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Uncle Bob vs. A Professional Wedding Photographer

Uncle Bob Wedding Photographer

We like Uncle Bob. We really do. He’s a great guy and everyone loves being around him. He tells great jokes and can even do a few magic tricks at parties. He’s the guy we all look forward to seeing at Thanksgiving.

Uncle Bob rocks.

But what do you say if he offers to photograph your wedding?

It sounds pretty good. He has a really expensive camera, and he says that he won’t even charge you. It will be his wedding present!

Awesome. It sounds too good to be true! And it’s totally understandable to consider it. After all, who wouldn’t like to shave a few thousand dollars off their wedding budget?

However…

The problem with this scenario is that many clients have the same expectations of Uncle Bob as they do with the professional images they see in the wedding magazines. After all, anybody can be a photographer, right? And if that’s true, why not save the money and put it towards something else?

It’s true that anyone can press a shutter, but it’s a wholly different thing to have them deliver professional quality images at a wedding. Wedding photographer is considered by many to be one of the most difficult, challenging, and high-pressure photography jobs. You have to be master of multiple photography disciplines, and you have no luxury of a re-shoot if things don’t turn out.

So what are the REAL differences between Uncle Bob and a professional? Why should you have much lower expectations from hiring Uncle Bob? What advantages does a professional have?

We decided to outline, in a lighthearted way, the differences between what to expect from Uncle Bob vs. a professional wedding photographer:

PHOTOGRAPHY EXPERIENCE

Uncle Bob:

Takes wonderful pictures of flowers and his kids at the playground.

Brings his camera on vacation.

Took a community college photography workshop about 5 years ago.

Favorite camera setting is “Auto.”

Enjoys discussing the comparative merits of various cameras on internet message boards.

Doesn’t see the need to spend $450 for an external flash because his camera has a pop-up flash.

Professional:

Averages 3,000 to 10,000 images every week.

Knows how to shoot in all situations: dark caves, sunny beaches, large churches, in the rain, and in the snow.

Can quickly adjust camera settings blindfolded.

Adept at using ambient light, bounced flash, fill flash, and off-camera lighting.

Understands the principles of photojournalism, portrait photography, creative posing, and composition.

Is up to date on modern wedding photography styles and techniques.

Enters wedding photography contests.

Belongs to professional wedding organizations.

Lives, breathes, and sleeps wedding photography.

WEDDING EXPERIENCE

Uncle Bob:

Has attended a few family weddings.

Loves dancing to “We Are Family.”

Tends to takes snapshots only of friends and family that he knows.

If the wedding pictures don’t turn out, oh well.

Professional:

Shoots 30 to 50 (or more) weddings per year.

Can show you multiple examples of wedding galleries from past clients.

Has enough experience to help your whole wedding day run smoothly.

Has dealt with a myriad of wedding scenarios including churches, backyards, castles, ballrooms, beaches, and parks.

Has shot small weddings, large weddings, traditional, modern, unconventional, offbeat, and everything in between.

Knows the flow of a wedding day and can anticipate where to be, what to capture, and can adjust to the unexpected.

Can provide valuable advice on your timetable and recommend family group shots.

Realizes future livelihood relies on delivering high quality images.

EQUIPMENT

Uncle Bob:

Oftentimes will have a new top of the line pro camera, but hasn’t fully explored (or understood) all of its features.

Has one or two consumer grade zoom lenses.

Might have a flash, but always uses it pointed straight ahead, set to Auto of course.

Has shot a couple of hundred images with it.

Professional:

Has invested $10’s of thousands of dollars in multiple pro camera bodies, an extensive collections of lenses, flashes, battery packs and other peripheral equipment.

Has shot hundreds of thousands of images and knows the equipment inside and out.

Refreshes all equipment on an ongoing basis. Has all equipment cleaned, adjusted, and calibrated on an annual basis.

BACKUP EQUIPMENT

Uncle Bob:

Cell phone camera.

Could borrow a point-and-shoot from another guest in a pinch.

Professional:

Carries at LEAST one complete pro-level backup kit (camera/lenses/flash) in case of equipment failure.

Most pros carry triple or more redundant systems because you just never know what could happen.

POST PRODUCTION

Uncle Bob:

Uploads the images to his Flickr account.

Some of them are crooked or not exposed properly.

Burns the images to a CD.

Professional:

Has invested thousands of dollars in high end computers and image editing software.

Through years of experience has mastered the end-to-end workflow including capturing, downloading, culling, editing, uploading, burning, printing and album creation.

Attended workshops on perfecting the image, removing blemishes, adjusting exposure, enhancing colors and contrast, and final presentation.

Dedicated to creating heirloom quality images for your family to enjoy for generations.

INSURANCE

Uncle Bob:

Umm…

Professional:

Carries the proper business insurance including liability insurance.

Some venues will not allow your photographer to shoot without a Certificate of Insurance. Even if they will, should a guest trip over a piece of the photographer’s equipment, without proper liability insurance you could be financially responsible.

CONTRACT

Uncle Bob:

Contract?

Professional:

Provides a contract which outlines all relevant facts on the services and products provided, and at what cost to the client.

A good contract will help to reduce any misunderstandings between what the client thinks is included (8 hours, prints, album, etc.), and what the photographer promises to provide.

PRINTS AND ALBUMS

Uncle Bob:

Gets his prints from Costco or Walmart.

Unlikely to provide an album.

If he does, his selection is limited because most high quality album produces only work with professional photographers.

Professional:

Has access to the highest quality professional photo labs. These labs have professionally calibrated machines and use higher quality, thicker paper for their prints. They also offer more options for print finishes and surfaces.

Works with high-end album manufacturers who only sell to professional photographers.


ISPWP Member Comments

It’s always sad to receive emails like this: “I’m not really sure why I’m contacting you as it all seems a little late now. You may remember that Rob and I came to see you as a possible photographer for our wedding, but decided to let a family friend have a go in order to save a little money. I’m sorry to say that this was a huge mistake and we deeply regret our decision but fear that there is nothing we can do. Is there anything you could do for us in terms of rescuing our wedding photos?”
London UK Wedding Photographer Martin Hill
London UK Wedding Photographer Martin Hill


How long has the photographer been in business? Experience is really important on the day of the wedding. Knowing how to deal with difficult situations is a real plus for you.
Bloomington, Illinois Wedding Photographer Mark Romine
Bloomington, Illinois Wedding Photographer Mark Romine


There are NO re-dos in wedding photography. None. Despite the percieved ease of digital photography, there is no margin for error when shooting a wedding. You have to anticipate moments over and over in uncontrolled lighting situations. You cannot recreate moments after the fact. You have to be alert and react and know your gear inside and out. Uncle Bob? He’s a nice guy with a good camera, but he’s not a professional photographer. Anyone can buy the most expensive cookware available, that doesn’t make them a Top Chef.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin Wedding Photographer Kimberley Anderson
Milwaukee, Wisconsin Wedding Photographer Kimberley Anderson


They say it takes 10,000 hours of doing something before you become world-class. If an average wedding is ten hours, that’s 1,000 weddings. Perhaps not many of us have photographed 1,000 weddings, but no matter how many, I’m pretty sure Uncle Bob lags way behind.
New York Wedding Photographer G.E. Masana
New York Wedding Photographer G.E. Masana


Based on his/her experience a professional can handle unexpected situations and can give the couple advice prior to their wedding day regarding timetable, recommended family groups, etc. Uncle Bob (if he’s a friend or relative) isn’t very objective. An “outsider” is able to capture the day in the best objective way. A professional photographer can interact with everybody – from the small child to grandparents – often sensibility is required.
Düsseldorf, Germany Wedding Photographer Yvonne Zemke
Düsseldorf, Germany Wedding Photographer Yvonne Zemke


Today’s top-notch wedding photographer has to be well-versed in almost every aspect of photography. For the professional wedding photographer, there are no do-overs. No weather-related delays. No reshoots. No reschedules. You have to know everything and be everything, and have it all in the bag by midnight, when everyone turns back into pumpkins. Period.
Portland, Oregon Wedding Photographer Fritz Liedtke
Portland, Oregon Wedding Photographer Fritz Liedtke


I’ve heard two stories this past week of brides scrambling to find last minute photographers with their weddings just weeks away. Why? Because they hired non-professional photographers who decided at the last minute they had better things to do that shoot their weddings. Professional photographers have contracts and agreements that protect BOTH parties. You are assured your photographer will actually show up for your wedding and not decide that because it’s a sunny weekend, they’d rather be hanging with their friends at a backyard BBQ drinking beers.
Portland, Oregon Wedding Photographer Randy Kepple
Portland, Oregon Wedding Photographer Randy Kepple


Other Sources

Here are a few other great resources that discuss the risks of hiring a non-professional.

The Offbeat Bride blog article that covers “What I Regret From My Wedding”
“…So, while I’d do a few aesthetic things differently if I was planning a wedding today, there’s nothing I’d go back and change … with one exception: I’d invest half our wedding budget in photography….Photography was about 10% of our $5k budget, and if I had it all to do over again, I’d make it half. That’s my only regret.”

The Every Last Detail blog article: “I Took the Cheap Photographer Route”
“…I made a mistake that I hope to prevent other brides from making. I took the cheap photographer route. I attribute this to the fact that when I was planning my wedding, I had no clue. The only resources I used were The Knot and Brides.com, because that’s all I knew about…Needless to say, I’m still pretty heartbroken about my lack of knowledge when I chose my photographer. Now that I look at amazing work from photographers every day, I know that my photos could have been so much better.”

The Seattle Bride article: “Pros of Hiring a Pro”
This is one of my favorite articles because the author is an advanced amateur photographer who tags along with Joey Hong of John & Joseph Photography (an ISPWP member) and finds out first hand the difference a true professional makes.
“…when those spontaneous moments that are here and gone in the blink of an eye happened, Joey caught them with lightning speed, while I lost many of them to improper focus or exposure.”

If you have your own comments on hiring Uncle Bob, be sure to leave them in the comments!

Other posts you might like:

Wedding Portraits After the Reception - A New Trend?
The Essential Guide to Wedding Albums
Wedding Photography Trends in Russia and the World
Best Wedding Photography of 2012 - ISPWP 1st Place Contest Winning Images
Best Wedding Photography of 2013 - ISPWP 1st Place Contest Winning Images
  1. Albatross says:

    Professionals undeniably have their advantages, experience and skill being foremost. However I discovered some of the downsides to professional photography when I got married (granted, over twenty years ago.)

    Our photographer was a multiple award winner, with long experience, and past president of the state wedding photographer’s guild. But she also turned out to be very opinionated as to exactly what was going to be shot. We were married in a gorgeous chapel on the campus of the College of St. Catherine, and the chapel photos were very nice. But then she took us next door to a small, fusty parlor, and shot the wedding party with the bride and groom seated on a couch.

    The majority of my wedding photos feature the bride buried in the rucked up skirts of her gown, and me with my knees around my ears, while the wedding party looms over us in the background, surrounded by fleur-de-lis wallpaper.

    Being in the middle of my own wedding, it took a long time for me to catch on, but finally I pressed the photographer to come outside. The spring day was gorgeous, the manicured lawn features willows and a circular pond with a bridge to an island in the center, all features any photographer would enjoy.

    No, no, she would have none of it. Finally I got her to take one – ONE – photograph, outdoors, with the bride and I under a willow. And that VERY grumpily.

    One of our chapel photos won a First Prize, and a 26 inch copy sat in the front window of her shop for over a decade. I’m glad that she got what SHE wanted out of our wedding photography. A pity that, as the bride and groom, we didn’t get what WE wanted.

    Yes, a professional offers many advantages. But when the professional is also too self-focused, ego driven, the results can be as disappointing as going with Uncle Bob.

    By the way, I’ve BEEN “Uncle Bob,” and I think my photographs turned out very well. As I told the bride later, “A professional might have more skill, but nobody could have CARED more about the quality of these photos.”

  2. Joe Milton says:

    Albatross, I’m sorry you had a bad experience 20 years ago with your photographer. It’s too late to help you now, but “one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch.” For every story I’ve heard about a bad experience with a pro, I’ve heard MANY more stories of bad experiences with Uncle Bob. The reasons for this, I hope, were spelled out in the article.

    It’s true that not all professionals are a good fit for every client. Which is why we always encourage clients to do a number of things when interviewing photographers:

    1. Look through a lot of previous weddings the photographer has taken, especially recent weddings. An experienced pro will have a large number of weddings for you to look at. If you see a lot of examples of group shots in small fusty parlors then you can deduce that will probably be what you get too.
    2. Spend some time talking with the photographer to get a feel for his/her personality. Are they easy going, pushy, friendly, loud? Try to get a feel for their personality and decide if you would be OK being in close quarters with this person for your whole wedding day. If they are pushy and opinionated in your conference, that’s probably how they’ll be at the wedding.
    3. Check references and talk to past clients.
    4. If you’re using a wedding planner, ask him/her if they have worked with this photographer before. An experienced planner should be able to match you to a photographer that fits your style and personality.

  3. Well said Joe. We aren’t wedding photographers, but we hear a lot of the same stories. There really are many more bad Uncle stories than professionals.

  4. Donna says:

    Albatross’ experience is one of the reasons that I really press my clients to factor in the photographer’s personality as much as their style and expense. A wedding day is a very emotional day and a TRUE professional will care about making their couple happy as much as they care about getting a shot for themselves. It’s art but it’s also supposed to be a relationship.

  5. Kristen says:

    Quote – I’ve heard two stories this past week of brides scrambling to find last minute photographers with their weddings just weeks away. Why? Because they hired non-professional photographers who decided at the last minute they had better things to do that shoot their weddings. Professional photographers have contracts and agreements that protect BOTH parties. You are assured your photographer will actually show up for your wedding and not decide that because it’s a sunny weekend, they’d rather be hanging with their friends at a backyard BBQ drinking beers.

    Totally agreed with the above. A friend of mine had this happen to her. She rang me up last week desperate for me to shoot her wedding (which is tomorrow) – Im only beginning out in Photography and by no means do I classify myself as a professional nor do I tell people that I am. Due to her desperation I have agreed to shoot her wedding but under strict understanding I have no experience. Fingers crossed for me. And hopefully one day with pride I can say I am a professional Photographer!!! Look forward to it!

  6. This is an important discussion of all the hats a professional wedding photographer must wear, and how they differ from Uncle Bob. You can read an article published by WPPI on this subject, which helps solidify the point: http://fritzphoto.com/blog/2009/10/a-wedding-photographer-must-be-everything.html

  7. Thepixtakers says:

    Not all uncle bob or aunty sue’s are the same, and not all photographers are the same. We take pride in listening to the clients, meet with them prior to the date to work things out so we get to the same page. We shoot with a high degree of passion, and i’ll admit: i have tears in my eyes during a wedding, may it be during the ceremony or during the speeches, coz thats how we rock, we care…

    Yes, we get that quite often that their family members will shoot their wedding, their choice… Just a shame if the quality will suffer…

    Rina – The Pixtakers

  8. When choosing a photographer to document your special day sit down with them and check out ALL the photo’s from the LAST wedding they did. In my opinion your only as good as your last job. Anyone calling themselves a photographer can bundle together some ‘perfect weather day’ highlights!

  9. Mark Romine says:

    Just now reading this thread, obviously a little behind. :)

    Albatross, thanks for taking the time to share your experience. It’s an excellent reminder for all of us who are working in this industry that we as pros need to check our attitude and leave it at the studio before we head out for each and every wedding.

    Many of us work with the mindset that we should get the required photos first and then if there is time left use that time to push the envelope and do the creative thing that is above and beyond the normal.

  10. Every bride should read this before deciding on her tog!

  11. I wrote this blog post as a way to open the discussion between brides and their photographers about Uncle Bobs: http://offbeatbride.com/2011/06/unplugged-wedding … I feel like if more couples understood that they can ask their guests to put down their cameras and just ENJOY THE DAY, not only would guests have more fun, but things would be so much easier for photographers.

    I’d love ISPWP’s help in spreading the word about the concept of “unplugged weddings” … it feels like a trend that photographers could really benefit from!

  12. Ann Niddrie says:

    Thanks ISPWP for a great post, with a simple and easy to read comparison chart with interesting points made about the ‘Uncle Bob’ and ‘Pro Photographer’ skills, experience and attitude. A very interesting read. There is also a great discussion and points made in the comments section too. Albatross, thanks again for sharing your experience. It is a shame that is the feeling you still have 20 after your wedding. It certainly brings light to the importance of having having the opportunity to meet with potential photographers and get a sense for their personality and sensibility.

    In response to your final points:

    By the way, I’ve BEEN “Uncle Bob,” and I think my photographs turned out very well. As I told the bride later, “A professional might have more skill, but nobody could have CARED more about the quality of these photos.”’

    It’s disappointing to hear that your experience left you with the feeling that wedding photographers don’t care. Yes indeed we do have more skill and experience, however I am a great wedding photographer BECAUSE I care. To have empathy and the openness to connect with others, the willingness to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and imagine their dreams and hopes and make them our own for a day is a fabulous gift and skill to have, that I give to every client of mine.

    To have been booked to shoot a ceremony only, and to then be invited and included in the reception as a guest by people I had met only once is an honour and joy of mine, and very much part of the reason that I do what I do.

    It is a shame Albatross that you had such a negative experience on such an important day in your life and it is a great reminder to the people that do make wedding photography their career that it is always about the bridal couple, and not ego that matters at the end of the day.

  13. Jody says:

    When my husband and I got married 3 years in Sept, we used a friend who had a nice camera. She use to work for a photography studio (sports photographer) needless to say our supposed to be outdoor pictures were moved indoors due to rain and the photographer was not ready for that so our pictures were crap. There were not family pictures there was my mother-in-law and some of my husbands family not one of my mom and only a few of my Dad which I regret since he recently passed away. My wedding was the last time I had seen him since we lived in two different provinces. I will always regret not having a professional photographer that day. A year later we redid our wedding pictures but it was not the same…It was just my husband and I no family don’t get me wrong I love the pictures we redid but they were not of our wedding day. We plan to renew our vows Sept 13 2013 it will be our 5-year anniversary and I don’t care what I have to cut that day but I will have a professional

  14. harper says:

    My best friend of over 10 years took my wedding pictures. She worked at a studio and had a nice camera. She said the pictures would be her gift to us and I though it would be a great way to save my budget. However, what I didn’t realize or think of at the time was that she takes school portraits and has never shot a wedding. Needless to say my pictures are blurry and poorly exposed. The edits were obviously done on picnik and it make matters worse she left half way through the reception. I guess that’s not too bad considering the fact that my family who took pictures look more professional than hers.

  15. Emma Fulcher says:

    This is a fantastic article… One that I’ve bookmarked and will be directing many of my clients to! It really is such a shame when people don’t opt for a pro photographer (or equally don’t research their photographer very well and end up with poor images!!!)… The photos and video from the day will be the only supporting evidence to your memories you have in years to come…. It’s so important!!! Your flowers will die, friends may disappear… But the photos will stay with you forever! Our photographer & videographer were the most worthwhile expenses of our wedding day… Every little detail has been captured, nothing has been missed and we have some amazing images!!

  16. One of my client’s dad’s sent me the link to this. Saying how happy he daughter is that she hired me instead of Uncle Bob. From now on I am going to tell all of my prospective clients who say Uncle Bob is going to shoot my wedding “I think that is a great idea if you were going to take portraits, which you can retake at any time. With a wedding, you will only do this once, and not have any reshoot options, hopefully.”

  17. Bob Reedy says:

    C’mon. Once upon a time, we are ALL Uncle Bob.

    I think denigrating another species of photogrpher (and yes elitists, Uncle Bobs are a species of photograper) is counterproductive, and certainly something I do NOT wish to share with any prospect.

    Client: “Excuse me, sir… how much are these jeans?”

    PRO(?): “Well, before I say, let me tell you how horrible the OTHER guy’s jeans are first…”

    Really? REALLY?

    Don’t incorporate negativity into your sales routine… it’ll kill you eventually. Unfortunately, because of the pervasiveness of digital imaging, there’s simply more people with more cameras. And, in a horrible economy, people need to both SAVE and EARN a buck.

    Focus your sales skill around that, and be successful.

  18. Darcy says:

    I didn’t use a professional wedding photographer for my wedding, instead I asked everyone who came to take a ton of pictures and send them to us. And, for the most part, I LOVE my wedding photos, while we don’t have many posed shots or anything fancy we have shots that really “got” us as a couple – the way we interact, our expressions. There’s a shot a friend of mine took of me walking down the aisle that’s truly priceless. I’m now a photographer (amateur) and people often ask me to take photos for their weddings and I explain to them that this isn’t really what I do but that I’m willing to try and most people seem to really like the results (ie. I keep getting more requests out of every wedding I do). Yes, professional photography is a skill and I’v spent a ton of time learning and growing. But I always try to remember that sometimes the best picture is a matter of luck and often the absolutely BEST picture at a wedding will not be the one the paid photographer takes. I’ve seen friends spend thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars on wedding photos and yet they frame a picture taken by a friend from across the table simply because that friend got her laugh or smile or the kiss EXACTLY right. Rip on Uncle Bob all you want, but isn’t photography about loving taking pictures? So what’s so wrong with Uncle Bob? At least he loves his craft.

  19. Alan says:

    My wife and I trusted an ‘Uncle Bob’ with our wedding photos, except our ‘Uncle Bob’ was a photography student I worked with on a movie a year earlier. She came, she snapped and we never saw her again. She actually actively avoided us so I’m pretty sure the photos she took were rubbish or she forgot her memory card and was just playing along. All we’ve got for our wedding are some rubbish mobile phone pics and stills from a cheap video camera with dodgy WB.

    I know now from experience gained into my own foray into photography that our young photographer on the day was really up against it as it was all outdoors in strong morning light strained between trees. Still, having a pro from the outset (or buying her a couple of decent speedlites) would have been well worth at least half of the budget, if not more. After all is said and done, and everyone has gone home, the rings on your fingers and the photos in your album are all you’ve got left of the big day.

  20. Melli says:

    My cousin’s wedding photographer was present for about an hour. He turned up at the reception, took a few snapshots of the wedding party outside, then left. They’re nice enough photos but there’s no heart to them. They’re over-posed and not interesting. Looking back on the day years later, I wish I’d had a good camera then. I couldn’t have been the photographer of course as I was actually IN the wedding, but at least my cousins would have some decent photos to go along with the dull, emotionless crap churned out by the professional. The best stuff was caught by family members with point-and-shoots who saw a wonderful moment and had the wherewithall to capture it – unlike the pro, who spent most of his short time there ordering people here and there and staging photos, and missed a hundred fantastic moments.

    I’m not sure why they chose him – I imagine, as Darren suggested, they had a look at all the best shots on his website, assuming every shot would be up to that standard. Needless to say nothing he presented that day was anything LIKE of the standard of the photos used in this article (all of which are beautiful). I’m not even sure he bothered editing any of them. The best shot of the day was taken by someone with a point-and-shoot, of my cousin in her long gown holding a friend’s three-week-old baby. The pro, paid only for the hour, had long since left.

    For the love of your soon-to-be-spouse, let Uncle Bob bring his camera. Yes, hire a professional, but make sure the rest of the family has their own camera along with them. That way if the professional turns out to be a talentless hack more interested in his pay packet than recording a wonderful day, you will still have some great pictures.

  21. Txau says:

    Most of the people don’t take the wedding thing that seriously nowadays. They don’t think is the best days of their or some other similar crap. So Uncle Bob will do just fine for their needs. Maybe thats the reason why there less and less money for wedding photographers everyday, and not only because you can get a decent DSLR for an affordable price.

  22. Patrick says:

    To each their own! Im not a professional photographer but everybody is different. I do pay attention to composition and perspectives. I photographed my sister’s wedding with some borrowed equipment and did a phenominal job. I also color corrected and touched the best shots up in Photoshop, but I’m not a “professional.” I do have an uncle bob too hah ha!

  23. Brenda says:

    Our wedding photos were taken by 2 friends who volunteered for the days. One location didn’t work out, but the church photos were amazing. What the photographers knew was how important little things were to us, & how important the church shots were. Because the main photographer was a v close friend (her hubby was in the bridal party) she was there right to the end, & even though we told her to put her camera away at the reception & relax she did whip it out to take other photos. I’m sure if we’d had a pro on the day (another friend who is one offered) we would’ve had wonderful magazine worthy photos, but with our relaxed wedding I think it would have been incongruous. Anyway, sometimes Uncle Bob is actually really good, and sometimes he’s exactly what you want. As they say, horses for courses.

  24. Dave says:

    Ive been Uncle Bob, not at a wedding, but at other events. The reason you dont want Uncle Bob is because to do a proper job as a photographer Uncle Bob needs to not “attend” the event: He needs to be there as photographer, with a photographer’s eye; He needs to be spending time near the most visually interesting areas, not with his friends; He needs to be photographing what is important to the wedding, not what is important to him. Even if he understands that, does Aunt Trudy? Does his brother Sam? By all means, it can work out, and when it does, Uncle Bob is likely to know more about what is important to you than a random photog, but make sure that Uncle Bob realizes what he is getting into.

    On the other hand, there are a lot of “Uncle Bobs” that hang out a shingle as a professional photographer. Some may take 3000 images a week but never learn anything from it, still others are accountants during the week and shoot an occasional bar mitzvah and wedding on the weekends, those are certainly not taking 3000 images a week. Some walk around with their flash at a permanent 45 degree angle, because only noobs use it straight forward. My Uncle Bob may be a better photographer than many of them. Probably not better than most of the professional photogs reading and posting here, but that is not what many people see when they survey the landscape of wedding photographers. When you find a way to weed out the “Uncle Bobs” from your own ranks, the difference between a professional wedding photographer and a prospective client’s Uncle Bob will be much more stark. Until then, remember that in many cases the bride and groom are not comparing Uncle Bob to the best of you, but to the worst.

  25. Paul Krol says:

    Of all the photosessions you will have in your life, a wedding might be #1 so for that reason you’d think everyone would spend extra $$$ and hire a professional. For photographers this seems extremely obvious. But to non-professional eyes like your typical bride or groom, I can understand them seeing some photos from an Uncle Bob and being impressed enough to hire him considering the much lower price. Having said that, its still too big a chance to take. I’ve read the comments above and sometimes even a ‘pro’ will not deliver what you were hoping/expecting. Solution is simple. Do your research, and then some.

    Someone said that an Uncle Bob (or friend) once took a better picture at their wedding then all of their pro photographer’s pics. Well, that’s the exception and not the norm. You really don’t want to risk that chance for your special day.

    I’m not a professional and i’ve only shot 1 wedding but it really surprises me how horrible and utterly deceiving some photographers can be. I’m really mixed on where the blame goes. I think its a bit of both. But i would blame the photographer a bit more. 2 years ago, I probably would not have agreed to shoot a wedding as I was just starting out.

    Bottom line is do not hire an Uncle Bob for your wedding unless your wedding is the kind that the main meal is pizza and Coors light. Do lots of research on wedding photographers and even when you find one you think you will hire, ask someone you trust for another opinion. And then meet with them and go over everything so there are no surprises.

  26. Josh says:

    Not sure if this discussion is “uncle bob” vs. professional as much as quality people vs. not so much. We hired a professional to do our wedding and the pictures all turned out superb, we couldn’t have been happier with how the pictures turned and it was long enough ago that they were all shot on real film. The other side of that coin is we recently hired a another “pro” to shoot some family photos at a cost that far exceeded the cost of our wedding photos and after 3 sittings we still haven’t gotten a single shot that was worth framing even after the “pro” photoshopped them. We finally decided to write off the cost of those photo’s and went and spent the money to buy our own professional grade camera, which cost about the same as the photos we had paid for, and took our own shots which were more satisfactory then those we paid for. At the end of the day finding someone you count on and is willing to listen is far more important to me that whether or not they are professional and looking at their body of work will determine whether or not they are talented and able to capture the photo’s i want taken. Just my 2 cents after a bad experience with a pro.

  27. Emanuel Wallace says:

    Interesting comments. I think I’m some mixture of the two. Perhaps closer to Bob, but that’s mostly because of my lack of equipment. I do an exceptional job at capturing all the important moments and as I continue to shoot, I’m sure I’ll improve. I suppose it could also depend on the clients I’m serving…no one has ever complained to me about the level of service they received, but perhaps their expectations weren’t that high to begin with.

  28. Troy says:

    I recently have run into a problem, or two, as I continue learning photography. I have attended a few weddings now, camera in tow, and managed to capture some nice images. Many more not-so-nice images. I have started getting requests from people to shoot their wedding day. I have explained to them the importance of having a professional take their images and the difference between a photog and a fauxtog but they still want me to do it. Even more so in todays economy, a lot of people can’t afford a professional. I have even sent them to this blog to have someone else explain it better.

    How do I make a better case to say no? I am happy being a newbie, taking small consistent steps to improvement, but do not want to be responsible for craptastic photographs of someones special day. I know I can squeak out 20 or 30 high quality images out of a few thousand but that is not acceptable, to me at least, to present to a bride.

  29. Great job on this ! Another good one is “MAMAGRAPHERS” …. Moms running around with DSLR and advertize as a “pro” ….

  30. Matt says:

    I can’t work out if that first photo is the one that needed rescuing, or is that the good one?

  31. lesley says:

    A fabulous piece of informative advice …thank you for publishing <3 Les xxx

  32. Nik Proctor says:

    fantastic site, and as a representative from the UK’s largest manufacturer of Wedding Albums, Frames and Mounts, THIS SITE is a crash course on how to handle the ‘Uncle Bob’ scenario that lots of my customers have thrown in their face at Wedding fairs and studio appts.

    Think I will be directing a few people here….

    One customer of mine likes to tell brides that throw this ‘uncle bob’ scenario at him, that he will cut their hair for FREE on the morning of their wedding…as he has a ‘AMAZING’ pair of scissors, which is the same as UB having an AMAZING camera….its NOT the tools you may have …ITS knowing how to use them !!!!!…………..he actually gets bookings away from UB that way.

  33. TJ says:

    I’m late to the party but thanks ISPWP for a great article. I do some amateur photography as a hobby and have sold some of my prints but when my sister asked me to be her wedding photographer, I outright refused. I know enough about photography to know that I don’t know much about photography. I still use film and can’t achieve the same quality as a professional with 10’s of thousands of dollars of equipment.

    I have never trained specifically for wedding photography and did not want the responsibility of capturing her special day. On the advice of a friend who is an awesome wedding photographer I asked the professional photographer if she would mind if I also took pictures (believe me, they appreciate this and if they say no, back off!) and she allowed me to.

    My sister still says she likes the pictures I took better than the pictures from the professional but all of the above article applies. I can see the technical differences in quality between her shots and mine. I’m glad that my shots could provide a supplement to her actual wedding pictures but I’m much happier leaving the heavy lifting to a professional!

  34. DAVID LAVERY says:

    If us photographers out there can demonstrate the difference in our images to Bob, then great. But if we have to point out the difference then maybe we should go back to the day job. Totally agree with the post. Its a great article

  35. Robin says:

    I adamantly agree. I have been in many weddings and ordered photos (some pre-paid) that were never delivered or were not the quality expected by unprofessionals

  36. Great article that every couple should read before deciding on their photographer. You cant buy experience.

  37. The leading New York Wedding Photographers.And this site is so nice.Thank you all.

  38. Great information. I like it. Thanks to share it!

  39. Hilarious post, thank you! Love ‘ol uncle Bob!

  40. Rare Pink says:

    The same applies to jewellery. You get what you pay for!

  41. Hans Dampf says:

    This is great information that we as professional wedding photographers must tell our (potential) clients.
    Having a camera and a finger to press the button is just not enough, even if camera manufactorers try to make everybody believe it is!

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