'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?

Wedding_Photography_Student
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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89 Comments

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Justin's picture

I feel terrible for my first clients. Even though they fully understood and accepted that I didn't have experience in weddings, I still think back and cringe at all the things I did wrong. Now that I've got some experience under my belt, I'm trying to help newbies to be much more prepared than I was. I've started collecting the materials and stuff that we use for our jobs, and sharing them at firsttimeweddingphotographer.com (Sorry for the shameless plug :-)). The point of the site is to encourage photographers to get started by helping with all of the things new photographers may not think about.

J. W.'s picture

This is my story on student photographers. Around 5 years ago (I was already a full time wedding photographer with 4 years of experience) I decided to take advantage of my GI BILL benefits before they expired. I started taking classes during the off-season and I took photography 1, 2, 3, I figured what the hell, easy credits right.

I met a lot a great people in these classes, some gearheads with no talent, some would-be-artists with no gear, but more than ½ the students owned a Canon 5DmkII or a 7D with a 24-105 F/4 lens and felt that they had pro gear, so they should learn how to make money with their pro gear. Out of the 100+ students, there were only three other students that showed great consistent work. Sometimes one of the other students would get lucky and have a great shot, but most of the time their work was amateur.

One day, my normal assistant was unable to attend a wedding so I approached the student that competed with me for most Photo-of-the-Week awards to see if he was interested. He was and I had him sign a contract. I sent him a remainder a few days before the wedding and he replied he was ready, come Saturday, he does not show up. I called him repeatedly until he finally answered the phone, I asked him why he was late, his reply,” Sorry dude, it totally slipped my mind, I cannot go, I promised something came up!” needless to say, I called a less talented, but very reliable (2nd) backup assistant. I had a contract, but I did not pursue anything with the kid, he is a nice kid, there was no point in getting nasty, I just chalked this up as an experience for me. There are many things a bride should look for in a photographer, but I will list the four most important.

1. Liking their body of work (i.e. not one wedding)
2. Making sure they have an established business, preferably one with online reviews, where a negative review can hurt business
3. Personalities click, there are photographers that feel the day is about them, not the bride
4. Finally last is price, I work in a small market and my average bride gets a $3000 package, but if I meet with a great couple on a shoestring budget, I am willing to work with them (i.e. monthly payment plan, credit card, customize a no frills package, etc.). However, if I meet an entitled couple how feel that wedding photographers are in general overpriced and that I should shoot them for far less, I shake their hands and say good luck.

J. W.'s picture

I am not sure if this is the same video that was removed. It is the same guy, the advice seems different than from what I have read, but it is still not photographer friendly.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/wedding-planning-tips-save-money-plan-we...

pablohill's picture

OMG, he is actually talking about friend using iphones to take pictures!!! And ipod in staid of a DJ!!! Why don't you do the wedding in the garage, venues are way over rated...

Origamy's picture

How about if someone said, stop watching morning TV. Just get your news from the Internet. It's cheaper (no need to buy a TV), you can watch it from wherever you have an online connection, and the presenters are sometimes more original and creative. I wonder how she would like it if other people were to put her out of a job or diminish her status like that.

Origamy's picture

I disagree with what Good Morning America suggested not because students can't do good work, but because by getting students to do it, you're probably slowly killing off the market. The same thing happened to the web design market when students started to charge ten bucks a page.

Any industry needs to maintain a certain standard in pricing, surely, otherwise how would we expect people who make their living solely out of being a photo/videographer to survive?

It's bad enough that photojournalists are already being priced out of their niches, such that we probably will see less of the magnificent photo essays that used to be so abundant. This is Fstoppers, and the commenters here are advocating that we throttle every single photographic niche there is?

Paul Vincent's picture

As a wedding photographer myself this is absurd. There is so much more than just taking pictures of one of your most memorable moments of your life. There is a reason why experience is always the best teacher. Will you be truly putting your moments to an unexperienced photographer/videographer? I have heard and seen a lot of horror stories from couples who did as such. When I started I didnt offer myself to be the main photog, but instead started as a back-up photographer and worked my way up and paid my dues. And now with $67k++ worth of equipment and years of experience under my belt this is the message they are telling everyone?
Yes with fast growing technology everything is very easy and anyone can do it. But as professionals we do things and see things differently and cannot be replaced with technology.

Paul Vincent's picture

As a wedding photographer myself this is absurd. There is so much more than just taking pictures of one of your most memorable moments of your life. There is a reason why experience is always the best teacher. Will you be truly putting your moments to an unexperienced photographer/videographer? I have heard and seen a lot of horror stories from couples who did as such. When I started I didnt offer myself to be the main photog, but instead started as a back-up photographer and worked my way up and paid my dues. And now with $67k++ worth of equipment and years of experience under my belt this is the message they are telling everyone?
Yes with fast growing technology everything is very easy and anyone can do it. But as professionals we do things and see things differently and cannot be replaced with technology.

Chris Blair's picture

Oh boy.

Tori's picture

Just think...every successful professional wedding photographer today was once a student photographer and shot their first wedding at some point. If a "student" photographer wants it bad enough, they will do months of studying and practice, reading blogs, books, videos, assisting for other photographers for FREE, etc before their first wedding. I did that for my first wedding late 2012 and it was only a 3 hour elopement, but I still took it very seriously. The next year I shot 20 weddings. As far as the "backup equipment" and lighting equipment that a student may not have...it's called renting. I still rent gear that I don't own.

pablohill's picture

Wrong, most start as assistants, then second shoot, and then, and only then after a few years under the wing of a pro, then they can fly on their own and shoot a wedding. This new millenial generation want everything ASAP, and think they are so much better than someone with years of experience. Dont practice on someone elses wedding, as a respect to the bride and groom and to yourself. Be hummble and let someone teach you as you assist before you ruin someone elses memories.

Gregor Hannah's picture

Everyones got to start somewhere i guess.

Joseph Farrugia's picture

Not at somebody' unrepeatable, lifetime-changing event, no.

Gregor Hannah's picture

serious question. How does a person get experience at these events?

pablohill's picture

Assisting a pro, then second shooting, then and only then they should shoot on their own...

Joseph Farrugia's picture

If you even have to ask this question, you should never ever consider shooting ("ruining") another person's event. Apprenticeship, anyone?

Gregor Hannah's picture

Could have done without the sarcasm, but cheers i guess

Jeffreyrbyrnes's picture

Educating people on how to "hire" an amateur is a pointless waste of time. Amateur photographers are not specialized in weddings. Weddings have timelines and require people skills, the ability to think fast, on the fly, and make great photographs. It isnt about showing up with one or more cameras, it is about knowing how to work with wedding clients, shoot a wedding, and delivery a product. If you cant afford a professional photographer, keep looking and dont skimp on the only thing that you will be the reminder of your wedding, aside from the person you wake up next to every day....

In terms of hiring a student, worst idea ever! If you want to save money at a wedding, dont buy a dress, rent a tux, just go bare ass naked... I have met tons of women that have, and I quote, said, "I wish I had a professional photographer at my wedding." Or things such as, "I hate my wedding photos, they came out so bad because we didnt hire a professional.

Whom ever told these idiots to announce, "hire a student" should be fired. Wedding photography is a precious and delicate process. Sorry, it is not a process as much as a privileged and intimate day to be a part of. If someone wants to save money and doesn't care about photos, simply dont hire a photographer and regret it.

Lastly, if you think that paying $5,000.00 for a wedding is reasonable, think again and look again. ALMOST all brides, as brides are typically the ones who care the most aside from mothers of the brides, have NO idea what they are paying for and why they are paying so much. Most photographers that are top tier price gouging, are doing so because of ego and overhead. There are thousands of wedding photographers in all parts of the country. Dont be a fool and over pay.

pablohill's picture

I own a studio, I shoot editorial, commercial and weddings. Hands down I can assure that the hardest most demanding, challenging and that require every skill and knowledge I've learned over the years, are the weddings. So yes, please do hire a student, I'm sure that everyone who does will absolutely recommend to hire a pro to their friends and family. My new hashtag will be #ReplaceZeeAndBilottoWithStudent

JesseDavis's picture

I'm going to follow the thinking of some of the people here and hire a Pre-Med for my Heart Transplant. I mean, who says they can't do good work? Not everyone can afford a fancy-schmancy Doctor.

Gerbert Floor's picture

Ok, I agree with most of your points. But that a student doesn't own a flash is probably a plus, there is nothing worse then photo's ruined by bad lightning by wrong use of the flash. We shoot 30+ weddings a year and hardly use flash ever (also personal taste), its great if you use flash in a proper way, but more then often I see photographers just firing away with way too harsh flashlights.

Better to learn how to use available light properly before starting to use flash imho.

VELS14's picture

I probably use fill flash on about 90% of the wedding shots I do, including beach weddings. While I agree that many photographers (though not the wedding photographers I know) don't know a whole lot about how to get great shots with a flash, suggesting using a flash generally for weddings is a bad idea makes zero sense to me.

Troy St. Louis's picture

ABC should save some money by using an app for their weather report. No need for a Meteorologist.

Robert Mark's picture

You. Get. What. You. Pay. For.

Matthew Robert Nott's picture

finding a good photographer on the cheap isn't an impossible task. All brides/grooms looking, ask to see a portfolio, if they shrug, be kind, say thank you, and don't call that person for a few years. personally I know very expensive photographers with loads of schooling and experience who can't hold a candle to some high school kids I know, but that's not usually the case. The camera doesn't make the photographer. don't be awed by the equipment, be awed by their prior work.

Richard Cave's picture

Make wedding, commercial and corporate, architectural, scientific and CSI only available to those who hold a photographic license. Lots of jobs these days require a licence, in the interests of liability, public safety, and preventing financial loss. I am sorry, but the internet has opened up what was a closed business to the new digital gold rush, sites like this, creative live and others have opened pandoras box. To easy to call yourself a professional and we are all guilty of enabling people to ride roughshod over those of us who have spent years, money and served an apprenticeship. The public are il informed and want everything for cheap, for now and for instant gratification. This business is no longer a profession but a lifestyle goldrush.

padugan's picture

Wonder if the same thing works for surgery? Gotta be cheaper to hire a med student.....

VNM's picture

I think hiring the student is OK. Just tell the student don't be stupid and charge a fair price - meaning a street price. Everybody should be paid for their work and what he delivers. If a student found that it could deliver a good job, he should charge the market price, not a cheap price. No one will thank him, just explore him.

Of course better and experience guys will charge more. But that's the market working, they offer more value, so they charge more. The question here is value. The value of the service. If a client don't perceive that, it expensive of course. But if it's perceived you're stupid not to charge it.

Specially if you want to do it professionally later. A good price policy is essential at start. Suppose the student does a nice job. A friend of the bride/groom see's and want him for their wedding. He is labeled as a cheap guy not as a good photo guy. Wrong label I say. So don't kill the messenger, kill the guy that give the news to the messenger...

Claire West's picture

It's interesting. I'm in my second year, but still decided to try to write a resume to start working in my specialty. It's quite difficult to find a half-day job and combine it with training, but it seems even more difficult to write a good resume that would interest the employer and he invited me for an interview. I found resume writing specialists here https://resumecvwriter.com/ . I looked at examples of their work and I think that these guys do their work well. Hope this helps me.