Vogue Magazine Claims You Don't Need a Professional Wedding Photographer

Vogue Magazine Claims You Don't Need a Professional Wedding Photographer

Vogue Magazine recently released a list of 10 things the modern wedding can do without. Along with rings and the first dance, Vogue wants you to say "I don't" to hiring a professional photographer because a wedding is about "true love" and a photographer "detracts from that." Excuse me?

Before I dive into this, I want to be clear about something: I'm not writing this purely from the perspective of a photographer who wants you to give him your money in exchange for photographing your wedding. I'm also writing this from the perspective of a human being who hopefully will one day be getting married himself. I'm writing this from a hybrid perspective of someone who takes photos at weddings in a professional capacity and someone who is discussing how he would like his own wedding to be.

Here's what Vogue had to say with regards to hiring a professional wedding photographer:

It made sense back in the olden days, pre-Facebook albums and Instagram hashtags, when the whole world didn’t have phones with cameras on them. Having the actual leather-bound album on your coffee table seemed like the only evidence that the whole thing actually took place. If social media is not your thing, why not scatter some disposable cameras around the party and let your drunken guests go to town? You’ll end up with hilarious and candid pictures without the pressure of 'likes.'

The first half of the quote seems to make the claim that the only reason to have a wedding photographer is to have physical proof that the wedding happened, and now that social media and camera phones are ubiquitous, such physical proof is redundant and unnecessary. I'm not really sure I understand the angle here. Without speaking for every couple who has a wedding album on their coffee table, I would go so far as to say that the more likely explanation for possessing such a book is for the purposes of reminiscing and sharing of a happy event, not literal proof of the event's occurrence. You'll have other legal documentation if you really need to prove that it happened. If the point is sharing the event with friends and family who weren't there, don't you want them to experience the event at the same level of detail and quality that you did? We'll get to that.

The second half of the quote seems to be implying that the only reason people get a professional photographer these days is to succumb to the social pressure of posting them online to receive affirmation. Frankly, if a couple is secure enough in their love to get married, I highly doubt they need it to be reaffirmed through Facebook likes. The author's solution to this nonexistent problem is to "scatter some disposable cameras around the party and let your drunken guests go to town." Sure, that'll likely capture a few fun pictures at the reception. What about the ceremony? You know, the part where you actually get married? Will you be passing out disposable cameras and flasks to get the guests prepared to photograph that too? Sure, most of the guests will likely have camera phones, but we know how well that works out

The Vogue justification of this and its other claims seems to be following the faux trend of everything needing to be understated to the point of nonexistence, because extravagance, or simply taking a serious day seriously, is passé. I find that attitude so tiresome. A wedding is not a competition to show how much of a nonevent it is. The author asserts that we should dispense with the honeymoon, rings, and even the first dance, because "twirling around to a waltz as if you’re in a Viennese ballroom circa 1932" is "bizarre." I've been to a fair amount of weddings, and not once has the first dance been a waltz. Most couples have a song that's special to them, and that's what this entire day is about; it's a succession of special moments that celebrate a couple's love, even if that special piece of music is indeed a waltz. That being said, if you don't want to have a first dance, who cares? It's your wedding. Do it for you, not for the need to subscribe to the nouveau-chic idea of nothing being noteworthy anymore. 

Let me put my photographer suit back on. The most obvious argument for hiring a professional is having professional equipment and experience. I'm preaching to the choir a bit here, but weddings are really tough to photograph. They're fast-paced, they demand technical and artistic prowess and efficiency, and they are notorious for offering terrible lighting conditions. Does your iPhone go to ISO 6,400 or sync a couple of off-cameras flashes? If your guests brought their DSLR, do they really know how to use it? You're taking quite the gamble on getting even decipherable pictures. And really, 20 years down the road, when you're showing your children or close friends what your wedding day was like, what do you think will convey the experience more adeptly: a blurry camera phone shot (by then, the quality from that camera phone will be horrendously outdated and likely tacky anyway), or a carefully crafted set of pictures that clearly, artistically, and unobtrusively capture a special day in its full elegance? Do you really want 200 guests clamoring and jostling over each other to get that shot anyway? Isn't that the point of a professional photographer — someone who is not only trained, but emotionally removed from the couple and thus, free to perform duties without worrying about missing the experience? 

Sorry, but you just can't produce this with a phone.

A wedding is a rapid-fire day of memorable minutiae punctuated by special moments. Even as the bride or groom, you might miss a lot of those moments; half the joy of receiving wedding photos is being surprised by those that you didn't see as they happened. Furthermore, a decade or three down the road, you'll want to remember those details. You'll want to remember exactly how those flowers you spent hours putting together looked. You'll want to remember exactly how you were gazing at each other during the first dance. This is what good photography does; it preserves every detail so you can relive that experience whenever you so desire. It transports you to that very point in time, just like the professionally shot photo of a bride posing with her bridesmaids (banned by the list) that ironically graces the top of the Vogue article.

And so when Vogue claims that having a professional photographer "detracts" from "true love," I claim that they couldn't be more wrong. If you're celebrating true love, show it the requisite respect that honors the magnitude of a once-in-a-lifetime event that celebrates such a deep and meaningful connection by having it captured in its full glory. Don't treat it like any other day, because it's not any other day. You only get one chance at this. 

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91 Comments
Matt Robertson's picture

Hypocracy. I can almost guarentee that the majority of people who work at Vogue would be hiring professional wedding photographers for their own weddings.

I feel sorry for the people who will actually follow the advice of the idiot that wrote the article, because in a few years they'll look back and wish they'd hired a photographer.

Michael Scrip's picture

Exactly.

And I bet all the photos in Vogue magazine are taken by professional photographers... not moms and dad with smartphones.

If a wedding should be shot by amateur photographers... why not a fashion magazine?

:)

Percy Ortiz's picture

I thought they were already? so many TV and media outlets here in Australia ask the common folk to "send your photos to..." in order for them to show footage or photos of an event. Biggest media company sacked the entire photo dept just over a year ago and so many printed magazines are disappearing... I think Vogue is just butthurt coz it's being killed slowly by the internet

cqphoto's picture

well, i guess we'll see if Vogue starts using cellphones for their magazine covers. i mean it is 2016 after all. i say let them fire all their photographers and then the moment they ask us to lend us their photos for free, we block them on Facebook. let them sweat it out until they realize what they lost.

Lorri Adams's picture

And drunken amateurs at that.

Karl Shreeves's picture

Not only hiring a photographer, but I would imagine that the upper echelons would have access to some of the world's best fashion photographers -- at least enough to ask them if they would consider doing their wedding, or their daughter's wedding, etc.

David Mawson's picture

>>> I can almost guarentee that the majority of people who work at Vogue would be hiring professional wedding photographers for their own weddings.<<<

I.e. this is what you *imagine* and nothing else.

Matt Robertson's picture

Thats why the word 'almost' is there. Need to read things more closely champ.

Karl Shreeves's picture

It made sense back in the olden days, pre-Facebook albums and Instagram hashtags, when the whole world didn’t have phones with cameras on them, to have fashion magazines lying on your coffee table. But today, there's no need for these magazines and professional fashion photographers when everyone at Fashion Week has a camera, and you can always log onto the websites of Christian Dior, Hugo Boss and so on to see the latest. Even if you're not into surfing the net, have your friends take selfies and email them to you when they try on new fashions at Neiman Marcus. Also, since everyone has a computer with a keyboard, everyone is also a professional writer, so regarding the editorial content of fashion magazines . . .

This is, of course, nonsense satire that makes no more sense than Vogue's advice. It's not that a couple won't want the shots people take with camera phones -- it's that those images are not the same as what the wedding pro shoots, nor are they supposed to be. A wedding is a hopefully once-in-a-lifetime event and it deserves better than what nonphotographers can manage with snaps and smartphones.

BTW, for the record, I am a professional photographer, but I am NOT a wedding photographer -- so I'm not saying this just to butter my own bread.

Percy Ortiz's picture

lol... Every now and then my mum still pulls that Vogue magazine from 1972 and browses thru the photos reliving those magical moments of that year :P

Elijah Jackson's picture

Don't say a single thing about this article! it was only written to get you attention, anger, discust...whatever. This was written because they had NOTHING else to write and thus had to pull something out of their butts and call it relevant. Don't give them the attention that they are wanting. Fashion changes with the direction of the wind so don't worry they'll come up with something else that make no sense before to long.

Kendrick Howard's picture

i think that is an excellent observation!

Elias Hardt's picture

The Vouge article is more cringe-worthy than Miss Universe.

Michael Kormos's picture

I think Vogue is going after one thing here - sensationalism and controversy. Each generating thousands upon thousands of clicks. A sound tactic in an age of dwindling subscription rates and diminishing print-ad budgets. If it generates debate, they've succeeded!

Eric Lefebvre's picture

The problem is they are messing with couples important day. Couples will follow this horrible advice and then regret it.

All they'll have are noisy, poorly balanced, horribly composed, blurrys (too long shutter) and out of focus photos.

There are ways to reduce your weddings costs but what vogue is suggesting is madness and unfortunately people will listen to it.

Instead of getting a massive 5 tier cake, get a nice presentation cake and serve from a lab.
Serve one glass of wine at dinner instead of 3.
Don't do an open bar.
Don't hire a wedding planner.
Don't rent out a high end venue.

You NEED good entertainment and a good photographer.

Michael Kormos's picture

My wife and I didn't even have a cake. We had 164 cupcakes!

Deleted Account's picture

I totally agree with Alex that Vogue's editorializing is wrong.

This all boils down to the "DIY mentality" of the digital era. Many people believe that they can do everything themselves and that specialists are frauds and a waste of money. How many photographers say that "gear doesn't matter"..."school doesn't matter"..."assisting doesn't matter"... etc? Well, that's no different than when Vogue says that photographers don't matter because drunk friends can take the wedding pictures with disposable cameras. In a way, it's just divine retribution. I'm not agreeing with the Vogue editorializing at all. Actually I think it's dead wrong. But I really believe that this attitude from potential clients is reinforced by the attitude that photographers take towards their own profession and craft. Photographers need to start taking their own craft far more seriously if they want others to take it seriously too.

Eric Lefebvre's picture

"Gear doesn't matter ... unless you are shooting for clients then get the f'ing proper gear to do the job you are paid to do."

That's what photographers should say.

Sure, shooting portraits of your friends with one rebel XSi, the kit 18-55 and a couple of house lamps can work ... if it doesn't who cares ... doing the same with paying clients on the other hand puts you at risk of being sued and having your professional rep destroyed.

David Oakill's picture

Funny how Vogue would be nothing without pro photographers. Would be nice to see the pros boycott Vogue and force Vogue to follow it's own advice. Use disposable cameras operated by drunken family members for the next cover. Or maybe they can use those guys on Craigslist that shoot for a $100. I hear they even give you a disk of images.

Mike James's picture

Sheet! Just another dumb article written by an eediot. World's full of 'em! But wait, maybe zillions of megapixels in a cellphone really do equal good photos. Na, the writer needs to be shot - against a decent background, of course.

Eric Lefebvre's picture

"Na, the writer needs to be shot - against a decent background, of course."
Like a bullet riddled stone wall?

Eric Mazzone's picture

This isn't the first time I've seen a magazine say this. But the first time I saw an article claiming this, it was written by a wedding coordinator for a bridal magazine. Hmmm, wedding magazines that rely on great photos of weddings to sell issues, that says to not hire pro wedding photographers. I wonder where they get the images they use? Funny, how will they get the images once photographers stop sending them images nor grant them permission for use. I certainly hope they're not actually hoping brides send them images, because then the magazine would be violating copyrights of the photographers and it will cost them a boat load more in damages.

David Mawson's picture

Again, take a look at newspapers. A lot of them now rely on amateur shots and the ones that survive culling are great. Or cruise through a flickr group for any subject you're interested in. A good photographer is not required to get a great shot - he's simply more likely to do so. If you're a magazine receiving shots for free then a 100-to-1 cull ratio isn't really a problem, not as long as you're getting enough shots sent to you.

Christopher Smoot's picture

It seems you are seriously confusing photojournalism with editorial work.

It is beneficial for a newspaper to be first on scene and first with the story; hence why many are willing to sacrifice quality for timing. Not so with a fashion magazine where you're coordinating with models, MUA, stylists, locations, and limited time with all of them...

Same applies to wedding photography. Miss the big moment and its gone forever...

f.d. walker's picture

You don't need professional photographers for photojournalism, newspapers, magazines, modeling, weddings, or anything anymore. Everybody with a camera is just as good at taking photos today because technology makes the photo, didn't you know?

I had someone explain this to me just the other day, as they proceeded to show me some some heavily filtered, boring photos on their phone that they thought looked just as good as any professional could make. And this thought process is why we're so saturated with bad photography today.

The people that wrote that article probably don't believe this, but they're just playing to the masses who want to believe it. It might be false hope, but I think this belief will fade some in the future after people get tired of seeing the same polished boring or just plain bad captures.

David Mawson's picture

Again, denial. That you have been bored by one bad photographer doesn't mean that 50 guests with smart phones won't produce, say, 50 excellent pictures over the course of a day in which they each shoot a 100 images. If you don't understand how this would work, then search for pictures of any subject on flickr and see how damn good the best ten you can find in a few minutes are - even if you limit yourself to smartphone pictures.

(And it's quite possible that he'd have been equally bored by *your* work.)

Phil Newton's picture

I feel sorry for Mr and Mrs so-and-so who believe the vogue issue, hi-five each other thinking they're so clever by saving 2000 bucks on their wedding by giving out disposable cameras, then realise they are left with a hundred blurry images of people's junk and nutscapes as a permanent reminder of their wedding day.
Fair enough, trends change, and weddings are no different, but I fail to see that classy, timeless wedding pics professionally shot will ever be worthless. The bride and groom will probably never be that slim, attractive and made-up ever again.
It likely is just an article to get people clicking, sharing and liking. Clever move by Vogue actually.

Jay W's picture

I agree 100% with the Fstoppers article and as someone who did weddings for 3 years I understand the difficulties wedding photographers face in terms of competition, technology , and everyone knows a photographer , I personally really feel for wedding photographers today, and this article from Vogue just makes things that little bit harder.

However , do we not have ourselves to blame a little? When you have wedding photographers who act like prima donnas and tell people "No other photographers but me" or "no smart phones because they will ruin the shot" and when you have other photographers who shoot weddings completely on Iphones does that not help shape Vogues opinion? You gotta remember Vogue is in the business of selling magazines so a controversial article like this will definitely appeal to someone who wants to buy one.

Personally I would never risk one of the most important days of my life without a professional but I can see how some people might be tempted.

Eric Lefebvre's picture

"However , do we not have ourselves to blame a little? When you have wedding photographers who act like prima donnas and tell people "No other photographers but me""

I kind of disagree with you on that one ... I have an exclusivity clause. I have no problem with friends or family taking photos ... heck, I even lend some of my spare flashes to that one "Uncle Bob" shooting with the pop up who is at least respectful but I am the only hired photographer at a wedding. I don;t want to have to compete for peoples attention during the formals or having the other pro be rude and ruin my reputation.

The couple hired me. If tyhey want more coverage we can add extra photographers.

""and when you have other photographers who shoot weddings completely on Iphones"

Links or it never happened, low light, shutter drag ... Iphone will only produce junk in most low light venues.

Jay W's picture

Hi Eric

Can understand why you disagree and can see your point but I have seen an actual wedding in Sydney and around Australia where the photographers have formally asked people not to take photos during key moments, I can understand that ( i worked as a wedding photographer for over 4 years) but how can you ask someone not to do take pictures? Fair enough not get in the way and not be there during formal shots I get that , but to not take pictures is a bit rough.

I personally haven’t seen it and after doing a little research it looks like its more common for videos (google iphone weddings for yourself if you like) , however here are a few recent articles for you just on fstoppers and a couple of others, the fact that these articles even exist on a popular photo site such as fstoppers means it does happen and with the way technology is going it might become more apparent in the future.

https://fstoppers.com/wedding/entire-wedding-shot-iphone-and-processed-u...
https://fstoppers.com/wedding/it-was-bound-happen-iphone-wedding-7347
https://fstoppers.com/editorial/photographer-plans-shoot-50-weddings-one...
http://petapixel.com/2011/06/27/first-wedding-ever-to-be-shot-entirely-w...

Eric Lefebvre's picture

"Fair enough not get in the way and not be there during formal shots I get that , but to not take pictures is a bit rough."

I've only had problems with guests taking pictures at 2 weddings.

1- The formals were happening right outside the venue and EVERYONE came out and followed us (like 150+ guests), I had people calling out the couple to get their attention, KIDS JUMPING OVER MY SECONDARY CAMERA AND L SERIES LENSES ... it was a nightmare.

I gave everyone 15 minutes to get some shots in then had the best man herd everyone back inside so I could finish.

2- Ridiculously large and bright focus assists light on a point and shoot.
Cake cutting pics ... one of the relatives was using a point and shoot that had a MASSIVE focus assists light (covering 1/3 of the grooms face) that was BRIGHT orange.

Thankfully I noticed and simply shot in short bursts to get some without that huge orange spot.

"however here are a few recent articles for you just on fstoppers and a couple of others"

Weren't those for studio shoots and they were using MASSIVE amounts of light. I don't know how they plan to get usable shots without flashes (how would you trigger a flash from an I phone) and with phone horrible AF and low light capabilities.

Ben Perrin's picture

I love how they use a professional photo in the article and then explain that you don't need a professional photographer. :P

Bill Bert's picture

I agree with the Vogue article. It is about "The 10 Wedding 'Rules' to Break", so break that one, ditch the photographer.

If they, as quoted in the Vogue article "why not scatter some disposable cameras around the party and let your drunken guests go to town" That is cool by me because the wedding photographer, who is a professional is not going to get drunk. Nor is the "pro" photographer going to shoot hilarious and candid pictures of the guests that when the wedding guests sober up wish that those photographs shot at the wedding were never made public because they are now embarrassed of their drunken behavior.

If the wedding couple does not place any value on wedding photos, let they have their disposable cameras or have the Uncle Bob who just bought a DSLR and is waiting for the chance to use it shoot there wedding.

Nomad Photographers's picture

I strongly disagree, I almost always get drunk at wedding receptions, not as drunk as my wife who covers weddings with me though :D

Eric Lefebvre's picture

I'll only ever accept a drink if the groom/bride/best man/maid of honor insists and then only one. I'm there to work not get hammered and when I leave at 11 - Midnight, I still have typically an hour drive and then another hour of work backing up the images on redundant backup systems (and start one online backup) before I go to bed. Having a couple of drinks in me at that point is not going to help.

Nomad Photographers's picture

I was being sarcastic ! I've long passed the age to get drunk anytime anywhere :)

Eric Lefebvre's picture

Sorry, Sarcasm is hard to detect online. :)

Adalberto Espriú's picture

Maybe one thing they can really do without is a Vogue Subscription, lol

J R's picture

I went to my nephews weddings about a year ago. Beautiful church and reception held on the Sydney Harbour. My problem with the photography wasn't about the photographer, she took some beautiful images and they are a credit to her. My issue however was that the wedding day (other than the actual ceremony) was spoiled because they day was really nothing more than a very long portrait shoot. The moment the couple left the church, it was into an old MG sports car for portraits, then off to a run of locations for more portrait shots. When they finally, more than 4 hours after the ceremony, arrived at the reception it was down to the pier and beach for another hour of portrait shots..."we" might just as well not attended because the bride and groom were completely occupied with a string of portrait opportunities that did not include the guests.

My point here is not a criticism of the photographer, more so the narcissistic (sorry, struggling to find a "nicer" word) attitude of the bride and groom who pretty much ignored the guests the entire day. I commented at the time that they did not have a wedding so much as a day long portrait shoot. And, unfortunately, the other two weddings I attended since we're pretty much the same, it appears to be the current fashion whereby the wedding day has become a day of romantic portrait shots. This probably reflects the attitude of the times, more power to them: but Vogue appears to be blaming the photographer for satisfying consumer demand of the "me generation".

Anyway, maybe that's what the article refers to; less emphasis on making the day about "a long portrait session", and more about celebrating the day? If so then I would agree with them in principle, but disagree about not having a professional wedding photographer record the day, including "a few" portraits.

I still highly recommend a professional wedding photographer, that's why I didn't do job on the day (brides look and act nothing like forensics, wildlife, flowers or landscapes!).

Just my 2¢

Alexander Petrenko's picture

I can imagine type of couples for whom travelling half of their wedding day to beautiful locations and taking photos there will be perfect. So, it is not necessary to blame the photographer. Yes, 1 hour for staged shots is great. As great as tens of great shots in several beautiful locations.

Deleted Account's picture

excellent observations

Eric Lefebvre's picture

"My issue however was that the wedding day (other than the actual ceremony) was spoiled because they day was really nothing more than a very long portrait shoot."

That's a huge issue ... I shoot candid preps (when the bride wnats them) with a few posed prep shots and I have about 1 to 1.5 hours for the formals. everything else I am a freaking photo ninja. You don;t even know I am there.

The day isn't about me, it's about the couple. I also preffer getting candids ... you get the best emotion when the subject has no idea they are being photographed.

Nomad Photographers's picture

I think people must decide if they want a reportage of their wedding in which case I agree with Ramon Vaquero, things should go fast and it's the photographer's job to work his day around the wedding. But when a couple wants magazine pictures with lightning, atmosphere, originality, decor etc... well as you said this is not wedding work, this is modeling work and it takes time, even more time with people who are not models !

Prefers Film's picture

In SoCal, I was happy to get 30 minutes with the bride and groom, between the ceremony and reception. When I moved to Australia (2003), I found that giving up 4 hours to the photographer was the norm. They thought nothing of taking the bride and groom away for hours at a time.

David Vaughn's picture

Wedding is theatre. It's a pageant. Since when does true love require catering, a $1500 dress, a DJ, and a $300 wedding cake? Not to say all weddings are like this, but to say weddings are only about "true love" is laughably naive.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Not that many things from wedding day list will stay with a couple forever. Rings, photos, may be dress. What else?

Prefers Film's picture

I always tell them that all they'll have after the wedding is each other, and some debt. Best to get photos of the event. That's my entire pitch.

Anonymous's picture

Thanks to the sky there are people like Alex. Very good article and good points.

Eric Lefebvre's picture

The person who wrote that article isn't a jounalist ... it's a WEDDING GOWN DESIGNER! Notice how the list doesn't include cutting an expensive dress out of the wedding? Notice how this designers dresses start around 2000$?

Michael Rapp's picture

I'm split on the Vogue article:
If it's all about love, then sure, ditch the 10k- dress, the 1k cake, the venue, live band, and of course, the pro photographer. Invite only the very loved ones, and you'll have true love for well under 5k.
Save the money or invest it in new furniture or a new family car or equiping the hopefully soon needed baby room.
Fine with me.
But if you want a glorious feast with glorious memorabilia, you gotta open that wallet. Rent that Location, hire a guy (or gal) who knows what they're doing with that camera.
Simple as that.
Personally, I consider that article by Vogue clickbait, owed to a journalistic dry spell.
<sarcasm="on">Or wait, isnt't the printing industry also laying off it's writing staff, because if you have a computer and MS Word, you don't need an education in journalism? <sarcasm="off">

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