'Good Morning America' Recommends Hiring a Student For Your Wedding Photography

'Good Morning America' Recommends Hiring a Student For Your Wedding Photography

UPDATE: Good Morning America has taken down the video and article.
Original Story: What are the best ways to save money on your wedding day? Good Morning America (GMA) ran a story recently in which their soon-to-be wed reporter Ginger Zee recommends contacting your local school to reach out to someone interested in photography. That by hiring a student you'll save $8000 on your wedding photos.

In her story Zee gets advice from her planner Francesco Bilotto. His advice on photography is this, "The best thing to do is contact your local school - find somebody that wants to build a career with their skills. Nine out of 10 you'll save $8,000 just paying for the cost of their camera, their developing and their time. You've made a college kid happy and you've got some great photos."

While I do believe that there are lots of options available for people who are looking to hire a photographer on a budget - I'd hope that brides were better informed about what actually goes into taking wedding photos. We could make a long list of reasons why you should pass on hiring someone untrained to photograph your wedding. Here are just a few reasons.

1. This person most likely has never shot a wedding and doesn't understand the timeline or flow of the day.
2. This person doesn't have backup equipment.
3. This person doesn't have experience using lighting - probably doesn't even own a flash.
4. This person has no experiencing posing couples.
5. This person is most likely too busy to edit your photos anytime soon. Can you wait 6 months till school finals are over?

Click here to read the article and watch the video going over the money saving tips.

Brides-to-be if you are out there and listening. Please don't take this advice from Zee and Bilotto. It is terrible. You will regret it every time you look at your photos, that is if you even get them back. Hire a professional, someone with experience and someone you can trust will take care of you. If you have absolutely no money to commit to wedding photography - well then yeah go find yourself a student that is interested in photography - but just know that your photos won't look like all those you love looking at on Facebook and Pinterest.

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AndrewZ17's picture


Gogu's picture

Could we please see a gallery of your wedding photos taken in this manner ? I am really curious what came out of this process, and in this case, showing an example could mean a lot to future brides.

Betty B's picture

I don't have a gallery readily available, but here are a few pictures available from my old blog. As I said in the post, everything is not perfect, but I saved a ton of money, and since my option was amateur photographer or nothing, I'm very happy with what I have. These are far superior to anything I would have had otherwise, and ultimately he did this for free. I think many women on a budget, like myself would be very happy with this situation.


Betty B's picture

I also found this post which has a few more pictures on it. Another note, my photographer and I agreed that I would be responsible for editing most of my photos. He edited a select few for me (as we agreed) but the rest I was supposed to do. These were done several years ago, and my skills have improved. When I print/use one of these photos now, I tend to re-edit them...my skills have improved!


Jessica Frink's picture

I understand the point this is making and would definitely advise one to hire a professional if you can afford it; however, as a student, I find it this a bit demeaning to the younger population that will be eventually taking over for those professionals. I have shot a wedding, have experience with lighting and although I don't own backup equipment, if I am shooting a wedding, I will rent or borrow backup equipment. I don't think you need to blatantly write off all student photographers in this way. We are, after all, in school to LEARN about photography and have had some training. Obviously, the student status is the reason why we would charge less. So the tradeoff in this case for cheaper work is maybe having to wait a little while longer for the photos, not getting as many photos or professional quality or whatever. Those tradeoffs are why we cost less. Anyone thinking of hiring a student should obviously recognize that. Of course, I would advise any couple looking for a wedding photographer to not just focus on the cost and find the cheapest person possible, but to weigh all options. If you can find a student whose work you like and can trust to shoot your wedding, then do them a favor and help them out. If you are worried a student can't do the job, then find a professional. Simple as that.

Trevor Dayley's picture

Jessica this article was just in response to how many of us professionals who have worked hard to learn our craft and invest in our gear feel after hearing a popular morning news show say that there is really no need to pay us for our services because someone just learning can do just as good a job. In other words they are trying to downplay the importance of what we do. That stings a bit.

Jessica Frink's picture

I explained in my above comment that I understand the point of the article, but I think it was written the wrong way. Instead of educating consumers on why you should hire a professional if you can and explaining the tradeoffs when hiring a student, it just generalizes all student photographers as basically incompetent. I am trying to point out that you shouldn't scare everyone into hiring a professional. If that happened, these students couldn't get any experience and that can really screw them once they graduate and are looking into making their photography a career. Obviously, I don't agree with Good Morning America, but I don't agree with this article either. As a student, THIS stings. It downplays the experience and training I do have and writes me off as incompetent because of my age and education level. Obviously I am not a professional, but that's why I'm in school.

Patrick Hall's picture

Weddings can be a quirky business. While I have no doubt students can competently shoot a wedding, I think one angle that has been overlooked is the actual peace of mind you get with hiring a professional meaning they own a business.

Obviously there can be some exceptions to the rule, but almost every person you hire for your wedding is going to have a business license, hopefully insurance, reviews (for better or worse), and a sense of reliability built into their business. Businesses live and die on customer service and customer satisfaction. Perhaps that is the single most important reason to hire a professional; they are going to treat the wedding like it's a very very important event because the photographer has something to lose both in financial liability but also in reputation.

I was a student not too long ago, and I was young to all things "the real world" and "adulthood". Looking back, even though I considered myself more responsible than the average person my age, it could have been easier for me to justify calling in sick or missing an important shot than it currently is with my business on the line as an adult.

So while I have no doubt that younger less experienced photographers can adequately cover a weddings just fine, I can also see a lot more problems arising if the bride wasn't happy for some reason, decided to take the photographer to court, something happened at the wedding and a guest was hurt or tripped over a bag, the student didn't show up on time but doesn't have a proper business to hold accountable, etc etc.
In the end, I think there are those type of brides who want the absolute best and then those who find some of the wedding elements less important than others (people book me all the time that clearly don't really care about photography). If you want to overlook something or go a cheaper route, that is fine, but there are usually potential risks to doing so and unfortunately those risks usually only show their head at the absolute worst time when it's too late.

Jessica Frink's picture

I think that is an excellent point and definitely something a bride should consider if they're thinking of hiring a student. Like I said earlier, it's important to weigh the pros and cons and recognize the tradeoffs of hiring someone with less experience.

Graham Marley's picture

If I could go back and start over, I'd have shot 2nd for literally 20-30 weddings before shooting first. I never blew it (by some miracle) but that's not the point. A massive part of being a good wedding photographer has nothing to do with what you can do with a camera, it's all about managing a ton of virtual strangers across a huge variety of situations and emotions. The logistics are what create the good opportunities for a photographer to make something good, and you can only get a solid understanding of the logistics over time, comparing and contrasting different situations, different reads on different people, knowing when to say no and when to push people a little.

Think of it like this: You walk into a hotel room that's 10 degrees too warm, 2 stops too dark with 4 colors of light. There's 13 women in the room, and you need to find space to shoot the dress, shoes, rings, garter, invites, programs, jewelry, bouquet (don't forget grandma's brooch attached to the bouquet) veil, moments with mom, moments with dad, moments with all the bridesmaids, bridesmaids in their custom robes and then in their dresses, bride getting into the dress, into the veil, and so on. Meanwhile, there's a baby crying, a vendor is late so the bride is stressed, the videographer is great, but doesn't speak english, so you're trying to negotiate the space and share shots, and you have to be an upbeat, positive presence keeping people happy for photos. You have 45 minutes until the limo comes. That's just the start of your day.

Carlos Bruno's picture

Graham ... fantastic and VERY clear explanation.
I wish have your calm to type it because I already scream so loud here that my wife came to see what's happen.
I HOPE all the people read your text. And THINK before put their hands on the keyboard to answer you.
I just one think to add: for two years I did everything to be a Wed Photog. I spend so much money in gear that Zack Arias will kick my arse if he could.
And I had the same type of thoughts of the "offended students" here.
When I finally got a chance and REALLY UNDERSTOOD what means to be one, I decided to spent the last 3 years to LEARN to be a REAL ONE.
The people just think about PICTURES meantime there is SO FREAKING MUCH MORE THINGS INVOLVED!!!
I always was known as a "no-fear"person.
But just the fact we can FUCK-UP (sorry) a whole "for-life of memories" from two people + 2 families + "whatever" related ... PLUS your career!
I don't think any professional here is concern with their own.
But differently than a heart or brain operation, photography is a profession that anyone can learn even without school. Even blind people can! (google it ...).
But exactly the same as those profession I cited, a"key" mistake will screw up a day that never you can repeated as it was ...
Thank you Graham.

Ryan Varchol's picture

I think you might be taking this a little too far and thinking of the worst case scenarios. I'm a student (18yrs old) and I was recently requested to photograph a wedding. Although it was completely new (I'd never even been to a wedding before), the shoot turned out great, I was glad to get the experience and the pay check ($700 + flights, so far less than the average professional, however, enough for me). The clients and I, were both very happen with the end product. Also, even though I'm a student, I do own and know how to operate a flash... I feel that your thinking a bit too lowly of us...

Todd Williams At Magnolia's picture

In great conditions you can get easy results... now think about that poor bride if something went wrong. Massive Rainstorms (pros are prepared), Near Black conditions (pros carry superfast glass), Uncooperative kids (we know the tricks), Makeup runs late (we know what shots are necessary and how to double time)

You can do your own electrical wiring too... it isn't that difficult. Plus you can roast marshmallows when the house burns down.

Trevor Dayley's picture

Ryan I posted a comment to Megan below that might be worth reading. I think it will explain things better.

Chris Pickrell's picture

No, you're jyst raking offense to the fact that the other 95% of students have zero idea what they're doing.

You're the exception. Not the norm.

Origamy's picture

Then again, you're probably slowly killing the market. Eventually it will go the way of the web design market. Took a real tumble when students started charging something like ten bucks a page.

You get what you pay for, sure, but surely every industry needs to maintain a certain standard in pricing. Otherwise how are professional photographers (ie, those who make a living solely out of being a photo/videographer) supposed to survive?

You might be happy with your 700 bucks, but that's 700 bucks that could have gone to a photographer who need the money more than nice pocket money for a student.

zygzag's picture

and every time you start to forget the horror, just look at the pictures to freshen your memory

Eric's picture

The link is dead for the article. I guess they decided they didn't like pissing photographers off.

Phil Bautista's picture

The key there is what are the expectations of the bride. If all she's looking for is someone to document the event, then the advise seems reasonable. But why stop there? If all you're looking for is a budget ceremony, say your vows before a judge and have your reception at a McDonald's.

EnticingHavoc's picture

Risk vs Reward. It's pretty much like assessing your hard earned cash.
Put it on a regular savings account and get a measly 1% or be a daredevil and embrace the stock market with the prospect of a staggering 50% profit ... or ultimate loss.
Apart from that ... the majority of people is content with holiday snaps taken with their smartphones. Why do we expect them to value high-class photography ?

Mike's picture

What a useless recommendation. It is almost an insult hearing that we photographers take good pictures just because we own the cameras. Things can can so wrong yet you are getting married only once, at least for that period in your life. I heard this from my own experience. :)

Years ago, I was asked by a friend to take care of their wedding as a photographer. I brought my Bronica etrs-i medium format camera. I had played with it but was not experienced. At the end of the wedding I found out that I had put the film backwards inside the magazine. So I took all the pictures to the back of the film. Very luckily, I had the back up camera. Sony 707 cyber shot. Some ok pictures was out from it. I was so embarrassed that I couldn't even tell the bride and groom. They seemed happy with the super low cost job. Maybe it was even free, can't remember.

I was not stupid person nor untalented. I was excited, eager and most importantly inexperienced. And also not honest. I should recommend wedding couples to stay away from this profile of photographer wanna be.

David Sklenář's picture

I have to say this is KINDA good idea. Although for it to be perfect, I think there would have to be more explained.

As you quckly said in your 5-lines list, you can't just hire "anybody" from high school, but I am sure if you try and look carefully, you are gonna be able to find somebody.

For example take me: I am 17 y.o., I have shot 3 weddings so far so I know how the big day works and how it all goes. I have expierences with lighting, now I am starting with "strobist", I do have backup gear for the big day, I learn how to pose and I always deliver photos in like a week.

I know I might not be the perfect guy to shoot your wedding, but if you have small wedding, you wanna save money and you want to have reasonable photos, why not hire someone like me?

Btw thanks to all people behind Fstoppers, you help me a LOT in my rather small photography business :)

John Sammonds's picture

I was a student and I was doing Wedding Photography and was very busy, I also met every deadline edited my own pictures, delivered proof albums on time and had a very nice time. Our local collage has a brilliant catering department is second to none in the country (UK) and is always serving large groups of people 300 is nothing to these people! many of the students go on to great things. I could go on but all I will say is dont condem the student we all start somewhere and you never know you just may have had Dixie Dixon photograph your wedding when she was a student. I know its hard life in photography but its a hard life everywhere and the next time you are fixing the car or painting the house think I should pay a professional to do this

Alicia Riddle's picture

Students have to start out somewhere, and I am one of them! As a student I do have back up equipment, a back up shooter, and a second shooter. I do own a flash and flash accessories. I am already married and understand the "flow of a wedding day" AND I have a list of photos for the bride to check off for me follow and ensure I capture every moment of their big day. Being a photography student has provided me with great training on posing of couples. Maybe the message should be - ask the right questions when hiring a photographer. I've encountered many "professional" photographers who are WAY more unprepared than I am. The focus shouldn't be put on students, it it goes to all the weekend-warriors buying a bunch of photography equipment and not knowing what to do with it. Just because you have a website, and back up equipment doesn't mean you're going to do the job right. Ask the right questions, research the photographer, know why you're paying less and the risks that may apply.

Joshua Boldt's picture

You're not the inexperienced photographer they are referring to if you have all that, and you would probably want to charge more than that person if you feel this confident about your skills. The term "student" is a misnomer, as many commenters already pointed out, and the heart of this warning was the danger of just pulling any old person off the street and getting a "better" rate from them because they are just starting out and/or have no experience. If the bride really did the research and picked a good photographer they would have to pay for it, or weigh the risks like you said.

Graham Marley's picture

A lot of what you're saying is true, but I cannot stress enough, shoot 2nd for a solid 20-30 weddings before taking the lead. I did it the other way, and I thought "This is a lot easier than I thought it would be" because I didn't know how wrong I was doing things. You got married, which is great, but please take it from someone who's done this hundreds of times: the wherewithal of working a wedding comes with time and nowhere else. I'm sure you've got the skill and the gear, but there are things I understand now with much more clarity than I did even after my 50th wedding.

Max Leitner's picture

With all this fluffy discussion going on here, does anyone got a new link to the video, since its been taken down?! That is the only reason I came here for.

jesse's picture

A bride is sueing her photographer because she recommended a student videographer because the Bride would not spend over a $1,000. The Student Videographer didn't use proper audio, ceremony was very dark and not exposed right, he missed the bride walking down the aisle plus so much more. Now the photographer is getting the blame. Be careful before you recommend someone and NEVER EVER hire a friend or student. Hire a friend and within a few hours of the wedding they will want to be part of the fun and forget to do there job. Seen that may times too!!

Graham Marley's picture

That might be the worst lawsuit ever. I mean, if you said "Photographer put gun in bride's mouth and told her to hire student videographer" that would be one thing. But wow.

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