Hiring a Professional Wedding Photographer

July 29, 2009 | editorial team

The newest issue of Seattle Bride magazine hit the newsstands recently and we love their creative take on the debate over professional vs. amateur wedding photography. As wedding photographers ourselves, it’s a subject near and dear to our hearts. We know the level of experience needed to successfully navigate the complexities of a wedding day, and we’ve heard endless stories from friends and wedding guests about the sadness that comes when a photographer doesn’t make that happen. Take a look at this excerpt and photo experiment from Seattle Bride magazine’s article, and see why we agree that if photos are important to you, hiring a wedding photography pro for your big day is a must!

The Pros of Hiring a Pro

Seattle Bride sent local writer and (semi) amateur photographer Cody Ellerd to shoot photos alongside a top wedding professional and set the record straight once and for all: Is it worth it to hire a friend or family member whos pretty good with a camera for your wedding?

By Cody Ellerd

I consider myself a pretty good amateur photographer. Ive taken a couple of classes, I have a nice Nikon D60 and, as a professional travel writer, Ive even had a few of my shots make magazine covers and pages. If you didnt budget for a professional photographer at your wedding, Im the friend you might call to take pictures.

So when Seattle Bride sent me to the late-winter wedding of Vicky Wu and Chris Nicoll to shoot alongside Joey Hong of John & Joseph Photography, a local award-winning team of two brothers who have been shooting commercial, fashion and wedding photography for more than eight years, I was curious to see how well I could keep up with a seasoned pro.

From the moment we started shooting in the bride and grooms hotel room, I was floored. Vicky, look down at your shouldersput a gentle smile on your lips. Chris, look straight at my lensno, smile. Relax your forehead. Joeys attention to such minute detail went way beyond Say cheese and brought out the couples absolute best. He knew how to manipulate the rooms light and reflective surfaces in ways I never would have dreamed of, transforming what I thought was an unremarkable setting into a photo studio with endless possibilities.

Wedding images by John and Joseph Photography and Cody Ellerd

“This image is so painfully inferior,” says our rogue photographer Cody Ellerd about her image (above). “My angle is bland while Joey’s is creative. His is crisp and perfectly exposed, while mine is washed out and grainy. Joey knew exactly how to take advantage of the sense of motion created by this cool backdrop.”


Wedding images by John and Joseph Photography and Cody Ellerd

This was such a cute moment, totally unscripted, Ellerd remembers. They bumped fists and it was clear it was a little habit of theirs, one that conveyed their friendship. Joey was right there to catch it while I was fumbling with my focus ring.

To read more of this story and see Cody’s and Joey’s side-by-side images, visit Seattlebridemag.com, and just for fun, here are a few more spectacular images from one of our favorite guys, Junebug member photographer Joey Hong of John and Joseph Photography

Images by Joey Hong of John and Joseph Photography. Seattle and international wedding photographer

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  1. Fantastic post-thank you!

  2. After seeing the photos from my sister’s wedding that were shot by a family friend, I changed my budget and I am making a priority of photography. Our friend worked hard but totally missed several of our family members including our grandmother and missed the getting ready shots entirely.

  3. Yo Joe! :]

  4. Great post! I’m retweeting it now.. ;-)

  5. I’m starting wedding planning, and am realizing that I need a professional photographer for my wedding, not an amateur, and this post really sealed the deal for me (seeing the comparisons are amazing). Do you have any advice on how to find a great photographer in my area (Long Beach, CA)…there are so many with great portfolios, how do I choose?? And considering that I AM on a budget, what should I budget to spend on photography? I’ve found prices anywhere from $1,000 to $8,000+++. Is there a happy medium I can be comfortable with? Thanks, love your blog!!

  6. An excellent post and great incite.  

  7. BRAVO to Seattle Bride for such a well-done comparison. I think they should consider doing the same type of article about invitations, too :)

  8. WOW! What a GREAT post! I love it so much, I will send this to a couple of my brides who are on the fence of booking me. Thank you so much!

  9. Hi Lauren,

    Of course I’ll suggest you check out our Hotlist of photographers in Southern California first.  You’ll find a great range of amazing artists from Solvang to San Diego and once you’ve found a few in your price range you’ll ready to set up appointments. I find that most accomplished photographers charge $4,000 an up for their services and we would encourage you to ask a lot of questions and see a lot of work from anyone who charges under $2,000. It can be a red flag of inexperience or lack of quality. This is a generalization and certainly not always the case, but it is something to be aware of. With all the talented professionals out there, choose one whose abilities you are confident in, whose pricing and system work for you, and whose personality you really click with. Most likely they’ll be with you all day, so be sure you feel like you’ll enjoy their company as well as their artistry! Good luck!

  10. Thanks so much for sharing this story with Junebug readers! Photography is also near and dear to my heart, as I get dozens of picture submissions every year from the sweetest brides with the prettiest weddings in the loveliest venueswho hired their cousin/friend/amateur, etc, to shoot the wedding. The images look so sad when they’re not taken by a professional who can’t navigate all the complexities of the venue and the occasion. We always say: Budget for a professional photographerphotography (and videography) are the two souvenirs from the wedding that you’ll keep forever that are irreplaceable. Too many brides have told me they regretted not doing so. I’d also like to give a shout-out to Cody Ellerd, the writer/photographer of the story, who was willing to put her photography skills on the chopping block for this pieceshe’s a really good travel photographer!and who conveyed the reality of her day spent with Joey with humor and aplomb.

  11. Brilliant!! Seeing the same shot through both lenses. If that doesn’t show the importance of a professional I don’t know what does.

  12. I have bookmarked your blog and would recommend to my friend who is getting married soon near your area.Cheers to your awesome work!

  13. Lauren, I would personally vouch for Greg Bumatay. We used him personally at our wedding. We had 250 guests, and he brought a second shooter with him. For the whole day, we paid I think $4500 or $5000 (it was no more than $5000 for sure). We didn’t ask him to do engagement shots because it would cost more and we had a friend do our engagement pics, which turned out really nice but out of our friend’s pictures we only used 4 whereas we liked almost all of Greg’s shots. Greg’s site is: http://bumataystudio.com/ Have fun at your wedding! :D

  14. It is nice to know that being a photographer yourself, you are still surprised to witness such a remarkable work of professional photographers, and how they transform things from being dull to something extraordinary. I will suggest to my brother about getting a professional photographer for his wedding that is bound to happen by June of this year. I want him to have his most special event to be as wonderful as possible.

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