How to be Friends with a Wedding Photographer

I bet I’m not the only wedding photographer who has battled with this one.  What battle, you ask?  Well, it’s the battle between doing your job and maintaining any resemblance of a social life!  You do your absolute best to make it to the various parties and barbecues (which, like weddings, peak during the lovely summer months) but more often than not, you find yourself saying “Sorry, I have  prior commitment.”  You start to feel bad… you feel like you’re losing your friends because you’re never there anymore.  You start to notice little remarks being made by friends and family about how you’re never at the parties, gatherings and last minute get togethers.  Finally, all the stars align and you actually have a weekend off!  So you go to whatever party/dinner is going on that weekend and the first thing your aunt/mom/friend says as you walk through the door is “Awww… you didn’t bring your camera?  I was hoping you would take some photos.”

* * * * *

I originally started to write this article as one big post but after a few revisions, I realized that it was best to separate this issue into two posts, each highlighting one specific side of the scenario.  Every year during wedding season I struggle with maintaining my social commitments – I do my best to try to inform friends and family of what the life of a wedding photographer is like but after sounding like a broken record with them, I’ve turned to my blog.  Whether or not you have a friend/sibling/cousin who is a wedding photographer, I encourage everyone to read both the articles.  So let’s start with part 1 of 2…


 How to be Friends with a Wedding Photographer

So your best friend/daughter-in-law/grand daughter/cousin/brother is a wedding photographer.  You’re a fan of their facebook page and love their work.  You’ve even recommended them to co-workers.  You’ve been close to them for a long time and they always get invited to your parties. Lately, you’ve noticed that they’ve been M.I.A. at your parties and you’ve started to wonder what the heck is going on.  Actually, you’re downright upset.

Before you go flying off the handle and writing a nasty email or sending a snarky text message – ask yourself this: was your party on a Saturday?  I’m betting you dollars to donuts that it was.

Fact #1:  Although wedding photographers will do most of their post-processing/editing work during the week, the vast majority of weddings occur on Saturdays which means that Saturdays are the busiest day of the week for wedding photographers!

What if you’re still upset?  What if you gave your photographer friend two or three weeks notice of the party and they still didn’t make it!

Fact #2:  It doesn’t matter if you gave your photographer friend 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months notice of this party – the clients they are working for reserved them months upon months ahead of time!  Most wedding photographers get booked 12 to 18 months in advance.

So a few weeks later you decide to have an impromptu get together.  You reluctantly text your photographer friend, even though you have come to accept the fact that once again they are probably busy.  To your surprise, they say they’ll be there!  You’re super excited and text them back right away asking for them to bring their camera and snap “a few pics… nothing too fancy or anything!”  A few hours later, your photographer friend shows up to the gathering sans camera.

Fact #3:  There is no such thing as ‘a few quick pictures’ when you’re talking to a wedding photographer.  Part of what makes professional pictures so darn amazing is the artistry that’s gone into the editing.  Editing takes time which means there is no such thing as a few quick pictures.  Furthermore – if this is the first party your wedding photographer friend has shown up to, it’s probably because it’s their first free weekend!  Be kind to them… let them enjoy the evening!  Don’t ask them to work, especially for free.  It’s very insulting and puts the photographer friend in a very awkward position.

The summer season of parties and barbecues ends and you find that you start seeing your photographer friend more often.  You wonder if maybe they were upset with you this past summer and that’s why they missed so many of your get togethers.  You wonder if you should confront them about it.

Fact #4:  Wedding photography is a seasonal business!  Mid April until about mid November is known as ‘wedding season’.  Sometimes it starts a little earlier or runs a little later, but in general, wedding season is centered around the summer months.  Wedding photographers make the majority of their income during ‘wedding season’ and some wedding photographers will go weeks upon weeks without a Saturday off.  Some photographers even shoot 2 weddings per weekend; one on Saturday and one on Sunday, as Sunday weddings are becoming more popular.  It’s not unusual to work up to 90 hours per week during wedding season, while in the off-season, you’re often lucky to shoot 1 wedding per month.

Christmas time rolls around and to your surprise, your boyfriend proposes to you!  You set a date for several months down the road and even send  save-the-date cards out to your friends and family.  After sending out the save-the-dates, you get an email from your photographer friend saying that they are really sorry they will miss the day, but that they had already booked a client on that day and will not be able to attend your wedding.

Fact #5:  If you know that you have a very special event coming up in the future (ie: your own wedding) and you’ll be heartbroken if your photographer friend/sister/cousin isn’t there, talk to them about it before setting a date.  If your photographer friend already has a signed contract commitment with someone else for that date, they cannot walk away from it for you.  If their presence at your event is really that important, talk to them before making any plans so they can reserve that day in their calendar for you.

This is Laura and JD – Laura and I have been best friends for longer than I can remember. Laura’s been aware for quite some time that if she and JD decide to hop on a plane and get married in a tropical paradise that I may not be able to join them due to my prior commitments. We discuss it jokingly, of course, but Laura is very aware of what it’s like to have a friend who is a wedding photographer!

So that’s one side of the coin.  Next week, we’ll flip that coin around and look at how a wedding photographer can keep their friends, despite their busy schedule!  Don’t forget to bookmark this site and stay tuned for next week’s article!


UPDATE:  After I published this article, I felt like a real jerk!  I thought that it made me sound a little pretentious and quite self absorbed.  I might even go as far as saying that I kind of regretted writing it.  That is, until today.  Today I received a harsh reminder of just how inconsiderate some people may be.  Here’s the story:

I have an acquaintance who has been asking me to do family photos of them for quite some time.  They would only ever mention it in passing and when I told them that I didn’t shoot family photos anymore and offered to recommend some other fantastic family photographers they turned their nose at the idea saying “No, I only like you.  You’re shooting my pictures.  I know you’ll do it.  I want pictures of me, my kids and my parents.”  This went on for several months.  Eventually I caved and said “Fine, send me an email with the date you’re interested and the deposit and we’ll book it in.”  To my surprise they said “Oh, I won’t want a session… I just want a picture.  Just stop by some time.”  I was a little taken aback.  I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around what was happening.  This person managed to twist my arm and pull at my heartstrings until I gave them the okay to shoot a session with them that is beyond my expertise and comfort zone and then, on top of that, they expected me to do it for free?  I told them that wasn’t going to happen and that was the end of it.  Or so I thought…

That same person came to me today and said “Well, one of my parents died and we never got a chance to take our pictures with you because you never had the time to stop in and take one simple little picture.  I hope you’re happy.”  And they walked away.

So many thoughts ran through my brain.  Should I say something?  Should I stand up for myself?  Is this actually even happening?  Did they just say this to me?  Are they actually mad at me because I wouldn’t shoot a session with them for free?  Despite the thousands of thoughts swirling in my brain not a single one of them made it to my mouth.  

The person is still grieving so it’s not my place to bring this up again with them.  Even though I now have my thoughts collected it’s not my place to rehash the subject with them and speak my mind.  Instead, I decided to add the update section to my blog as a way of bringing some reality to the article written above.  

Needless to say, I no longer regret posting this article!

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  1. I am shocked by the update – I can’t believe they actually said that to you! They had every chance to book another photographer if those photos were so important, they only have themselves to blame. They shouldn’t be blaming you.

  2. I agree with Neve. They had every opportunity to rebook if the photos were that important. Obviously the “friend” is grieving and lashing out – looking for something or someone to blame – totally normal.
    However, this isn’t your fault or wrong-doing, Erika. As a close friend and client, you have always made it clear what you are and aren’t comfortable doing – and not just because of monetary compensation, but also for expertise: this is YOUR name on pictures and therefore your advertising- whether you like it (or want it) or not.
    If it’s just a cheap family session they were after, then they could have just as easily spent the $19.99 and gone to Sears. If they wanted professional photos (and I understand why they would only want you!) then either take your recommendations on photographers, or, if you do reluctantly agree, then fork over the dough!

    1. You’re so right, Tina! Thank you so much for taking the time to show your support – it really means a lot to me! xoxo

  3. Friends who set that kind of expectation that you will do something for free just because you are friends are not friends at all! That is such an unrealistic expectation and truly unfair especially with the guilt trip afterwards. It is sad they lost a loved one but in this day and age everyone has some form of a camera I’m sure they could have taken a picture themselves of some sort. I have a friend who also does wedding photography on the side and we hired them for another friend’s wedding and we paid for their services

    1. You hit the nail on the head, Lora! Even if they are a friend, if they’re given you a service you are responsible for a payment. It really is a shame that this situation had to happen and I truly and sincerely thank you for showing your support!

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