That's right, I know what you are thinking! With the availability and cost of digital cameras today, people ask friends, family, co-workers, or students to capture photos for their special occasions and events, like weddings, engagements, or other celebrations. Budgets are tight and photographers can be expensive. I have even seen some talk show programs steering more budget conscience brides toward using iPhones to capture their wedding photos! So, inevitably, professional photographers are asked the "why" question all the time, be it directly or indirectly.
I started my photography business by capturing weddings for family members and friends so I certainly won't be hypocritical and bad mouth those that decide this is the route they would like to pursue. However, I am a strong believer in making educated decisions and hiring a photographer shouldn't be any different, especially for an important event. At the risk of sounding pedantic, I'll try to keep this brief.
A professional photographer has
Was that too short? Okay, I'll elaborate some more.
Years ago when I did my first wedding, I thought I knew my camera and equipment pretty well, at least well enough to capture a wedding for relatively no cost. I read up on techniques, practiced with my equipment, and put my best foot forward. Looking back, I made so many mistakes. Mistakes that I've heard many other amateurs make. But, I learned immensely from those mistakes. Nothing tests your knowledge like jumping into a high stakes situation like a wedding!
I walked into the church and was faced with low lighting, a paster who did not want any flash photography during the ceremony, and I had to remain behind the last row of guests at all times. I wasn't prepared for all of that! I struggled to get my camera settings correct and it seemed like everything I thought I knew went right out the window.
That first wedding taught me that having a camera and a lot of enthusiasm just weren't enough to produce the product many clients expect. I have come a long way from where I began, spending countless hours reading, studying, training, experimenting, and pushing myself to learn new techniques and skills. I understand the technical aspects of my equipment and know more than most about the physical properties of light, after all I do have my bachelor's in physics.
Nothing can take the place of experience, period. A professional photographer has "been there and done that" before you even thought of it, that's why they are a professional. Often times I've helped my clients think of things they didn't even know about and it has helped our sessions run smoother. Wedding photographers typically keep everyone on time before and directly after the ceremony. This keeps the bride and groom happy as well as their guests. Believe me, no one wants the bride to be unhappy on her wedding day!
My first wedding, I was a bundle of nerves and it showed. My hands were shaking and I seemed a bit panicked. I think the bride was less nervous than I was. A lot of that pressure was self-inflicted because I wanted everything to go perfectly. Now, I've been able to channel that nervous energy constructively and use it to produce the best images I can for my clients. A photographer should be comfortable with your wedding or event in order to fit in seamlessly and capture those moments between people, the moments that cannot be duplicated.
Most people can pick up a camera, look through the view finder, and snap off some photos, but it takes talent to really see how the light interacts with the subject, to see things differently, or to use a photograph to portray an emotion or idea. You need to know the "rules" of photography before you can purposely break them. Good photographers use light creatively to construct images that reflect the mood of the scene and they do it well.
Professional photographers have honed their skills and developed their own style. You can be confident that your images will be reflective of their portfolio. You should have an idea of what your images will look like before they are even taken.
When you hire a professional photographer, one thing you receive is their dedication to you. They will be there for your session or wedding on time (or early). Besides, they are contractually obligated to be there for you! (You are signing a contract, right?) I make sure that I go out of my way to keep my clients happy. If that means putting in extra time before, during, or after the shoot, I'll do it. I make sure my clients get their final, polished photos in a reasonable amount of time and not months after the shoot.
Not only am I dedicated to my clients, but I am dedicated to my business and to my trade. That makes me strive to put out the best product I can for my clients and keep them happy. After all, my final product is a little piece of me that I take great pride in. I also only offer my services to those I can fully commit my time and efforts to, otherwise it is not fair to you or to me.
There is a reason I put equipment at the end of this list and that's because I think it is probably the least important of the five reasons to hire a professional photographer. Now, don't get me wrong, photographers own a lot of equipment and you do need a baseline level of equipment in order to be a professional photographer. But the equipment (or the cost of the equipment) is not what makes the image memorable. In fact, there are times when the most memorable and emotional photographs I have taken were not the most technically perfect.
With that said, every photographer needs equipment (and backup equipment): camera bodies, lenses, lights, light modifiers, batteries, memory cards, stands, bags, backgrounds, computers, software, back-ups storage, light meters, calibration devices, blah blah blah blah blah. The list seems to go on forever. Each of those pieces of equipment has a consumer and a professional grade and the costs are proportional to what you get and the quality of the image produced. In fact, this is where most of the charge for my services goes.
Yes, you can capture a wedding with a $350 Nikon D3000, a couple kit lenses, and a standard flash. But, when the light fades that D3000 with its slow, kit lenses will struggle to keep up compared to a professional grade camera body and fast lenses (sorry for the jargon). I know because I've been there and had to deal with those grainy, blurry, and unusable photos! That's the reason I've invested in my equipment. Professional grade equipment can be rented for your event, but do you really want someone using that equipment for the first time during your event? Do you have the time to wait for them to fiddle with their camera while you are walking down the aisle? See item 1 above!
I know, I've rambled on for a while now about why you should hire a professional and I thank you for reading this far. I hope you learned more about what a professional photographer brings to your session, and hopefully I convinced you to contact me to schedule a consultation! Either way, I want to make sure my clients feel they made the right choice for their photography needs and that they don't have any regrets about my service. Please contact me if you have any questions about anything!