As the name proclaims, this is a photo website but I rarely say much about the hobby in these blogs. Next month, we have been invited to the marriage of a family friend and I began to reflect on wedding photography. Good quality cameras are now comparatively cheaper than they ever were. A budget digital SLR with a wide range of features and kit lens can be picked up for less than £400. With little knowledge or skill, acceptable pictures can be produced. An outcome of this has been the questioning of fees, charged by professional wedding photographers and the growth of amateurs taking on wedding shoots at unrealistic prices.
I know some professional photographers; they work very hard to keep their businesses profitable and few of them make much money; some survive, like the corner shop-keeper, by paying themselves minimal wages and below. The wedding photographer will have many hidden business costs that critics choose to ignore when they make false cost comparisons – premises, transport, taxes, equipment and its maintenance are only some of these. The professional business world is today extremely competitive with fewer weddings to go around. The sh/amateur avoids most of the real costs and just compounds the problem for those who are trying make a living from their work.
In the past, I have occasionally agreed to do some wedding photography for family and friends. Most of it was shot on film and I encountered all of the problems associated with that medium. It was often an anxious wait until colour film returned from the laboratory. On most occasions, it was a very stressful day and, should anything go wrong, it could be a very lonely place to inhabit. The skilled, professional photographer exercises authority and tactfully arranges the images that he thinks will appeal to the couple and their families. The amateur may well find himself being controlled by the mother of the bride who will be probably be very stressed and often irrational.
My advice to fellow amateurs who may be approached about taking wedding photos- leave it to the pros. It’s a specialist area and their experience makes it all happen efficiently. Decline all offers politely and you will not regret it for a minute. It will add years to your life.
I shall take only a little compact with me to the wedding next month.
To the point as ever, John. I think I’d let the amateur supplement the pro – it could be s/he knows little stuff about the people that the pro couldn’t know, and it would be nice to have that kind of insight reflected in the wedding album (assuming photography skills of amateur were good) as well. On the other hand, the pro might get a pain and think the amateur’s presence was an unspoken criticism of him/her. But ultimately I’d agree – if you want memorable images, the pros do it best. Which is why I believe in teacher education, ach sin sceal eile…
Have you encountered ‘unplugged weddings’, Jude? At these the hosts have decreed a ‘no camera’ policy, apart from those of the hired pro. That’s a little extreme, I think, but apparently it’s a social media thing as guests with smart phones can now post pics instantaneously on Twitter etc, sometimes to the annoyance of the couple and their families. I agree with you that the friend who is a talented photographer may well have a creative angle on the event, which is unappreciated by the pro. The illustration, by the way, is of my niece, Eadaoin’s wedding. She has worked in tv production and was very relaxed in front of the camera and a joy to photograph. The shot was taken at the reception in Upperlands, near Magherafelt.
Your views on the ‘Putin’ piece would interest me. This ‘hammer Russia and ignore Israel’ foreign policy enrages me and the UN abstaining Irish are part of it.
Great article John. As a full-time professional photographer who came to the career through my amateur photography interest I can concur with all of this as I have seen both sides so to speak.
Jude you raise an interesting point that the amateur may supplement the pro – you have to remember that the couple have hired a professional to do a job for them on their wedding day. A “well meaning” amateur can actually ruin many shots by getting in the way or distracting the wedding party when the photographer may need their attention to camera. Also a finished professional album has a distinct style to it that would be ruined by images from different photographers as they would have such a different look.
I love helping and advising amateur photographers at a wedding day, but the best advice I can give if they truly want to help the couple with nice images is to go and photograph the things that the professional isn’t photographing – what’s happening at the drinks reception when the family group shots are being taken – what are the kids ups to at the back of the church etc etc – then make that into a nice little separate album for the couple as a surprise gift. etc Hope that makes sense!
You were one of the pros that I had in mind, Alan when I wrote the piece and I know that you continue to give unselfishly of your time and skills to support amateurs.
Keep strong, Big Man