to believe that a lot of the comments other people make to you about your wedding choices have more to do with them than about your wedding. It’s probably VERY important for the friend in this case to have a photog and she doesn’t understand not having one.

    It helped me opt out of traditional wedding photography to hear that my cousin felt pressured to have a photographer (because people say that’s the ONLY thing you have from that day — as if your memories don’t count). My cousin says she doesn’t like their pics at all and feels like it was ultimately a waste of money.

    But I still wanted someone to be responsible for pics and we lucked out that a friend of a friend wanted to do our pics. He was great to work with and the pics turned out far better than I’d even hoped.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00570876113939066775 Julia (Color Me Green)

    I think this post and all the ideas in the comments are so great. Personally I think when my time comes to plan a wedding, I’d like to ask my friends who have gone to photography school, worked as photographers (not necessarily wedding photogs), and are just really into photography if any of them would be willing to do my wedding photography for cheap (to build their resume and for fun!) or if they can recommend any friends who would.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09197008991622181061 PrincessMax

    When I got married 10 years ago, I was able to hire a local portrait photographer to take just the group shots of family groups and bridal party. After that it was all disposable cameras. It worked just fine for us and I believe the digital mass upload monkey strategy is a much cheaper replacement for digital cameras.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00409541531549254367 Tris

    Oh, the photography.

    I think what makes us so nervous is this idea of REGRET, will we regret letting our friends do it? Will we regret spending all that money on a professional? Ack!

    My parents didn’t have a professional, and they do regret it. Photos are really high on our priority list, and we lucked out and found a student photographer (Emily Perello of Emily Takes Photos if you happen to be in California) and she gave us a great price AND did an engagement shoot so we could feel each other out and be more comfortable on the actual day.

    So, good luck with whatever you decide, I’m sure you’ll get gorgeous shots, no matter what.

    Tris

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05532197787877824868 Becca

    Thanks for this. I love wedding photography… but I’m not sure I want it at my wedding. A lot of the blog photos we see are beautiful pieces of art, but I’m not sure I want my wedding to be art. I want my wedding to be joy, and I resent that there’s now an expectation that weddings are now fashion-plate worth events (with price tags to boot).

    At my cousin’s wedding recently, they didn’t hire anyone. It was a small intimate wedding that could have been marred by a photographer hanging about with the family and friends. So about two minutes before the ceremony began, my uncle threw his $1000 fancy camera into my fiance’s hands, figured he was artistic enough because he’s a musician, and asked him to take photos. Despite my fiance’s look of panic, everything came out beautifully. My uncle’s pre-wedding photos and my fiance’s ceremony photos made me cry all over again. It wasn’t a fashion shoot, but it perfectly captured a beautiful memory.

  • http://budgetbeautiful.wordpress.com/ budgetbeautiful

    We had a photographer that I loved, and were about to go to contract with. When we were about to sign, she told us she’s pregnant, so she couldn’t shoot our wedding. We interviewed about four more before finding our current photographer, and it was a pretty frustrating experience. One photographer essentially said something along the lines of “I don’t get out of bed in the morning for less than x dollar amount.”

    That’s what made me realize that while photography is important, a lot of vendors in my area are overcharging just because that’s what the market will pay. I just didn’t want to spend upwards of $3,000 for pictures that are yes, very important, but no, not something I will look at very often in the future.

    I ended up finding a photographer that no, doesn’t offer super trendy shots or lots of post-processing like a lot of photographers now. But she does offer a very good value for the money and is professional, has a great eye and offers a good value.

    Thanks for the tip about the Holga camera, I may just have to pick one up!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03949893722683490952 kla_texasgirl

    I’ve been contemplating most of the ideas in this post for a while now. In fact I’m even threatening my Maid Of Honor with having to carry a Holga instead of a bouquet(she already owns two of them). The other thing I’ve been pondering is getting a multi-card reader and setting it up somewhere so that towards the end of the reception we can announce where it is and have people go upload their memory cards to one computer – but that’s mostly because I’m impatient and don’t want to wait for people to get around to it on flickr.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12054911276578188800 Prudence

    This is a tricky one for me. I am a semi-photographer who did not hire a “real” professional for my own wedding. Our wedding was planned in 2 months and everything was on a very tight budget. We asked a friend to do the video taping and another friend who had a fancy camera to take the photos. At first he charged $250 but then gave us the money back.

    Needless to say, I was dissappointed. The pictures are in a box in the basement and my own family has never seen them. The truth is that they probably aren’t that bad but my eyes are a little sensitive to photography. It’s still difficult part to know that we can’t re-do the day and the photographs don’t make me happy at all.

    Even if we had the money, I think I’m too practical to spend thousands of dollars on a photographer. However, I wish I’d tought about the following:

    Call a photo school. Students are often willing to take on the project at little to no cost.

    Find a “new” photographer who is in the process of portfolio building. I will be doing just that to get practice this summer. I am photographing for FREE just to get practice and build my portfolio. I live in Atlanta, by the way.

    Most pro wedding photogs don’t do weddings alone and if you’re cutting costs, you shouldn’t either. Get several people to take shots and give them the title of photographer and let them know their responsibility to document your day. That way you get a variety of perspectives.

    If you’re getting a “newbie” photog to do your wedding, offer to rent nice lenses for them. Often, the quality of the composition of the photo is significantly affected by the quality of the lens. Offer to rent the lens/camera if the person will just bring their talent.

    Do an engagement session with the photographer. It will give you a feel for their style/presence/demeanor on one of your most meaningful days.

  • http://surprisewedding.wordpress.com Surprise Wedding

    I’m SO happy you’ve written about this!

    We too are ambivalent at best about professional wedding photography and toyed with the idea of skipping it altogether. Sure, we want PICTURES of the day, but do we really need PHOTOGRAPHS? (There IS a difference, and you KNOW what it is.)

    Personally, I think wedding photography is a racket and the prices for many pros boggle my mind. I’ve heard the argument regarding time and talent a million times, but it hasn’t changed my mind. The prices are as high as they are simply because the word “wedding” is involved, and that’s enough for me to opt out.

    That said, we decided to set an arbitrarily low budget ($300) and make THEM come to US (via Craigslist) by spelling out exactly what we want and exactly how much we want to pay.

    The response? OVERWHELMING. A lot of hobbyists of course, and a few fools who simply have a camera and just want to make a few bucks. But there were also several reputable pros with well established businesses who responded and offered to accept our terms.

    We ended up booking a great husband and wife team who have been in the business for quite a while, have a great portfolio, and have even won awards for their work. The prices they charge people who go to THEM are literally 5-8 times as much as what we’re paying. Which, for the record is indeed $300, and for that we’ll get 2 shooters for 3 hours.

    Perfect!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05750659066802561501 Erika

    I totally understand the ambivalence. We only decided to hire a pro at the last minute, and we really lucked out with finding someone affordable and laid back. In the end I was glad we had some family portrait shots done, because even though I did not care about them, our parents did. That said, our friends took some great pictures too, and I think it all would have been fine without the pro. So, to the woman who wrote the email, it sounds like you’ve thought this through, and I’m sure you’ll get some wonderful pictures from friends. Don’t worry.
    P.S. The photographer also took tons of detail shots: the cake, shoes, the wine bottles, etc. I don’t care about them. Like everyone else has commented here, no matter how many pictures are shot, you’ll wind up with 10 or 20 favorites anyway.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06529652450620062626 K

    Ugh, the flack you get for not having a “professional” photographer. Our pictures are amazing, and I don’t regret our decision to have friends take pics for one second.

    I definitely agree with whomever said to rent some equipment (lens, flash, maybe an additional camera, tripod, etc). We also had our friends do a test run at our “venue” at the same time of day as our wedding to make sure they knew the settings to use.

    The only thing I wasn’t prepared for was all the work you have to put into the pics AFTER the wedding. We had 1200+ pics, and narrowing it down was difficult. It’s a lot of work to put an album together on your own, so just be prepared for that. The post-wedding glow is gone, and the last thing you want to do is organize your photos. It’s why Flickr is fantastic. :)

    PS If anyone can tell me where to get a professional photog quality album with matted pages (no sticky paper, no cellophane), please let me know!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00650933140736435170 Giggles

    My sibling got married a few years ago and as I have a reputation for being the family photographer, my parents got me a real nice digital camera for Christmas before the wedding with the understanding that I would use it at the wedding. I loved it. I loved that extra time I got with my sister and her new husband. And they got the pictures for free. It was a win-win.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12245297960220355931 nc

    We hired photographers who were still getting their business off the ground, so we got a good deal. A lot of people have suggested similar options here.

    We also got great photographs from friends, but I liked that they felt like they could put the camera down and shake their booty on the dance floor because someone else was making sure to photograph it all.

    The only thing I didn’t want was photos full of people with cameras up to their faces or held out in front of them. That’s something to be careful of when you ask friends to take photos– make sure they enjoy themselves and that everyone isn’t feeling like they need to document every moment.

    That said, we didn’t hire a super artsy, super expensive photographer. We wanted the day captured as it was- not as a modern art performance piece. Wedding blogs are great, but they can make you feel like you need high end photography for it to be a beautiful day- you don’t.

    And yes, it’s true– you will have a handful of favorite photos, not matter who takes them. Even if you have thousands that are your favorites, only a couple will see the light of day on regular basis.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10678736237475255263 Lisa

    This post seems to echo exactly what I was feeling at my daughter’s wedding. We couldn’t afford the cost, and opted for shots done by friends and family on disposable cameras. They were terrific and they tended to focus on the fun shots that we really wanted to see. In the end there was a photographer there, paid by another family member. They got a handful of nice shots, but frankly ones done by family were just as good if not better.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Just chiming back in to say, for the record (which I think everyone knows and is giving credit, but I just wanted to say again outloud). I think many a pro photographer is worth every penny, its a question of if it is worth it *to you.* I fully understand that photography can be A) art and B) a full time job, and talented people should be paaaaiiiiiddddd (in a way that doesn’t rip you off, natch, but paid well).

    So, for some of us (like me) paying a fair amount of money for pro-photos was worth it, and more. But should you have good options if it isn’t for you? HECK yes.

    I just don’t want to make this thread seem like a trashing of the very talented-savy-honest-working-to-earn-a-living-photo-wedding-elves in the world. Because god bless, really. The alternatives to kick *ss cool independent photographers? Terrifying.

    Meg

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12051581432652556410 Marina

    I definitely angsted over this. To me, the key was seeing this phrase repeated over and over and over again: “After the wedding, all you’ll have left are the photographs.”

    In one sense, this is absolutely true. A wedding is a one-day event, or a one-week event at most, and after it’s over and the food’s all eaten and the decorations are put away, you’ve got your own faint memories and whatever memory aids you’ve got. Like pictures.

    But that’s not what I want, personally, from my wedding. I want the One Thing I have at the end of the day to be the marriage. Even if I can’t remember a thing from the wedding day, I’ll have experienced a good party fully present, in the moment, and not worrying about what I’ll have left afterwards, and I’ll have what matters most to me.

    Like you said, Meg, I feel like this is a really personal decision, and for a lot of people having those pictures is really important and worth putting half your budget towards it. But for me, physical mementos of the wedding are honestly not a priority.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09918163523860394766 Kosicle

    I was asked to photograph a wedding for a friend who couldn’t afford a professional…I was stressed out to say yes but knew she didn’t have anyone else that would do it. She LOVES her photos (not tooting my own horn- well I guess I am sorta…beep beep) hehe- but I was extra careful and made a list and thought of everything that I would want if I were a bride, if you can’t afford a photographer or don’t want to pay for one, then make sure you find someone who knows how to use a camera, and who will be aware of what you want.
    and take a MILLION photos. You’re bound to get a lot of good shots if you have a million photos.

    I decided on hiring a photographer for my wedding, but I made sure we could afford him. He’s half the cost of the entire wedding but I don’t for a second regret it, because all I’ll have (besides the memories, but I have a TERRIBLE memory) is the photos.
    I also know a few people who had friends do it and got back a bunch of really crappy terrible pictures. They all regret it- and you can’t go back and redo it…and that’s scary. I just couldn’t risk it.
    That’s just me though- photography is REALLY important to me and something I’m passionate about. I had to use someone I could trust.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09918163523860394766 Kosicle

    I forgot to add- our photographer only charges 2600 for the full day, cd of the images we can print what we want, free photoshopping,engagement photos- and he’s so awesome to spend time with, I absolutely love him.
    So yeah- out of our 5k wedding, half is the photographer. ah well. :P

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14231286566792147292 karri

    It’s like you are reading my mind!

    Six weeks until The Day and I had a moment of photographer paranoia – mainly because our engagement photos were less than stellar. But instead of firing the current photogs, losing a hefty deposit, and blowing our budget we are just choosing to have faith.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03251136207706318192 Stacy Marie

    I just started pricing photographers and they are going to completely decimate my budget, so I am so glad that you posted this. It really bothers me that I have to pay over $3,000 for someone to take pictures and then I still have to pay for the pictures themselves! Thank you for this post!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Stacy Marie-
    Find someone who will give you the jpgs. We negotated for that – I told people flat out that if I couldn’t get the jpg’s it was no deal. We paid a bit more for that (understandably) but we know our costs up front, and it feels honest and happy. So whatever you choose to pay, find someone who will do that for you, you will love them much more right away.

    Meg

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12616579784634675288 kristen

    Figuring out how to document our wedding has been one of the most difficult decisions in the process. We are both amateur photographers and have taken classes and all that jazz. So photography was an important part of the planning. Then we started looking for one and were overwhelmed by the prices. We ended up going with a really great portrait photographer who is just starting out in the wedding biz and trying to build her portfolio. She is doing it for super cheap. We are also having my brother in law take pictures. He is really talented, and is really excited about being involved in the wedding in some way. I’m getting married this month, and I think everything is going to work out just fine.
    When I look at my parents’ wedding album, it doesn’t look “magazine worthy” but it shows how happy they were and it’s lovely.

  • Mary_S

    Photography is very important to me.
    I’d be disappointed with relying on snapshot type photos from my guests if it was my wedding. Even if they own digital SLRs.
    uch better
    I don’t want 1000 photos, a slide show, a video, a giant leatherette album and a trash the dress session.
    I do want high quality, professional grade photos with good lighting and exposure. I do want photos that capture the mood of the day and the relationships between people.
    I do want the reassurance that someone else is being paid to pay attention to these details so I can be the bride and not the photographer.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00029416835245576093 Emilia Jane
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00174894872050076618 Marie-Ève

    It was all about compromise for us. We did want good pictures, but we did not want to pay that much for them. Plus, as for every other vendor, I was always a bit wary of “wedding” people, I don’t know, it may be a fear of being ripped off (while totally agreeing with your last comment Meg), or just not liking things being done in a cookie-cutter way. Last year the pro photog at my sister’s wedding was SO loud and annoying (and of course I’m not implying that they all are), and was always taking center stage with his two assistants! It seemed to me all my sis did during the day was pose, I thought it was total overkill. In the end I think her shots are completely unoriginal and cliche. But she loves them, and that’s what counts, right? To each their own.

    What we did is pick a semi-pro guy we knew. He’s mostly a graphic designer, but he also has a clothing business and he moonlights as a photog, doing mostly fashion and TV work but he’s also done several weddings so he’s used to it.

    We told him we didn’t want someone following us all day, just to have mostly photojournalistic-style memories of the ceremony, the guests, the general feel, as well as a few posed portraits. He agreed to charge us $100 an hour, and to give us the files in RAW afterward (my fiance is a good hobbyist photographer and will be more than happy to retouch them).

    I can’t wait to see how it turns out. It probably won’t be as great as that beautiful wedding eye-candy I’ve been looking at in the last year, but it will probably be more than good enough. The key is in the expectations I believe. If we have say 25-30 good pictures that reflect the day, I would consider myself happy.

  • Ellie

    I think that any of these could definitely work – make sure to create a flickr or other photosharing site – and distribute the info at the wedding! – so that you actually get all your guests photos – or set up some kind of digital photography dump station at the event itself with a laptop and a card reader, with a tech savvy friend to help out. I think the biggest problem with using friends is making sure you get the pics.
    Also, even if you’re not having a photographer, you might want to look into the cost of renting a fancy camera for the weekend and giving it to a friend who has a working knowledge of photography (or a willingness to learn) and that way you make sure you get better shots.
    I think for trusting your photography to your friends, you have to really consider your space. Point and shoot cameras will take great pictures outside and in any room with enough light – but in most hotel ballrooms, there is not enough light and you need a more powerful flash, and often a better zoom. If you have an indoor space, definitely consider renting professional equipment or posting an ad on Craigslist to find a cheap photographer – believe it or not, digital photography is getting cheaper because there are more people getting into it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05477437111356043452 Margaret

    We were having the same trouble finding an affordable photographer. Thankfully, one of my friends is a photography major and though I don’t want her to have to be the photographer for the day, she recommended classmates that would be affordable (as they are students), had some experience, and were talented.

  • April

    Someone mentioned this but I heartily agree: hire a student from a local university that is majoring in photography or media arts!

    I have to be honest and admit there is a tiny part of me that goes, “Yikes!” when I hear of people doing something alternative i.e., NOT hiring a professional, because photography to me is art. And I’ve seen my friends’ photos after an evening of drinking. It ain’t pretty. Nor would I want to burden them with capturing photos and having THEM potentially worry I wouldn’t like them. Weddings have enough stress.

    Photography is our splurge and we found a lovely couple of elves to devote their time and photographic talent to our fun day. We could have probably spent less, but fell in love with the photos’ energy… the artists themselves, and well – had to have them!

    This is definitely a “to each their own” part of the wedding process.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09086142807086386230 Mrs. Andi

    Wow, that bride's email really made me think. When we got engaged, I knew we had to have priorites. For me, it was music (got to party down) & photos, because I'm a photographer in my spare time & I adore them. I take pictures of everything we do & I wanted to make sure our day was WELL documented.
    However, the photographer I want to use is fairly pricy & I don't know if I can afford it. I know our guests will have their cameras (we're requesting it), but will they be able to get "that" picture & in "that" style as the lady I want to hire?
    I'm so lost!
    & our wedding isn't until November!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09086142807086386230 Mrs. Andi

    In reading all of these comments, I realized that my aunt’s husband TEACHES photography! Bingo!!!

  • Anonymous

    We pretty much are taking the option of your emailer is using. We have several talented family members/friends who are handy with a digital SLR so they will be taking the bulk of the photos. We also have about 3 kids at that in between age (8-12) coming to the wedding so we are arming them with cheap digital cameras (approx. $50 on ebay) with loads of memory and pixels so they can snap away, feel included and not bored, and hopefully generate some really interesting kids-eye-view shots for us.

    • Liv

      Love the idea of having kids do it!

  • Anonymous

    We were on a tight budget, and high-quality photographic images were very important to us. Don’t get me wrong, many other things were important – spending time with friends and family, declaring our love, etc. We ended up finding someone on Craigslist who was up and coming. The photography was FANTASTIC and didn’t break the bank. We’ve actually gotten her several gigs since because many found her photography to be so beautiful and affordable.

    We debated on having some artsy friends capture these moments, but didn’t want our guests to have tasks to worry about. We just wanted them to enjoy the evening and celebrate.

    So – I think what has been repeated here, it just comes down to what is important to you. And, whatever you decide, don’t give up looking for a way to make that possible, somehow it will workout.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562092028204904567 Jessica McLeod

    We asked friends to take photos, and I couldn’t be happier with the results! The best part was that without a professional hovering around, I was totally unaware of the whole photo thing, and it didn’t make me feel self-conscious or uncomfortable.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/madebybees/sets/72157617622255932/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09731426268019406064 Ten Thousand Only

    advice?

    uhrm. start a blog and cross your fingers? and then stumble upon the most incredible luck and best timing in the universe?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14943714277970633585 Elissa

    I had a daydream the other night about sneaking off for a while between the ceremony and reception with my man, a camera with timer, and a tripod, and doing our own photos.. There would be talented friends to take photos of the rest, but I love the thought of sneaking off with my new husband actually on our own, not just pretending for the camera.

    In the light of day, I’m not sure I’d have the guts to actually go through with it. But it’d really fit the old-fashioned, relaxed and low-key vibe I’d love to have…

  • Anonymous

    My cousin got married recently and didn’t get a professional photographer either. She has told me on more than one occasion that it’s the biggest regret of her planning. She got quite a few nice pics of different parts of the day, but is mainly dissappointed that there are key points which are just not captured at all. I really tink this could have been mitigated though, by some more planning. If only she had done what the bride in the original post is doing and actually planned the shots/moments she wanted and asked specific people to take them, I think it would have been fine.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04707441750165767852 Princess Christy

    I would definitely recommend some free photo editing software – I personally use GIMP from http://www.gimp.org/ It allows me to get the same effects as a professional photog without hte cost of Photoshop!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11371172824707301749 Cate Subrosa

    Before we discovered our photographer (friend of a friend who did it super cheap) we were going to look into getting a student from one of the local Universities to do it for us. A student would be affordable, but as they’re not a guest too they could commit all their energies to getting all the shots you need. And they’re bound to be very enthusiastic too!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07099654516607570108 Lucy

    This is more than “do I have a photographer or not”.

    This is actually more about “do I have to do what everyone SAYS I have to do at my wedding”. To which I think most readers of this blog would say not necessarily, nothing is mandatory (apart from 2 people getting hitched).

    People might able to get their heads round some quirks – no gift registries, non-white dresses, and same sex weddings – but “no photographer” seems shocking to many. Like many other things, it’s a choice not an obligation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07727291511829658991 penn

    First of all, if your wedding is outside, I think there’s no real reason for a professional. Pros are awesome for when light is bad. But when light is great, the infinite monkey theory will play out.

    Second, an anecdote (and I realize this is just one occasion, but maybe it balances out other bad stories):

    my cousin got married a few years back in an outdoor botanical garden. He hired a fancy photographer who agreed to bring TWO photographers to the wedding to catch every special moment. I also went to the wedding. I am semi-pro (I used to work for a newspaper and got paid to shoot a wedding when I was a student photographer, but otherwise just take photos for fun and friends). At the time, I just had a digital point and shoot, but I did bring it with me for the experience of shooting a wedding myself.

    The photographer turned up drunk and alone. He was also late.

    I got photos of everyone getting ready. I staked out the bot gardens ahead of time (my dad is the minister who marries everyone in our family, so I was there way early) and was able to get some cool overhead shots. I took photos of them getting into their horse-drawn carriage (one of those downtown things they’d hired) and of the couple coming into the reception venue looking absolutely stoked. The photographer got one of those shots.

    In my cousin’s album, there are some photos from the photographer. To be fair, he got all the closeups from the wedding — my camera didn’t have enough zoom, and I stayed at the back of everything. But over half of the photos in there are mine, and my cousin’s wife says she wishes they’d just hired me to take the photos.

    Yeah, it can turn out horribly to rely on friends. But it can also turn out horribly to rely on someone you don’t even know. I’m not getting married anytime soon, but I honestly don’t know if I’ll hire a pro when the time comes.

  • Beck

    Wow, you guys are great! Thanks Meg, and to everyone who’s commented! I am the original emailer and feel 100% reassured. Especially because we have a) outdoor wedding and good light, b) lovely friend with Holga, c) another lovely friend designing a website for uploads, d) am now going to get a tripod and set up a photobooth with my own camera.

    I love photos, and we are having a local band photographer do some shots of the two of us in our home city before our Register Office ceremony 2 days before the ‘big’ wedding. Hope I haven’t caused offense to any photographers/photo lovers out there. Just a couple of grand short of the money required to pay for the full wedding photo treatment!

    x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11597736474722027874 Ms. Green

    We love photographs — not magazine-quality ones, but well-composed photos. So, we hired a professional photographer who was a joy to be around and opted for the package that just gave us the DVD of all images and we made our albums on shutterfly. It’s a great way to harness the talents of a professional photographer without paying top dollar for the whole package. All in all, we paid under $2k for our photos (and yes, the only thing that cost more than that at our wedding was the food).

  • http://www.gwynethcolleen.com gwyneth colleen

    wedding elf here…

    i’ve had to come to terms with the fact that not everyone values photography like i do…and that’s ok! i shouldn’t take it personally that someone cares more about their food than their photos…if that reflects who they are.

    (it still pains me a little, though, in an irrational way. :-D)

    also, in defense of elves: the price being so high isn’t just because of the wedding factor. and it’s not just time and talent. :-D it’s redundant (top of the line) equipment, it’s equip + liability insurance, it’s expensive computers and software, it’s the hours and hours after the fact (someone mentioned how much work it is to sift through thousands of photos and then give ‘em all a little extra love. WORD, sista!)

    lastly…someone else pointed out that it’s less of a risk to have your friends/fam take your pictures if it’s an outdoor ceremony. that is totally true. lesser equipment can turn out good results in optimal lighting conditions…when you get into low light, nighttime shooting, wanting more unique compositions or technical execution…that’s when your odds from friend shooters become less favourable.

    i have lots of admiration for ppl who figure out their budget and their values and stick with them!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Word, Gwyneth. Good photographers totally earn their keep, and then some. Frankly, our photographer should be paid much MORE than we’re paying her, but what are you going to do?

    That said, I’m always happy to supply alternatives (Holga?) to people who care about cool photos, but can’t afford elves.

    And Beck, I’m glad. xo

    And Lucy, yes, that’s exactly the issue.

  • midwestelle

    How about students? There are some amazing not-yet-up-and-coming student photographers out there who would probably jump on the opportunity. Throw them a little money and a free meal, and let them do their thing. That way, you don’t have to worry about getting your family and friends to take all the pics you want (and compiling them later) and everyone can have fun without feeling like they have to take photos? Just a thought.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03584431220332308431 Lisa

    This was a major hurdle for us, and I think we came up with a really great solution. We live in Los Angeles but are getting married in my home state of Connecticut. The average CT wedding photographer that I came across charged $3,000 JUST TO SHOW UP. No prints or digital images included. Since our wedding for 100 people is costing $10,000 total, we just couldn’t afford $3,000+ for photography. A friend of ours in Los Angeles is an excellent photographer and she is actually currently attending photography school, so we bought her hotel, flight and rental car for about $950, and she’s giving us the digital images as our wedding gift. It works out for her as well, because she’ll have a wedding for her portfolio and it could end up being a great secondary source of income if she decides to do wedding photography in the future. The absolute best part of all of it is that she was already invited to the wedding but was not going to be able to come due to finances, and now we get to have her at the wedding, rehearsal dinner, etc.

    My advice to everyone having a “budget” wedding is to call in the troops and really utilize the talents of your friends and family. My best friend from high school’s mom is making our cake, and we’re having our reception for free at the fire house where my dad has volunteered as a fireman for 10 years. We are almost completely avoiding the “wedding tax” as my fiance calls it, because we have managed to avoid the WIC.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06206689296805893265 east side bride

    I am tots bored with weddingyweddingy wedding photos anyway. eff that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Yeah, sure you are ESB. Sure you are.

    Mmmmm hummmm.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12005460268290465753 jordan

    Get a wedding photographer. We didn’t and I regret it.

    I know really good ones who charge $1200. I wish we would have put it on a credit card or something.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01122541686771831492 erika

    Thanks so much for this. We are getting married in 6 weeks, and even though photos are really important to us and I wanted to have fancy-pants professional ones…sadly, the average price of a photo package is MORE than our budget. Yikes. We are having a friend of the family take our pictures, and doing what you suggested also- the more photographers, the merrier!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18322614204354706684 Amelia

    See, as much as I love pretty pictures and want as much documentation of my wedding as possible, my parents were married in their apartment and all of the photos were taken by family who just happened to have cameras, and I love love love that album. It’s so kind hearted and full of love.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12855765145928914942 Rachel

    I really appreciated this post, I have some lovely friends who got married this past summer and decided to go without a pro photographer. Instead they set a photography contest with gift cards for bribes. They got some very creative shots and the enthusiasm of the attending party.

  • http://www.onelovephoto.com/ heather- one love photo

    I read every comment and found it very enlightening and interesting. A few things I’ve learned along the way…even if you only LOVE and cherish 1-10 of the photos, it usually takes at least a couple hundred or a thousand to get the “amazing ten”. Weddings move really fast so even an awesome pro photographer may struggle a bit if they don’t shoot weddings often. I really feel like it takes a special magical blend of qualities to be a cool wedding photographer, much more than just your camera. It takes organization, patience, speed, quick thinking, an artistic eye, experience, knowledge, a calm nature, a love of people and complete FOCUS! I can honestly say that I am not as focused when I attend a friends wedding with my camera in hand. I get chit chatting away and I am certain I end up missing sweet fleeting moments while I catch up with old friends or fill up my wine glass at the bar. I think it’s good to hire someone that doesn’t know your guests, who won’t be drinking and will be completely focused on capturing your day. Plus it’s a lot to ask for your friends to shoot your wedding and it’s stressful for them. They may say it’s not, but I promise you the day of your wedding they will be stressing out. They would probably have much more fun if you hire a photographer or art student and let them be the back-up or second photographer, that way the pressure is off of them. That’s what one of my friends did and it was the best “friend” wedding I ever shot. I was really able to enjoy myself! Meg-Thanks for all your chimes, you always come through with the best insight!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04454278674225963467 AnnC

    I’d say, if you know your friends are really camera friendly and if you tell them about all those details you’d like – it’s a great idea.
    We took a pro for our wedding (last week !) because I wanted pics of details and because I didn’t want to bother too much our friends and family with that task. But of course, those people still took pics… I already have them… and they’re AWSOME ! (I have about 800 pics already…)
    Of course I’m waiting for our photog’s pics, the detail shots, the couple pics, the inside-the-church pics… but I’m already SOOOO happy !

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15006148034238628026 Michelle

    Definitely check your local photography schools, post a notice and see how you go. We did, and we have a lovely girl coming to our wedding for 5 hours, with another photography course friend, armed with double cameras, for the princely sum of $150, yes that’s right $150.

    We also get an engagement shoot for free to get to know her and her us, and then we are getting all of the Photoshopped pictures on disk, along with all the raw ones. No actual prints, that’s up to us, but for that cost who cares?

    Ask them to show you their portfolio as it stands, be it with friends, places, inanimates to get an idea of their work.

    If you are a bit worried about the quality you’ll get, hire another one at the same time. We had about five people offer the same deal for us and just picked the one whose work we liked most.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09290722885317049259 BetterBombshell

    I really only want a handful of pictures. One of me in my dress. One of the two of us. My family will want a few group shots. I just don’t care about capturing anything else. I see the single posed shots from my great-grandparents weddings and think those are enough. So as long as my friend (who is borrowing a super-bitchin’ camera for the occasion) gets those and maybe a few ceremony shots, I’m fine.

    I have never seen a wedding photo I thought was worth $1,000. Or twenty that I thought were worth $5,000, relative to my income. I don’t think people need to feel the way I do, but no one should try to convince me to value those pictures the way they do.

    Oh, but I definitely think people should continue to pay my pro photographer friends oodles of money for their weddings!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14786589061188342606 persephony4

    found your article via Offbeat BrideMy brother got married 2 years ago, they had a pro photographer, but didn’t buy the prints. They got them on CD’s instead, added in family and friend’s photos, and had a flickr site for all of us to upload to. I took the photos and made an anniversary present for them of a professional wedding album from MyPublisher. It was perfect, they have tons of templates and frames for the books they publish. You can choose your cover options: leather, linen (I found one that matched the wedding colors), and paper dust jackets. You can add as many pictures as you want, and the final cost was very reasonable and a third the cost of the professional book their photographer was offering.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18182268757502634911 sera

    I really needed this post. I’ve been going through photographer drama. The only thing I have to add, is that you really need to have more than one friend or family member in charge. We are friends with a couple who got married and trusted an uncle with a new fancy interest in photography to do everything.
    Well, he got drunk, went home early from the wedding (got on a plane and left the state) and if he took any pictures, they were never heard from again.
    They don’t have any pictures of their wedding.
    Pick a minimum of three trustworthy people to take your pics.

  • Rocky’s bride 2010

    I am getting married Aug 21, 2010.
    We have contacted a personal friend who does photography on the side… She is shooting the pictures with an assistant ALL DAY the day of the wedding and giving us the copyright, all for $500. Then we can do what we want with them.

    We plan to print a few formals
    (with the wedding party, with parents, etc and upload all the pictures to either shutterfly.com or snapfish.com where we can create or own *MEMORY BOOK* for much cheaper

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10441798371617926431 kaitlin

    I adore the infinite monkey theorem. We're having a friend/acquaintance shoot professional shots before the wedding, for a very reasonable rate, and then we have lots of monkeys with fancy cameras who can do their work after the ceremony!

  • Anonymous

    How is it that there can be horror stories about wedding photographers, that is, where how the hired photographer's shots came out poorly and he missed this or that moment, whereas guests who are "handy with a camera" amateurs it's assumed they'll be just fine?

    There's no concern that they don't have the knowledge of how to photograph under all sorts of different situations that are encountered at weddings nor the experience to know what to do to get the shots nailed down right when the moments happen? I mean, every great pro photographer had a learning curve.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Anon-
    The point is it's a personal choice. And you should feel good about whatever choice seems right for you. Period.

    Meg

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13275921549440401215 Heather & Carlos

    The thing is, it doesn't matter that I think having a wedding photographer is essential. I do think it's an art. It would be wonderful. But you can't get blood from a turnip, and we just can not afford it. Seriously, can't spare $100. And we promised one another if we couldn't pay for something in cash, we wouldn't get it, because we didn't want to start our life together in debt.

    So here's what I hear when other friends who are recently married or are getting married around the same time I am tell me I'm making a big mistake for not getting a wedding photographer: Because you cannot afford this thing, your wedding will not be good.

    It makes me feel defeated, and sad. Like maybe I just shouldn't have a wedding at all, then. Because after all, if we don't have a great photographer, we'll just regret it!!

    And I don't know if I'm being practical or just consoling myself, but I do believe it's OK to just use friends. I think it will be just fine.

    But I don't want to be sour grapes about it. I'm not going to say, Wedding photographers are a waste of money. If you've got several thousand dollars you can spend on photos, good for you. But for some of us, it's just not an option.

  • Michelle

    We’re going to friend route, too. My FI and I are both well versed in Photoshop and know how to process our own photos. We have two friends who are amateur photographers and are acting as main photographer and assistant. We’re asking them to shoot in RAW, provide us with the files and we’ll take it from there.

    We did a lot of research about this before we decided to go this route and determined two things:

    1. we are going to pay them (not nearly as much as a pro) because that adds to the needed professional nature of the relationship. If you pay/or are paid for something you tend to take it more seriously.
    2. we are giving them a very defined shot list

    #2 is essential even when working with a pro but even more so with friends to ensure those memories you most want to capture are indeed recorded on film.

  • CoolNanny

    first wedding I had was pro but too flirty got good shots but made some people uncomfortable………..but pics came out great …………second wedding my auntie took pictures she did a awesome job and some stranger wasn’t in everyone’s faces….it was the best choice for us…… of all I like the ones my auntie took better less posy more fun

  • E

    I know I’m late to the APW party…all the posts are wonderful and thought-provoking, but the photography issue is something I’m struggling with now, and thought I’d chime in. Here is how my thought process has gone the past couple of weeks:

    Week 1: I absolutely LOVE photography. LOVE, love, love. It IS an art, and, although I was never a woman focused on weddings, I did always assume that if I got married, I would have crazy-good photos.

    Week 2: My fiance, who has expressed minimal interest in planning the wedding so far (as in, “you decide, honey”), said he doesn’t want to hire a pro, but instead, pay a friend of his a little money to do the job.

    Week 3: I lament, because why has my fiance chosen to come down hard on not paying big bucks for photos? What about all those fabulous wedding photographer websites? Do I not even get a chance to choose?

    Week 4: I think I actually am starting to feel like some other commenters do…that although photography is art and photographers deserve a paycheck, maybe a wedding shouldn’t have to be art – maybe it should just be a day with love and end it at that.

    I think in the end, I’d rather have succeeded at making a compromise and valuing my fiance’s input than succeeded at getting the photographer of my dreams. Or maybe this photographer WILL turn out to be the photographer of my dreams, and I just don’t know it, yet.

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  • trinaballerina

    Thank you for this thread!! I’m planning a wedding in four months with no real budget to speak of and guests are taking our photos. I hadn’t thought of a flicker account and it’s such an awesome idea, definitely doing that. :) I’m not worried at all about the lack of a professional photographer as when I previously got married a professional photographer who was a family friend and guest offered to take our photos for free we just had to cover the cost of developing. Unfortunately, the results were dreadful and very few photos were taken- not one that could be framed let alone an album’s worth.

  • http://www.jessicavogelsangphotography.com Jessica

    Even as a professional photographer I can appreciate a lot of what you are saying here. While I do know of many people who are unhappy with their choice of no photographer/ cheap photographer for their wedding day, it’s certainly understandable that not everyone puts a high priority on the photos from the day.

    What I don’t appreciate is the fact that many of you seem to think that the cost of wedding photography is a racket. That number that we charge you? We don’t get to keep most of that. We pay taxes, for expensive equipment, for insurances, marketing, all of the costs of running a business. Much of what you pay us does NOT go into our bank accounts. I have never, ever once in my whole life met a rich photographer. There is a HUGE time investment for each wedding. We don’t just show up and work one day for your wedding. Yes, of course it’s expensive! You’re paying someone a weeks salary to do specialty work for your wedding. Do you need that? No, you don’t. Just accept that some people want it, some don’t. But please don’t devalue our work or presume we’re out to rip you off. It demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about the work we do.

    • JNC

      I agree with Jessica 100%, as a fellow photographer. The cost also includes intense preparation and planning, assistant-hiring, and 12 to 20 (sometimes more) hours editing down the couple thousand images to the top few hundred (’cause honestly, it is not “great” to be handed a disk of 2000 raw images, nor is it a better value), and making them shine. When I show clients their slideshow of the day, there is laughter and often tears of joy. It’s not just the “art” of professional photography… it’s also capturing energy and emotion in a way professionals are trained to do.

      But the main point I wanted to bring up is folks who’ve talked about asking friends who are professional photographers to shoot photos for free. There’s no problem with this, it’s even smart – I have had a couple friends ask me this of course. But they’ve been delicate and respectful, and given me the choice to just be a guest. “Photographer mode” for me is completely, utterly different than guest-mode. I’m always thinking 5 steps ahead and can’t give into feeling emotional or really listening to the ceremony words. One friend asked me to shoot the first half of her wedding (we did this for some trade) and then hired a reception photographer so I could party with them. Another asked me to shoot for 30 minutes TOPS of specific things, and asked other photographer friends and guests to do the same, then put the camera away and have fun.

      Just something to keep in mind when asking photographer friends to help. As someone who stands behind the thousands of dollars I charge to create wedding photography, I truly appreciate when friends respect the value of what they’re asking me to do. And my few best friends know not to even ask – that I want to be there dabbing my eyes and knowing their wedding is covered by someone else. :)

      • http://lizwan.com LIZ

        Completely agree with Jessica and JNC – I also can appreciate that hiring a professional wedding photographer is a) perhaps something not everyone can stretch their budget to and b) not a priority or something that is a must-have.

        As a photographer, I would like to point out that no two wedding photographers are the same. Just because someone has a story that didn’t end well with hiring a professional photographer – doesn’t mean that you will have the same experience too! Similarly just because someone else’s decision to rely on family/friends to take great pictures worked out well, doesn’t mean that will work for you too.

        Whether you hire a professional photographer or not is not important. If you want photographs, the importance is to do your research well into the individual (professional/student/friend) – do you feel confident in their ability? can they handle the pressure? are they reliable? are you comfortable with them on a personal level? and make sure expectations with each other are well communicated – tell them exactly what you want! and if you don’t know yet, imagine your day is over and how you would feel if certain shots were missed.

        I also would like to point out that trying to band all types of photographers together is kind of like saying all doctors are the same. You wouldn’t go to a brain surgeon if you needed a hip replacement would you?! The skill of say, a fashion photographer used to having the luxury of being able to set up and directly control everything in a studio environment is not the same as an event photographer who must capture everything with no second chances under unpredictable lighting/weather conditions. Just something to be aware of…

        I would also like to reiterate JNC’s point about asking friends to cover photography – what JNC said is completely correct which is why I didn’t ask my professional fashion photographer brother to cover my wedding – you just can’t fully take part as a guest if you have the responsibility of covering such an important event!

        And finally to all those brides out there who are ‘worried’ or need reassurance on their decision (whatever it may be) your decision is always correct! Don’t feel pressured or angry if someone gives advice that you don’t like – they’re just trying to be helpful!

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  • http://placefull.com PlaceFull

    I’ve just linked to this post from PlaceFull’s blog:
    http://blog.placefull.com/2013/02/07/seattle-wedding-resources/

  • Stephanie

    I am getting married next summer and love the idea of 1. My sister and her awesome camera documenting the day. 2. Crowd sourcing with Instagram. Thanks for the tutorial, APW! 3. Have a few excellent shots that say “it all.” My grandparents were married at her home in 1942. The only two shots she had were one of my grandfather kissing her check after the ceremony and one where they are running, hand in hand, to their get away car, wind blowing their hair and hats. I am tearing up just thinking of it. :)

  • http://donalddingerson.com Donald Dingerson

    I have shot dozens of weddings myself and have even had some brides bring me files that family members and/or other armature photographers took, and in most cases the bride was lucky to salvage 10 – 15 passable shots. Also, it is not possible to make a terrible shot good by editing in anything, from picasa to Photoshop editing a bad shot will still result in a bad image.

    Of course you have to weigh your priorities but you may find that you can “find” money in your budget for real, professional photography by cutting a little cost off of other things; such as going a little smaller on the cake, a little smaller on the catering, smaller gifts, etc. At the end of the day, after the honeymoon is over what you will have left from your wedding will be your memories and your photographs.

    Also, please understand that photographers charge for shooting a wedding because it is our job, that is how we make our living and how we support our families. What you are paying for when you hire a professional photographer is both the experience to get the shots (the important ones and the ones that a lot of other people are going to miss) and the equipment. When I shoot a wedding I am bringing along nearly $50,000 worth of equipment including two cameras that cost $6,000 each, and that’s before any lenses are added. All of this adds up to better photographs for you. In 10, 20, or 30 years from now those photos will be the primary source for you to remember that day, do you really want to trust that responsibility to “a family member who is handy with a DSLR”?

  • gwyn

    as a wedding photographer and a girl planning her wedding, this post leaves me with much conflict.

    ultimately, i have always said that not everyone is my client; not everyone values photography and THAT’S OK. it’s more important to spend money on what you value.

    all that said? relying on friends/family for photos is a MUCH safer proposition for day/outdoor weddings. if you’re dealing with low light or nighttime…someone who doesn’t have technical skill and is letting their (maybe really nice/really expensive) camera do the thinking is probably going to wind up with fairly unremarkable pictures…and maybe even really bad pictures.

  • emily_annadelores

    I think it’s a better idea to at least save money by hiring a beginning wedding photographer who is lower in price than not hiring one at ALL and relying on friends and family for one of the very few tangible things that you have to look back on your big day.

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  • http://www.forevercreativeproductions.com/ Tammy

    Thanks so much for this. We are getting married in 2 months, and even though photos are really important to us and I wanted to have fancy-pants professional ones…sadly, the average price of a photo package is MORE than our budget. Yikes. We are having a friend of the family take our pictures, and doing what you suggested also- the more photographers, the merrier!

  • amanda

    My future SIL always has a camera in front of her face and will likely have it poised there during our wedding regardless of whether or not we ask her to, so she’ll probably do a lot of our photos…and for the ones she needs to be in, we have other friends who can take a few. We have no interest in tons of photos- I personally am much more interested in the candid shots (I LOVE the Holga idea)- and I’m not going to hire a photographer for the entire day because there’s no way we could afford it. And we definitely do not need silly posed shots, or pictures of the shoes/dress or any of that. I can appreciate why people would want those shots, but we’re not that kind of people. One thing I wanted to add to the above article is the comfort level of having a friend versus a stranger. I may be alone in this, but having my fiance’s sister take pictures will put me far more at ease than having someone I don’t know in my face with a camera. I hate having pictures taken. I know there are good photogs who aren’t intrusive (a recent wedding I was at had a great one), but I still like the idea of being more comfortable…I think that will show up on film. My future SIL is pretty good, actually. She gets great shots of her kids, and that’s impressive because they NEVER stop moving. So I think it’ll be fine.

  • Stephen

    Paying taxes?? Your service is no differnt then any other service. I have never heard of a service that justified their cost by telling me how much taxes were….

  • Jessica William

    Hi… Nice tips for DIY wedding photography. Really a great help. Thanks for the shares.
    http://www.aucklandweddingphotography.com/