Why Pay? Uncle Bill Has a Camera!

It’s cold, its gray, its wet and, yes, it is STILL January for another week. But, from my standpoint, now is the time to head to a warm studio and contract with a photographer to shoot your upcoming summer wedding.

Now, I know what you are thinking: “Oh no, here he goes on a multi-paragraph, advertisement beat down on why I should hurry in today.” Well, you would be only partially right. Truth is: I am here to describe the alternative–Uncle Bill.

First and foremost, I want to say I am not referring to my Uncle Bill who is awesome and whose camera skills I have never evaluated. I am speaking of the general “uncle Bill”.

You look at the cost of a professional photographer, faint, get up, and consider your options. Then you remember uncle Bill has a great new SLR camera he recently bought at Walmart and your mom and aunt Mabel can’t wait to sell you on the idea of having him shoot your wedding instead. Not bad when you are comparing the price of photographers against his family-for-free approach. Well…

Don’t get me wrong. Uncle Bill has a fine camera. However, while he has a great camera, this does not mean he will do your wedding the justice it deserves. But free is cheap, right?

Imagine this, ladies: You and your bridesmaids are lined up in front of a pretty tree. Your dresses are stunning, accented with your bouquets held firmly in hand. You have never looked more beautiful. You are radiant, surrounded by her best friends and family. This is your day and it is about to be captured forever.

Uncle Bill stands before you, poised to take his first real pictures since shucking the packaging from his camera a week earlier. Holding his camera delicately between his index fingers and thumbs–as he has not yet shaken his traditional point-and-shoot grip–he pulls it up to his eye and readies his shot. “Say cheese,” he says before receiving the traditional, unison response. Then he presses the button…nothing happens.

Puzzled, he pulls the camera down and begins to examine it. He pushes a few buttons…pushes a few more…then a few more. “Hmm,” he says before quickly returning the camera up to his eye, asking for a second cheese, and finding yet another lacking response from his shutter. Following a second, more serious examination, where he actually begins inspecting the camera strap for the problem, he exclaims “Oh!” places the camera back to his eye  and asks for yet another “cheese”. Its not as lively as the first “cheese,” but it gets the job done.

Now, he has one picture down and about 100 left to go.

But wait, it gets better–Some weeks later, he finally figures out how to burn his images onto a CD. While perusing images, you find that great picture of you and your bridesmaids. There’s about as much space above your heads and to the group’s sides as there are people in the picture, that pretty tree is coming out of your head, there is a power pole towering from your maid of honor’s head (with power lines to boot), a car is in the background where little Timmy and even littler Tina are chasing each other around the bumper, and the overhead sun is so bright that you all look like you went nuts with the eyeshadow before wincing into the camera. Several are out of focus, others are shaky, and this is to say nothing of the underexposed picture of you and your husband’s first kiss taken so far back from the alter that he might as well have taken it from outside the building, from his car…at night! But at least his camera’s pop-up flash captured in full, bright detail the back of everyone’s wedding attire on either side of the aisle.

You say “Well, I can just Photoshop and crop these, then I can have a wonderful 16X20 made to hang in my living room.” Well…no. Not really. As you bring this photo into the $90 basic editing software, you find uncle Bill shot your entire wedding in “small JPG” mode. He did this, of course, because he could fit 500 more pictures on the one disc he got with his camera. Of course, this means blowing it up to 16X20 will make it look like something you downloaded from your phone and, of course, it goes without saying that cropping is not an option unless you want your first kiss as husband and wife to look like its made of colorful blocks.

So, there you have it. Horribly composed, small resolution photographs of your big day with absolutely no way to make it right. But, at least they were free, right?

I write this because it seems everyone has an uncle Bill or best friend Sally who could photograph their wedding for free. Chances are, if that uncle Bill or best friend Sally has the camera and equipment necessary to capture your big day right, then you are simply lucky to have a photographer in the family. For all others, you have someone with an above-average point-and-shoot who might get a lucky shot from time to time.

Now, tell me, who would you rather have behind that lens? Check back next week and I’ll tell you…