I am often asked in conversation why a couple would need a wedding photographer when so many people have cameras and there is often a competent friend/relative who will take the pictures for free. In the current economic climate it is a valid question, and the answer needs to be broken down into a number of elements:
Time spent shooting on the day;
Processing and presentation;
I cannot deal with all of these points in one post, so let’s look at just a couple and I will return to the rest on another occasion.
It is fair to say that most families have someone, or know someone who has a fairly decent camera, that is to say a digital SLR with a selection of lenses. These are generally the first people who come and chat with me at a wedding, often with an opening comment of “that’s a big camera!” or “I wish I had a lens like that!” All camera manufacturers recognise that their products are used by a range of people for a range of purposes and have different products and that are priced accordingly. An average wedding photographer will have a professional quality camera (body) with a range of professional standard lenses and flashgun(s). This means that the photographer is more able to cope with a wider range of conditions and will have the equipment to suit the job. This is best illustrated by example:
Scenario 1 – a church wedding in which the vicar says that the photographer can take pictures only from the back of the church with no flash. A professional photographer will have discussed this in advance and will have come prepared. Low light is often an issue inside churches, but a professional camera body is more able to shoot in such conditions and still produce great results. Couple this with a high-end zoom lens that lets in lots of light and has image stabilisation and you will still have beautiful pictures of your wedding ceremony.
Scenario 2 – afternoon winter wedding. Afternoon weddings are becoming very popular – the bride and her guests have plenty of time to get ready without rushing and the wedding breakfast then runs seamlessly into the evening without the traditional hiatus when everyone feels like a nap. In the summer this works beautifully as you have lovely light in the evening and people are happy to be outside where the best light is to be found. In the winter it proves a little more of a challenge and again requires the correct tools for the job and a good understanding of how to use them in the conditions. A camera and lenses that can work in poor light are also required here, but it is likely that much of the time you will need some flash as well. Built in flashes are harsh, difficult to control and can result in very unflattering pictures. A professional will have a flash (or possible multiple flashes) that they can control to create beautiful, atmospheric images without leaving all your guests dazzled.
There are many other lighting scenarios that photographers find difficult – very bright sunlight being notoriously problematic but a professional will have worked within them before and will know the best strategies for capturing your day in the best possible way.
One more thing to consider with equipment is what would happen in the event of a failure? Not something you really want to think about I know, but what would your friend/relative do if their camera was damaged during the course of the day? Professionals will have a backup body and multiple lenses so should disaster strike they will be able to continue shooting with little more than a brief pause and certainly without causing any anxiety to the bridal party.
Photographs are often the only permanent record of the most important day in your life together to this point. Having spent so much time, effort and money on the day to this point it makes sense to have all of your efforts recorded to the maximum effect.