Q: I’m getting married in November 2016, and we’ve finalized the majority of our plans: venue, catering and alcohol, florist, and DJ. However, the one thing that we haven’t budgeted for (at all) is photography. I’m not a picture person. I never remember to take them, and the few picture frames I own are filled with pictures that were inserted about a decade ago and were never changed. In fact, I don’t have a single picture of my fiancé in a frame. The few pictures we have of ourselves together were posted on social media, but never developed or saved in any more meaningful way.
Our wedding is already eschewing many traditional aspects. We’re getting married at the courthouse with only parents and siblings in attendance and having a party the following weekend. So, the subject of many traditional shots (first look, proceeding down the aisle, etc.) won’t even be occurring. For all these reasons, we’re planning to ask a few friends and family members who are talented amateur photographers to simply share whatever photos they choose to take with us.
However, a common aphorism I have encountered over and over again in this wedding planning process is that your photos are the only tangible thing you take away from your wedding day. So even though I know that in my day-to-day life pictures aren’t something I value, I’m allowing the seemingly pervasive opinion of the importance of wedding photography to make me second-guess myself. I have never wanted pictures of any of the other landmark occasions in my life (graduations, swearing-in, etc.), but… what if my wedding is different?
Are the people who agonize about their wedding photos also the people who would never allow any other occasion to go un-photographed? Could you please share your perspective on the importance of photography?
A: Dear Sarah,
First, in the interest of honesty and disclosure and all of those things, let me get this out of the way: I am a wedding photographer. But I absolutely don’t think that a hundred percent of the time you must hire a photographer for your entire wedding day… I don’t.
Before we get there, let me tell you a story:
My husband and I got married at the courthouse almost ten years ago. It was perfect for us, because we couldn’t even begin to handle wedding planning that went beyond “Oh maybe we’ll get married in a field somewhere.” We picked the day we got married spontaneously (that morning), and we didn’t decide to tell our mothers until we were on our way to the courthouse. It didn’t occur to us that we might want a photo until my mom mentioned having a wind-up disposable camera in her purse and we asked the judge to snap a photo after the fact. This is what we came away with:
And you know what? I’m happy we have that photo, but I totally wish we had more. I don’t wish we had hired someone to follow us around for eight hours that day and document everything from us going to class the morning of to the celebratory margaritas we had after, but in hindsight I do wish we had something.
Which brings me to your idea: just asking the amateur photographers you know the share their photos. I dig that, because it involves your community, and I personally understand that small wedding days do not equal a huge need for full coverage. But consider this. In ten, twenty, thirty years, will you wish the photos you do have from the day you got married weren’t heavily filtered via Instagram? Is it likely that you’ll come away with even one physical photo from a day that ranks pretty high on the Important Days list, or will they all be posted to your aunt’s Facebook and ultimately lost to the digital sands of time?
I do think wedding photography is important, and I often tell my couples the exact line that you parroted: your wedding photos are one of the few tangible things you take from your wedding day. As someone who has volunteered with elderly citizens, I’ve seen firsthand that people do love those tangible things: A photo from their baby’s first birthday. A photo from the day their husband came home from war. A photo from the day they got married. I’m not saying that you’ll forever regret not having professional photos from your wedding, but I also don’t mean that you might not experience a… twinge, if you don’t have something a bit more tangible, thirty years from now.
So here are two ideas: hire a local photographer at an hourly rate (you’d be surprised how many wedding photographers offer some kind of hourly deal for a courthouse wedding), or come up with a rock-solid plan for your most talented amateur photographer friend. If you go with the former, swell—that person will know what to do. If you opt for the latter, ask your friend to take five minutes of photos of the two of you on a higher resolution than a smartphone (or, you know, a disposable camera #sademoji). If you don’t have a DSLR on hand, they can be rented from sites like Lens Rentals.
Either way, make sure you print your photos. If you only keep the pictures on social media, they might be gone forever or compressed at an unprintable resolution. No one wants to look at their wedding photos and see a pixelated mess staring back at them.
In conclusion, to just flat-out answer your question, if you’ve never valued photos before, it’s unlikely that you’re going to mourn the lack of professional photos from your wedding day. But if you’ve got a couple of a hundred dollars to buy two hours of a pro’s time, or you have a friend with a semi-decent camera… then you’ve got a plan.
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