Why Choose a Professional Wedding Photographer? By Neale James

One of the biggest decisions you will make when planning your wedding is choosing your photographer. Here, top documentary wedding photographer Neale James tells us why getting that decision right and hiring a professional is so important.

"As we continue through this digital age where technology improves on an almost daily basis, many DSLR cameras, targeted at the ‘amateur’ or ‘enthusiast’ consumer, are incredibly impressive pieces of kit with which you’re able to capture some superb imagery.

Having said that, I’m still commissioned to photograph 70+ weddings a year, so I asked couples I worked with during 2012 what is was that made them spend money hiring a professional, rather than giving that responsibility to a keen friend or family member with an eye for a great shot.

“At the end of the day, other than your memories, it’s the only thing you have to look back on” – Clare & Keith, Hampshire.

Of the couples I asked, about 80% of them said that finding the right photographer was a priority because of the importance they placed in having a professional set of wedding photographs that would forever remind them of their day.

Yes, it’s a phrase bandied about in the wedding industry, but the old adage ‘after the cake’s been eaten, the dress dry cleaned and the flowers have wilted, all that’s left of your wedding day is your photographs’ does seem apposite.

“We knew Neale had worked at our venue before and they said he was really helpful, and great to work with” – Joe & Amy, Berkshire.

On a wedding day, it’s a real advantage to employ suppliers that understand how a day will flow – the order of service if you like – and can work alongside a wedding coordinator at a venue and ensure the day runs just as you planned it. For example, I once photographed a wedding where the main oven broke so a new oven had to be brought in during the drinks reception! This meant the wedding breakfast was over an hour late but, although the bride & groom knew, none of the guests were aware of the change in timings as I worked with the wedding coordinator to space out our planned group shots throughout the afternoon, rather than shooting them all in a row. Little adjustment maybe, but certainly helped the flow of events that day.

Neale James Wedding Photographer Berkshire

“My brother had an arty friend shoot his wedding and the photographs were terrible. He was so disappointed” – Paul & Kirsty, Oxfordshire.

The more people that opt out of booking a professional supplier, the more this type of story will appear. I had 3 (that I know of!) couples who, in 2012, told me of a scenario where a friend, work colleague or family member had offered their services as a photographer but simply hadn’t been up to the job. One even pulled out a fortnight before the wedding as he decided it was going to be too much pressure and he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the day!

“We booked you because you’re full time” – Sara & John, Berkshire.

To me, being full or part time doesn’t matter as such, but it is about being a PROFESSIONAL wedding photographer. Hobbies are great, and indeed 10 years ago I was very much an ‘amateur’ photographer, but when you become a professional photographer – start earning a living from it – that’s when your clients can be confident you’ll still be shooting weddings this time next year, you’ll honour the contract they signed with you, you’re as committed to their wedding day as they are.

“We saw our friends’ photos but they were only on CD, and we wanted a proper wedding album” – Ruth & Graham, Berkshire.

As a professional wedding photographer, I have access to companies that supply the very best wedding albums in the world. These include superb British firms employing true craftsmen such as GF Smith (click here for more info) to those based in Australia, with a heritage dating back to the late 60’s. Some of these manufacturers require an investment in partner schemes or design software to be able to offer products to clients, and indeed others exclusively work with professionals, ensuring their own exemplary standards are upheld.

Other reasons I would recommend employing a professional wedding photographer include:

1. The back-up processes we adopt to ensure all files are safely stored – personally, I copy files to 3 different hard drives, have an off site back-up and a catalogue of DVDs!

2. The support network we have as professionals. I’m lucky to be in close contact with a fantastically talented group of wedding photographers with whom we can discuss issues and generate new ideas. It also provides an invaluable support network in case of emergencies; for example, I helped a friend who was stuck in traffic during a motorway closure by photographing bridal preparation until he arrived. I know many, many peers that would do the same for me, giving that little extra piece of mind to clients.

3. The considerable investment we make in equipment, not only to ensure we have the best technology available, but also to carry around additional equipment in case one piece fails.

4. As a professional, it’s my responsibility to invest in training. Even with almost 10 years experience, I’ll never stop trying to improve what I do, to increase my knowledge, to challenge my abilities, to offer my clients THE BEST.

Neale James Wedding Photographer Cotswolds

You’ll never hear me criticize couples that choose a keen amateur to capture their day, but for all those that believe the rise of iPhone will see the demise of the wedding photographer, I’d point you in direction of the above points and truly believe there will always be a role for the professional."

Neale James is fast becoming recognized as one of the top documentary wedding photographers working in the UK today. A former Radio One broadcaster, his background in sound has given him the skills to become the first UK photographer to offer Wedding Photofilms to clients, including these two beautiful examples, which we featured on The Wedding Vine a short while back:

Jennie and Jamie's Wedding in the Cotswolds

Francesca and Mark at Gloucester Cathedral

For more on Neale’s beautiful wedding photography, visit www.nealejames.com.

  • 4 comments "Why Choose a Professional Wedding Photographer? By Neale James"

    Add your comments

  • Isabella says

    9th May 2013 at 10:39 am

    I know people who have had friends photograph their weddings and have been really disappointed. I just don't think it's worth risking it.

  • Bob Owen says

    9th May 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Neale's absolutely right, and as a professional at the top of his 'game' he gives excellent advice to all brides to be.

  • Neale James says

    9th May 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Thanks to both Isabella and Bob for your comments and indeed to you Bob for your kind words. I know many professional photographers who feel they are 'battling' against the tide of "friends-with-great-cameras" so hopefully they can take some heart, and indeed support, in the points made above, and the knowledge that there are still so many couples that truly value the skill, knowledge, commitment and experience of a professional.

  • Nikki says

    13th May 2013 at 12:11 pm

    I completely agree with Isabella. The photos in this article are amazing and I don't think you would get this quality from an amateur. Neale, your work is fantastic!

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