As you can all probably guess, I’m a little biased when it comes to the importance of your wedding photos – I take my job super seriously because I know that after all the planning, all the time spent on Pinterest, all of the decisions – when your day finally unfolds before you – it’s also all over in about 12 hours, give or take. Maybe there’s some left over cake… but really, apart from your memories – your photos & film is all that you have left to look at and reminisce over. Which is why my heart breaks a little when I hear couples are choosing to have friends photograph their wedding to save some coin. Now, can I just say first – I also understand budgets oh so well and know how expensive weddings can be (I might not be married myself yet but I have been a part of dozens & dozens). So when a friend offers to photograph your wedding and consequently saving you thousands of dollars – I get the appeal. What I wanted to do was to share 5 things that you can do with your friend to help safeguard this decision and hopefully mean that you get photos that you not only love but that represent this time in your lives!
1. Make sure they change their camera settings so that the photos are taken in RAW format.
I don’t want to get too technical but you need to know why this is SO important. As a professional photographer, I always photograph my weddings as RAW files (which can simply be selected from a DSLR’s camera menu) which means that they are the highest quality possible. This allows me to edit them after the wedding day and fix certain elements that might need adjusting – things like the exposure, white balance or image temperature. It also means that I can edit the photos in line with my style and brand – for me that means clean, classic & sharp imagery. That wasn’t always the case though – years ago when I first started taking photos, I was still discovering my style – so my images were edited very differently, think super bright & contrasty. The benefit if your wedding images are taken as RAW files, is not only will they be of the highest quality, but if your friend is still experimenting with their editing styles, you will be able to send them to editing businesses that could edit the images in a style that is more in line with what you like. Think of this like a ‘just in case’ and trust me, if you get your photos back and don’t like the way that they have been edited, you’ll be glad you took advantage of this ‘just in case’. Post Processing Editing Businesses I would recommend would be: Photographers Edit or Plus Minus Collective (Plus Minus Collective actually have some images on their homepage so that you can see the difference between an edited image and a photo straight out of the camera before it’s edited. Worth a look!)
*Note: RAW images need to be processed before they can be viewed like a normal JPEG image. Photographers use programs such as Adobe Lightroom to edit with – I would recommend that once your friend provides you with a USB or disc of edited JPEG images, also just ask for the RAW files too (they can simply transfer them onto a hard drive for you) so you have the option to get them edited if you so wish to.
2. Ask them to hire a backup camera body – and make sure they have enough batteries, memory cards & ‘fast’ lenses
Typically on a Wedding Day I photograph with my main camera (Canon 5D Mark III) and also have a backup camera body with me as well (Canon 6D). We all know that a Wedding Day only happens once, there are no do-overs, no second chances – so there is no way i’m risking some of my gear making me miss any moments that unfold. I’ve heard so many horror stories over the years, there is no way I’m not having my own backups, just in case. The same goes for spare batteries (for both cameras and flashes) and spare memory cards. Most professional cameras actually have two card slots so you can actually shoot on two cards at once (again, just in case one malfunctions. As an example, I usually shoot on 2 64GB SD cards but also have a 32GB & a few 16GB cards on me at all times). It’s all about contingencies. Talk to your friend and make sure they are well prepared ‘just in case’.
One more point I’d like to raise when it comes to wedding day camera gear is to ask your friend how ‘fast’ their lenses are (which just means how much light a lens can physically let through). Most DSLR cameras come with a reasonable good kit lens when they are purchased, however these lenses are not always good for low light conditions (p.s a camera considers low light quite different to our human eyes!) My favourite lens for a wedding day is the Canon 24mm-70mm f2.8 – being a zoom lens means that it allows me to react quickly to whatever may be happening around me, without intruding on the moment – and it is also great in low light, allowing me to shoot wide open at f2.8 and quite a low ISO. It’s ok if you don’t understand any of what I just mentioned, but show your friend that will photographing your wedding so that they can possibly hire the right lens for the job, if all they have is their original kit lenses.
3. Have a pre-wedding photo session with them!
DO. THIS. PLEASE. I know it’s going to cost you some time and perhaps even an outfit or two ;) but this is super important. A pre-wedding photo session is as much for you as it is for your photographer, whether they are new to wedding photography or not (I still offer complimentary sessions to all of my couples) as it helps them get to know you better – and I know, your friend is going to know you better than any photographer you book – but have they photographed you before? Have they directed you into poses and learnt what your interactions look like through the camera lens? It is so much more than just a smile at the camera – ‘cheese!’. Trust me, these sessions are vital to getting wedding imagery that you love so please, take the time. A pre-wedding session will also give you good insight into what your wedding photos will look like, albeit the wedding attire, and therefore you can make sure you’re happy with your decision! Think of it as a sneak peek into your wedding photos…
*Note: It’s a great idea to have a shared Pinterest board with your friend that you can use as a mutual visual representation of the types of photos that you envisage for your day – remember, your friend might not have a wedding photography style of their own, so a little direction as to what you expect and what you love, will go a long way!!
4. Go through the Ceremony runsheet with them in detail
Even if they have been to plenty of weddings before, let them know exactly what is happening and when – so that they are ready for all the key moments. Preparation is the key. For some insight, for a standard wedding Ceremony – my movements generally look like this (keep in mind that this is dependant on how the Ceremony is setup as well):
– Stand at the front, just in front of where the bridesmaids will be, to document the Bride & Bridesmaids walking down the aisle and also the photos of the Groom’s reaction when he first sees his bride!
– Move to centre of the aisle (kneeling so you’re not in anyone’s way) to photograph some centre shots and Bride kissing Dad, Dad shaking Groom’s hand. Move back and get a wide shot of the entire Ceremony setup with Bride & Groom now in centre of aisle.
– Photograph candids & Bride and Groom perspectives from each side of Ceremony.
– Move back to the centre of the aisle to photograph ring exchange, any readings and the kiss!
– Walk up and photograph signing of the register (only photograph Bride & Groom signing the pretty certificate – as seen below – the other paperwork has personal details on it and shouldn’t be photographed) You don’t want to take too long here, but I generally get the newlyweds to hold it up for me so I can get a portrait and then a close up of the certificate itself.
– Move back to the centre of the aisle for official announcement of husband & wife and celebratory congratulations.
Make sure you let your friend know of anything extra special that you might be including or anyone that is travelling a long way to be there so that they can make sure their photographs do it justice!
5. Even if you aren’t paying anything, make sure you still have a wedding contract in place with them!
This is just good common sense… most of the time when you book a photographer, it might be 12 – 18 months before your actual wedding day. Make sure you have a contract in place, just so that everyone is on the same page in the leadup to your special day! You might have read my blog post on wedding friendors – which was sparked by being contacted by some very distraught brides – a contract will help make sure this doesn’t happen. Also make sure it outlines the expectation on when you can expect your wedding photos from them (the standard turnaround is 6-8 weeks after the wedding) and also the timing as to when they can put the camera away and enjoy it as a friend and not a photographer (which believe me, is two very different things!)
So there you have is loves, some thoughts and suggestions that I hope you find helpful! Please, if you are worried or have more questions – leave me a comment or question below. I mean it when I say, my heart will break if you get photos back from your Wedding that you don’t love, so I’m happy to help in any way I can!