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My friend offered to Photograph my wedding - FOR FREE! (Or as a gift)

Ok, so we all know that weddings cost allot of money. And more times than not, it's the bride and groom fitting the bills for allot of the wedding expenses these days. So when you have a friend who either dabbles in photography as a hobbyist or runs a photography company and does mainly family style portraits, and offers to cover your photography needs for your wedding day, why not, right?

I mean, they have a DSLR, they seem to know how to use it. They've done your family photo's a few times. So seriously, why not let them give you this gift, it'll save you tons of money!

And who doesn't like FREE right? And how thoughtful of a friend to be willing to do such a huge task for you!

Well, I'm here give you some thoughts, before jumping the gun on that FREE offer.

But before I do. I want to post some disclaimers. This post, by no means, is to cause strife with those that are just starting out. We've all been there. All of us professional wedding photogs had to start somewhere... and more than likely it was a friend or family members wedding that we did as a 'gift' once too. And if you have a friend who's willing to let you learn on their wedding day. Jump on it! But please, PLEASE prepare properly with equipment, getting to know it, and planning your day out. Don't just go in thinking that you're going to click a shutter button, edit them and get it turned around. SO MUCH MORE goes into someones wedding. Treat it as you would want YOUR wedding day treated.

I started with a friends wedding. She gave me the opportunity to capture her special day. It was the bug that bit me! And I realized I WANTED to be a wedding photographer. I found a new passion in photography, and it's never left me... in 6 (almost 7) years, it's never left me. It's only grown with each wedding that I do. I can find something that grabs me multiple times throughout the day of a wedding while I'm working it. Weddings are a passion of mine.

So, with that being said here are some tips, and questions to ask your self about the offer of free or gifted wedding photography:

How long has my friend/family member been using their DSLR? And will they have enough experience on it once my wedding is here? Maybe they just got it. And your wedding is 9 months away. Will they know it enough by then? Being comfortable with your camera and knowing the proper settings is crucial in wedding photography. You need to be quick!

Do they have the right equipment? To properly cover a wedding they'll need (at minimum) a portrait styled lens (typically a 24-70mm or a prime that's a 35mm, 50mm or 85mm lens) a zoom lens (usually around 70-200mm). Their are more 'quality' type things in the way of lens quality that I could dive into here.... but I'll hold out for a later posting for that ;o) Just trust that they need at least two lenses of decent quality.

They'll also need (at the very least) a speedlight (aka flash) for those low light situations often found during the reception. Now granted yes, if someone knows their camera enough they could possibly get away with no flash, by adjusting settings. But they'd need to have a higher quality DSLR to do so.

Yes, they have the right equipment! Fantastic! Now, do they know how to use it properly? Do they understand that shutter speed and the speed of their flash need to work together? Do they understand that a certain lens and focal length needs to be used to get that pretty ring shot?

Do they have post editing software? It could be, at the very least, Photoshop Elements. And they need to know the basics about it. Knowing how to make adjustments to the photo's that didn't quite turn out right with the lighting. Or that the color is a bit off because their was florescent lighting. Or they had the ISO cranked to try to get it lit properly cause they didn't have a flash.

Do you think they can handle the hustle and bustle of the wedding day? Weddings are stressful! Period. Now apply the pressure of a once in a lifetime moment that you can only get ONCE. Add to the fact that everyone freaks out over small things. Does this person have the personality for wedding day photography? Keeping to a timeline, Keeping everyone else on a time line. Making sure that they get all of the shots that you want. And not missing any super important moments (Rings on the fingers during the ceremony, the first kiss as a married couple, first dance, bouquet toss, garter toss, etc) The person behind the lens matters as much as the equipment its self. You can get an amazing shot these days with a cell phone... but its the person working the device that has more to do with the shot than the device it's self.

Do you have full confidence in your friend or family member that they will be able to tell your wedding day story the way that you want it told in pictures for generations to come?

Now, if you answered yes to all of these. Awesome! You've just scored your self a FREE photographer for your wedding day!

But, if you answered NO or are even unsure to even ONE of the questions above. At the very least, hire a professional photographer that you feel confident in to capture your ceremony and your formals at the very least. And Let your friend or family member capturing the rest, finding a balance to it all.

This is your wedding day. An incredibly special moment and milestone in your life. You want to entrust it to a professional for the heavy hitter moments. (ceremony & formals) They're skilled in this department. They have the knowledge and equipment to capture it, the way that it's meant to be captured and frozen in time.

Now, say you have a friend who wants to break into weddings. If you feel that they could be up for the job, give them the shot! Absolutely. But be prepared that they might not hit the ball out of the park (so to speak....)

I'll admit. I sure didn't hit it out of the park for my first wedding. Even with the amount of preparation I did on my own. I missed things, my lighting wasn't all that great. But you know what I did do before my second wedding? I started educating my self. Reading online, doing online classes, talking to others in the industry. Sadly I was never able to find a 'mentor' in this area of photography early on. But I make sure to offer that to others now being an established wedding photographer. I don't want another up and coming photographer to feel the way that I felt back in the day.

A quick story. Flash back to a couple of years back. I had a bride and groom that were talking to me about taking care of their photography for their wedding day. Their Aunt offered to take care of their photos for free. Their aunt had quite a bit of experience. She had a DSLR and a decent one that had a higher range for low lighting. She also had a flash. So, they let me go and went with her.

Fair enough. I total understood.

Fast forward a year later. She contacts me for family photo's. During our session she talks about her wedding and the awful pictures that her aunt gave her and how she hasn't printed even one for her wall, cause she doesn't like them. (I'm sure they weren't all awful... these were her words, not mine....) Guess what, we re-did them. She got her hair and makeup done, got flowers, and her husband rented a tux so we could re-create what she wish she had in the first place. And now a large gallery canvas sits in her living room of her and her husband on their 'wedding day'..... taken over a year later.

So maybe, have your uncle 'Bob', aunt 'Martha' or friend contact me, and see about getting some education before taking on your wedding. I'm happy to teach some basics.

Kate Ragsdale, Owner & Photographer of Rags Photography

Kate Ragsdale

Owner/Photographer of Rags Photography, LLC

You can find Rags Photography on Instagram and Facebook.


Next blog post: Reasons to Hire a Professional

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