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When planning a wedding, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that the costs can rack up incredibly easily. And that can scare the flip out of anyone. Thoughts obviously turn to making savings and stretching the budget, and usually the first against the wall are the big ticket items like wedding photography. We wonder, ‘can my friend not just do the photos??’ Seems legit, as they say. But then we’re told for many a good reason not to do this…

But just for a minute imagine a scenario where it is ok for your friend to take the pics. Laura Babb, one of the most amazing photographers out there, and whose work I’ve been super chuffed to feature here on the blog, puts across her thoughts on this counter argument in this article below…

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If you have a little look around the internet you’ll find a whole range of sources telling you what a terrible idea it is to let your friend or family member photograph your wedding for you. I don’t entirely agree with them and, in fact, I wouldn’t be a full-time, professional wedding photographer with more than 100 weddings under my belt if it wasn’t for the friend that gave me the opportunity to shoot my very first wedding.

That said, a keen amateur photographer with an SLR is no substitute for an experienced professional with the skills and experience to work in all conditions, along with the equipment to shoot competently in all lighting situations.

If you are thinking of having a friend or family member shoot your wedding, I’d say go for it, as long as you’ve made an informed decision that considers the following factors:

If your budget won’t stretch to photography and this is a way of having someone record parts of the day for you, but you’re not especially bothered if it all goes wrong/you don’t get many usable shots, then having your friend take some shots for you is a great idea.

I have absolutely no problem with inexperienced people photographing weddings, as long as everyone knows what they’re signing up for. If they are inexperienced, and you have higher expectations than just getting a few ‘snaps’, then you’re actually putting a whole lot of pressure on them and also setting yourself up for a fall.

If your friend has shot other weddings, and you’re expecting a polished final product as a result, ask to have a look through a few whole galleries (at least two or three) so you can be certain that they can consistently cover a whole wedding day.

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If they are, you’re laughing. Except for the fact that if they shoot weddings full-time, for a living, they might actually prefer to come to your wedding as a guest so they can get a bit tipsy and show off their crazy dance skills.

If they are a professional photographer with no experience of weddings or documentary work, then you should be aware that weddings are a different ball game.

There aren’t many other photography situations where you have absolutely no control over the light and where you aren’t allowed to use any flash (in dark churches, for example). Make sure they’re really comfortable shooting in low light, shooting in extreme changing lighting conditions (from that dark church to a bright summer’s day) and are able to add light where needed (dancefloor shots, for example).

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If they have an entry level SLR and a kit lens, it won’t be able to cope with dark churches/barns. Many registrars and vicars do not allow flash within the ceremony, so equipment needs to be able to cope well in low light.

You might want to pay for them to hire in pro-spec cameras and lenses for the day, and companies like Hire a Camera can help with that.

And of course you probably need to hire it in for a few extra days, so they can familiarise themselves with it. Not all cameras, even when they’re made by the same company, have buttons and dials in the same location.

They’ll ideally need the following as a minimum:

  • 2 Camera Bodies (1 to shoot on, 1 as a back up)
  • A fast wide angle lens
  • A fast telephoto lens
  • A spare lens – I’d go for another wide angle as my back up, as that’s what I shoot most on, but this will depend on personal preference
  • 2 speed lights (flashes) and batteries
  • Around 100g of memory cards.

Will they be shooting all day? Will they get a break? Are they essentially part guest and part photographer? If you answered yes to the last question, what are the chances that they’ll go wild at the free bar and not be in any state to adequately cover the later parts of the day?

I am RUBBISH at taking pictures when I’m drunk, and I’m a full-time, experienced, professional photographer. Chances are your enthusiastic amateur friend will spend the night taking pictures of their own shoes if they’ve had one too many shandies.

If they truly are invited as a guest and they’re doing you a favour, maybe agree with them that they’ll shoot the ceremony and drinks reception, including some portraits and family groups, before putting their camera down and enjoying the rest of the day as a guest.

Has your venue given any guidance about photography during the ceremony? How will they make sure they comply with these requests? How will they do group shots? What’s the plan if it rains? Do they have a copy of your schedule? Have you allowed enough time for the various elements of the day to be properly photographed?

Do they know when the best light will be for portraits, or will they try to photograph you in harsh, direct midday light, squinting into the sun?

I have a guide on my website that gives loads of information about how to plan photography for various parts of the day, which might come in useful.

In short, if you have taken all of the above into consideration and you’re still happy for your friend to shoot your wedding, then I would wholeheartedly tell you to go for it. You might be the person that ignites a new passion in them and sets them on the path to a new career!

Thank you so much, Laura, for putting across the other side of the argument regarding friends as wedding photographers and giving it a bit of balance. I agree that there’s no need to dismiss an idea out of hand, but rather go into things with eyes open, a plan, and with everyone aware of where they stand. If you are planning on having a friend take the photos, at least now they have some expert advice!