I recently received an email from a business associate, who had been contacted by a mother of the bride in a very real panic. Her arrangements for a photographer for her daughter's wedding had fallen through TWICE, and she was reaching out for advice. Names have been changed, obviously.
Mrs. Mom found a photographer, but hadn't put down a retainer to hold the date. Photographer #1 subsequently booked another wedding, and was no longer available. Mrs. Mom realized too late that the information regarding reserving the date was noted in the information packet received from Photographer #1. Okay, on to find a photographer, with the wedding date only a few months off.
In conversing about her dilemma with one of the ladies who had been lined up to help serve the food at the reception, she learned of a possible solution. Photographer #2 was definitely not a professional, but 'had a nice camera' and was willing to get paid to take pictures instead of serving food. Mrs. Mom tried to find out the identity of Hobby Photographer to talk with them, to find out pricing etc., but their response, through the mutual acquaintance, was 'Find out what they want to pay and I'll let you know.' They did reiterate that they did not have 'the big cameras' and that they'd taken photos only as a hobby. So, despite her chagrin at not being able to talk to Hobby Photographer directly, Mrs. Mom offered them $125 for the day's services, starting before the brief ceremony, and throughout the small reception, which worked out to about $40 per hour, according to Mrs. Mom's calculation. Hobby Photographer would then give Mrs. Mom the digital files, to do whatever she needed with them.
Hobby Photographer responded (through the mutual acquaintance) that she was not available to take pictures for that amount, and Mrs. Mom was again in panic mode. This is when she reached out to my colleague, wondering what in the world she had done wrong. Said colleague was bowled over by the entire scenario, and while being sensitive to the urgency of the situation (the wedding was now two weeks away) made a real effort to answer the questions posed. Mrs. Mom realized that Hobby Photographer was put off by her offer, but didn't understand why. She thought that $40 per hour was pretty good pay for someone to 'just take a few pictures'.
Wow. Had to let that one sink in for awhile. I don't know what the final outcome was for Mrs. Mom. I hope that she found someone to take pictures for her daughter's wedding, and I truly hope they were okay with whatever the results were. But it really got me to thinking... why would she be so willing to let someone completely unqualified take pictures on one of the most important days of her daughter's life?
Now, I understand that pictures are not as important to everyone as they are to me, personally, and I have to respect that. I don't understand it, but I respect it. Maybe their memory is better than mine. Maybe they're just not as sentimental as I am. I take pictures to preserve my memories, and the emotions accompanying the important and non-important events in my life. And, of course, I take pictures to document the important times in the lives of my clients... and am honored to do so. I do it because it's something that I'm pretty good at, and also because it's a way to help pay my bills. Everyone has to earn a living, and to be able to create beautiful photographs and be paid a fair wage for my creative work is a good thing, for me, for my household budget, and for my clients. I'll never be rich doing it, and that's okay. But I do have a 'happy price', and if someone isn't willing to pay me enough to make it worthwhile, I'm happy to stay home with my family.
It's not an easy job. No, it's not ditch-digging hard, but it is long hours of standing and being ever at the ready to capture those fleeting moments that occur throughout the wedding day, and reception night. It's several hours of preparation before the event, and approximately 40 to 80 hours afterwards, editing and polishing the results to get them ready for the wedding couple. It's investing easily tens of thousands of dollars in quality equipment (and backup equipment) and years of experience and continuing education to stay in touch with new technology and trends in photography in general, and weddings in particular. It's also missing family picnics, social gatherings, and turning down other events because I have a wedding booked that day. (But I knew that going in. It's part of the job.)
And, I think MOST of all, it's having an eye for capturing emotion. The tears glistening in a mom's eyes as she gazes at this beautiful young woman, who was an infant, a toddler, a mischievous little girl just months ago (it seems) and now is a stunning bride-to-be. The pride on the face of her Dad as he walks her down the aisle, choking back tears as he gives his precious daughter to this young man. You just know that he is hoping that her new husband will protect her tender heart with every bit of devotion that he has carried for her all of her life. The love in a couple's face as they gaze at one another with great love, great hope, and great anticipation for their future together.
Anybody can buy a camera, learn the nuts and bolts of photography, and go to endless seminars, trade shows, and bridal fairs. These things can be purchased or learned. Honestly, I believe that what makes the difference between a decent photographer, and a really GOOD photographer, is having that gift of seeing the emotion, and capturing it in the photos.
This is why you hire me, or another professional. Because your memories ARE precious. Because you ARE sentimental, and want to keep those emotions and memories fresh. Because, you want to be able to show your friends, your children, your grandchildren, the wonderful love you felt for each other on the important day that you joined your lives together forever.
And THAT is why I've chosen to be a wedding photographer.