In short no, it can be done without one, and indeed many skip this, due to budget, but will you regret looking back wishing you had?
The wedding can’t be re-played, this is a first-time right event.
Whether you hire a professional or not, the given is, that you will want a record of the day, in the future the images will be treasured memories.
The way I see it, there are other options if you do not hire a professional, I will illustrate 3 below.
1. An important family member or friend who happens to have a fancy Digital SLR camera.
The let down here is, that although you will have high quality images suitable for printing, does this person really know their way around the camera. Have they ever used it on anything but Auto. Do they have the experience and confidence to handle a wedding party, plus don’t get me started on bad composition. Besides that, they are an important person in your wedding day so how do they get themselves in to any of the photos (without lugging around a large tripod) and will they look a bit flustered in the shots?
The very important thing to remember here is that although they have a fancy camera, what about different lenses, and do they have lights! Wow, lights!! what wedding photographer would not turn up at a wedding to shoot with flash on a lighting stand. Above is an example of a couple taken with the sun a bit behind them (turning them towards the sun only makes them squint). Notice how most of their face is in shadow – it’s not particularly flattering.
This shot of the same couple is using a large reflector, or you can use flash on a stand which will give the same result but it will need to be enclosed in a soft box or umbrella.
Will your cherished guest have these lens, flashes, stands, large reflectors – best to ask first!
2. An enthusiastic amateur who otherwise would not have been at your wedding.
Let’s say they hold their hand up and admit they don’t have all the gear, but hey, they are free and they don’t need to appear in any of your photos.
They may have a digital SLR or alternatively some sort of compact camera. Both have the potential to display well in print and on screen but isn’t the photographer more key than the camera? Just look at the composition of the 2 shots above. The bride and groom in question were horrified.
As mentioned before in Point 1. (above) they may not have different lenses, flash, stands, reflectors etc. and when faced with a difficult situation they are likely to use the Pop-up flash built in to the camera. This may be OK in daylight but just wait till you get to a low lit place. The chances of getting ‘red-eye’ on all your guests gets higher as it gets darker – sounds contagious but nothing more than an unpleasant effect (as seen above). It can be remedied after on their computer, at which point you either pay them to finish the editing or you wait till your first anniversary!
Also, this is a person doing YOU a favour so you will most likely have to accommodate them and feed them on the day! I can only hope all this doesn’t end up with you deleting them from your friends list. So is it worth it?
3. A random guest with a very good mobile phone, say an iPhone.
This option just compounds the last 2 so it’s surely a bit of a last resort if you want to have cherished images that stand out from the pack.
Why would this persons images be any different than anyone elses at the wedding – oh but they have the latest iPhone, plus they are creative. It’s true some of their shots will be great, but where it matters, and the difficult situations will show it up to be .. well just a mobile phone limitation. Let’s just hope their battery doesn’t give in.
In the shot of the bride, the button was pressed but by the time the image is composed and fired ( takes longer if facial recognition is activated) the subject has moved. This is usually referred to as shutter delay – Digital SLRs are instant.
Another feature of mobile phones is the poor quality lens which seems to get everything in focus from near to far. Note how the green object – could be a bin – is about as sharp as the bride.
Then there are low light shots, not only do you get the aforementioned shutter delay and miss the action but if the poor quality in-built flash is not activated the moment is lost to a blur. Boo hoo. Hope the wedding night goes a lot better!