Would you risk your wedding day memories to “uncle bob”?

I know, I know, I swore that I wouldn’t do it.  I promised everybody that I would never again label myself as a “wedding photographer”.  Well, I’ve also been known to eat my words on a regular basis. 🙂

Ok, so I am still not quite *there*… yet!  However, my calendar is starting to fill out nicely with wedding bookings up until October next year (2013), and its looking like 70% of my business will be wedding clients in coming months!

Don’t get me wrong, I ADORE shooting weddings.  I *am* a girl after all!  When I stopped shooting them way back in 2006, it was so that I could have more time for my family on weekends, and I had burned myself out shooting up to 3 weddings per week (during wedding season) for 3 years running.

However, last year, a friend hounded me until I gave in and agreed to shoot her wedding.  Which I did, and which I thoroughly enjoyed!  Then, a past portrait client asked me to shoot hers.  And then another, and then another.  And so it goes.  I have given myself a strict limit this time round though, to ensure a good balance and so that I am still available for the important things that my family needs too. 🙂

Well, now I am back with a fresh new perspective and a renewed love for all things LUUURV related!  And, for some reason, I have been shooting a whole lot of very UN-weddingy, weddings!  Having a ball with it, and can’t wait to see what lies ahead with my wedding clients in coming months.

So, in saying all of that, those of us who *do* shoot weddings, are faced with the constant challenge of trying to justify our pricing structure to our prospective clients.  I am not facing this issue as much as I used to these days, having been an established professional for over 10 year now, but there is still the odd potential client who is desperately trying to crunch the numbers and “negotiate” my rates.  There has been a lot of humour in blog and Facebook land about this lately, and rather than sit here and enter into a great big dialogue about professionalism and archivability and horrific disaster stories about dodgy wedding photographers, I am going to share some fun stuff, that might make you giggle a bit, but really also does a better job of explaining it than I could in my usual verbose manner.

Firstly, let me tell you that you will never see THIS happen at a wedding that I am photographing:

 You don’t capture moments like these, by doing THAT! lol.


Of course, then there is the “Uncle Bob” phenomenon. We’ve all heard it before – “We love your work, but we just can’t squeeze a photographer into our budget.  My Uncle Bob has a nice camera and said he would just take the photos for us.  We can always Photoshop them afterwards to make them better”.

Hmmmm.  Here’s a little something that I just created to explain why Uncle Bob is NOT a good choice for your day…

someecards.com - What do you mean Uncle Bob is passed out in the toilet?! He needs to be here, with his camera, NOW!

And here is a more in depth look at why Uncle Bob, just won’t cut it to capture your most precious of days: Uncle Bob vs A Professional Photographer

Or how about a friend of a friend who can take a nice shot or two?  As photographers, we are always met with the scenarios that you see right here:

 I personally, have been asked, I reckon, 80% of the questions in that video at weddings I have photographed. Funny, right? Yeah, you may not be laughing if it was your career that was being questioned as such.

Ok, so lets look at this a little further.  I mean, realistically, we only spend like 12 hours or so with you on your day.  How could we justify the fee that we charge?!  It’s daylight robbery, don’t you think? ….erm, nope!  Here’s a bit of a fly on the wall take on the life of a wedding photographer:

Ok, so we are all giggling right now, and its funny and stuff, but you know what, that image above is so true!  These days, we might call ourselves “photographers” but realistically speaking, we spend more time in front of the computer than actually capturing photos.  My husband and kids will certainly testify to this! In fact, I’m doing it right now, as I sit here preparing this blog post for you.  This stuff doesn’t appear on my website on its own you know. 😉

To prove the point, one guy went out and actually completed a survey on wedding photographers.  These are his results:

The Perception

ie. how society seems to *think* a wedding photographer spends their time

The Reality:

How a wedding photographer *really* spends their time...

The source of these graphs is right here: The Secret Life Of a Wedding Photographer and also includes some more awesome information about just what it is that we do.  I especially love this quote by photographer Jan Garcia: “On a day to day basis, marketing, networking and other business activities take such a big chunk of time that I consider weddings my day off!”

I do beg to differ a little though, as the graph above fails to include things such as location scouting, styling and vendor advice, panicked phone calls and text messages from brides at 5am 4 days before the wedding when the weather isn’t looking so great, shopping for props (this takes a lot of time! 😉 ), entering competitions (essential for marketing and credibility), submissions to editors and blogs and more.  And on the day itself, we are so much more than “following people around with a camera”.  I often take on many other roles too, for example:

Relationships Counsellor – “come on, lets sneak out the back and take the pics with your Dad and his new wife, so that your Mum won’t cause a scene”

Makeup artist – “let me re-do your lipstick for you” (making sure you don’t tell the bride that this was your way of removing the lipstick from her teeth without embarrassing her)

Kid wrangler – “hey guys, come over here and throw confetti/bubbles/rose petals/rice at me for a while!” (before somebody notices that you just picked your nose and then used the same finger to make “cool patterns” over the entire base layer of the wedding cake icing, before sticking it in your mouth”

Seamstress – said to crying bride whose entire bridal party and family had already left for the church – “it’s ok, I will sew your zip back together by hand, and nobody will ever know! don’t worry about being late, they aren’t going to start without you” – delivered of course with a big hug!

Animal handler – “yep, no problem, I can take your great big, drooling dog in the front seat of my car to the ceremony so that she can be a part of the day!” (I *loved* doing this by the way, she was a beautiful dog!).

Plastic surgeon – “yes, of course I can remove your new  husband’s mohawk from all 623 frames that we shot on the day!”

These are all 100% true stories from weddings I have personally photographed, I kid you not!

Ok, so then there is this article, entitled, “The Pros Of Hiring A Pro” which I ADORE.  It was written by an amateur photographer, Cody Ellerd, for Seattle Bride magazine, who assisted a professional wedding photographer , and was so amazed by what she experienced that she wanted to write about it. Sure, she’s in Seattle, which isn’t exactly Brisbane, but the context is still the same, wherever you are. There are two particular quotes from this article that really resonate with me:

1. “..But when those spontaneous moments that are here and gone in the blink of an eye happened, Joey caught them with lightning speed, while I lost many of them to improper focus or exposure.”

2. “…Joey’s attention to such minute detail went way beyond “Say cheese” and brought out the couple’s absolute best.”

I love that this article is written from the perspective of somebody who “thought they were pretty good with a camera”, and realised just how much pressure there is on the day, when so many things are out of the photographers control and you only get ONE chance to get it right.  You can’t ask them to re-do the rings because your shot was out of focus! 😉

And then there is THIS, the brand new show on ABC called Photo Finish.  This a show that pits “amateur” photographers against one another in various photographic challenges.  The episode you see here was at a wedding.  Remember, these are the “advanced amateurs” that we see here – they are even *better* than Uncle Bob/the friend of a friend who owns a nice camera, and its pretty scary stuff!  I’m very relieved for the sake of the couple that the shows host was there to come to the rescue through-out the day!

There are so many other reasons that all could have a blog post dedicated to them individually, and we have all heard them before –

  • being able to anticipate what is about to happen, to ensure that they are at the right place at the right time
  • having experience with dealing with all kinds of people and social situations
  • producing consistency in quality of images (not just one or two “nice” shots)
  • the ability to deal with adverse weather/light/technical issues in a pinch, knowledge of locations and seasonal variables with light/weather
  • the ability to manipulate the light, scenery etc in such a way that they can “see” photo opportunities where others would not and to have an eagle eye and to look for photo opportunities where others wouldn’t.
  • no red eye!
  • no bad angles, up the nose shots, double chins etc – a professional photographer knows all the tricks to make you look your best!
  • back up gear in case of equipment failures
  • access to professional labs and book/album manufacturers (like the awesome companies I use – Queensberry, Seldex and Brilliant Prints)
  • insurance
  • membership to industry bodies (such as the AIPP) to ensure that skills and knowledge are always up to date
  • high quality equipment and skills to ensure that your images are of a professional quality and archivability
  • and much much more (including a free set of steak knives! 😉 ).

Ok, so this entire post has been a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I guess what it all comes down to is that you really, really, REALLY do “get what you pay for”.  For me personally, I know that I really. do. care. about my client’s wedding days.  I get so nervous and can barely sleep the night before I do a wedding as the significance and importance of my role in the day swirls around in my little head.  I find myself regularly repeating this to my clients when I explain my nerves:

“I love being nervous before a wedding, it tells me that I genuinely care about what I am doing.  It stops me from being complacent and keeps me on my toes.  I always shoot so much better when I am nervous.  I hope that I never lose those nerves for if that day ever comes, it will tell me that I no longer care about the important honour that I have been bestowed, and on that day, I will hang up my camera, and never shoot another wedding again.”

…and I mean every last word of it.  Before you hire a photographer/friend of a friend/Uncle Bob, to capture your wedding day, please make sure that they care just as much, and can tick the boxes of the big list above too! And if they can’t, then pick up the phone and call a Pro, I promise you won’t regret that you did.

So if you have read this far, please go ahead and leave a comment and tell us your story, or one that you know of, that relates to wedding day photography (good or bad!), would love to hear from you!



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