In the thick of wedding planning? Head spinning with catering options, venue possibilities, flower ideas, and endless questions? Yeah, we know. Planning a wedding is overwhelming. You are faced with seemingly infinite choices to make–all within a budget, of course. One important decision is whether or not to hire a professional to take photographs for your wedding, and we’ve got your back. Below we’ll take you through the pros and cons of hiring a wedding photographer, our opinion, and everything you need to know to select the right photographer–whether you hire a pro or have a friend do it with their iPhone. Let’s dive in.
Wedding Photographer Advantages
A professional wedding photographer has a wide range of capabilities that your friend with a good camera and a knack for photography just doesn’t. Here are just a few examples:
They’ll make you look AMAZING: You and your future spouse will already be looking and feeling your best on your wedding day, and a good photographer has all kinds of tricks up their sleeve to make sure all of that inner and outer beauty shines through in the photos. They know how to utilize lighting, angles, poses, photoshop, and more, so that the camera truly captures you at your absolute best.
They’ll hide any flaws: A photographer’s job doesn’t end when the wedding is over–on the contrary, it’s just beginning. They go through and carefully edit hundreds of photos. A big part of this work involves concealing flaws. For example, if you spill wine on your dress, they can work their magic to make sure it doesn’t show in the photos. If you were unfortunate enough to wake up with a big pimple the morning of your wedding, no one who looks at the photos is ever going to know about it. Even great photos will still show imperfections if they’re not edited by a professional with a keen eye and a background in photoshop and other similar software.
They’ll make everything in the photos look better: In addition to concealing flaws, a photographer will edit photos so that everyone and everything pictured looks gorgeous and straight out of a magazine. That means your venue, decor, flowers, food, and everything else photographed will come out looking crisp, beautiful, and top-notch.
You’ll barely notice the photographers: Great wedding photographers are pros at taking photos without being intrusive. You won’t have flashed in your face while you’re at the altar, nor will you be looking awkwardly to the side at a photographer trying and failing to be stealthy. Professional photographers have a variety of lenses that enable them to get great shots from any distance so that they don’t even need to be in your face (or anywhere near it) most of the time.
They will help others feel comfortable on camera: Beyond just taking and editing photos, part of a photographer’s job is to get everyone feeling relaxed and comfortable so that they can capture those moments. A real pro is adept at bringing out natural smiles, even in people who tend to feel awkward in front of a camera.
They’ll coordinate with your other vendors: A seasoned photographer is well-accustomed to coordinating with the venue, caterers, florists, and other vendors. Everyone involved in different aspects of a wedding must coordinate with one another in order to ensure that everything runs smoothly, and a photographer is a cog in that machine.
They’ll keep things moving: Part of a photographer’s job is to get all the photos you request and to capture everyone in the best light possible, which means they’ll have their eye on the clock. Therefore, a professional is an excellent team player when it comes to enforcing the timeline of your wedding and getting great shots of every part of your big day in a timely manner. They’ll also be thinking about timing things just right to take advantage of natural light.
They’ll catch moments you’re not present for: There’s plenty you won’t see because you will be busy chatting with friends and family, dancing, cutting the cake, and getting married. You might not see your little cousin playing with your new spouse’s little cousin. You might miss the moment when great aunt Martha laughs so hard she cries. You might be looking the other way when the sun hits the ballroom in a truly magical way. A photographer’s job is to capture all of this so that when you look back on your wedding photos you’ll see even more than what you experienced there yourself.
They have a distinct style: An experienced professional photographer isn’t just about taking good photos; they’ve also carefully honed their approach to and their brand. Examples of styles include fashion, portraiture, photojournalism, and more. Choosing a photographer also means that you get to choose a style. Do you like vintage? Black and white? Film photos? The options are endless!
Wedding Photographer Disadvantages
We’ve talked all about the great things that come along with hiring a professional wedding photographer, but the main disadvantage of hiring a photographer boils down to cost and poor results.
Cost: Of course, most folks would prefer to have a professional photographer, but not everyone is made of money. If you’ve tallied up all your wedding expenses and the total makes you gasp and hope you’re about to wake up from a nightmare, you’re not alone. Weddings are extremely expensive; the average cost of a wedding pre-COVID was $28,000. For many couples, a number like this is simply untenable, and some expenses must be cut.
Wedding photography costs an average of $2,000–and that’s a very conservative estimate. Prices can go up to $15,000. For couples aiming to spend less on the wedding overall, $2,000 is an even bigger chunk of the total budget. Therefore, there’s a strong argument for cutting the photographer from the budget.
The potential for poor results: Another disadvantage is the potential for bad pictures as a result. You spent all of this money and effort getting a great photographer, and the photographs are not what you expected. And there’s no real way to prevent this either. Sure, you can look at their portfolio and read reviews, but there is no crystal ball that will give you a glimpse at what YOUR specific pictures will look like.
Alternatives to Wedding Photographers
With the major disadvantage of a wedding photographer being cost and the potential for poor results, you might be wondering what other options you have! Look no further; we’ve rounded up the trendiest alternatives to wedding photographers for you below:
Disposable cameras all around the wedding venue: Place disposable cameras around the space and at each table where guests will be seated and put your guests in charge of capturing special moments. More photographers = more variety in photos and more moments captured that otherwise would have been lost forever.
This approach also means that you’ll spend hundreds instead of thousands of dollars. You will have more control over the budget in that you can simply divide your photography budget by the cost of buying cameras and having the photos developed (hint: it’s cheap) to get the number of disposable cameras you can afford to provide. An added plus is that pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens also provide digital copies of developed photos with no added charges.
Collaborative effort: Instead of hiring a photographer or even spending money on disposable cameras, let your guests know how much you’d love for them to take photos with their own phones and cameras in their own styles, based on which special moments they notice and want to document. Give everyone the link to a place to upload their photos post-wedding, whether that’s a page on your wedding website or a wedding dropbox. Make sure that the settings are such that all guests can view the photos everyone else uploads. You’ll all have a great time going through everyone’s photos, and with this approach, your guests are empowered to participate in your special day on an even more meaningful level.
Another way to go about this is to have guests upload photos to Facebook and to tag their albums with a catchy wedding hashtag you come up with beforehand. Unlike dropbox, Facebook allows users to comment on photos, which means even more fun and post-wedding connection for you and your guests.
Delegate Photography Tasks: Ask your best man to photograph the groomsmen getting ready and your maid of honor to do the same for the bridal party. Have a friend who’s not drinking much take photos for a few minutes at the reception. Have a family member go around and snap some shots of your guests sitting at tables full of food. You get the picture. (Get it?!)
Pal Paparazzi: One or two of your guests likely has a good camera they splurged on for their daughter’s graduation or that Safari that was canceled due to COVID–and they’re surely itching to get more use out of it. Give them the honor of being designated photographers for the day. As a bonus, this is also a way to show someone how important they are to you because being given such an important job is a marker of trust and friendship.
If there’s no guest with a good camera to whom you feel close enough to appoint as a photographer, a current iPhone never fails! Phone cameras have come a very long way in the past few years, and recent iPhone models have excellent cameras. Ask a good friend with an iPhone to play photographer. They’ll be delighted that you trust them with such an important responsibility. If you’re uncomfortable giving one person responsible for photographing the whole event, select 2-3 other guests with good phone cameras as photographers, as well. That way, no one person will feel like they have to take photos constantly throughout the whole day.
How to Select the Right Photographer
If you decide to either hire a professional or designate a friend(s) as the photographer(s), here are all the factors to consider before you choose who you plan to entrust with this important responsibility.
Spending as a proportion of the wedding budget: An old rule of thumb states you should spend 10-15% of your wedding budget on photography. While it may not be the end-all, be-all answer, this is a good starting point. Calculate what 10% of your budget is (because you might end up spending a little more when all is said and done), and then compare that with the cost of photographers in your area. The 10-15% rule won’t be right for everyone, but it can give you some initial direction.
Discover your style: Most well-established wedding photographers have a particular style, and selecting one whose style you like will greatly increase your satisfaction with the photos. In order to discover your style, spend time looking at wedding photos from a range of photographers and compiling the ones you really like. Then, ask yourself what it is you like about them–is it how the photos are composed? A particular kind of lighting? Skilled editing? How well is emotion captured? Whatever it is, figure it out and make sure it fits with your personal style and wedding theme.
Consider personality and work style: You should feel good about your photographer. If you don’t, it will show on your face in the photos. You should also align well when it comes to how you work. Do you have similar organizational styles? If your photographer has a more rigid and task-oriented working style, whereas you prefer to go with the flow and allow for spontaneity, you might not work well together.
Opt for a trial run: Many couples also do engagement photos in addition to wedding photos, adding to their catalog of special moments to look back on. If you choose to have an engagement photoshoot, select a photographer who you’d also seriously consider for your wedding in order to get a feel for their style and see how you like it.
In short, whether or not you need a wedding photographer depends entirely on your priorities, budget, and taste. Use this guide as a compass for deciding what’s right for you, and leave yourselves plenty of time to do so. Don’t make a snap decision. Snap some photos instead!
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]