The problem with weddings...

First of all, we all know that the 'net is full of horror stories about couples who booked a cheap/ amateur/ friend to take their wedding photos and suffered the consequences - just as there are some success stories. Let's be honest, there are some very talented amateur and semi-pro photographers out there, who deliver incredible work - didn't we all start out as an amateur before getting our standards high enough to be able to make some money from our camera? However, as a professional photographer who often receives the panicked calls from couples either asking if I can "...use photoshop to rescue some of our wedding photos" or step in at short notice as their 'photographer' has cancelled at the last minute, I have simply had enough and want to have my say. If you're a bride-to-be and are still looking around for your ideal photographer, all that I ask is that you do NOT base your decision solely on cost.
Now, we all know that price isn't always an indication of superior quality - but, generally, it should be a pretty good guide for what you should expect and the service you should receive. There are countless blogs and pages where pro photographers will happily tell you how much it costs them just to shoot your wedding (fuel and time for meetings, pre-wedding shoots, insurance, back-up equipment etc. - and that's BEFORE you've even exchanged vows!) - this isn't one of them. If you find yourself struggling to sleep tonight - google 'Wedding photographer expenses' or have a look here:
you won't be long in drifting off, I can assure you - don't we just LOVE telling people how much we spend on cameras, lenses, tripods etc.? Guess what? Other photographers want to hear that - brides don't!
What a bride wants to hear is that she is going to look amazing on her wedding day. She wants to feel as if the entire planet revolves around her from the instant she opens her eyes in the morning until she falls asleep in the arms of her new husband later that night. She wants to know that the person behind the camera is going to provide beautiful shots of her (and her dress!) with maybe a couple of nice ones with her beau thrown in for good measure. Am I right, girls? She wants to know that their hard-earned money is going to someone who can deliver jaw-dropping, first class images for her, and her family to cherish.
Now, whilst it's all to easy to read the newspaper stories about yet another unhappy couple taking their £200-ish 'wedding photographer' (can we just call them GWC's? let's face it - that's what they really are) to court because the shots were crap, what I'd like to share with you is the other side of the coin. No - that doesn't mean I'm going to sing the praises of using your mates' cousins' boyfriend who just bought a new camera (even though it's a great one - with loads of megapixels!) - it means I'm going to let you see what goes through the mind of the aforementioned GWC once they agree to shoot YOUR wedding. What you are about to read was posted on a photography forum back in May 2012, and clearly shows not really a lack of proper equipment (her camera and lens are both very high quality), but more importantly, the lack of knowledge and/ or skill (both of photographic technique and operation of their camera) - not to mention an amount of panic - with which this person prepared for someone's big day:

Next week I am shooting my first wedding. It is an outdoor wedding, aswell as the reception as far as i know. The wedding party has 7 people -including the bride and groom and there will be approximately 50 guests. i am glad its a small wedding but i am worried my equipment wont be good enough. I mainly use my 24-70mm L lens, i am relying on the for most of the day, but i feel like i will get better candid shots of the bride and wedding party if i have a good telephoto, i have a 55-250mm ef-s lens made for the crop body, i like it, but i feel like the quality wont be that great, and i'm sad the max aperture will be 5.6 when zoomed. do you think the difference between that lens and lets say a 70-200mm 2.8 L will be dramatic? I mean it is a silly question considering one lens is under 200dollars and the other is over 2000dollars hah. the only other lens i will have with me is my fixed 50mm 1.8. not sure if i will use it, but i am generally afraid of primes so i highly dout it. i also have a speedlight 430ex ii and cord for shooting off camera. another thing i am stressing about is memory. i have a 16gb card, but i am planning on shooting in raw+jpeg the entire day, and i dont want to worry about the memory situation, what do you think is typical for a full day of shooting raw? and is it possible to only shoot in raw and still get a preview on the lcd? i know i can find that one out myself but i figured i'd ask. oh p.s. i also have a battery grip on my 7D and a ton of batteries for my flash. i know nobody can really help me with posing the wedding party, so that is my main challenge...i hope they have patience. overall am i in good shape without the 70-200mm? or should i spend my own money to rent it?

You don't need to be a photographer to sense the fact that this GWC hasn't got a clue about what they're taking on! Granted, the main lens she is using is top drawer, but the equipment can only carry you so far - give me a Ferrari and sooner or later, I'll wrap it round a tree - much as I'd love the car, I don't have the skills to drive it like The Stig! "
i have a 55-250mm ef-s lens made for the crop body, i like it, but i feel like the quality wont be that great
i know nobody can really help me with posing the wedding party, so that is my main challenge...i hope they have patience"
Why, of course you can take your time! I'd have shedloads of patience on my wedding day for a happy-snapper who knows only one thing - that their lens isn't going to deliver good quality! It's not as though there's anything else you'd rather do than let someone use your big day to practice their photography - and take 200 bucks out of your pocket for the pleasure.

Now, you can imagine some of the support this GWC got from their kin on the forum - much words of encouragement from other wahoos who don't see the train-wreck fast approaching - not to mention the people with more experience and skills telling them not to do it, but still - read on...

i do have a tripod if i use it itll only be when posing the wedding party and not during the ceremony. its actually a cheap 27 dollar walmart targus tripod that i dont think i can trust with that much weight -_-
That's reassuring, isn't it?

One reply to that comment, followed by the GWC's response:
"I don't mean to be insulting, but.... wow..."
wow i have a ****ty tripod or wow i am set-up for failure?

Do you REALLY need to ask?

I find it interesting that you haven't shot in RAW, you have a Walmart tripod, have no clue how many photos you'll be able to take (memory), and yet you feel like you're ready to be a wedding photographer. I know that the equipment doesn't make a photographer a photographer, but it's the working knowledge of the equipment, and having equipment that can perform to the necessary levels you'll require it to in order to be successful. So I guess, IMHO, you're not necessarily set up for failure, but you're going to have a challenge ahead of you. What kind of lighting do you have for the wedding?'
The groom is my boyfriends boss, they are a young couple, the bride reached out to me on facebook -(where i post a lot of non-people shots) and well, i couldnt say no. she said she was looking for an amature or someone that is still learning. As for money she is paying me 200 dollars, and paying for a ferry ride to the island where the wedding is going to be held. but if for any reason i decide to stay the night, i am going to be negative money pretty quickly, the ferry goes back before sunset, and since the wedding is on an island i thought it would be approporiate to get some photos of the couple on the i may stay the night and pay for a hotel aswell as my own ferry ticket back, i really dont want to miss out on anything you know? thank you for the compliment KirkS, i do have some experience, but not enough experience working with people to do weddings on my own. i was straightforward with the bride so i hope she doesnt expect more than what i am capable of. i have only recently been shooting in raw, which i feel stupid about. and i have had my 7D for roughly 5-6 weeks, so i havnt been using cf cards for very long which is why i only have one. i havnt never deleted so many photos in my life. if you cant tell i am pretty broke, my camera is the first expensive thing i have ever bought myself and its not even close to being paid off so i am trying to keep the spending to a minium. "
So, by her own admission, she doesn't have enough experience to shoot a wedding on her own - although, I'm sure the bride will be happy when she realises that the person behind the camera has only had her (very capable) camera for 5-6 weeks, wouldn't you? Admittedly, though, the bride is looking for an amateur, so you would hope that she's prepared for the potential pitfalls, wouldn't you?
The response to the question about her lighting was brilliant!

Are you saying to change my lighting by using my flash? i have a speedlite 430ex ii, and to be honest i dont feel 100% confident using it...i am always adding/subtracting power which is scary because that wastes a lot of valuable time

There are so many things in your first post that scare me, I'm not even sure where to begin.

This is going to be major fail. Good luck.
I posted this looking for advice, not negativity, but thank you for your opinion. highly appreciated. If you want to see my horrible shots be sure to stop by in a week or so 

Ah, well, at least she's being realistic now - even if she does ignore some common sense advice...

i know i shouldnt be going above and beyond for an acquaintance but i am also doing this for myself, i have so much learning to do, and it will expand my portfoilio to somewhere it hasnt been yet. this will be my only wedding this summer and if i feel confident in myself after maybe i will continue to do them on an understanding that i am still learning. i hope it goes well 
And This:
in my eyes i cannot fail though because my ultimate goal is to learn and this will all be a really great learning experience for me..
So, her 'learning experience' (or, as the bride & groom call it 'Our Wedding'!) has now been and gone...

i would get into detail about the mistakes i made but its just embarrassing

i wont be posting any photos just yet, i am having trouble opening/saving raw photos on my computer due to insufficient memory, but i am going to tackle that problem verrrry soon so i can get to work on them. i feel like i did okay, the white wedding dress was overexposed in many outdoor photos, i'm not sure at his point how fixable it is but i'm not super worried. also the best man was black i wasnt sure if i should stick to the spot meter and get lock it to his skin tone or use evaluative metering. so i kinda f'ed that up.

Oh, the bride's dress is overexposed? Who cares?!
So, there you have it - just one example of what your $200 (about £90?) wedding 'photographer' is thinking about in the run up to, and on the day of, your wedding...


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