Should you hire a professional wedding photographer?

military wedding moment
bride on a boat looking out over the ocean
silver wedding ring on top of pink flower petal
A special moment between the bride and groom at golden hour
Having a professional photograph assures that you'll capture candid moments
a professional wedding photography captures traditional portrait style photos
bride and groom sitting on a bench for a portrait
wedding celebration as bride and groom walk down the aisle


You’ve found your perfect match, the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. You’re in love and engaged to be married! Congratulations! Now it’s time to plan a wedding…it’s going to be so much fun! You’ve picked a date, chosen your colors, then the sticker shock comes in. Whether it’s the venue, food, flowers, or the photographer, weddings are expensive. Nowadays, most couples are paying for their own weddings. Thanks to Pinterest, YouTube and today’s DIY sensibility, there are lots of ways to save money. I’m all for it! I’ll Google anything I think I can manage, why not for my wedding?!

I was THAT bride. Long before I was a professional wedding photographer, I was a pastry chef making wedding cakes for Maine brides. I planned my first wedding; we wanted to save money but still have a fabulous, memorable wedding. I made my own centerpieces, favors and wedding cake (under protest). I even catered my wedding for 115 guests, #crazy! The only thing I didn’t do was take my wedding photos. I always valued great photography. I was a hobbyist photographer my whole life. I wanted those beautiful, artistic wedding photographs you see in magazines to hang in my home so I could look back on them with fond memories.

I hired a friend with a “fancy camera.” Granted, it was film back then, but it was still a friend who was a step above a hobbyist, an amateur. She took beautiful photos all the time. In fact she took our engagement photos and they were amazing! And do you know what I paid her? $200. I was thrilled to have someone with an artistic eye photographing one of the most important days of my life and at a price that couldn’t be beat. Well, when I got my hands on my wedding photos, I was horrified! Come to find out, her camera broke and she continued to shoot like nothing was wrong. I had two photos of my ceremony, one of which was of my back and probably ten usable photos from the remainder of the night. I was horrified; those moments and memories were gone. It wasn’t just her fault; it was also mine. I didn’t hire a professional wedding photographer; I hired someone who had never photographed a wedding. I saved money, but what I lost was priceless.

Now, after many years of shooting weddings as a professional photographer, I can speak from both sides of the lens. Hire a professional – it will be the best money you spend. I know it’s tempting to hire a friend with a fancy camera especially now that everyone with a cell phone is a “photographer,” but hire someone who has the experience and skills to capture your wedding beautifully.

Top reasons to hire a professional wedding photographer:

Light. The art of creating beautiful photographs is mostly understanding light; it takes knowledge and practice. Lighting during a wedding can change minute to minute, from natural light and direct noonday sun during the ceremony to a dark ballroom during an intimate evening reception. You should rely on someone who can work with those changes and give you beautiful results.

Appearance. You’ll spend all day getting ready for your wedding. Your photographer should work with all the fine details – the dress, the tux, hair, makeup, shoes –  and understand posing and proper angles for all body types. You’re looking your very best, make sure you photographs flatter you and reflect how amazing you feel.

Time. Weddings rarely start on time and they can’t start without you! The greatest gift you can give your wedding photographer is plenty of time to photograph you and your wedding party. If your photography time gets cut short, you need a photographer that can work quickly and efficiently so you get the shots you need in half the time you’ve allotted.

Gear. Professional wedding photographers use professional grade gear and always have backup equipment: backup cameras, lenses, SD cards, off-camera lighting, etc. If something fails, a pro will seamlessly transition. Point and shoot cameras are not suitable for wedding photography. Remember, your friend’s “fancy camera” isn’t fancy enough.

Insurance. Most professionals are insured. Don’t risk hiring someone who doesn’t have insurance.

Anticipation. Although weddings differ, many have a similar flow. Good wedding photographers anticipate key moments – we almost predict what’s going to happen next to make sure we get the shot. It’s an art that comes only from experience.

Resourcefulness. Weddings don’t always happen in a five-star resort. Professional wedding photographers can work with challenging hotel rooms, private homes with little space, and locations that may not be photogenic. They create stunning photographs in whatever space is available.

Reliability. Clients often ask “What happens if you’re sick?” No matter what, I’ll be there. I’ve photographed a wedding with a fever of 103 and full-blown bronchitis. In fact, my bride was more concerned than I was. I take my job very seriously; I’m contractually obligated to be at a wedding and did I mention, I will be there? An amateur doesn’t have that level of commitment.

Post Processing. In addition to the skill of creating photographs, your photos will need to be edited. Whether it’s color corrections, fixing blemishes or giving the photos an artistic flair, editing is essential to a beautiful end result. Some photographers edit their own, some outsource but either way 99% of beautiful wedding photographs are NOT straight out of the camera.

As you can see, hiring a professional to photograph your wedding is well worth the investment.  After all, once the food is gone and the flowers are dried, the photographs last forever.

Jenna Doughtry
Jenna Doughtry Photography