Do you really need to hire a professional wedding photographer?
As a full time wedding photographer who earns his living photographing weddings, you know what the answer will be, right ? Well, here’s the surprise.
No, you don’t need to hire a wedding photographer. In fact, I didn’t when I got married, but more on that later.
Not hiring a wedding photographer will not lead to an “end of the world” event. It will not mean your wedding day will be a disaster. Besides, as a guest pointed out to me at wedding recently, the cameras in modern phones are wonderful and will probably lead to the “wedding photographer” becoming extinct anyway. (I’ll talk about why that ISN’T the case in another blog).
Having established that no unexpected disaster will befall your wedding day if you don’t have a professional wedding photographer, why would you bother to hire one ? Here are my reasons why you should hire a wedding photographer if you can afford it and how they can help your day run smoothly.
We will take it for granted that you have done your research and the photographer you are considering hiring for your day can take amazing pictures that you love. After all, that’s probably the most important consideration. So, other than actually taking photographs, why else should you hire one ? In what other ways could they help your day run smoothly ?
It all comes down to experience. Now I’m in no way knocking anyone starting out in their photography career. We all have to start somewhere and as long as they are truthful with you about their level of experience, there’s nothing to stop you hiring someone who is new to the profession. Chances are, this will be reflected in their pricing and you may strike it lucky and get someone who is amazingly talented for a real bargain price.
The thing is, experience cannot be bought and it’s something that is really difficult to put a price on. The type of real life experience that has been earned by years of photographing weddings, dealing with people and solving wedding day problems.
Over the years I think I must have seen almost everything that can go wrong on a wedding day. Having experience all these things, I have a pretty good idea on how to prevent a drama turning into a crisis!
I can give lots of examples but will just give a couple to illustrate what I mean.
The couple had identified an area for their “couple” photos. It was a sunken area with a pond and surrounded by beautiful walls and foliage. The day before the wedding it rained heavily all day long. Early on the day of the wedding I went to the area the couple wanted to use and, as you may have guessed, it was flooded. I hunted down the groundsman and we put in a water pump. Then I arranged to buy some wellington boots for the couple. By the time the ceremony was over the excess rainwater had been pumped out and the couple were able to get there without their feet getting soaked. We were able to get the photos they wanted where they wanted.
The Bride arrived for her ceremony. Unfortunately her guests hadn’t. The guests had travelled from all over the world and were staying at a nearby hotel. A coach was due to collect them from the hotel and take them to the wedding venue. Unfortunately the coach firm got their dates wrong! (not the only time that has happened!) Result. No guests and a Bride about to go into meltdown. Whilst Dad made some phone calls I went to speak to the registrar to see how long we had got (they are often on a tight schedule). I went back to the Bride and put her mind at rest, then got all the Bridesmaids and the Bride to come for a walk with me to a quiet area out of the way. We then had a fabulous time taking photos until the guests had been ferried into the venue and everything was ready to start with a happy and relaxed Bride. The Bride and her parents made a point of thanking me for “saving the day” and preventing the Bride from having a meltdown. Their words, not mine.
There is an old saying that goes “You can expect at least three things to go wrong on a wedding day. The trick is fixing things without the Bride finding out”. In my experience, there’s a lot of truth in that.
You can also enlist the help of your photographer at the early planning stages. If experienced, he or she will have a pretty good idea of what will work and what won’t, so you can prevent some problems just by listening to their advice. Think about it, this is probably the first time you’ve planned a wedding. They’ve been involved in hundreds!
So that’s what I mean by “experience” and it’s something you really can’t put a price on. I have met many photographers who think they are being hired just to take photos. I like to think I’m there not just to take photos, but to do all I can to help the day run smoothly and help rectify any unforeseen problems.
Remember I said I didn’t hire a photographer for my wedding? It’s true. My wife and myself decided that we would let a friend take some photos for us. After all, he is a wedding photographer. Trouble is, on the day, we felt bad about him working when he should be having fun. He was a guest after all. So we didn’t get anywhere near as many photos as we would have liked (our fault, not his) and I can honestly say it’s the one regret we have about our day. So learn from my mistake. When I say to couples, hire a photographer or you may regret it, I’m speaking from experience.