Wedding Photography Pros versus Joes

Wedding Photography Pros versus Joes

Several times a year we get couples meeting us with stories of Uncle Joe and his “professional camera gear” and Joe’s offer to photograph their wedding for free.  But ask yourself: Can Uncle Joe really handle the job?


Weddings are expensive, and most couples getting married for the first time are young and just starting out.  So it seems to make sense to trim wedding costs whenever and where ever possible.  Enter: Uncle Joe and his passion for photography. While your favorite uncle may take breathtaking photos of his favorite feathered avian subjects, how many weddings has Uncle Joe photographed?

Romantic Joe Romantic Pro

One piece of advice that I’ve always given to friends and clients is to never have a family member photograph your wedding.  Why?  Because you love them!  While having your wedding photographed for free seems like a great idea, should anything go wrong or if Uncle Joe doesn’t capture the right moments or completely blows it, hard feelings can be tough to get over.  This is especially true since the memories you were counting on being immortalized in imagery aren’t there for you to enjoy, and will act as a reminder that Uncle Joe let you down on your wedding day.


A professional photographer is there to focus on the wedding, on capturing the day, not to watch you get married.   While you may feel some connection to your photographer, their emotions simply won’t get in the way.  They’ve done this before, countless times, and they know what you expect because you’ve had your meetings, discussed your personal style and your taste in photography, and they’ve worked with you to plan your wedding day.

First Dance Joe Photo First Dance Pro Photo

Now, back to the technical aspects of wedding photography.   While Uncle Joe may have shown you breathtaking photos of his favorite feathered friends or a stunning landscape at sunset, these are images that may have taken hours or even days on location to capture.  He may even have taken some really fun photos at your baby sister’s birthday party and did a fine job in the process.  But a wedding is entirely different.  A professional wedding photographer knows his camera, and is an expert at altering the camera’s settings moment by moment, and for both expected and unexpected lighting conditions.   They’ve trained for things like changing weather conditions, the difference in color temperature between the warmth of a sunset and the green light of fluorescent fixtures or the blue of a spot light on the dance floor.  For professional wedding photographers, their camera is an extension of their vision, and indeed of themselves.

Wedding Portrait Pro Wedding Portrait Joe

It isn’t just about posing your formal photographs, or creating intimacy for your romantic photos, or even about the technical aspects of professional photography.  Wedding photography requires that one KNOWS weddings inside and out.  From the lacing of the dress, to the pinning of the boutonniere, to Daddy kissing her on the cheek as he gives her away, wedding photography is all about timing.   There’s a pretty good chance that Uncle Joe may miss some of those moments because he either didn’t know where to be at that precise moment, or he became too choked up to take the photograph.  A wedding is like a ballet, and while each is unique in its own way, your wedding photographer has to know the steps that create each and every moment.

Getting Ready Pro Getting Ready Joe

So, while you may love Uncle Joe and while his gift of “free wedding photography” seems like a great idea, take some time to think about what I’ve said here.   I was once asked by my sister to photograph her wedding, and even though I have been a professional photographer for almost 30 years, I still said, “No.”   Instead, I paid one of my associates to do the job.  Why?  Because I love my sister, and I wanted her to keep loving me!    I knew that, despite having photographed over 2000 weddings in my career, I might still have been overcome by emotion.  And you know what?  I was.
Wedding Ring Pro Wedding Ring Joe


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