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Weddings are a spectacular event and mark the start of a life shared between two people. Those who shoot weddings know how to capture the moments and truly work for the photos that will make the bride and groom remember exactly how they felt on that special day. Being a photographer, whether you specifically shoot weddings or not, one of your friends or family members is bound to ask you to shoot their weddings. Should you really say yes?
There are many sides to this question, all of which need to be examined. Right off the bat it's probably a no, but there could be some exceptions. Why not?
- Is your friend asking you to shoot the wedding because they expect you to do it for free, or for a fraction of what wedding photographer charges? If so, the answer should be no.
- Are you an immediate family member of the bride or groom, or lifelong friends? If so, the answer should be no.
- If you aren't shooting the wedding, would you be asked to be part of the bride's maids or groomsmen? If so, then no.
- If you have limited or no real experience shooting weddings, your answer should be no.
These reasons to say no may sound kind of harsh, but here's the explanation behind it. There is nothing wrong with saving a few bucks here and there – weddings can be astoundingly expensive, however, a service is a service. Most wedding photographers book the majority of their gigs on a referral basis, start shooting at a deep discount for friends and family and you could be undercutting yourself!
Likewise, if you grew up with the bride or groom, or are an immediate family member and would normally be included in the wedding party, don't shoot the wedding. Shooting weddings is work – a lot of work. It requires you to be there from the time the bride is getting ready through to the end of the night, then several hours of post-production followed by print and book making.
Shooting a wedding is not the same as being in a wedding, or being a guest at a wedding. While you're there, you aren't enjoying and interacting with your friends and family in the same manner as a normal guest. Lastly, if you have never shot a wedding or have very little experience shooting weddings because it's not your niche, say no.
Shooting for friends and family often means higher expectations, cheaper prices and faster turnaround. It's also possible for friendships to be ruined, family members to stop talking to each other and overall, a huge headache.
What would make you say yes to shooting a wedding for a friend? Surprisingly, there are some valid reasons.
- They are a friend of a friend and while you may know some people there, chances are it will be just like any other wedding job.
- It's a shotgun style wedding that's being put together on a short notice with a small, selective number of guests. Help your friend out in this last minute crisis with their weddings.
- It's a destination wedding. If your friends are willing to foot the bill for travel and lodging, it's a nice way to get a free vacation plus earn some money out of the gig. Destination weddings usually have a very small wedding party and guest list so the stress level isn't always as high.
Regardless of your reason for saying yes, still go through the motions of a wedding photography gig and have the bride and groom sign a contract and understand this is still work. There is no sense in breaking up lifelong ties between friends because of a misunderstanding or expectations that weren't met because they weren't properly laid out.
Saying no can be equally hard, but let your friends know that you appreciate them thinking of you, however you'd really much rather attend as a guest. Most understand and actually appreciate the honesty.