Wedding Planning 101: Hiring a Professional Photographer
A couple weeks ago a dear friend reached out about a sticky situation she was put in. She’s a newborn photographer…and a wonderful one at that…and one of her siblings is getting married. They asked her to both be part of the wedding AND photograph various pieces of it throughout the day. She started explaining to her sibling she just doesn’t have the equipment or knowledge to run a wedding day, and she just doesn’t feel comfortable with that responsibility. She reached out to me asking for a resource she could send explaining why hiring a professionalwedding photographer is so important. I immediately thought of my Wedding Planning 101 series and how that totally needs to be one of my topics. So, here we are.
What do I mean when I say you need to hire a professional wedding photographer? Aren’t all photographers professionals in their field? Isn’t that why they call themselves a photographer? No. Definitely, no. As you can assume, picture taking has become a pretty reachable hobby for most. It’s so accessible with phone cameras getting better and better and soooooo many educators out there teaching “Photography 101” on YouTube. You no longer need to go to college. You no longer have to pay thousands upon thousands of dollars to learn the basics. Lots and lots and lots of people call themselves professional photographers.
This article is to help you realize how important it is to make sure you’re hiring a professional that specializes in weddings. So, how do you know who is the professional wedding photographer vs. professional photographer (not specializing in weddings) vs. joe schmo who watched some YouTube videos? Your first sign will be their web presence. Look at their website. Look at their blog. Look at their social media profiles. Look at their branding. The more legitimate they look, the more likely they actually are legitimate. Next, to make sure they specialize in weddings, look at what they post. Is their website full of mostly a mixture of portraits and weddings? Are the socials posting a combo of weddings, newborns, maternity, senior, etc…? If they specialize in weddings, their website should feature brides and grooms, and their social media mostly will be engagements and weddings. Not to say they won’t still have some other sessions, but normally, those other sessions are for previous wedding couples.
So, let’s dive in. Why should you seek out a professional wedding photographer and hire them instead of someone else?
You know the regret I hear more often than not from bridesmaids in weddings I’m shooting?? I wish I had splurged on a good photographer.
Image Quality: Now more than ever, we are so critical of ourselves in photos. This is mostly a woman thing, but even guys have insecurities they immediately see in photographs. Your wedding day is a day you will undoubtedly feel the most beautiful you have ever felt. You should love yourself in photographs as much as you love yourself looking in the mirror. A good photographer could be the difference in posing that accentuates that beauty vs. hides it. After your wedding day, your photos (and maybe your video if you have a videographer) are all you have left to remember your day. Your photos are what you show when you describe your wedding day to your friends, family, and future children. You should love them. They should leave you with butterflies in your stomach all over again. And not just 10 images of your gallery. I’m talking your whole gallery should leave you feeling that way. While we are on the topic of image quality, the actual quality of the image will be better, too. The sharpness of the image comes from the quality of the camera body and lens used + technical know how. The size of the image and how large you can print it without showing pixilation is also a sign of the quality the image. This comes from the camera’s megapixels and what file type is used. Image quality is important. Especially if you intend to ever print any of your images.
Alleviated Stress: Wedding days are busy. They involve lots and lots of moving pieces and lots and lots of different vendors. There are timelines on top of timelines, and if one thing gets off schedule, it can throw the whole day off. A professional photographer will know how to take any hiccups in stride and reduce any stress it could bring you. A professional photographer can change their approach in the blink of an eye to work around any unexpected event to make sure you still get fabulous images without feeling overwhelmed. If the photographer can stay put together, calm, and confident, it ripples out to the bride, groom, family, and bridal party and keeps everyone feeling good throughout the day. A professional photographer knows the difference between wrinkles in the day that need to be brought to the bride and groom’s attention and wrinkles that can and should be dealt with by someone else. Ultimately, hiring a professional photographer can greatly reduce the stress on your wedding day. Having hiccups is not an “if it happens” sort of thing. It’s a “when it happens” sort of thing, and you want to make sure you have professionals lined up that can help you handle these with ease, grace, and little to no stress!
A great example of this one was a wedding I did in the fall of 2021. The bride and groom’s venue was a couple hours from their home. They stayed at the venue the night before and the night of the wedding. The groom forgot his suit pants and didn’t realize it until he was getting dressed for the first look. The maid of honor, groom’s sister, videographer, coordinator, and my second shooter were all stressing out trying to figure out how to handle this. They were nervous to come tell me and pulled me aside with a hush hush tone in their voice. They were really worried about how much this would impact the timeline. Keeping in mind we were a little behind already and it was the most beautiful perfect day and an incredible venue and having ample time to get all of the photos would be absolutely SO wonderful. When they finally broke the news to me, I laughed a little, thought for a second, and asked if he could just put one of the groomsmen’s pants on for now while his parents went to retrieve his pants. Their faces relaxed and immediately looked less stressed and said oh my gosh, that’s a great idea. And that’s exactly what we did. Granted, this wouldn’t have always worked if there was a groomsman similar in size as the groom, but I’m confident we would have figured out something because that’s part of my job. When things go awry, get creative to find a quick and effortless solution without causing any undo stress to the couple!
Insurance: Hiring a professional photographer will almost guarantee that he or she will have business insurance. This is important for so many reasons. If you or one of your guests damage a piece of equipment, she has insurance to cover that. If your photographer injures one of your guests somehow, she has insurance to cover that. There are so so so many circumstances where insurance could come into play in a critical way and if you have someone who is not a professional and doesn’t have insurance, it could turn into a really ugly situation. Also, sometimes, your venue requires you to hire someone with insurance to cover anything that could happen on their property. Thankfully, I’ve never had to use my insurance, but honestly, it could happen at any time, at any given wedding, and I’m thankful I have it just in case!
Peace of mind: You get what you pay for is genuinely true in the wedding photography industry. The longer someone has been in this business, the more they’ve seen, the more they’ve learned, and their experience is both invaluable and a direct connection with how much they charge. I’m watching a show right now called The Rookie on Hulu. It’s about a set of men and women who start on the police force in LA. In order to progress out of some of their training they have to experience incidents involving different types of the crime. For example, they need to write a citation for speeding and a parking violation, arrest someone for drug possession or trespassing, deescalate a domestic violance situation, etc… in order to move on to the next round of training. However, they don’t have control over what types of crime happen on their shift. They may have the opportunity to do all of those in one shift, or may take them months to get them all. Experience in the wedding industry is just like this. There are all sorts of crazy situations that can happen on a wedding day. From the groom forgetting his pants, to a hurricane coming through, to the power going out and delaying hair & makeup, to your bridesmaid’s flight being delayed and her not arriving until after the ceremony. None of these things were planned. None of these things could have been foreseen. And there are literally hundreds of other things just like this. The frist time experiencing one of these things is a learning opportunity for you to know how to handle it better next time. Then the next time you experience it, it allows you to learn even better of how to handle it next time. And the process goes on and on and the longer you’re in this business, the more experiece you get with tricky situations, and the more expert you get at handling those situations. Nothing can prepare you for these sticky situations other than time and happenstance. The more seasoned of a person you hire, the more expensive they will be becuase of the experience they have gained over the years but the more peace of mind they will bring you because they know how to handle anything thrown their way and deliver an excellent product and day of experience.
Back Up Process: Have you ever heard of someone losing all of their wedding photos? Whether it’s a house fire or a computer crashing or a dog chewing up their album… it. is. devestating. As much as I wish this never happened, there are horror stories of memory cards corrupting before images are downloaded to a computer and the photographer losing every wedding photo or a big chunk of wedding photos. Sometimes they’ve been able to recover at least a portion of the photos but other times they’ve been lost forever. For the most part, a professional wedding photographer is going to have your images backed up immediately upon taking the photo because they are copying each snap to two separate cards. They are also going to have invested in the best card brand in the first place, meaning they are less likely to corrupt at all, but if they do, they have another one as back up already! Then once they get home, they are backed up to at least one other location, sometimes two. Once your images are finished being edited, they are then backed up to another location, where they usually stay for an extended amount of time to ensure you get them downloaded and copied and printed and all the things you could possibly want!
Organization: This term blankets a LOT of things that are important. Organization in responding back to emails quickly and efficiently, mapping out a payment plan and sending reminder emails in advance, delivering images quickly and with clear communication, setting realistic expectations from the beginning, building a photography timeline for you and communicating that timeline with your vendors. Hiring a professional wedding photographer doesn’t always gaurantee amazing organization… for some people, it’s just not their thing, but you’re way more likely to get a superior organized experience from a professional vs. a non professional.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but a good start on all the reasons why hiring a professional vs. just a family friend who has a nice camera is a good decision. I am 100% an advocate for staying in budget as well, but you will never regret allocating more of your budget to photography to help you have the absolute best day and be the most pleased with your end product!
Once you narrow down to a few photographers you like based on their online presence, refer to this Wedding Planning 101 post to help you choose which one is right for you!
MORE ABOUT AMANDA MAY PHOTOS:
I’m a Knoxville Wedding Photographer that loves to travel…I shoot anywhere! Click here to contact me with any questions you have about pricing or booking! If you liked what you saw above, go ahead and follow me on Facebook or Instagram to see my daily updates of the latest sessions!
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