Your Cousin the “Professional”
Being a photographer is one of the best professions there is. As my “about me” already shares, when I was four my mother explained to me that I would one day have to do something for other people, and that I’d get paid to do it. She then asked me what I thought I wanted to do for people. My answer? I wanted to be a photographer for National Geographic. Admittedly, this had more to do about getting to be around cool animals than photography, but I did like the idea of sharing those images with the others as well. This is a somewhat false statement, as I am pretty sure my first choice was to actually just be a spider monkey. Still, point is, photography is my original profession. I don’t regret this… most of the time.
Why don’t I love my profession all the time? That would be because of your stupid-faced cousin. Don’t look shocked. It’s true. Here. Check this out; and this story hits home for every professional photographer. This is a scenario that plays out from time to time. You’re a bride. You set up a consultation with me. We meet at one of my beloved coffee shops around town. You gently sip your pumpkin spice latte whilst I guzzle down iced coffee like I just crossed the Sahara and it’s the first liquid to cross my lips. Your eyes glow as you look at my work. We talk about weddings, love, how fun weddings can be, venues. You get excited. I get excited. We can both picture the marriage, and not just between the bride and groom, but the one between your wedding and my photography. It is going to be amazing. Your wedding photography is going to look like something out of a magazine, say National Geographic maybe, save for the lack of animals and naked tribal women. We both leave ready to go. Not long after the consultation I send you the contract to make things official.
Then your cousin ruins EVERYTHING.
You knew photography wasn’t cheap. Sure, you winced a bit when you saw my prices, but any time the word thousand gets bandied about that is natural. You were prepared for it, that’s why we got this far. You were inches away from signing when you get a call. It’s your mom. She’s got great news. You don’t have to spend all that money on a photographer any more, because your cousin Constance, the butcher, has offered to shoot your wedding for free. They just bought a canon rebel, and oh happy day they took a photography course once in college, and oh they just they have the best “eye”. Remember that cool picture of that leaf they took? The one your Aunt Mavis showed everyone on her iPhone at Thanksgiving. It was totes awesome. Shooting the wedding is their wedding gift to you.
Note that I use the word shoot and not photograph. This is important. An older more polished photographer taught me that we don’t use the word shoot in professional photography. We don’t shoot things. We photograph things. Well, your cousin shoots the wedding… right in the face. KABOOM!
You get your pictures back and, shocker, turns out taking good pictures of a leaf didn’t translate into taking good photographs of a wedding. Who would have thought? (raises hand) This isn’t a portrait. You didn’t just lose a good hair day. You can redo a portrait. If your cousin can’t take that picture like you want you can just come hire me to do it. This happens all the time. “I had my cousin try but, honestly, they weren’t very good.” (nods head) Nope. This is your wedding. It’s a one time event, and the pictures from it now look like a biology major who is trying to pass photography 101 just took the photos. That’s because your cousin was a biology major. Now you don’t speak to your cousin anymore. Maybe in a decade your fury will abate, but not yet. You wish you’d hired me, and I do too.
It’s a funny thing to have people feel like if someone can simply hold the same (or similar) piece of professional equipment that they somehow believe they are what you are. People don’t do this with other things. Take construction. Just imagine it. You were going to have a builder build your house. Catch the name… BUILDER. The name says it all. They build. Your about to sign that contract then what? Your mom calls, and oh happy day again, your cousin the baker has offered to build your house for free, they just bought a cheap nail gun! CLICK. You just hung up on your mother, as that is absurd. No one buys this. No one lets their cousin the candlestick maker diagnose their illness simply because they bought a stethoscope and took biology. Nae. Make those candlesticks, cousin, and leave the photographing of weddings to the photographers. For some reason, put a camera in someone’s hand, give them one class under their belt, and apparently everyone believes they’re a pro.
Don’t let your cousin kill your wedding. Don’t do it. I know good photography costs a lot. It’s worth it. My photography, your dress, and your spouse are the only parts of your wedding that remain five years after the fact. Save your weddings’s face and your relationship with you cousin. Hire me or one of my peers.
This PSA was brought to you by the BWPPAA or Bitter and Whiny Professional Photographers of America Association.