It's a question that many couples consider - can "uncle Bob" photography my wedding? In case anyone recognises the person in the picture above - that is not what is going on there, but I will mention that later. In this article I am going to discuss the problems with having a family member photograph your wedding.
Reasons Why Couples Get Family to Photograph Their Wedding
There are a number of reasons that couples think that having someone in the family might be perfect to photograph a wedding. As weddings are extremely expensive, one of the main reasons is that they will often do it for free, or at least a low cost. A good professional wedding photographer should be charging £1000-£3000+ for wedding photography - I will go into this in this article.
The other big reason is that someone in the family likes to take photos, they may even offer to do it.
The final, but much rarer, reason for choosing someone in the family is that they are actually a professional photographer. They might give you a good discount, and you'd probably love to give them the business.
Why You Shouldn't Book Family to Photograph the Wedding
If you are considering the above reasons, you probably don't realise a lot of factors that should dissuade you from doing this.
Skill and Experience
The fact that you are considering a family member means they have probably taken some nice photos. But even as many very experienced photographers will tell you, unless you have experience as a wedding photographer, it is not something that comes lightly. Being able to delivery hundreds, or even thousands of stunning photos in some of the toughest conditions - where you only get one chance to get them - is something that comes with experience and a lot of training.
Do you know what you want to have from the wedding? Are you confident that you can deliver? Having a camera doesn't make you a wedding photographer! Which leads us on to equipment...
Spares Spares Spares! So first of all, wedding photography is hard work - not just on the photographer, but the equipment too. Cameras are sensitive equipment, and prone to breaking. I look after my kit - but they are my tools and I use them knowing I have spares. I also have a wide range of professional equipment, which is typically better built to last - any professional does.
More than just hardware - I have heard of photos being lost due to not having appropriate backups. I have also seen photos that are badly edited, partly because the photographer has neither the skills or the software to process them to a professional standard.
So, does your family member have the tools to provide you with the best images for the day?
Awkwardness of familiarity
I actually don't like working with people I have known for years. There's a certain relationship that a photographer can build between a couple that can make things work extremely well. My experience has shown that this can get overridden if the couple already have a familiar relationship with the photographer.
Being able to work with a crowd
Part of being a good wedding photographer is handling the crowds, whether for group shots or in a wide range of situations throughout the day. Will the relation be able to command the whole family? Will they listen?
Being in the photos
One that a friend of mine pointed out to me once was that if the family member is taking the photos, they won't be in any of the pictures! It's a good point!
Do you want your family member to have a busy, stressful and long day? Or do you want them to enjoy your wedding day? As a photographer they won't be able to drink, sit and relax or get involved with the festivities.
The biggest part of this is the lack of guarantees. With a professional photographer, it is their job and their livelihood. If you get a family member to do it, I really fear they don't meet expectations, or worse, and then you have to live with that.
What are your options?
This has seemed pretty blunt and harsh so far. It also isn't that helpful because the original reasons for using someone in your family are still there. So what can you do?
Get an up and coming photographer
If you are looking for a cheaper option, you can go for someone who is not as experienced, but will work hard as they are trying to build experience and a portfolio. But if I am honest, there are hundreds of them and it is hard to distinguish one from another. I know a lot of good up and coming photographers, so if you would like to discuss your budget so I can make a recommendation, I would be happy to do so.
Book a photographer that is happy to have a friend!
So, you have someone who wants to take photos at your wedding - tell them to bring a camera! I told you I would get back to the picture at the beginning! You don't want someone to get in the way of a pro photographer, but nice ones are used to working with people and happy to have fun with everyone, including people with their smart phones and cameras. I even wrote an article about smart phones at weddings. So why not talk to your photographer about people having cameras, or even having a family member as a second photographer.
Who on Earth is Uncle Bob?!
OK OK OK, I referenced Uncle Bob earlier, so who is he?! This subject is fairly common with professional photographers, because almost every wedding there is an uncle with an expensive camera who doesn't really know what they are doing but get in the way of shots etc. They have managed to get a few decent snaps in the past, whilst shooting on a camera on auto. They have a few drinks, get some blurry and badly exposed photos but a few nice ones of the kids. Occasionally Uncle Bob gets asked to photograph a wedding, and almost never fulfils the role. Don't book Uncle Bob, let him enjoy the day, and a few beers!