Why You Should Hire a Professional Wedding Photographer

Jess and Matt dancing their first dance at their wedding.

Let's get straight to the point: weddings can be expensive.  I remember the anxiety I felt at every dollar sign around my wedding, and even as a photographer it was REALLY hard for me to come to terms with investing a substantial amount into photography while I was watching the other costs have their way with my bank account.  Let's not forget that I myself was a photographer! Not only did I know other photographers, I also had a good number of friends who had professional cameras that would gladly take photos at our wedding for WAY less than the photographers we'd found on theknot.com.  I'm not cheap by any means, but if you're finding it a bit financially daunting I completely get where you're coming from, trust me.  But I'll also be the first to admit that our biggest regret about the wedding day was not investing in a professional wedding photographer.  Here are my top 5 reasons why:

1.  Owning a high-end camera does not make someone a wedding photographer

If I bought a gavel it wouldn't make me a judge, and just because someone you know or are related to owns a camera it doesn't mean you should assume that they're any good at using it.  Ask yourself the following questions:
What happens if that camera or any of its parts suddenly stop working?  Do they have equipment and/or assistants to effectively light your venue the way you want to see in the final photos?  Do they have any experience at portrait, group, event, and candid photography?  

Amateurs don't know how to avoid or manage situations when they go sideways, and they inevitably do.  Professional wedding photographers are all prepared for each of those and so many other plausible scenarios, and more than that they're experienced and versatile.  Make sure you know what you're getting into before you take any chances.

2.  Not all photography is equal

We all know someone with a good camera who takes photos better than we do.  While that person may be good at portraits, sports, wildlife, or even may be a front-page published photojournalist like myself, that doesn't amount to a hill of beans.  Sure they know how to use a camera, but do they know anything about weddings?
Weddings are an entirely different animal than any other type of photography, and being a good photographer doesn't make you a good wedding photographer.  You have to navigate every possible lighting condition under the sun (or clouds, or stars...), adjust to and respect changing environments/cultures/traditions, and all while managing secondary shooter(s), assistants, and the subjects of the photos.
Let's not forget one other crucial detail: You can't miss a shot.  Whoever you hire had better be on their A-game, and let's face it: if you're just hiring a photographer or a friend who has never been tried by the fires of a wedding then you're risking it ALL.

3.  Commitment

Hiring a professional comes with legal obligation.  This is a person/organization who is commiting to your date and your vision and cannot walk away from the commitment.  They likely have second shooters and a whole network of contacts to act to ensure that your day goes off without a hitch come what may.  You need to be sure that you don't invest thousands into something and wind up let down by someone who may fall-through.

4. More than photography, you're paying for professionalism

You need someone who you can trust to lead you and those close to you, who also follows your lead.  Personal relationships tend to over extend and complicate professional interactions.  Regardless of their work, sometimes guests have difficulty respecting and following the lead of people they know personally because they don't recognize him or her as acting in a professional capacity.  Wedding days are all about maintaining a flow so that everything goes off without a hitch on time, you shouldn't have to worry about convincing your guests to take the photographer seriously.  
Also equally important, you shouldn't have to worry about hurt feelings when you give your photographer direction.  In my experience I've known many people to have difficulty giving their cousin/friends feedback because of their relationship, and they end up in some cases resenting them for how the wedding day was handled, or left with photography that they are unhappy with and feel like they have no option to direct the photos because they don't want to offend.  Professionals know how to marry your visions (pun intended), and how to manage your guests.

If you hire a professional the chances are by the end of the day you'll have a relationship, but if you hire an amateur, relative, or friend there's a chance that by the end of the day you may hurt your relationship.

5.  There's no going back

What's worse than the anxiety of uncertainty going into a wedding day?  The lifetime of regret you'll experience when you realize your photographer came up short.  Like my mother-in-law always says, "Buy quality and you'll only cry once."  There's no way around it, most of the time you get what you pay for.  But unlike buying a couch, a car, or a new house, you can't take it back or sell it and buy a new one.  You only have one wedding day.  Again, I'll say it: YOU ONLY HAVE ONE WEDDING DAY.  This isn't the time to experiment, or to take a chance on someone who hasn't put in thousands of professional working hours behind a lens.  These will be the photos that are hung all around your house and the houses of your family.  Sometimes people just need to shift their perspective and realize that wedding photography isn't a wedding cost, it's a lifetime investment that more than pays itself off if you take the professional route.

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