So You Want to Have Your Friend Photograph Your Wedding?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/08/2022 - 10:33
San Francisco City Hall, Fun Wedding Photos by Juniper Spring

You know you’ve heard it from your friends who have gotten married, or maybe even thought it yourself as you look at wedding photography options: “I have a friend who takes pictures”  or “my uncle has a camera” or even “my bff is a photographer”. And here’s the thing – I’m not going to say it’s *wrong* to hire a friend to photograph your wedding. It’s even possible that your friend is, in fact, a wedding photographer and would do an awesome job. I have photographed the weddings of friends and family members, and it has worked out fine. But what I AM saying is that there are a number of minefields to navigate and things to think about if you’re considering going that route (even if I am the friend you’re considering hiring 😉 ). So below I have prepared for you a handy list of things to consider if you’re thinking about having a friend photograph your wedding.

San Jose Documentary, Wedding Photography, Wedding Photographer

1. HIRE someone to photograph your wedding.

What I mean is – even if the person who you are considering isn’t a professional wedding photographer, or any kind of professional photographer, or a professional *anything*, you should still go through the same processes with them as you would with any other vendor. Make sure there is a clear client – service provider relationship. Ideally, pay them money in exchange for their service unless they *explicitly* offer to shoot for free because they just love you oh so very much (maybe even then).

2. Have a contract.

I don’t care if it’s your grandma, or your best friend from college, or your sister or brother. Have a contract. What this forces you to do is to really establish that client-vendor relationship I mentioned above. It forces the conversation about expectations – what you want to get from them, what they need from you. It is a clear way to make sure no one is disappointed or surprised by anything after the fact.

3. Expectations.

Even if you are the most laid-back couple, you still have them. Dig deep within and you’ll find out what they are. Do you expect your photographer to deliver images to you after the wedding? BOOM, that’s an expectation! Do you expect they’ll do it in a certain time frame? There’s another one! How many photos? And what style? And is there a point during the wedding when they should ditch the camera and join in the fun? Most people have a hard time knowing their own expectations, let alone articulating them clearly (this is why I ask my clients so many questions!) but it is even harder to do with a friend. You might get together to talk about photography and end up chatting about the wedding instead and never fully articulate what you want. And if you don’t tell them what you want, they can’t be sure they can give you that. And then there could be tension in the friendship if your expectations go unmet.

4. Let’s back track a bit and talk about photographing weddings for a bit.

It doesn’t get said enough – photographing weddings is *hard*. And it is different from any other kind of photography. Your lighting situations change at the drop of a hat, your subjects move, you have to be multiple places at once and pay attention and engage and anticipate important moments. There’s a reason professionals charge top dollar for this service. It takes high technical skill, social know-how, an artistic eye, a professional demeanor, and physical stamina. So I’m not saying your friend who is a pet photographer can’t photograph your wedding. I’m just saying – don’t necessarily expect that they can.

5. Finally – LOOK AT THEIR WORK.

This seems obvious, but I hear a lot of people assuming that photos are photos and it’s all kind of the same, and that’s not true. Make sure that their style is the style you want. Make sure you can envision yourselves in their photos, and that you would be happy receiving those photos as your own. Don’t assume they can do something that they haven’t shown or done. If your wedding is in a dark barn with bistro lights and they’ve only ever photographed in the daylight – that could be a huge problem!

What I’m ultimately wanting to prevent is disappointment. I have heard SO many tragic stories of ruined photos and even ruined friendships because there were assumptions made and clear boundaries were not drawn. I started my career by photographing a friend’s wedding, *for free*. I had never shot a wedding before, I hadn’t even so much as assisted or second-shot. But here’s the thing – I was up front about that. I told them I know nothing, and can guarantee nothing, and you should be 100% ok with that and I need that in writing. Only then would I agree to do it. And I did a good job and we are all still friends and I now have a career I adore. But I have heard many many stories that went differently, and I want to save as many people as I can from the heart ache of that! If you’ve made it this far, you deserve some eye candy, so here are some photos from weddings of friends and relatives I have photographed :).