Amateur wedding photographer vs professional wedding photographer

September 2017

Professional photographer vs hobbyist. What is the difference?

A wedding is a costly event to organise and I do understand that with everything that needs to be considered for the biggest day of your live, photography is yet another item on the list which can demand a substantial percentage of your wedding budget.

So if you are reading this article, you probably had the offer from a friend to take your wedding photos or you know a friend or an uncle with a really good camera who you could ask to take your photographs for you.

So you might be thinking: “Wonderful! I can save a huge amount of money and use it for other parts of the wedding.”

I certainly understand that you might want to be loyal to your friend / uncle / cousin and that you want to safe a bit of money. So a lot of couples might wonder what the actual difference is between a professional and an amateur photographer, as the decision of having an amateur or a pro photographing your wedding cannot be changed after your big day.  

Nadin Dunnigan is a professional photographer and has worked as a photographer since 2004. Nadin has photographed hundreds of weddings in the UK and internationally. But the truth of the matter is that hiring a professional photographer for your wedding day might not be the best fit for you. In fact, a cheap photographer, or an amateur might be a better option.

This article is going to look at the pros and cons of hiring your friend to be your wedding photographer, vs booking a professional wedding photographer.

What is the difference between a professional and an amateur wedding photographer?

What is an amateur photographer?

An amateur photographer is someone who has a full-time job with a company that has nothing to do with photography, or someone who is retired, but they have a passion for photography. Their hobby is photography. They might have chosen a particular area of photography they really like, such as landscape photography, or wildlife photography. They might be a member of a camera club. They are likely to have a big camera. They might have won a photography competition in their camera club. They may have been published in a magazine. They do not make a living from their photography, but if they charge for their work, it is likely to be very cheap.

What is a professional photographer?

A professional photographer is someone who runs their own business, either as a sole trader or a limited company, and their job is - you guessed it - photography. Professional photographers have several big cameras and lenses. Professional photographers are usually good and experienced at different types of photography, such as corporate photography, family photography, wedding photography.

Many professional photographers often take part in training courses, others are part of online forums for distance learning. Professionals have business practices, business insurance, and contracts in place with terms and conditions for their job. Professional photographers usually have a smart online presence, a website, Facebook page and a clear pricing structure.

Pros and cons of amateur and professional photographers

The benefits of hiring your friend to be your photographer

  • The cost is likely to be Zero or if they charge something, very cheap in comparison to a professional photographer.
  • You are saving a huge amount of money.
  • You are saving a huge amount of time trying to find the perfect photographer.
  • You do not need to get accustomed to a stranger, as you already know uncle Joe and he’s a friendly guy.
  • You probably get the photographs very quickly - within a few days of your wedding, as they probably do not spend much time editing the photos.
  • You probably get a lot more photographs, probably all of the ones they took, on a USB or CD.
  • You can buy an album yourself as well as order prints and then craft your own wedding album.
  • You can go to a high street lab and get prints for a very cheap price.
  • You can talk to your friend openly about what you want and send them photos you found online so they can re-create them on your wedding day.
  • They probably have no time limit on the wedding day and take photos from the morning right through until the dancing in the evening.

The cons of hiring an amateur photographer

  • They are unlikely to have business insurance (if someone trips over their tripod, there is no insurance in place). If they are ill and cannot attend, same thing. They will unlikely be able to find a zero cost replacement.
  • They do not have much experience directing people and arranging groups of people to create amazing photographs (but if you do not want group photographs, that’s not a problem).
  • They are probably not confident speaking to strangers and re-arranging people if something does not look great in a photograph.
  • The final photographs will not “pop” which means they are likely to lack the WOW effect you get with most images from professional photographers.
  • The wedding albums you can order yourself are not luxurious and stylish as the ones professional photographers have access to. Professional wedding album suppliers do not sell their albums to customers directly, but only to professional photographers.
  • The prints you can buy from high street labs will not be colour-corrected and can have a colour cast, which means all your prints may look purple, or too dark, as the staff in a superstore do not understand colour correction.

The benefits of hiring a professional photographer

  • Years of experience at hundreds of weddings in your area and further afield.
  • A confident personality to deal with all the situations a wedding can present.
  • Experience at different weather situations, such as rain, storm, fog, winter and summer weddings.
  • Experience at different venues, such as ceremonies in venues without windows and only lit by candlelight, outside ceremonies, in churches and cathedrals as well as hotel weddings.
  • Experience at weddings with different numbers of people - from a handful of wedding guests to several hundred guests.
  • They have developed a photography style which is contemporary and classic and will stand the test of time.
  • They have professional insurance.
  • They have backup equipment.
  • They can create a good rapport with people quickly.
  • They have experience in talking to a large number of people and being politely assertive.
  • They work with the venue staff to fit in with your plans and the venue’s schedule and make sure everything runs according to plan.
  • The wedding photographs after your wedding will tell a story of your wedding day in a collection of amazing photographs.
  • They have access to professional wedding albums.
  • They can produce professionally produced photographic prints as well as other wall display products which are colour-corrected and will not fade.

The cons of hiring a professional photographer

  • You have to build up trust with a stranger.
  • It will cost you a professional fee which will be substantially different from hiring an amateur.
  • It will take time to find the photographer which is the right one for you.
  • You need to wait for your photographs to be edited professionally, this can be four weeks and often even longer after your wedding.
  • You may have to pay extra for wedding albums.

Ask yourself one question

On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that the photographs you will receive after your wedding will be breath-taking, natural, fun, with an outstanding attention to detail, edited to a top professional standard, and contain the story of your wedding day exactly how you want to remember it?

If you are doubtful in any way, please do not feel pressured into booking the photography with your friend / amateur wedding photographer.

If budget is your concern - here’s a good alternative

If your budget for hiring a top professional wedding photographer for the full wedding day is limited, you could opt to hire a professional for only 1-2 hours on your wedding day. They will produce an absolute amazing selection of photographs for you in that short time, exactly the photos you want to receive after your wedding.

The problem of hiring a pro for only 1-2 hours

Most professional photographers would not take a booking for a two-hour wedding on a Saturday in Summer. If they commit to be with you for such a short time, they cannot agree to be the wedding photographer for a full day wedding. Effectively they would lose money.

However, there are many amazing photographers in Edinburgh, Scotland, or wherever you are. Make a shortlist of your top 10 photographers. Professional Photographers are not booked out every single Saturday and Sunday from April until September. You could do a call-around four weeks before your wedding and see who is still available. It is unlikely that within such short notice they would get a booking for a full day wedding photography, and you can snatch up one of your favourite photographers for one or two hours on a Saturday.

I have been booked a few times, very short notice, for weddings that are as close as two days away. As a professional, with our experience, we can fulfil such a job and produce high quality photographs for you. So you save a lot of money, your friend takes photos on the day, AND you get some amazing professional photographs you will love forever.

Who is Nadin Dunnigan - Family & Secret Proposal Photographer in Edinburgh

Hey, I am Nadin! (same as "Nadine" - just without the "e"). I am a photographer in Edinburgh, Scotland, specialising in secret engagement proposals in Edinburgh, Scotland and further afield. After 17 years of photographing weddings in Scotland and internationally, my business has changed during the pandemic.

Proposals are so much fun to be part of. I get so excited every single time I see the couple walking to their favourite spot and the most romantic question is imminent!

My blog posts about weddings in Scotland are based on experience and aim to help you plan your dream wedding.

Nadin Dunnigan Photographer