I overheard it again while waiting for my latte at my favourite local coffee shop. A very familiar statement: "Why book her... I have a friend* that will shoot my wedding** for a hundred bucks***."
*or coworker, uncle, aunt, cousin, friend-of-a-friend, stranger down the street
**family portraits, reunion
***or two hundred, or five hundred
I don't want to say that I cringe when I hear those conversations - I don't. I hear it often. I nod. I agree! I know wedding photography is expensive (I didn't get married that long ago), and I know that there are some great amateur photographers out there. I also know that, try as you might, you will not be able to recreate your images... it really is a one-shot deal. You will never be the same or feel the same as you do on that day.
So, the big question is: why book a Professional Photographer like me? What exactly do I offer that others don't?
(I don't want to preach about business ethics; therefore, this won't be a conversation about how any photographer arrives at their prices.)
If it's been said once, it's been said a hundred times - you get what you pay for. With more than 60 solo weddings under my belt you can be sure that I know what is coming next; from the ceremony, to the portraits (including dealing with difficult family dynamics and large bridal parties), to the breakdown of a reception. I can manoeuvre myself and gear quickly and confidently to adjust for unexpected events; I have the equipment and knowledge to make either the glaring sun or rainstorm produce the very best images for you.
It's not just about my experience as a photographer that sets me apart - it's also about the experience I try to provide for my clients. I want them to not only feel but KNOW that I am there for them 100% during their day. I want to make the best images possible, for them to feel and look like the superstars that they are. I'm always the one helping to suit up the men, making sure they have their boutonnieres on correctly (yes, there's a way!), the bride's hair is in place, the ring is on the right finger before going down the isle. I pride myself in the fact that I have been invited to witness so many beautiful people celebrating their love, and working behind the scenes to ensure everything is seamless is, I think, just part of my job. Photographer? Yes, but also stand-in florist, touch-upper, water-fetcher, counsellor, hand-holder-when-walking-on-the-beach-er and I love every minute of it. It really is my dream job.
Please see my clients' testimonials - if you'd like to speak with any of them, I would be happy to put you in touch with them directly so you can ask them personally about their experience. I have been very fortunate to work with beautiful couples and families that value my hard work.
A professional photographer has their own website (not just a Facebook page), a current blog, a phone number you can speak to them at. They will show you a full wedding from getting ready, to the details, to the ceremony, reception and beyond... not just the best five images.
A professional is just that: professional. No excuses. I arrive early, stay late, dress appropriately, make sure I'm well prepared and aim to exceed expectations every time. I carry a full arsenal of back-up equipment. I'm insured, backed-up, and bring everything we could possibly need (bobby-pins, deodorant, mints, safety pins... I'm that girl!).
It's so much more than just showing up and having a "fancy" camera. I work hard to compose images that focus on the couples, their emotion, the beauty of their surroundings, all while taking a technically correct image that doesn't require too much post-processing (learn more about that here).
The proof is in the pudding - here are just some examples of snapshots or other photographer's work versus my images at weddings. All images are shot on dSLRs with good lenses, in the same places with the same lighting conditions and surroundings. The images on the lefthand side are by an amateur photographer who shoots weddings for friends and family as a hobby; the righthand images are by me.
In the end, though, this isn't really about hiring me. I am only speaking from my own experiences as a Professional Photographer: and I am a professional not only through experience but through formal training as well.
If I may impart any wisdom, let it be this: please hire the best you can afford. It doesn't have to be me, although I would be flattered, of course. Please know that there is value in hiring a Professional Photographer and that your images will stand the test of time. You will walk away with timeless images that you will be proud to feature on a wall in your home and share with your family and friends. And you will come away from that session looking and feeling like the superstar that you are.