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10 Differences Between Professional Wedding Photographers vs Amateurs

Getting married is exciting, especially for some of my wedding clients who have waited for more than 10 years for their wedding engagement ring. Some men just like to take their time.

Now it's a perfect time for you to find and pick your New Zealand professional wedding photographer, the one who will shoot and capture each moment that you will appreciate forever in pictures. W

For $1500NZD, you can purchase a camera kit that packs enough power to create award-winning images with a bit of know-how and become a wedding photographer. Ok, maybe quite a bit of know-how. So the question is, what is a professional wedding photographer, and why would you need to spend good money for this service.

We all know wedding photography is expensive, which can account for 10% of the total wedding budget. Some photographers can cost over $10,000 for a day coverage. With Indian and other cultural weddings that span several days, the professional photography cost can rise quickly. So it begs the question as to why not use a non-professional New Zealand photographer to reduce the wedding cost. There are always a handful of people starting out, or students at the like of UCOL to study photography. There are also photographers who cater for the $1500-$2500 budget, and some even lower who provide these services as a side job, or weekend gigs. The services are absolutely affordable and would definitely appeal to budget conscious brides.

Professional wedding photographer at a rustic farm wedding Monique

couple posing outside a farm barn

It may be good to get a free wedding service free or at cheap price, but you should understand that there is a considerable risk when getting a friend’s service for free rather than getting a paid professional photographer.

It is important to point out that amateurs / non-professionals status does not mean the photography skills are inadequate. This can often be far from the truth. With the availability of the internet, youtube, and plenty of online courses, many people have taught themselves photography, design, art, and have found plenty of creative freedom. If you search the vast world of the internet, there are many stunning and epic amateur photographers who will easily wow you with their artworks, and possibly awards as well.

Wedding photography is a very different beast though. The discipline requires constant people interaction, handling of controllable and uncontrolled elements, surprises and accidents, all at a rather fast speed.

I have prepared this list to help with reasons you shouldn't get a free service while documenting a memorable event in your life like your wedding. Just to make it clear, I am writing this on my own experiences, so take it easy.

Wedding Photography Experience Matters

Wedding photography is a fast-paced environment where things are constantly happening, with people going in and out of the scenes throughout the day. There are parts of the day when the wedding photographer can control the proceedings, and at other times, things must proceed uninterrupted. The experience that comes with a professional wedding photographer allows him/her to know where to go and be ready to capture the images, at the right time. We can anticipate what will come next, who to look out for, and just be prepared and on our toes, but in a controlled manner. I have heard horror stories of non-professional wedding photographers missing first kiss images, or the exchange of the rings, etc.

For the non-professional wedding photographers, they may not fully aware of the flow of events on the day and this would hinder their ability to plan ahead and use their instinct to capture all the beautiful moments that would be about to unfold. The lack of experience may make it difficult to be assertive and organise people and the day and time frame to ensure things do go smoothly. At times, such experience can be priceless.

The wedding experience also allows us to deal with people in a calm and relaxing manner. It allows us to relate to everyone about the importance and joyfulness of the day. We don't need to feel nervous or scared or anxious, as this can easily be felt by those around us.

My Experience As A Professional Wedding Photographer

I have attended probably over 400 weddings, across several continents and countries. I have been to Maori weddings, Sri Lankan, Indian, Nigerian, as well as the typical wedding events. I have attended weddings with over 500 wedding guests to an elopement with just the bride and groom. This equips me with enough wedding knowledge to guide many brides who are planning their New Zealand weddings for the very first time. Such help can include the wedding timeline, scouting locations for bridal photography, putting on the button holes and doing up ties on the day, and just generally ensuring my nervous brides that everything will just be ok.

I have had situations where family matters have driven my brides to tears, or events that significantly cut down out photography time, or speeches that went for far too long that were creeping into the possible golden hour time window. This is where I feel having a professional photographers can really help to deal with these unexpected situations and still able to enjoy the happy occasion.

A Complete Set of Gears is Important!

Wedding cameras are not about the latest, the biggest, most expensive items. It is about having what I need to create the wedding images that I love to give to my wedding clients. Every wedding photographer is different in terms of how they view wedding days, what moments to capture etc. Some photographers might only use one camera and one lens for the whole day, but most would be having two sets.

For many of the non-professional or not quite so experienced wedding photographers, you may find that they either have not such specialised gear, or that they literally have every camera and lens in the book, as they just not quite sure as to what lens would be good for parts of the weddings. I know sometimes I do have gear envy when I see someone one with all the latest gear. But then, I do often ask, why 🙂

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We have been using Canon cameras forever, and recently made a massive switch to Sony gear, which has been an amazing journey. However, with the new cameras coming in 2022, we just might go back to Canon in the near future. Aside from the technical aspects of our camera gear, the more important part is that we bring multiple cameras and lenses to ensure that if a piece of gear fails, we still have backups that we can still continue to do our job. For us, this is much more important than the gear that we use.

For those who want to know, here is the list of gear we are using.

2 x Sony AR III, with Sony A7 III and multiple Sony A6500 for backups and videography

We have various Sony and Sigma lenses, a mainly prime lenses which means they don't have a zoom function. My legs are my zoom, and you will see me running back and forth a lot on your wedding days. But these prime lenses create such a beautiful and fairy feel in the wedding photography and makes all that running so worth it.

At the end of the day though, even with worst-case scenario and all the gear fails, we would still be confident to pick up a cell phone with their amazing cameras and photography techs to continue shooting your wedding. Gear is just a tool and an extension of creativity, at least that's what we tell ourselves.

Our photography equipment will constantly evolve, just like our skills, creativity as well as business workflow. This is all part of running an adaptive business in a very fast-changing field, where styles come and go, fashion and trends.

The Attitude, Service and Dedication

As a professional wedding photographer, my clients are the lifeline of the business and their satisfaction with the overall service is something I do work hard on. This starts with the initial wedding photography enquiry, to the follow-up, all the way through the final delivery of the images. For most of the wedding couples out there, this is their first time, and wedding planning is no easy task. There are always things to do and checklists and lists and lists. Wedding photography is a massive part of a wedding day and we want to make that part as easy as possible.

Thus professional wedding photographers do care about their manners and attitudes, how they conduct themselves throughout the entire process and will jump at any chance to address concerns and problems that may arise.

Happy clients will always spread good words and the wedding industry survives on word of mouth as a major source of client referrals.

Perfect Wedding Documentation

Professional wedding photographers are essentially the creative recorder of your day, with their very own subjective and unique vision. They have their own special way to see the wedding day, and do what they can to get the most out of the day, out of the bride and groom, out of the gear that they have, to ensure their visions shine through the wedding images, the vision that the clients would have shared and loved when they booked the photographer. And this is important. No wedding photographer can create an unlimited number of styles and themes in their creative work. If you look at Instagram profile, or Facebook feed, or even their own website, you can easily feel the flow of the images, and a generalised theme that ties all the wedding work together.

For non-professionals, they are still discovering their footing and their visions of how to see and capture the world. There will be plenty of certainty and experimentation on your day. This will probably come through the way they interact with you and how they organise the wedding day.

The Photography Workflow

Wedding season can be full-on, with constant weddings every weekend for several months. For us, we often would do multiple weddings in a single weekend. Therefore, it is important that we have a workflow that is efficient and fast, and at the same time, still allow us to deliver high-quality services to the brides and grooms, as well as their families and friends.

The wedding photography workflow starts from the first email enquiry to the background preparation, equipment setup, wedding services on the day, the handling of the all-important memory cards and backups and more backups, the editing workflow, and right down to the final delivery. Each of the steps plays an integral part in the overall experience of our wedding clients.

I guess in a way our wedding photography experience does play a big part in the development of our current workflow, knowing what works and what does not.

Post Processing and Editing

Typically, a wedding photographer would take several thousand images for each wedding, especially in the modern digital age where the cameras are just so fast and advanced. As you can imagine, this is a lot of images to work through, cull, edit, and deliver to clients, on time.

An efficient workflow is important to ensure that the images are protected, backed up, edited to give that same feel and vision that you have seen in the previous work of the photographer. The backup part is probably one of the most important steps that professional wedding photographers tend to care alot more than their counterpart. The fear of loosing images are our worst nightmare and we tend to do everything in our power to minimise the risk. At the end of the day, our wedding clients are our bread and butter, and our professional wedding reputation depends on the overal service that we provide to each and every wedding couple.

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Backups, and more backups

The principle of backups to both the camera equipment, as well as the captured digital images on the memory disk.

With cameras, professional wedding photographers tend to have multiple bodies and lenses. This not only allows them to capture the weddings from different perspectives using different lens but allow them to constantly have backups if something fails. I often carry 3 camera bodies, and at least 3 lens to weddings. It's always a peace of mind to have more gear than I need, just to prepare for the unexpected.

When it comes to digital files, it is the worst nightmare for every professional wedding photographer to lose the images before delivery. And this is where a good backup and digital workflow comes in.

Professional cameras these days come with 2 memory card slots, thus allowing us to constantly have an extra copy for every image that we take.

After the weddings, the cards are then copied onto multiple hard drives, internal and externals. Some photographers even copy these to off-site storage, as well as cloud storage to be extra safe.

These are some of the extra steps that professional wedding photographers would take to look after and protect the memories of their clients.

The importance of a contract

For most professional wedding photographers, every job must be accompanied by a well-written contract. This is to specify the terms of agreements, and the expectation of delivery, as well as clearly spells out the liability and the process involved if something does go wrong. The contract protects both sides, and allows everyone to proceed with peace of mind.

Ownerships of copyrights

Wedding photographers are creative artists by nature. Thus, they care about their work and are proud of the work that they are creating for the wedding clients. This is why wedding photographers want to retain the copyrights of their work, and in turn, grant a personal license to the wedding clients to use for personal purposes.


Things will go wrong. Business insurance and public liability once again provide peace of mind for all involved if accidents do take place. I have yet to use my public liability over the last 10 years as a professional wedding photographer. However, I will never attend a paid photography job without have such insurance in place.

The love of weddings

For many professional photographers who have been around for a little while, they are still doing this job because they love it and it is much more than a job for them. They love every aspect of photography, the creativity, the clients, the business, the whole lot.

Now, Choose a Professional Wedding Photographer

Choosing a wedding photographer is not easy.  If you will admire their work and see them as the best photographer in the world, however, if you are not comfortable around them, it will surely reflect on your photos. W

You are spending a lot of your money on photography. Subsequently, it would be best if you were comfortable with the person who is accountable for capturing all those special moments. You would prefer not to be stressing over what they are doing or have or haven't done. You need to confide in them and let them carry out the responsibility they have long periods of experience.

When discussing and meeting with a photographer, you need to feel comfortable and at ease, just the same as when you were talking with your closest companion at a coffee shop. It would help if you left with a positive feeling with no doubts.

They share the same passion with you.

You have been arranging your wedding and all those little details; you are energized and can hardly wait, to tell everyone you meet. The wedding business is inventive and enthusiastic, and if you feel the excitement, enthusiasm, and admire your photographer for your big day, then it’s a great sign.

As simple as it sounds, follow with your gut if you feel relaxed and at ease then so will your decision, if you have the slightest of doubts or something is bugging you, get in touch with them or meet up with them again to put that doubt at ease. They are there to help you, to feel confident in your decision, and enjoy the day with them.

Trust your decision.

Sum it up

Hopefully from the above little spiels, you have a good idea on some of the big differences between a professional wedding photographer and an amateur. At the end of the day, your wedding photography budget is dependent on how much you want to cherish the visual memory of your wedding day and how important these images are to you. For some clients, just need images for records of the day. For others, they want the experience of being cared for, catered for, and just having fun to be in front of the camera knowing that the photographers will be able to capture the uniqueness of their love story and their wedding day.

In terms of cost of wedding photography, you can find some information here. Please do sing out if you need any more help in your search for your wedding photographer. In the meantime, please have a look at our wedding gallery and our wedding stories.