As a professional photographer I get asked this question all the time. Customers regularly have relatives or friends that offer to take their photographs for them, and it’s very tempting to try and save some of the budget this way. After all it’s a big cost, and it can’t be that hard to take a few photographs can it?
Actually, unfortunately it can. Wedding days go by really quickly. And there are a lot of moments that need to be captured. And they need to be captured quickly, and perfectly. You can’t very well ask the vicar to repeat a bit when you’ve missed it.
But why do we actually charge so much? Well basically it’s mostly down to running costs. Each of the cameras we use cost upwards of £1000. If you image that we may need to bring several of these with us to cover different shooting situations (such as low light or bright sunshine) and also 1 or 2 to act as back-ups in case of camera failure. On top of that, there would be maybe 4-5 different lenses, 2-3 flash lights, 2 light meters, several specialist umbrellas, plus reflectors, studio lights, and various other pieces of equipment, this already makes the start out cost quite high. The cameras don’t usually last too long when taking so many shots at a time and so unfortunately have to be regularly replaced. Add in professional insurance, website running costs, and advertising or marketing, and you can see where the costs are going. It’s a really high maintenance business.
From the original perspective, it’s also an enormous amount of pressure to put on someone that hasn’t done the job before. Most people can take a good photograph on a normal day in good conditions. But weddings aren’t like that. The weather isn’t always perfect, and things don’t always run to plan. Photographing a wedding means taking hundreds of good photographs, one after the other, without pausing and without delay. There is no going back and retaking images - it's a once only job. There’s also the problem of equipment failure. What happens if the memory card fails? Or the camera battery dies? Professionals are trained to be prepared for these eventualities and often many others that you may not have thought of – such as carrying around studio lights with them in case the weather is bad and the group photos have to be taken inside the venue, or even carrying confetti in case the guests haven’t bought any with them.
So, if the worst did happen and the images did fail to come out after you asked your friend or relative to take them, how would you feel? And possibly worse, how would they feel? Would it ruin your relationship? It's such a huge responsibility for someone to take on so you need to be absolutely sure.
Good photography is about more than just having a decent camera and an eye for a good shot - it's about knowing how a wedding day will run and the little intricacies of the day that can affect your plans. For example how the church service will run; when the Vicar will ask if anyone has any objections; knowing exactly when the rings will be exchanged or the first kiss; how to deal with difficult weather or really bad lighting; where the buttonhole goes and which button gets left undone on the waistcoat; even what time the Vicar will ask you to be in the church. A professional photographer will be able to do and know all of these things and much, much more - because that is what they are paid to do. They may sound like little details but they make a huge difference on the day.