Should I Look into Alternatives to Professional Wedding Photography?

A woman taking a photo of a bride and groom with her phone as an alternative to professional wedding photography.

One of the places that brides and grooms spend a big part of their wedding budget is on professional photography. There is a good reason for this: beautiful, edited wedding photos can capture exactly how lovely it was to be present at the wedding. The way those photographs transport you back to the day cannot be underestimated. While there are certainly professional photographers for every price range, investing in at least a beginner photographer’s rates when they have a good portfolio started can be a great way to get the beautiful pictures you want.

However, there are a few reasons why some people choose to not focus on a professional wedding photographer as a major part of their budget. The biggest and most overarching reason to consider foregoing professional wedding photography is that it doesn’t always line up with the couple’s values. As you plan a wedding, there are many temptations to spend money on elements of the ceremony and reception that don’t matter as much to you as a couple. While you will obviously do some things to make your guests comfortable, photography is one of those areas where it should really be all up to you two. After all, it will be the two of you that look at those wedding photos for years to come.

If any of the following are true, think carefully about not using professional wedding photography.

You’ve Seen Amatuer Wedding Photos, and You Don’t Mind Them

Someone looking at black and white photos of a wedding.

One of the biggest reasons that people talk about avoiding “budget” photographers is the existence of wedding “horror stories,” where brides see the final photos and think they look terrible. Often, they are right: when someone doesn’t take a lot of time and have a lot of experience, the results are definitely less magical. However, if you’ve seen those photos and you thought, “What really matters is how happy she was, or how beautiful the day was. The photos still remind her of that day,” you might be fine with a lower-budget or early-career photographer. You can get discounts when a photo package doesn’t involve a lot of editing, and as long as you recognize that bad lighting or awkward angles could come alongside that, you can save quite a bit on photos.

That being said, many brides cannot look at “bad” wedding photos without feeling a sense of sadness and loss. Be honest with yourself: if bad wedding photos are worse than nothing at all to you, it might be better to invest in a highly regarded photographer who is going to spend substantial time editing your photos.

You’re Working Hard to Maintain a Slim Wedding Budget

With shoestring budgets, there will always be something that you scrimp on, and there may be basically no splurges. You may be finding ways to make your ceremony and reception meaningful and memorable without spending money on them, which may mean a lot of DIY, a simple cake-and-punch reception, a small group, or a backyard venue. Another place to save is with photography; just like the other areas where you are scrimping and saving, you probably will get less “quality” photographs if you rely on an inexpensive or free photographer, but you are aiming for a ceremony rich in love that won’t leave you broke. If this describes you, optimize your photography within your budget, even if that means no professional portraits.

You Have a Close Friend Who Loves Photography

An amateur photographer taking a photo of a bride and groom with a camera.

Many people consider how to cut corners on the wedding budget and come up with getting a friend or family member to snap a few photos. While this can work, the photos that are likely to result are more like casual snapshots: out of focus at times, unedited, and possibly a little blurry thumb over the edge of the lens. What tends to work better is if someone very close to you loves photography, has a good camera, and will be at the wedding anyway. In that case, you can talk about an arrangement for them to snap photos casually during the wedding and take a few posed shots after the ceremony.

A couple of bits of etiquette should probably come into play with this arrangement. If you think your friend or family member won’t accept payment for their time and effort, do try to get them a really substantial gift. Also, ask formally for someone to do this task; it should be expressed in a way where they clearly can say no, since photography is work and they may just want to enjoy your wedding.

If these circumstances describe you, amateur photographs may be the perfect fit for your wedding. They aren’t the same thing as professional photographs, but even though many people put a lot of value on those professional results, you can have a reason to consider other options. Evaluate how spending on photography fits with your values for your wedding and make your best decision.

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