If your fiancé ever says “My Uncle Jimmy has an amazing camera, maybe he can just shoot our wedding.” While Uncle Jimmy may be good, and a loved one… please say in an ever so polite tone. "No sweetheart I think it is best we hire a professional photographer."
Lets paint a story on why it is best to go with a pro:
Wedding photography is so much more than just having a nice camera. Yeah, Uncle Jimmy may have a state of the art camera, in fact, let’s say Uncle Jimmy is a doctor and photography is his life long passion. So, not only does he have a nice camera, but he has the best camera money can buy... the Nikon D9 ($6,200). Uncle Jimmy loves shooting in his free time so much that he even bought a full set of the best Nikon lenses and accessories ($12,000).
Already, we are assuming that this Uncle Jimmy prepared more than 99% of the Uncle Jimmy’s out there that have the basic point and shoots or the dreaded non full frame cameras.
The wedding day is here and Uncle Jimmy is feeling great and certain that he is going to do an amazing job. Uncle Jimmy starts with some outside shots of the wedding location and everything is looking perfect; he is pumped and the jitters are subsiding. Then Uncle Jimmy steps inside where the bride is getting ready. Uncle Jimmy doesn’t like to use the manual setting on his camera, so he shoots with the cameras help. Unfortunately, the camera is only so astute.
Uncle Jimmy starts clicking away and notices that his lens isn’t wide enough and the pictures are a bit dark. Since he wasn't anticipating this problem he quickly runs out to the truck to swap out his lenses. When he gets back, the bride’s hair is done, and now they are working on the makeup. Uncle Jimmy didn’t take any time to check out the lighting prior to the shoot, so he has no off camera lighting, or any additional lighting equipment. So, Uncle Jimmy figures that he can just up the ISO settings so he can capture enough light to properly expose the scene. This works, however, little does he know, every picture shot will be too grainy unless you like all 3x5 prints of your wedding.
Uncle Jimmy now heads over to shoot the groom. Seeing he doesn't like to shoot in manual mode and adjust per scene there was so much black in the scene from the gentleman suits, the camera was over exposing all of the shots to compensate. Uncle Jimmy didn’t realize though, and just kept chugging away.
Let’s say this is a simple wedding and now it’s time for the ceremony. Uncle Jimmy scopes out a great spot, pops on his zoom lens, and waits. The groom makes his way in, and Jimmy shoots him like a pro snapping 50 shots as the groom is coming down the aisle. The only problem is that all 50 shots are out of focus because the subject was walking towards Uncle Jimmy, and his focus settings were not set for moving subjects. The father and bride begin coming down the aisle, and just the same, Uncle Jimmy fires away taking 50 more shots. Again, none of which are crisp and in focus.
The wedding ceremony is going great, and Jimmy grabs several great shots. But Uncle Jimmy realizes again, that his camera lens isn’t wide enough, so Uncle Jimmy runs to his bag to grab a different lens. On his way back, he sees the couple just as they kiss for the first time. Uncle Jimmy missed it. He also didn’t think to shoot any of the bride or grooms family during the ceremony, as he was trying not to miss anything in the ceremony.
After the ceremony, it’s time for formals. Uncle Jimmy guides everyone to his favorite spot outdoors where he has a beautiful shot of the view. The subjects are facing away from the sun, so that he can capture the grandeur of the scene. Because the formals are being shot in the bright noon-day sun, Uncle Jimmy doesn’t realize that the camera is under exposing the entire scene since the background is so bright.
Uncle Jimmy takes only a few family formal shots, and only one shot of each set. Little to Jimmy’s knowledge, every shot is coming out too dark and completely underexposed.
Reception time has arrived, and Uncle Jimmy has already worked 10 hours! He figures that he should relax and enjoy the wedding too since he is family. So, he gives his camera to his young son who loves photography and tells him to shoot.
Uncle Jimmy is so exhausted that he doesn’t shoot for the rest of the night. I mean, he is helping out the bride and groom so much by saving them money, and doing it for free that he figures it shouldn’t matter anyway.
Since Uncle Jimmy doesn’t have the software, or even know how to post produce images. He simply gives the bride and groom a DVD with all of the images burned to it. The bride and groom sit down, dying with anticipation and pop the DVD into the computer to start looking through their uncles beautiful work!
100 pictures into the 2,000 pictures Uncle Jimmy shot, the bride is already in tears, as every photo is too dark, too bright, blurry, or just not that good. Furthermore, the bride and groom notice that there is no shot of their first kiss, and the only reception shots were of Uncle Jimmy’s son shooting all of the kids at the reception.
While this story in particular is fictional, each one of the events and outcomes are from real situations that we wedding photographers hear about all of the time. In fact, so many of our client’s guests have approached us during a shoot to tell us about their “Uncle Jimmy” experience, and how they wish they had hired us to shoot the wedding. So, why does this happen to Uncle Jimmy? Because the bottom line is, while Jimmy had all the professional gear (which is unlikely in the first place), and experience shooting nature and outdoors scenes he doesn’t have the following:
1. The ability to quickly adjust his camera settings based on different lighting scenes. Most of the time wedding photographers have 2-3 seconds to adjust settings on the fly, any more than that, and the wedding photographer is almost guaranteed to miss something.
2. The knowledge of how his camera reads and interprets light in order to compensate for under or over exposure. In these situations the wedding photographer must rely on his experience rather than the camera’s readings.
3. The foresight to be prepared for each situation with a secondary camera prepped with a different type of lens. Professional wedding photographers will always scope out the wedding venue and scenes prior to the wedding and plan ahead.
4. The carrying cases needed to always have his necessary equipment and accessories on him at all times. Professional wedding photographers will always have their equipment readily available on their person, or nearby.
5. Experience shooting fleeting moments that you only have one chance to capture. A first kiss typically only lasts 1-2 seconds, and you don’t necessarily know exactly when it is going to happen. The wedding photographer must be staring through his lens, ready and prepared for this moment to happen.
6. Experience and knowledge required to anticipate angles and approaches to each scene. Knowing where to stand, and what angles to shoot is something that only comes from experience.
7. The energy to work non-stop for 12-18 hours without breaks. This is a wedding photographer’s job, they don’t rest or take breaks. Our team staggers their breaks during non-crucial moments of the day, and even then there is always one or two additional wedding photographers shooting while one is on break.
8. The ability to create unique lighting scenes, and supplement natural light with his own lighting. Understanding light and lighting is something that comes from study, training and experience. Being a master of lighting is impossible unless you have tried shooting in every possible lighting situation.
9. Experience in guiding and directing large group formals. This is where the wedding photographer’s personality and tact are so important. How do they interact with the bride, groom and their family.
10. The knowledge of advanced focus techniques.
11. Experience in taking extra shots of crucial pictures such as during formals in case of blinking, awkward expressions, etc.
In addition to all of this, there is so much more that Uncle Jimmy would need in order to take professional quality wedding photographs from start to finish.
While there are a lot of areas in your wedding budget that you can save money on, wedding photography should not be one of them. If you want to have professional- quality, creative imagery of your wedding day that will be timeless heirlooms to be shown and handed down to your generations to come, you will need a professional wedding photographer.