Industry News

An Open Response to What It Means to Be a Professional Wedding Photographer

April 15, 2014

By RF Staff

Couples face a balancing act when looking for the perfect wedding photographer, most simply between cost and esthetic. As we've seen time and time again in many realms of life, cost increases as quality goes up, and vice versa. This morning, PetaPixel contributor Cheri Frost wrote a lively response to a budget-saving suggestion made by wedding planner Francesco Bilotto on Good Morning America. The wedding planner's suggestion went as follows:

"Rethink your wedding photographer. 'The best thing to do is contact your local school—find somebody that wants to build a career with their skills,' Bilotto said. 'Nine out of 10 you’ll save $8,000 just paying for the cost of their camera, their developing and their time. You’ve made a college kid happy and you’ve got some great photos.'"

In response, Frost wrote, "Here’s the thing that I think Francesco might not understand: saving a few bucks by hiring some student from a local school who has little to no experience photographing weddings will most likely result in photographs that look like they were taken by some student from a local school who has little to no experience photographing weddings." Simply put, you get what you pay for—low cost, low quality.

The writer continues, "The people in our industry who do it well have spent years and years perfecting their craft. They know that when all is said and done—when the flowers have died and the cake has been eaten and the guests go home and the dress has been cleaned and boxed and put away—what a couple is left with are the photographs."

All in all, Frost's response is a positive testament to why professional wedding photographers are so important, and while we fundamentally agree with her thoughts, she does bring up an interesting point that's worth discussing.

On the one hand, we can all agree, for the couple's sake, that photographers shouldn't "practice wedding photography on an actual wedding," as Frost writes. Shooters with years and years of experience can generally be trusted to know the ins and outs of photographing a wedding, which, as wedding photographers know, isn't just about knowing how to shoot great-looking photos—it's shooting within the hectic and emotional setting of a once-in-a-lifetime ceremony, whose photos, unlike those coming from a staged photo shoot, can't be redone once the night is over. As Frost writes, "A bride and groom are not homework; they aren’t models, nor are they test subjects."

But on the other hand, photographers' ability to cover an event and cover it well doesn't always exclusively depend on their years of experience in the industry. Our annually nominated 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography, for example, wow us and our readers every year with their amazing work, and every one of them has been in business for less than five years. Take a look at some work from a couple of the 2013 Rising Stars below.


We chose this photo by 24-year-old wedding photographer Pat Furey, who started his business at 19 years old, for the cover of our November 2013 issue. © Pat Furey


© Pat Furey


© Pat Furey

This exceptionally well-timed and composed shot was taken by Logan Cole, 20, who began his business at age 17. © Logan Cole


© Logan Cole


© Logan Cole

© Logan Cole

While that doesn't mean they have less than five years of experience taking photographs period (nor does less than five years equate them to student status), they are certainly newer to the world of shooting weddings than those who've had longer to perfect their craft, and that is something truly remarkable. Why? Because this industry is unpredictable and exciting. We enjoy being equally delighted by the 20-something sharp-shooter with a fresh perspective who opened up shop two years ago and the hardworking veteran photographer who never checks out and continues to surprise the industry with his or her constantly evolving work. Both of those people could produce work with a high level of comparable quality.

So the lesson to brides and grooms? Don't just pass over photographers with less experience and skip to the veterans; do your homework. And photographers: don't let your years of experience define your quality of work or your drive to out-do yourself. We all know that this industry—from the f-stops and light metering to the balance between cost and esthetic—isn't always a perfect, mathematical equation.