Why hire a pro wedding photographer when everyone has a camera phone?

This subject has been covered countless times, several times by me in a previous incarnation as Under the Vintage Veil and by many other established wedding bloggers.

This is perhaps the most compelling argument I could think of to invest a good portion of your wedding budget into professional photography. I get asked a lot what the difference is between pro photography and snaps by your friends – I mean, both capture the moment, right? I’ve never quite had the words to explain it, so I thought by putting the images side by side it might better illustrate my point, how both have their place, but neither can replace the other.

The below pictures are from our August 2012 wedding. On the left are the pictures taken by my friends and family on their camera phones and digital cameras. On the right are professional images of the same moments but taken by a working photographer.

Just to be clear, I am so glad my friends were there to supplement the photography – they captured moments that I am so grateful to have recorded. The reason I am showing you these photos side by side is not to devalue these wonderful contributions, which are so very precious to me and taken with so much heart, but to illustrate the difference between a party snap with a camera or smart phone and a professional photograph taken by an expert with the right training, experience, kit and editing – and to tell you that you absolutely can have the best of both worlds.

All pro images (on the right) are copyright of Satureyes

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Let your friends enjoy your wedding as guests and without pressure

First of all, your friends and family are there to enjoy your wedding, not to be responsible for capturing every moment. If they happen to get some images, which they probably will in the age of smart phones, then great, but it’s quite another matter to expect one, or all, of them to be your official photographers. Let them be in the moment, instead of being in charge of preserving them.

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Nobody expects your friends to be professionals

Your friends don’t have the years of training and experience in shooting weddings to know which moments to look out for, where to position themselves to grab the best possible shots or how to get them in an unobtrusive way – and nor should they, unless it’s their job!

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Your friends won’t want to get up in your face

Your friends will take pictures from a distance. For the most part, they’re not going to have powerful zoom lenses on their smart phones and they certainly won’t want to come butt their heads, and their phones, in while you’re smooching on the dance floor or saying your vows. Think of a professional photographer as an access-all-areas type, someone who won’t be told off for taking pictures, who won’t be too shy to take pictures of strangers and who doesn’t have pre-existing relationships with people who will tell them to sod off for getting too snap happy!

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Your friends don’t have expensive kit

Unless you’re a real genius, smart phones just won’t hold up in poor lighting. Your friends don’t have hundreds, even thousands of pounds invested in fantastic kit, low light lenses, tripods, great cameras etc. and even if they did, they would need to learn to use them.

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You can have the best of both worlds

Your friends and family know you best. No matter what the difference in quality etc. the images my friends and family produced have heart. But hiring a professional photographer does not preclude them from taking their own pictures – you can, and should, have both!

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No matter how wonderful your friends’ images are, don’t leave them battling low lighting, fast-moving celebrations and post-event editing. Take a load off your mind and hire a professional photographer – you won’t regret it!

13 Comments on Why hire a pro wedding photographer when everyone has a camera phone?

  1. Rick
    January 4, 2014 at 7:41 pm (3 years ago)

    I agree- it’s wonderful that phones and simple point and shoot cameras have made photography accessible to a load more people – and sometimes you do get a gem of a shot that the photographer missed.

    What’s important – is that the friends and family don’t actually ruin shots by flashing away during a time when the pro is working – because that is most unhelpful.

    Perhaps you could make an announcement before the key parts of the day – let the crowd know that you want them to enjoy the ceremony and politely ask for them to put their phones away.

    Another thing to consider is that these unofficial shots will almost certainly end up on social media – and the bride and groom won’t have much say before they hit the internet – so if you want to control what people see of your big day (and most brides do) then this is also something to think about.

    Much love,

    Rick

    Reply
    • Sara - Darling Lovely Life editor
      January 4, 2014 at 7:45 pm (3 years ago)

      Great points well made! I think these are all really vital things to consider – the last thing you want is an obstruction to your pro photos. I was really laid back about social media when it came to family and friends but much more careful about being the first to show off the pro shots because I really wanted to blog those ;)

      Thanks for the comment (and the lifetime of memories, maestro) xx

      Reply
  2. Lizzi
    January 4, 2014 at 8:05 pm (3 years ago)

    We have these conversations all the time – which is why we offer test shoots prior to a booking so our couples can really see the difference between professional photos and snaps. As you say, there is room for both but pro pics pop in a way that smartphone camera pics just don’t! That said, we’re offering smartphone camera courses to address exactly how to get the best out of your camera phone in these circumstances!

    Reply
    • Sara - Darling Lovely Life editor
      January 4, 2014 at 8:12 pm (3 years ago)

      I think putting them side by side you can completely understand the difference. They both have their place, but neither can replace the other. And great idea with the smart phone course! x

      Reply
  3. Paula
    January 4, 2014 at 9:27 pm (3 years ago)

    Great post! As a wedding photographer, another point I’d like to add is that when images are displayed online they only need to be low quality to look “OK” but if you print those same images they can look terrible.
    What might look a nice snap on Facebook could be a waste of money when enlarged to put on your lounge wall.

    Very few people ever compare them side to side like this. One of things I sometimes hear from couples is that they want a pro photographer for the “important parts” of the day but they will take their chances on friends photos for the evening do – that’s basically kissing goodbye to any decent photos unless you have a brightly lit summer wedding!

    Reply
  4. Jo @ SO-Jewellery
    January 5, 2014 at 2:21 pm (3 years ago)

    I completely agree. To me, photos are the only real thing you will have to look back and remember your wedding day for the rest of your life – apart from your spouse of course. As they are such a huge token and of course can be treasured forever, I would thoroughly recommend couples invest as much of their budget as they can to get the right photographer for them. My wedding pictures are nice and everybody else says how lovely they are but 7 years on I really wish I had spent the extra money and chose with my heart not my budget conscious head.

    Friends snaps are lovely but certainly can not replace a professional photographer at your wedding. Great post, well put, as always Sara :)

    Reply
  5. Rob Harris
    January 6, 2014 at 9:50 am (3 years ago)

    As a professional wedding photographer I couldn’t agree more and have written a similar article on my own blog to try and educate couples about the dangers of relying on friends and family with smart phones, tablets and the ever enthusiastic ‘Uncle Bob’ with his brand new D-SLR and kit lens.

    One of the points I like to make, not yet covered, is that a professional won’t miss any shots for reason of being away from the action drunk at the bar!

    Reply
  6. Dilip
    January 6, 2014 at 4:20 pm (3 years ago)

    Great comments
    I’ve heard that phone cameras, consumer and pro cameras are very similar IF the ‘scene’ is stationary, the light is good and luck is on your side.

    At a church wedding you’ve got to be very, very lucky to get a good result but, at least the vicar is on your side even if the pro has been banned from taking photos!

    Reply
    • Rob Harris
      January 7, 2014 at 10:26 am (3 years ago)

      A fundamental problem with camera phones, tablets and non SLR cameras is Shutter Lag. You’re right that many other features can be similar in the right situation but shutter lag often means that the moment you want to capture has passed by the time your camera actually reacts.

      Reply
  7. Sandy - Bath Weddings
    January 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm (3 years ago)

    This is great, I might send this link to some clients. I often try to encourage people to suggest ‘unplugged’ weddings to their guests. How many times have you taken a walking down the aisle shot and there is nothing but camera phones and iPads lining the aisle? I think guests will enjoy the wedding more if they don’t watch it through their tiny screen.

    Reply
  8. Sara
    January 28, 2014 at 9:07 am (3 years ago)

    I have just stumbled across this while looking at prices to hire digital cameras. Although now I may have changed my mind. Seeing the photos side by side and reading your points really has given me food for thought.
    So far the cheapest quote for a photographer I have been given is £695, which is for half the day. It’s not ideal for our tight budget and maybe I should shop around a bit more. It certainly seems worth it. And these comments have confirmed that the guest should be relaxed and not worried about capturing a moment.
    Really helpful and informative………anyone got any spare cash?!?

    Reply
  9. Sarah Hannam
    February 12, 2014 at 3:36 pm (3 years ago)

    A great post and I love seeing the amateur & pro shots side by side. I’m a wedding photographer and always sigh a little when the odd prospective client decides to go cheap with Uncle Bob and his new £500 camera, as anyone but pro photographers knows that £500 on a camera body is nothing. I think that with guests having cameras, they can take the personal candids, but that the professional photographer is there for the moments and well, the professional looking shots, with their knowledge and experience of how to deal with the various lighting situations. My bet is that Uncle Bob is also going to have his camera on full auto settings, which definitely isn’t going to yield the best pics.
    The thing that I always say to clients is that the value we place on photographs only comes to the fore when we might have lost them. After fire or flood, the one thing that most people try to save are their photographs. Therefore at something so important as a wedding, it’s imperative not to scrimp on the photography, because all that planning, the money spent on the dress, the venue, cars and cake will be forgotten if you don’t have decent photographs to remember it all by.

    Reply
  10. Greg
    October 10, 2014 at 8:23 am (3 years ago)

    Great post. Totally agree

    Reply

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