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Cheap Wedding Pro or Free Photo Hobbyist?

We have a friend who is a fabulous photographer. It's not his career, but he has a BA in art, specializing in photography. We've seen his shots (none of weddings) and they are Fantastic! We are on a low budget, so if we hired someone, it would be for sub-$1K. I found someone in this price range, but I've been reading horror stories on the boards about "new" or "cheap" photographers and those who provide no direction. I've heard if they are in the low price range I want to pay, there's a reason for it.

Would I be making a mistake choosing my friend with no real wedding experience? Or, since he's good at photography, can I just give him a sampling of the kinds of shots I like and let his artistic ability carry him through his lack of experience with weddings? Would I be better off hiring the "pro" that I can afford? Any advice?

Re: Cheap Wedding Pro or Free Photo Hobbyist?

  • I would meet the pro and see what he's like in person (I believe in trusting your gut on vendors) and look at a lot of his pics, see if his style meshes with yours.

    I wouldn't necessarily rule out your friend. I have a friend who has taken photography classes though it isn't her career. She started out doing senior pics, family shoots and just recently shot her first e-session and wedding. It turned out fabulously! Every photographer, even the successful ones, had a "first wedding" they shot. If you like his style and trust him, I would check into using him, esp. if the pro doesn't pan out. Still have a contract written up and treat him like you would a professional photog you didn't know.

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  • Read about DIY and amateur photographers at apracticalwedding.com and in the book.

    We have a fairly-new professional for under $1,000 (though his 2012 prices are right at $1,000). We really liked his work and actually had a much bigger photography budget, though. So far, we just seem to have gotten lucky.

    If you go with the friend, I would educate yourselves and him as much as you can about wedding photography. I found a "wedding photographer's handbook" at at used bookstore, and it has been most helpful for me in understanding photography and thinking about the order of the day. It has long lists of must-take shots. I'm sure a large public library system will have something similar.

    The big thing with wedding photography is it's people, not things. My baby sister LOVES photography, and we didn't need anything fancy for our engagement photos, but she still refused to take them, because she doesn't photograph people.

    So, again, I'd learn about photographing people. Make sure your friend is excited about the idea.
  • Go with the pro. Rookie wedding photographers usually shadow or intern under another photographer and build up their reputation under them. You never know what you're going to get with a rookie photographer with little to no experience, and I've heard some awful stories about photos that just didn't come out right due to poor execution and vision on the photographers part. 
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