Andrew Wilkinson Photography - Cambridge and London based photographer | Ha! Wedding Photography Is Cheap And Easy.......aka Uncle Bob's Got A Good Camera!

Ha! Wedding Photography Is Cheap And Easy.......aka Uncle Bob's Got A Good Camera!

April 29, 2014  •  1 Comment

Ha! Wedding Photography Is Cheap And Easy......aka Uncle Bob's Got A Good Camera!

The principles of this apply to any type of photography.

As a professional photographer, I used to blow hot and cold about whether to enter into those discussions that set out to defend the professionals' position, while at the same time try to put off the wannabe amateur. Yes, all us pros have a living to make, and I can quite understand the irritation that is caused by many amateurs - irrespective of their standard - when they offer their services for low fees or for free or at all! Mind you, this could be said of any trade thanks to the emergence and growth of the DIY market, as well as the current 'good enough' - quite often low - quality benchmarks across very many industries and services.

Many professionals feel seriously undermined, because today, suddenly, everybody is now a 'photographer', evidenced by, such as, the growing plethera of Facebook 'photography' pages! Well, why not? Share the passion; enjoy the art.

In some ways I think the professionals need to grow up a little, realise their own confidence and differentiators and not feel so threatened. There's absolutely no reason why, if you provide a professional, high-quality service, for which you can (and need to) charge a proper, business-like fee, you shouldn't find work. It is out there.

For the couple whose wedding it is all they need to know - and they should convincingly assure themselves of this - is that the delivered photography service, the standard of images, at least meets their expectations, whether provided for free, cheap, average, or an expensive fee; whether delivered by an amateur or professional. For the avoidance of doubt an 'amateur' is simply a photographer who doesn't do it for a living, and a few of them are damned good!

What amateurs almost exclusively lack is experience and the ability to operate with the flow, anticipation and total certainty at the skill level of a pro for a 12 to 14 hour stretch! However, the pro should not be crying 'foul' if a client uses an amateur for their wedding day. The professional needs to market their service well, and know that in the greater scheme of things caveat emptor will always continue to exist. Sadly, caveat emptor seems to reside in the realm of hindsight!

For the pro, networking and marketing are key to this. I'd like to think that I've matured into a level of business that comes almost exclusively through referrals, rather than by the process of scrappy, competitive tendering, which always leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the unsuccessful. Believe you me, there is a great deal wrong in the world of competitive tendering itself, be it in photography or other services. Often like is not compared with like and simply results in not attaining value for money. In general, I would agree that you tend get what you pay for. The exceptions would be where high-calibre amateurs (with income from another source) offer their services for low fees or for free.

I had a fairly lengthy corporate life before professional photography, but had to start out somewhere. In the years leading up to 'going professional' those who asked me to photograph their weddings and events were prepared to take some risk, but had equally assured themselves that my capability would ultimately meet their expectations, even if it lacked a little finesse in the execution of the process. That capability came as a result of many, many years of photography experience, and there is no way in which that could ever have been instantly substituted by purchasing a high-spec camera!

Service attitude and the eye behind the lens are your primary pieces of kit. Cameras and all the photographic equipment that exists are only tools of a specification that will enable you to do your job successfully. Just as owning an expensive car does not make you a good driver, but if you are a rally driver, you'll need a rally car to match your standard. As a wedding photographer - amateur or pro - you really ought to have equiment with the minimum capabilities required to operate within the wedding environment, have back-up kit......and did I mention INSURANCE?

My first wedding as an amateur, indeed my first wedding as a professional, were both nerve-wracking affairs perhaps for different reasons. Having 'nerves' never really goes away with experience, but is transformed into a necessary 'competence under pressure' with adrenalin. Some of the obvious things that make wedding (as with event and sport) photography different from some other areas of photography e.g. products, portraits, is that it's:

  • a one-time opportunity only with absolutely no prospect of going back;
  • requires continual anticipation and the ability to adapt and change 'on the go';
  • your presence must be confident, calming, busy but discreet - 'swan-like' commanding and serene above the waterline, but as busy as hell beneath it!

Some of the aspects that makes professional photography different from amateur photography, include:

  • it's your living, your business, you need to charge enough to cover the cost of doing business, living and eating...;
  • the elements of photography that once made up 100% of your enjoyable passion diminish to about 10% overnight;
  • you become truly accountable;
  • it only appears to other people to be a glamorous career, but if it's for you, it'll be rewarding!

Anyway, going back to where I started this blog, I came across this interesting response (below) that a time-served professional wedding photographer gave to a question - or more of an appeal for help - by a wedding photography novice..."Photography is a hobby for me, and my friends want me to shoot their wedding. I have never shot a wedding before. I am very nervous to say the least!........" and there's more, but you see where they're coming from. I thought the response was realistic, fair and refreshingly encouraging and not the typical piece of 'keep out of my way you irritating amateur' that I often read about. Here it is:

"Hi, I am a long-time professional Wedding Photographer and will try to give you some straight forward advice.

Friends and family do not have a clue what it takes to shoot a wedding. Most are the cell phone FaceBook/Twitter generation and honestly think it is that easy. Trust me, it isn't ALWAYS as easy as implied … because while a wedding may unfold at a leisurely pace, it can suddenly become hectic due to unforeseen events that can happen simultaneously. This happens more than most think, and it can be unnerving even to a seasoned pro.

I know very good professional photographers that wouldn't shoot a wedding because of the stress and "no second chances" nature of it. So, it really depends on your personality and ability to deal with changing scenarios while smoothly working with people. Self-confidence is a necessary element. Never let them see you sweat : -)

The second aspect of dealing with friends and family, is that they are very accommodating to your level of expertise based on work you've done to date, but ALWAYS will have high expectations after the fact. They expect their photos to come out regardless of what natural lighting (or lack of it) you may face, or what interruptions, or surprises may ensue that day. 

You can go to the venue at approximately the same time of day to check the available lighting, and show up on the day to an overcast sky or rain that eliminates that ambient in a church or other venue with windows. Indoor venues may look good, until the DJ lowers the light for the first dance, and even ISO 6400 produces too slow of a shutter speed for ambient motion shots.

Not many wedding photographers work strictly with ambient … making use and knowledge of flash a mandatory skill that doesn't kill the ambience. To be responsible, that means two speed-lights in case one fails. So, you have to ask yourself, do you want to secure two flashes and practice with them until comfortable using them to good effect in various lighting situations?

If you are, then go for it. Practice, practice, practice. Then practice some more. 

Here is just one for instance EVERY wedding photographer is expected to get:

The processionals are underway. If indoors, most officiants will allow flash until the actual ceremony begins. The Bride enters on the arm of her father. As they approach you, you MUST get this classic shot and may only have two to three chances depending on the length of the approach, often only one where they are close enough. Practice this shot at home over and over … it'll build your confidence to capture most other expected shots.

Most religious institutions have set rules, and it is important to find out what they are before the wedding day. Almost every one of them doNOT allow flash once the ceremony starts. If it is dark in the church, etc, you may not be able to h
and-hold at a reasonable ISO … do you have a tripod or monopod?"

The Techi Bit

  • Give your wedding story a context - shoot wide for setting, close for expression and detail

  • Be fairly consistent with depth of field for a better 'album' appearance to your images

  • Back-up equipment as good as your primary equipment - what more is there to say?

  • If you're not spent right out by the end of the day, when the band is packing up, then ask yourself why not!


I hope you have enjoyed at least a little of this blog. If you have any photography requirements - weddings, events, corporate, head shots, parties, products, and more, please contact me or give me a call and I'll be more than happy to have a no-obligation chat with you.

Hope you enjoy the slideshow! .....and best to see it in full screen mode.



Keith Brander(non-registered)
Dear Andrew, I think you wedding photos are wonderful and have recommended you to a nephew who is getting married in June.
When I was asked (by his sister) to take photos at her wedding I was reluctant and looked for advice (on google of course). I found a great list which started: 1. hire a pro 2. lower expectations etc.
In fact the main reason that I agreed to do it was because of bad experiences with professional photographers at other family weddings. The best (my daughter's wedding) produced prints that we enjoy looking at every day on our walls. The worst we binned.
The photos you took at the Cambridge Early Music Summer School were also excellent and I've just been looking at some to remind me of why I want to go back there.
No comments posted.

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