Your Cousin the “Professional”


A photograph your cousin won’t get.

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!

IMG_7669 (1)

Your cousin the “professional”.


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.


Photo of me at this moment.



  1. by Michael on September 25, 2013  1:18 am Reply

    As a professional programmer, I have seen similar situations far too often. (I am working at a company and don't take contract work, therefore not so many people approach me.)

    Programmer X get's hired to code a piece of software.
    The son of the boss of the company who wants to hire him tells his dad that he just took Visual Basic class in school.
    X gets booted of the project and little Timmy takes over.
    Little Timmy obviously botches the project, this is clear to everyone in the company, but the boss won't listen. (This situation is disturbingly common.)
    The companies new office management software does not exist when the deadline comes and the license of the old solution runs out.
    It is all down hill from here.

    Or another situation that I personally encountered far too often:

    A family member, little Bob, 15 years old, wants to buy a PC.
    What he wants:
    - Hardware strong enough to play game X and next year the new game Y.
    - to install his pirated copy of operating system Z (Ultimate Edition, of course), but does not know how
    - a low price

    He finds a complete build at a local supermarket at a price he is able to pay.
    At this point he already made his decision, but his parents insist on asking me first, since I am professional programmer.
    I tell him the facts:
    - The hardware of said supermarket system is crap and will die within a year.
    - Parts of the hardware are far to weak and it will neither play game X nor game Y.
    - I will not install any pirated software.
    - There does not exist any PC that will play game Y in your price range, or even in double your price range.

    Bob silently nods his head.

    A week later, I see a cheap system at a local computer dealer, some of the hardware is shit, but the essential components are fine and it is easy to upgrade.
    I calculate the costs for a usable system based on the this and come to a price at about 2/3 of what Bob wanted to invest.

    I call Bob.
    Bob tells me proudly that a friend of his "Who is good with computers." (whenever you hear someone say that, go find a professional, they will soon need one) has sold him his old system. "A strong gaming machine." with the OS he wanted already installed.
    What did it cost? Just twice what he wanted to invest, he lend some money from his parents.
    I gulp down the "Bloody moron!" scream and hang up.

    *Three weeks later*

    Bob calls me. His PC does not work. I have to repair it!
    I talk to his parents and we settle on a steak at an expensive restaurant as payment.

    I take a look at Bobs "strong gaming machine".
    The hardware is 2-3 years old medium powered stuff, every part from the cheapest manufacturer in existence.
    The OS is not only pre-installed, it is also pirated and infected with more viruses then I have ever seen on a single machine.
    Some of the hardware is failing because of the cheap components or because of overheating in the crudely assembled housing.
    This machine was worth about a quarter of what he paid for it and is now pretty much dead.

    This is the point where I refuse to touch the system unless I get paid in cash.

    There are three lessons to be learned here:
    1. If you got a task that needs to be done by a professional, hire a professional.
    2. If you ask a professional for advice, listen to the provided advice.
    3. Being related to you does not make someone a professional or even slightly capable at anything.

  2. by James on September 25, 2013  2:30 am Reply

    My grandfather, the professor, built his home 40 years ago. This house remains a beautiful, solid home today, and probably will for at least another 40 years. My uncle, the banker, shot my wedding with my sister-in-law, the web developer, as his second. The pictures are, bar none, the best wedding photos I have seen. When every chick with a rebel goes to school for a photography degree I think you can sometimes look at your uncle's(who has been shooting for 30 years) portfolio and accept a beautiful gift.

    • by laningphotography on September 25, 2013  9:22 pm Reply

      Hey James,
      This is very true. I appreciate your comment. I was being very broad, and perhaps I didn't do a good enough job making sure readers understood that the primary point of this is to make people chuckle. In my seven years of doing this it has happened to me once. I have actually heard about it many times though, and usually (not always) with the same outcome of regret by the client. Your Uncle with 30 years photography experience is not some person with a rebel and one class. He could probably be a pro if he wanted. You surely don't have to be a pro to do something well. The odds are simply higher. Again, thank you for the comment.


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