Now, it is true that not everyone can afford a top-notch photographers, but there are plenty of options out there that you can go with before you ask a family friend aka the family-reunion photographer.
Once you get engaged (yay) and begin to budget out for everything, after the venue site (or caterer, food and drinks) should most definitely come, the photographer. I know, you want to spend thousands of dollars on your dream designer Vera Wang dress and get the Cake Boss to do a groom's cake but ALL OF THAT will mean nothing if your "family friend" is out of focus, gets to drunk or forgets to take the damn lense off.
As someone who has taken a few photography classes, I like to consider myself a pretty good photographer; however, the idea of taking on the responsibility of preserving what most call "the most important day of your life" - I'm not sure I would be up for doing something like that. There is a reason they are called professional's - they live, breath and produce professional quality photos. Some may say shooting a wedding is one of the more difficult jobs a photographer could take on - you have to adapt quickly to an ever-changing and moving group of people (and environment)...and there is no re-shooting an event like this and no weather delays.
The International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers (ISWP) has composed a wonderful list of what it is like to hire "Uncle Bob v a Professional Wedding Photographer" -- and you can see some of those comparisons below.
You look at a video once - maybe twice, and then again maybe on your 5 or 10 year. You frame your invitation and stick your magnet STD on the fridge...but your photos...your PHOTOS last FOREVER. And the ones that are beautiful, the ones that stick out - are the ones that you look at everyday in your home and say "thank GOD, I hired...Lewis Rinaman" I'm sorry, I loved, loved, loved my photographer and I will name drop him all I can and will not apologize for it.
I mean the truth is, you can do a lot of things as a wedding for a decent price - but when you lay out the order of priority no doubt your photos should be at the top.
But say you don't listen to me...or most brides who have had amazing photographers. Picture this...
You get home from your honeymoon and LOOK the person you offered to photograph your wedding for free...but what the hell? Why can you BARELY see yourself at the ceremony? And the ring exchanging is completely out of focus. Okay, okay relax...it's only just the ceremony...let's see how those portraits came out from the part. Oh no...people are blinking and UGH they only got the BMs to look at the camera in this one and only the GMs in this one. This is NOT good. Hesitantly you go onto the reception but where....WHERE are the photos of our first dance? Oh but there's the bar and the food...I guess they needed a break...
Need I go on? Or do you get the picture? As this article states "Anyone can buy the most expensive cookware available, that doesn't make them a top chef."
I am one of the lucky ones. I knew what I wanted (now I know I say "I" and not we...my husband was truly great during this and he let me take the reigns for the photography knowing that I knew that I wanted) from the beginning of the wedding planning - actually I saw Lewis's photos via my sister's brother-in-law's wedding from the summer before we got engaged and it was love of the photographs from first sight. I went to school for Journalism and had taken a few photography classes and knew exactly what I was looking for and didn't stop until I got him.
If nothing else, I would have to say this post is definitely a bride-beware. You get what you paid for - and the truth is, not every amazing professional costs a million dollars. So DO your homework. Check web sites and do your damn research. Ask for references and if nothing else, ask your friends (or me) because brides will always be honest...they will praise the amazing parts and will be brutally ridiculously honest if you get burned.
Check out these other sources (besides the original article) for some solid advice and experience.
- Every Last Detail "I Took the Cheap Photographer Route"
- Photographers = Brain Surgeons?
- One bride's quest to find the perfect photographer on her blog...do yourself a favor and read this...there are over 200 comments so start with page 1 of comments
- Off Beat Bride "there's nothing I'd go back and change ... with one exception: I'd invest half our wedding budget in photography."
- PS - AWESOME web site
- Seattle Bride "Pros of Hiring Pro"
- "He [the photographer] knew how to manipulate the room’s light and reflective surfaces in ways I never would have dreamed of, transforming what I thought was an unremarkable setting into a photo studio with endless possibilities."