Hindsight is 20/20, they say. Regret is a huge burden for a lot of people. Regret is painful and it's so sad when that regret can hurt something as important as your wedding memories. In the past few years I've gotten to know a lot of brides and I've heard plenty of horror stories about wedding photography. I've gotten several heartbreaking calls from tearful brides who got their wedding photos back from a mediocre photographer and were horrified that they were awful. "Can you fix them in Photoshop for me?" they'll ask. I was heartbroken by the call I got a few months ago from the bride who didn't get a single image of her and her new husband alone on their wedding day. Just the two of them. She wanted to schedule a post-wedding session with me but ended up deciding not to spend the money -- she still had to pay off the wedding photographer who didn't do his job.
I've perused the wedding forums and seen the sob stories from brides who were so disappointed that they allowed a family friend to photograph their wedding for free to save them the money of hiring a professional. Here's a sample post: "After waiting almost a month, I finally got to view my pics. I was so sad that they did not come out as nice as I'd hoped. I can't complain as they were done by my brother-in-law's friend and it was his first wedding and he didn't charge us anything but now I wish we had said thanks but no thanks. This will definitely be my advice to future brides - as much as you like the photography of a friend or relative, if they've never done a wedding, don't use them. Get a pro! Wish someone had warned me." --disappointed bride on The Knot forum.
Then there are those who try to save money by hiring a semi-pro or budget wedding photographer: "So I finally saw our wedding photos but I'm not going to share them because they suck. We went with the photographer who did my son's T-ball photos because his prices were the lowest. Big mistake." --disappointed bride on the Wedding Wire forum.
A few months ago I marveled at the amazing decor of a wedding at one of my favorite venues. While talking to the venue manager I learned that the wedding was being photographed by a family friend who just got a really nice camera and wants to photograph it as a gift for them. The family had spent at least a hundred thousand dollars on the most amazing decor I've ever seen at a wedding yet they were trusting the photography to a young photo hobbiest with "a really nice camera." Some of life's lessons are really expensive and painful.
Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras have exploded in popularity in the past few years. For about $600-$1,000 anyone can own a camera that takes decent photos. My photography class with the New Braunfels ISD community education is always full each session and sometimes has a waiting list -- full of people who got these cool toys but don't know how to use them. This Christmas, thousands of people will get one under the tree and be hooked on photography. Unfortunately, many of them will hang out a shingle -- or set up a website -- and start charging (or not charging in a lot of cases) to take photos. All kinds of photos -- families, seniors, children, engagements, and weddings. Half an hour and all images on disc for only $50! Wow! What a bargain!
The truth is, it's not really such a bargain, especially for the brides who hire them. If you're not happy with your family photos, you can always try again. Get the kids dressed up again, find another photographer and try again. But if you're not happy with your wedding photographs, there are no do-overs.
Real professional photographers are kind of expensive (although pay does not always indicate quality as I've seen plenty of photographers who charge more than others without the skill to back it up). Real professional photographers have to be pricier because they've invested a lot in their craft. A lot for education, a lot for equipment, insurance and many years of scraping by to practice and perfect their art.
Before hiring a photographer for your wedding, look at their past wedding work. Meet with them. Look through their albums and even talk to other brides who've worked with them in the past if possible. Hiring a professional wedding photographer is one of the best investments you can make for your wedding. The food will get eaten. The decorations will be thrown away, and the flowers will die. But you'll have your photos for the rest of your life as a reminder of all the joy and beauty of your day.
And if you're one of the unlucky brides who could have written this blog yourself, call me. Because I know there's no recreating that day, but we can pull that dress our of storage and grab your new husband for a little photo fun that will fill that album!
Lisa On Location Photography