Professional Wedding Photographer vs Professional Photographer

Is the professional photographer photographing your wedding, a professional wedding photographer?

Every now and again, we hear back from a potential client about how much they love our work and really had wanted to hire us, but they received an offer from a close friend that they could not refuse. The friend, as we’re told, “is a ‘professional photographer’, and wow(!) has offered to do our wedding photography for free!!” How could we say no? One question: are they a professional wedding photographer?

professional wedding photographer

A quiet and beautiful moment. Solitude, romance, great light, perfect location. All orchestrated carefully by the professional wedding photographer in just a few minutes time. Does the photographer friend have the experience with weddings to know how to do all this?

Let’s think this through for a moment. This could be a good thing. But, not always. Most often, in fact, it is a recipe for disappointment. So, when is it good? It’s pretty much all good when the photographer friend is actually a full-time professional WEDDING photographer-but even so, there are still caveats. Only a really good and very experienced wedding photographer will completely understand the flow of the day; how to manage the timing of the entire day smoothly; know how to get those many combinations of family formals completed in 15 minutes or less; are able to anticipate the correct moment to capture the true emotion; and will photograph your wedding with all the best, most effective, least time-consuming, and most unobtrusive approaches. Not to mention a pro will instinctively know what to do when things get tough. With no disrespect whatsoever to photographers in other areas of speciality, it truly is vital that the photographer on wedding day actually be a WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER. It helps make sense of this when you consider that the specialities in photography exist for the same reasons as they do in other professional realms, such as in law practice, physicians, engineers…you know what we mean. You don’t go to a foot doctor to help you with a digestive issue. There are good reasons for having an area of specialty regardless of the profession. And, with wedding photography, there’s no going back; there’s just that one chance.

What about the other caveats? These are some of the important things to consider:


Is this friend close enough that they would have been invited to the wedding anyhow? If yes, it is vitally important that both the bride and the photographer understand that it will be truly impossible on wedding day to do a great job as the photographer and to be treated as a guest. It just doesn’t work. If a good time is expected like the guests, then the photography will suffer. If the photography is handled the same way as a local pro would handle it, then there is no hope to be a fun-loving guest. You just can’t have it both ways.


It’s hard to argue that having two professional photographers cover a wedding isn’t anything but a real advantage, especially when the team you’ve hired is a partnership who photograph together all the time. We wrote a post on that very topic that you can read here.

So….will the photographer friend be bringing their second shooter to work with them for the wedding, as well? Or will they be working solo?

Can a solo photographer do a good job photographing a wedding? Sure they can, but here’s the thing: you will never know what was missed, because, well, it was missed. So take a close look at the blog post mentioned above if you already haven’t, and be sure to carefully consider if your wedding is the one that deserves to be only partially covered?

stunning maine wedding photography

A photo that would have absolutely never been possible, never been taken, never be a part of this couple’s lifetime of memories had it not been for the professional wedding photographer. The pro that knew where to go; when to be there; how to capitalize on the light; not be held back by light drizzle; the pro that know how critical the most minute details are in placement of hands and arms; the pro that know when the shot will look best with eyes open, eyes closed. You get what we mean. A non-wedding photographer will depend mostly on letting things happen on their own; and this is but one example of a shot that plain and simply would not exist without the expert guidance of the professional wedding photographer team.


Will the photographer friend deliver images to a blog story within a couple of days of your wedding? Will they be protecting and backing up the files to three places before they hit the sack after working 12 hours+ on wedding day? Did they bring with them a 45-pound fireproof and waterproof vault to use to secure the files? Did they bring two or more of everything with them in case a backup for anything is needed? What if it is 6 weeks later and you have yet to see to any images? Can you really complain to your friend? If you’d hired the right pro, you wouldn’t likely have the issue in the first place. What if they leave their camera bag on the floor and someone trips on it? Does their business liability insurance cover them if they are photographing your wedding for you at no cost? Would YOUR insurance then come into play? What if they get sick? (The best professionals always have a rock solid backup string that can instantly launch into action.) And how much WILL that airfare from L.A. to Boston and hotel, rental car really cost you to get your friend to come out for the ‘free’ coverage? Will they be able to make you, in a timely manner, a professionally-designed wedding album? And offer a great deal on prints? Will they painstakingly edit each of the hundreds of files that they took? Will they make you look your absolute best in that bridal portrait? Wait, do they have expertise at all in BRIDAL portraits? Will your friend be bringing their complete suite of lights, to create spectacular effects such as during the first dance, as shown below, or will they be ‘traveling light’?

maine wedding photography

Having a full suite of equipment, such as tiny off-camera lights as used here, along with the expertise to know how to make images like this, goes a long way toward the most amazing wedding photographs and memories.

If not one of these thoughts sets off any concerns, congratulations! You should be in really good shape.

If, on the other hand, you do wonder…may we ask, is it really the best idea to have your friend photograph the wedding?

Your photography is the only part of the your wedding day investments you’ll make that lasts forever. You will get what you pay for. It’s worth hiring a professional wedding photographer.

For a real-life, second opinion on this topic, read this post from Rock N Roll Bride. Keep in mind that this blog is from Great Britain, so the monetary unit of measure cited is British pounds, not U.S. Dollars.

Want to hire a professional wedding photographer team? Russell and Liz Caron, of Russell Caron Wedding Photography, are a full-time, weddings only, husband and wife professional wedding photographer team. Let us join your wedding and help in creating the perfect memories of your big day. For more information, please contact us right away!