There are hundreds, if not thousands of articles all over the internet that tell you that you should not, under any circumstances have a friend photograph your wedding. Usually the angle is that it’s a once in a lifetime event and therefore you should book a professional. Someone who knows what they’re doing. It’s a fair enough point. But photography is one of those funny things. One of those things that for some reason everyone seems to think that they can do. Like writing, for example. Everyone thinks they could be a writer. But owning a pen and having previous experience writing GCSE essays does not make you a professional author.
Like writing though, photography isn’t something you can just “do” simply because you own a camera. Well you can do it, but how successfully is another matter. There’s a whole skillset involved. One that tends to come with experience and knowing your equipment beyond a hobbyist level. Then there are other things to consider too such as talent and creativity.
Having a friend shoot your wedding Vs shooting a friends wedding.
We’ve had a few of enquiries over the years from couples who go on to say that actually a friend has offered to shoot their photos as a wedding present. We’ve had couples book us and then cancel at a moments notice because actually, a friend with a nice camera will do it for free or cheaper than we can offer. Sometimes the couples are happy with the results. Other times they’re devastated.
But what about when your friend is a professional wedding photographer? And by professional I don’t just mean someone who owns a DSLR and has a facebook page. I don’t mean someone that photographs ducks over the park or nightclub events with a kit lens. I mean an actual, proper wedding photographer who does the job full time and makes a good income from their work. What are the risks here? Are there any risks- or any more than if you’d just found a photographer on google?
Sure enough you’ll also find lots of cautionary tales online warning you against working for friends. The general consensus being that it’s a risky move for the friendship. What if the couple don’t like the photos, or what if something goes wrong? In that case you’ve not just got a professional problem on your hands, but you’ve potentially also damaged a friendship beyond repair too. There’s also the argument that maybe you should be at the wedding rather than photographing it.
There is no right answer.
I think the honest answer here is that there are no right answers. Every friendship dynamic is different. Only you will know the ins and outs of your relationship and whether based on that, you’d be confident shooting the wedding. I have friends who I love dearly, but I would never want to shoot their weddings if I was asked. Why? Because I know that their personal preference regarding photography style doesn’t match our work. I have friends who’s weddings I would not shoot because although they’re an amazing friend I know they’re not the right client for us.
I think the key thing, no matter what, is honesty. Loving and respecting someone means being honest with them. So if you’re not the right person for the job, convey that to them. Ultimately you wont just be doing an injustice to your friend, but also to yourself too.
Your gut may be saying “HELL NO” because you know they are going to want 101 cheesy poses and a 342 group photos but there’s a loving and tactful way to say it. ” *Friends name*, I love you and I am so honoured that you’d trust me with such an important task, but I’m not the right person for the job. You need someone who works in *such a way* whereas my work is more *style*. I would never be able to do justice to the vision you have in mind for your photos as my approach is so different. I want the absolute best for you and I would love to help you find someone who’s on the same page as you when it comes to photography. It’ll be so much fun looking and researching together. Shall we make an evening of it?”
But what if you’re actually thinking about doing it? What if you actually think your friends style and your style totally click? Is that possible? Can you really photograph a friends wedding and it be a success? HELL YES IT CAN!
The reality of shooting a friends wedding.
Going against all advice, we have photographed the weddings of several friends over the years. Everything from passing acquaintances and ex-work colleagues through to high school best friends and fellow industry professionals. These weddings have been some of the most fun, emotive and rewarding weddings we have ever photographed.
One of the best things about working for friends is already knowing (to an extent) the family and the friendship group. So you aren’t having to work extra hard to build those relationships and connections on the day. You can slip in somewhat seamlessly and you tend to find there’s already that level of trust. Whether someone knows your work or not, knowing your face tends to be enough to relax people. Even shy aunties who’d otherwise shun a camera relax a little more when they know you’re so and so’s friend. It’s as if all pressure is removed on their part and they no longer feel the need to “perform” as such.
Having an emotional connection.
Similarly, having that emotional connection with the couple and prior knowledge means that you have a deeper level of understanding about what’s important to them. You know that any mention of mum for example is going to be a real tear jerker, because you know mum isn’t around anymore. You know what’s coming when the best man starts reciting a story about the groom. That medal on the side isn’t just a medal on the side, you know it’s an heirloom passed down by grandad who’s recently passed away. Little things really. But little things that maybe help pull the story together that bit more.
It’s always an honour shooting a wedding and no matter what, you’ll always do your very best for a couple. You’ll always strive to build those relationships and work as an insider, whilst still being very much an outsider. It’s always an honour to be a guest too. To be invited to share in one of the most important days in a couples life. Can you ever truly be both guest and photographer though, especially for a good friend?
The Jury is still out…
The jury is out. My heart screams absolutely, my head says no. When you shoot a wedding you must be completely, 100% a photographer first. If you aren’t able to do that, you wont be doing your friends day justice. You need to be able approach and shoot a day just like you would at any other time. You mustn’t get caught up chatting and eating and doing guest things. Even if your friend says that’s what they want. Pick your moments. There may be an appropriate time to do so, but photographer hat on first. You can be emotionally invested in a ceremony or set of speeches and still shoot it well. Listen with open ears and an open heart and allow it to help with the way you document the occasion. So yes, you can do both. But you cannot be equal parts equal parts photographer all of the time. In my experience (and opinion) at least.
The images you see throughout this post are just a handful of the real weddings we have photographed over the years for friends. We can’t thank them enough for allowing us to play such a big part in their day. Being able to share with you all such a beautiful celebration and capture it for you is an honour. I hope we did you all proud.
Photos: Sam & Louise Photography
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