Why you shouldn't hire uncle Bob....

“My Uncle Bob has an amazing camera, I think I am going to just pay him £500 to shoot my wedding.” While Uncle Bob may be very good, here are a few reasons to go with the professional.

Wedding photography is so much more than just having a nice camera. Uncle Bob may have a nice camera, in fact, let’s say Uncle Bob has a well paid job and his hobby is photography.. So, not only does he have a nice camera, but he has the best camera money can buy at the moment (maybe even better than mine!) Even more so, Uncle Bob loves shooting in his spare time so much that he even bought a full set of lenses and accessories.

So lets move on with the assumption that this Uncle Bob is much more prepared than 99% of the Uncle Bob’s out there and even has experience of having some of his work published.

Wedding time comes, and Uncle Bob is feeling great and confident that he is going to do an awesome job. Uncle Bob starts with some outside shots of the preparation location and everything is looking good. Then Uncle Bob steps inside where the preparation is taking place.

Does Uncle Bob have all the gear he needs, ready to hand, for the different parts of the day?

Uncle Bob starts shooting the bridal prep but didn’t realise the size of the room and that he can’t get all the elements in, so he needs to swap to a wide angle lens. He goes out to the car to swap out his lenses since he wasn’t anticipating this problem. When he gets back, the bride’s makeup is done, and now they are working on the hair.

What will a professional do:

The foresight to be prepared for each situation with a secondary camera prepped with a different type of lens. Professional wedding photographers will always scope out the wedding venue and scenes prior to the wedding and plan ahead.

Has Uncle Bob assessed all the lighting in the different rooms, and done his homework for natural light levels at different parts of the day?

Uncle Bob didn’t take any time to check out the lighting prior to the shoot and he has no off camera lighting, or any additional lighting equipment. So, Uncle Bob just raises his ISO settings (low light settings) super high so that he can capture enough light to properly expose the scene. This works, however, little does he know, that every picture shot will be too grainy to blow up beyond a 4×6 print.

What a professional will do:

The ability to quickly adjust his camera settings based on different lighting scenes. Most of the time wedding photographers have 2-3 seconds to adjust settings in the moment - any longer and you may miss something.

The ability to create unique lighting scenes, and supplement natural light with their own lighting. Understanding light and lighting is something that comes from study, training and experience.

Does Uncle Bob know how to override the camera’s exposure setting to ensure the pure white shirts and dresses do not lose their valuable detail?

Uncle Bob now heads over to shoot the Bride and Groom. Uncle Bob looks at the scene and adjusts his camera settings based on what the camera tells him to. Unfortunately, because there was so much black in the scene from the suits, the camera meter was over exposing all of the shots to compensate. Therefore, the beautiful detail of the wedding dress is completely lost and appears as a pure white blob. Uncle Bob didn’t realise though, and just kept shooting away.

What a professional will do:

Will know inside out how their camera reads and interprets light in order to compensate for under or over exposure. In these situations the wedding photographer must rely on their experience rather than the camera’s automatic readings.

Does Uncle Bob know how to get crisp, in focus shots when the bride is walking down the aisle and know where to stand?

Let’s say this is a simple wedding and now it’s time for the ceremony. Uncle Bob does pick the perfect spot, pops on his zoom lens and waits. The groom makes his way in, and Bob shoots him like a professional would. Taking multiple shots as the groom is coming down the aisle. The only problem is that all the shots are out of focus because the subject was walking towards Uncle Bob, and his focus settings were not set for moving subjects.

The father and bride begin coming down the aisle, and just the same, Uncle Bob fires away taking 50 more shots. Again, none of which are crisp and in focus.

What will a professional do:

Will have the knowledge of advanced focus techniques and how to get those moments crisp and in focus. Even how to hold their camera correctly to avoid blur and ensuring their shutter speed is fast enough.

Has Uncle Bob got the experience of shooting lots of ceremonies so knows what is coming up when and what to avoid?

The wedding ceremony is going great, and Bob grabs several good shots. But Uncle Bob realises, again, that his camera lens isn’t wide enough as he wants to vary his shots, so Uncle Bob runs to his bag to grab a different lens. On his way back, he sees the couple just as they kiss for the first time. Uncle Bob missed it. He also didn’t think to shoot any of the bride or grooms family during the ceremony, as he was trying not to miss anything in the ceremony.

What a professional will have:

The carrying cases needed to always have their necessary equipment and accessories on them at all times. Professional wedding photographers will always have their equipment readily available on their person, or nearby.

Experience shooting fleeting moments that you only have one chance to capture. A first kiss typically only lasts 1-2 seconds, and you don’t necessarily know exactly when it is going to happen. The wedding photographer must be staring through his lens, ready and prepared for this moment to happen.

Experience and knowledge required to anticipate angles and approaches to each scene. Knowing where to stand, and what angles to shoot is something that only comes from experience.

Has Uncle Bob picked the perfect scene for family portraits and knows what to avoid?

After the ceremony, it’s time for formals. Uncle Bob guides everyone to his favourite spot outdoors where he has a beautiful shot of the view. The subjects are facing away from the sun, so that he can capture the grandeur of the scene. Because the formals are being shot in the bright noon-day sun, Uncle Bob doesn’t realise that the camera is under exposing the entire scene since the background is so bright.

Uncle Bob takes only a few family formal shots, and only one shot of each set. Little to Bob’s knowledge, every shot is coming out too dark and completely underexposed.

Uncle Bob doesn’t know to take multiple shots of formals in case there are blinking eyes - he takes one and moves on.

What a professional will have:

Experience in guiding and directing large group formals. This is where the wedding photographer’s personality and tact are so important. How do they interact with the bride, groom and their family, plan for how many there are and how long it will take.

Experience in taking extra shots of crucial pictures such as during formals in case of blinking, awkward expressions, etc.

Does Uncle Bob appreciate how many hours of shooting are involved in the wedding day?

Reception time has arrived, and Uncle Bob has already worked 10 hours! He figures that he should relax and enjoy the wedding too since he is family. So, he gives his camera to his young son who loves photography and tells him to shoot.

Uncle Bob is so exhausted that he doesn’t shoot for the rest of the night. I mean, he is helping out the bride and groom so much by saving them money, and doing it for so cheap that he figures it shouldn’t matter anyway.

What a professional will have:

The energy to work for 12-18 hours. This is a wedding photographer’s job, they are used to working long hours.

Has Uncle Bob invested in the right editing software to make sure the photos get the high quality production look?

Since Uncle Bob doesn’t have the software, or even know how, to post produce images. He simply gives the bride and groom a DVD with all of the images burned to it. The bride and groom sit down, dying with anticipation and pop the DVD into the computer to start looking through their Uncle’s beautiful work!

100 pictures into the 2,000 pictures Uncle Bob shot, the bride is already in tears, as every photo is too dark, too bright, blurry, or just not that good. Furthermore, the bride and groom notice that there is no shot of their first kiss, and the only reception shots were of Uncle Bob’s son shooting all of the kids at the reception.

What will a professional do:

Know how to shoot in advance to get as much right in camera as possible. They will have professional editing equipment that will allow them to get the best out of each photo, colour, bring up shadows and highlights etc.

In conclusion:

I have had many client’s guests approach me during a shoot to tell me about their “Uncle Bob” experience, and how they wish they had hired us to shoot the wedding. So, why does this happen to Uncle Bob? Because the bottom line is, while Bob had all the professional gear (which is unlikely in the first place), and experience shooting nature and outdoor scenes, he doesn’t have the experience and foresight for how a wedding day works.

While there are a lot of areas in your wedding budget that you can save money on, wedding photography should not be one of them. If you want to have professional quality, creative imagery of your wedding day that will be timeless heirlooms to be shown and handed down to your generations to come, you will need a professional wedding photographer.

If absolutely necessary you can always order products later, you can never order better quality and more creative imagery after your event.

Matt Trott