Should Your Friend Be Your Vendor?

This is not normally the kind of advice we would give, but we feel strongly about it. When a potential client writes us and says “we went with a friend/family member/friend-of-a-friend”, we always understand. We understand budget restrictions. We understand making other things in your wedding day a priority. We will always say “do what’s best for you on your wedding day” and we mean it.” Really, we do. This is no exception. That said, we’ve been doing this for a long time and think this advice is worth giving and worth reading.

This is the email we want to avoid having to receive: We had a friend/relative shoot our wedding photos and we really wish we hadn’t. We have had even more emails from couples we’ve never met saying the same thing, or even asking us to re-edit their photos to see if they are salvageable. We always feel so awful when we get these inquiries. Your wedding day happens one time. Those moments happen one time. We do understand letting an eager friend, family member, student, or new photographer capture your day, but we would also hate for moments like these to go undocumented, end up out of focus or incorrectly exposed, or be low quality. Here are a few things to consider as you make up your mind on who to go with for your wedding photographer (or other vendors).

When you buy a nice camera, you are not buying knowledge. Our industry is a funny one because anyone with the means can buy a prosumer camera, or even the same cameras as we are using. They can have passion and a good eye. They can even want to break into the wedding industry. In fact, at every single wedding that we shoot, there is at least one person there who is shooting the wedding almost as intensely as we are and they are there as a guest.  As long as this person does not get in the way of the photos we are capturing, we don’t mind at all. The thing we do notice is that they are watching us. They often try to follow along or recreate something they just saw us shoot. This is how you learn, which is awesome, and we don’t doubt that they get some great shots; however, would you trust them to be responsible for capturing 100% of the shots?

As an example, say you need a porch built in your back yard for a summer housewarming party. I’m a friend-of-a-friend with a quality, professional-grade hammer/tools. I am a hobbyist carpenter wanting more experience and offering my services for less than half what a professional carpenter is charging. The difference is that he has years of experience and countless customers who can vouch for his sturdy, quality work. Do you trust me to build you a porch that will look nice and withstand the weight of all of your house guests? In one year, professional wedding photographers shoot more weddings than most people attend in a lifetime. We know weddings and which moments to capture, how to use equipment, which lenses work best for different scenarios, how to frame a photo in an appealing way, and how to deal with difficult lighting situations.

Friends/Family should be allowed to be guests. There is a difference between having someone you know who is a professional in the industry shoot your wedding, and having a friend who is a hobbyist photographer or someone with a nice camera shoot your wedding. We have shot friend’s weddings and it can be a really fun way to experience the day, but sometimes it’s even nicer to be a guest and just be present. Yes, it’s super awesome to have people in your life who are willing to help set up, or who have been more than willing when you delegated a wedding duty to them. When it comes to taking over a big task such as documenting your wedding day, it’s an all-day, intense favor. If they don’t succeed at this task, will you be upset or hold a grudge? Will that damage your friendship? If this is a close friend or family member that you value enough to have at your wedding, let them bring a camera, and let them be a guest, but reconsider allowing them to photograph your wedding to add to their portfolio. Just because someone gives you a “good deal” doesn’t mean it’s the right decision.

There are many DIY areas of a wedding and for some, that may include photos. It’s up to you entirely. Some weddings have throw away cameras on tables and that is how they document the day. There are a lot of creative, outside-of-the-box ways of capturing your wedding day depending on what you’re looking for. We love DIY in weddings and have seen many DIY projects turn out great. We have also seen many turn out not-so-great. One wedding we shot had gorgeous flowers all created by the bride (and nobody would have known it- they were amazing!). In another wedding, bouquets created by the bride wilted within the first hour of the wedding day. In another instance, a friend of the bride created the wedding cake and it melted before it was served. Basically, we are just suggesting you decide where you feel comfortable cutting corners, saving money, and trusting DIY to turn out. There are some small projects that friends and family may be excellent at and you trust them in those duties.

Photos are passed down generation to generation. In our experience, photo-memories are extremely important to most everyone. They are the way we remember the most important moments of our lives. Maybe you feel this way about other things in your wedding. For instance, your wedding dress may be a splurge because it is a timeless piece you plan on saving for your own daughter someday. Whatever you decide, we hope you find what is right for you. We just don’t want you to have any regrets once your wedding day is over. We hope this advice is helpful to those of you who are bouncing the idea around.

-Team JayLee

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