The Pro's and Cons of having a student photographer as your wedding photographer.
So I have been seeing this discussion a lot on various wedding planning groups so I thought I would do a little blog about it.
Now I have no interest in this blog being a slagging match for wedding photography pricing. This posts goal is to be helpful and to share my experience because along with all wedding photographers everywhere, I had to start somewhere. So we will start this blog with my experience.
5 nearly 6yrs ago I took my camera to my cousin's wedding. I had already been developing an interest in photography and had some landscapes on display at a hotel and photographed a couple of families as well as it being a hobby for a while. So I quite liked the idea of wedding photography so taking my camera along to a family wedding seemed like a perfect start.
I will always be grateful to the lovely Matt their official wedding photographer who instead of finding me annoying gave me some wonderful advice and what was awesome was that I saw him a few weeks ago and he told me how well he thought I had done over the past few years. It was his helpful advice that day that sent me down this road.
Let me tell you its been a big bumpy road. Yep I was one of those people who offered wedding photography in exchange for a small fee so I could build a portfolio. I did that for a year and it was very much a case of learn on the job. I made some mistakes, my equipment wasn't up to it really because I couldn't afford the cameras and lenses I really needed. But I managed and what I did have was a genuine passion for working with and photographing people massively in love. I treated every single one of those couples who I had in that first year as if they were paying me the top rates. Because from day one I always wanted to be the best photographer I could be for every couple.
And that hasn't changed. As my experience, skill and style has developed, my prices risen and my cameras/lenses have become more expensive ;) I still have that core value for my clients. I will show up and be the best I possibly can be for them. Because from that very first wedding on my own where I was shitting myself because I didn't know what was going on I was in love with my job. The joy of capturing something so special for people was my burning drive to be good at what I do. And its still there and I will never stop looking to improve myself.
So that brings me to my first plus of hiring a student or someone starting out. If you do the research and the work to find the right person then you will yes have someone who is going to make mistakes on the day but they will still have the passion and creative drive to deliver something that is good. But if you hire someone who is just trying the wedding photographer label on to see if they can make some extra cash then I am sorry but likelihood is your photos are not going to be good. You see creative passion and a love of capturing important memories for people is the core values of a wedding photographer. Thats why we started this crazy hard journey in the first place. There are however those out there who think its an easy way to make an extra couple of hundred quid on a Saturday. Its honestly not but thats another blog post in its own right.
Of course the other bonus is you save some cash. I completely understand there are couples out there who just don't have the budget for a full time professional. Weddings are expensive. And your priorities are personal. Obviously because of my core value around my business photography to me is a top priority and it is for every couple I work with. So if you can't make the budget work for a professional then go for a student or someone starting out. BUT make sure you take the time to research people. See what they have done previously, find out why they want to be a wedding photographer. Have they got that spark of passion and are they full of enthusiasm and great ideas. They will be the genuine ones who want to make it in this industry.
The risks though are high. Have you ever organised 100+ people for group photos while they have the distraction of a bar and food? Thats just one thing that needs a particular skill on a wedding day to keep things running smoothly. Also lighting is always a challenge, dark churches, bright skies, sun glare, disco lights are all lighting challenges that take skill to handle and produce quality work from. Managing timings and making sure you are in the right place at the right time with the right settings. And then when things go wrong, things run late, its pissing down. An ability to be creative in any situation is crucial. So if you hire a student then you must accept that they are going to make mistakes. They are going to miss things. I did, we all did while we were gaining experience, its how we learn.
A top tip though is to find someone who has been a second photographer or assistant for a professional previously. Not only does it show they are serious about this industry because they seeked out help from their peers but they will also have some experience of the running of a wedding day.
Another thing is don't expect to find someone in advance. Someone just starting out on their own will want weddings in the immediate future. This is because they will be wanting to build a portfolio asap. In 6months to a years time they will want to be charging properly and if you do find someone happy to take an advance booking then be aware they may decide that a few months down the line wedding photography isn't for them and because they don't have the full time business commitment to your wedding they may let you down last minute.
I would also still ask for a contract to be drawn up stating your agreement and to make sure they have insurance. No one should be working with the public without public liability insurance at least. And really important still make sure they have a back procedure for the photos they are taking. No one should be risking people's memories by not backing them up!
My final advice would be if your photography is important to you and you have the budget pay for a professional. If your photography is important to you and you don't have the budget then take the time to find that new shining star who genuinely wants to have a fulfilling career in wedding photography.
I hope this has been helpful :) please feel free to comment and share!
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