Uncle Bob = Actual Uncle, Aunt, Friend of the family.
Names and Locations in this article may be fictional, however, it is based on real and disastrous wedding photography horror stories.
I know… Ill hire my Uncle Bob as my wedding photographer!
I wish I had a £1 for every time I hear a bride or groom say “My Uncle Bob has a fantastic camera, he will shoot my wedding for free (or for little).” I honestly cringe every time I hear it. I used to say to myself “If you want to put your big day’s memories in the hands of an uncle/friend, go for it.” These days I try to educate potential brides and grooms to the potential pitfalls of doing this. Take a look at the feature image above for example… can Uncle Bob produce that?
Wedding photography may sound easy, but I can assure you it isn’t. Uncle Bob may have the latest and greatest camera (£2000-£5000) and a host of top spec lenses (2k-10k) but this means absolutely nothing. Ever hear the saying ‘All the gear and no idea!’ Uncle Bob is not a wedding photographer.
Let’s say Uncle Bob shoots with his top spec camera gear 2-3 times per week and shoots landscapes. Everything sounds good doesn’t it.
Let’s fast forward to the wedding and Uncle Bob arrives, he starts with photos of the venue, or at least I hope he does, after all you need some establishing photos to show where you are, after all you probably looked at numerous venues before setting you heart on ‘the one’.
He then moves inside and like most wedding venues, its pretty dim inside. Uncle Bob shoots on one of the assisted modes or even worse AUTO. The camera is only so smart.
Snapping away during the bride prep Uncle Bob quickly realises all his photos are turning out blurry as he is shooting in Aperture Priority mode which lets the camera decide the shutter speed, the camera is selecting a very slow shutter speed due to the lack of light in the room, causing moving subjects i.e. the bride, bridesmaids, make-up artist to become blurry.
He takes the camera out of Aperture priority mode and instead uses Shutter Priority and sets it to 1/200 which freezes the action. Great! Not really as the lens doesn’t have a fast aperture such as 1.2 or 1.4 to allow lots of light in the lens so the photos are still really dark. Uncle Bob decides to raise his ISO (Light sensitivity on the censor) to 12,800 and the photos now look perfect on the back of the camera.
Little does Uncle Bob know, all the photos will be super grainy and lack dynamic range and even have banding in the image.
NOTE: ISO 100 to 3200 is my usual acceptable range, lower the ISO the better quality the photo, as long as the exposure is correct. A professional wedding photographer can adjust to any lighting situation and produce wonderful wedding photographs.
Let’s use the scenario of a simple wedding and Uncle Bob arrives at the ceremony, puts on a zoom lens and rifles off 50-100 photos in high burst mode as the groom walks down the aisle to the alter. The only problem is Uncle Bob looks through them on the back of the camera and not one photo is in focus! His camera wasn’t setup for moving subjects. Uncle Bob then spends 5 minutes figuring out what to change ready for the bride walking down the Aisle, due to this he misses her arriving in the wedding car.
He fires away at the bride and the father-of-the-bride as they walk down the aisle, he hadn’t figured out the focus tracking and prays to the gods he gets one in focus. He doesn’t.
Uncle Bob’s zoom lens isn’t giving him the best light, so he heads to the bag for a different lens. At that moment the bride and groom share the 1st kiss. Uncle Bob missed it. Oh no.
Let’s put the ceremony in the rear view and move onto the family group shots at the reception. Uncle Bob directs everyone to a wide-open grassed area with views to die for, these pictures will be loved by everyone he thinks. He stages the 1stgroup and snaps the shot, looks at the back of the camera and the entire group looks like a silhouette, this is due to the camera exposing for the bright mid-day sun. At that moment his best laid plan is blown up in a blink of an eye as the heavens open and it pours down, and the wedding party run for cover indoors.
As Uncle Bob arrives into the venue and shakes of the rain water, the bride says let’s just do the photos inside! Eh… OK says Uncle Bob. We’re back to the problem he had earlier as the venue is dimly lit. Uncle Bob thinks no problem, I have a pop-up flash on my camera, and fires away at the groups. Every group shot is still dark as the pop up flash isn’t powerful enough.
Next up Uncle Bob only has 20 minutes to create beautiful couple portraits for the newlyweds as the wedding co-ordinator want’s to sit everyone down for the speeches and the wedding breakfast. Uncle Bob is now stuck inside with limited options and no creativity. I will let you imagine how these photos turn out. Not well.
After a very tiring day Uncle Bob gets home and takes out his 1 memory card from the camera.
NOTE: A professional wedding photographer will always have 2 cards in the camera as backup).
Let’s be nice and say Uncle Bobs memory card is fine so he puts it into his computer and takes off 4000-5000 JPEG images from the day. JPEGs not RAW images. OMG!
NOTE: A RAW Image allows the wedding photographer to edit the Image without losing any quality. A JPEG is already edited inside the camera so adjusting this flat file is very hard and will likely result in really poor-quality images. On average I shoot around 1500-2000 images per wedding and deliver around 600-1000. Quality over quantity, always.
Uncle Bob doesn’t have much technical ability so doesn’t edit the images to a professional wedding photographer standard and simply gives the bride and groom a DVD and 8 packets of boots prints. The bride and groom are so excited to relive their big day, they put the DVD in the player and play the images through the 50” TV on the wall. 50 photos into the 4000 the bride breaks down in tears as every photo is to dark, out of focus, blurry, overexposed with flash or simply not very good.
Granted this is a very extreme fictional case however all these outcomes are from real weddings that as a professional wedding photographer I hear about all the time. I have had so many bridesmaids tell me their horror stories from their weddings and wished they had known about me for their big day.
I even saved a wedding from disaster when I first started out, I was 2nd shooting a wedding as practice and just as well as the bride received her photos from the main photographer and lets just say ‘horrendous’. To this day she thanks me for my photos and the luck I was there. The other photographers photos were thrown in the bin.
So why does all this happen to poor Uncle Bob?
The bottom line is Uncle Bob has a lot of good professional gear (Unlikely, Very Unlikely), and whilst having experience shooting landscapes etc he doesn’t have the following…
- An ability to change settings at the drop of a pin to accommodate changing lighting conditions. A wedding photographer usually only has 1-2 seconds to adjust settings on the fly, any longer and the moment may have passed.
- Detailed knowledge of how his camera is reading light so that compensation can be made so that under/over exposing does not happen. Unless required artistically. A professional wedding photographer can rely on experience over camera readings.
- The experience of shooting 40-50 weddings per year and knowing exactly when a laugh will come, the kiss, where to stand, order of service and so much more.
- Backup equipment. Two of everything for those moments where the camera stops working, the flash dies, the lens falls and cracks the glass. Uncle Bob will be up the creak without a paddle here.
- Composition knowledge such as leading lines, foreground shoot throughs, framing and so much more. Angles and where to stand only come with experience too.
- A tireless work ethic to work 12 hours capturing every aspect of the wedding.
- A thorough understanding of Light. Light patterns, shaping, control, temperature and so much more. Throwing a flash on top of the camera doesn’t mean you understand lighting. It is a vast subject in itself. Luckily, I know what I am doing as you can see from all my award-winning Images.
- The experience and ability to communicate with large groups of guests professionally and with tact. Personality is a huge factor too. Read my reviews as a testament to how well I get on with all the guests, venue and of course the bride and groom.
- In-depth Knowledge of the camera system including focusing techniques.
- Professional Indemnity Insurance.
- Gear Insurance.
- Public Liability Insurance.
By no means is this list finished but we could be here all day, there is so much more that Uncle Bob would need to produce ‘Professional quality’ wedding photographs for 12 hours. Why not read; How to find the perfect wedding photographer.
I always say to my brides and grooms… In 20 years’ time you will have each other, your wedding rings and your wedding photographs. Please do not save the budget on photography, cut from elsewhere such as flowers, cakes etc. Things that last 1 day. I have had couples pay £300-£500 for LOVE letters and sweet carts but weren’t willing to pay a very reasonable £995 for amazing wedding photos. This makes no sense to me.
If you are looking for professional, high quality and creative imagery that will take your breath away and wow your friends and family you will need a professional wedding photographer. If not me, hire a professional not Uncle Bob.
Have you looked at the Imagery on my website and thought to yourself wow? I’ll get a print screen of that or pin it to Pinterest and show Uncle Bob and he can re-create it for me… All I will say is… Never Going To Happen!