Weekend Warriors’ are something of an ongoing contentious debate among the professional and semi-professional photographers that has been raging on for more than a few years. For example “The Undercutters” by Mick Cookson or Dan Casson’s Investment (Pricing) page. However, there is no apparent definitive accepted definition (but I am happy to be corrected). Sometimes I see Weekend Warriors used as a term to embrace ‘all’ photographers who do other jobs, i.e. all semi-professional photographers. However, for myself I prefer the definition of anybody who runs their photography business knowingly or or unknowingly as a hobby or side line to their main form of employment. This happens when the services or products they offer are priced too low to sustain the business in it’s own right and has to be sustained by income generated from their other work. It’s this last type of semi-professional that full time professional photographers naturally find quite irksome – obviously, particularly when it comes to weddings.
“Yeah? So what? What’s the big issue? That great! Pro’s charge too much anyway.”
Well there are a few issues and it’s not just about money, but money is a critical factor.
So what’s happening? One big factor is that high end digital camera’s and good mid range cameras have become more affordable. This means there is a greater number of individuals with digital camera and lens/es able to get a good image quality and certainly a few who may feel that regardless of whether they have ever held a camera before they are suitably equipped to be a professional photographer. Okay, I am admittedly perhaps overstating the case and there is a lot of grey areas between this type of individual and professional photographer. The problem though is that photography is a skill with far more to it than just pressing the button. No matter how intelligent the camera (or how much the blurb the camera manufactures want you believe). Cameras still can not do lots of the simple things, for example composition, posing individuals and groups, getting the light right, people skills (essential for weddings) and other things which are totally independent of the camera. While there is something to be said about natural talent, there’s still a host of things to learn. Consequently if you hire somebody who is cheaper you might find that the experience and/or photo quality will be not as expected compared to professionals and semi-professionals who have invested time and money into training and personal improvement.
“But you are professional so you would be taking that view.”
Actually, I should mention at this point that I am a semi-professional (#more). Just not a ‘weekend warrior’ – for good reason. I have to regard my photography business as a business, not a sideline. I would be remiss to any client if I did not run my photography business as a self-sustaining business in its own right, using income generated through the photography to keep it running and then improving the business and my own photographic skills (I have been a photographer for over 20 years and I am always finding there is more to learn!). If I ran the photography as a sideline, it would become rapidly unsustainable, because to just keep it going would need constant top-ups from my other employment as there are lot of costs to running a business generally and others specific to a photography business. E.g. insurance, tax, website, membership to professional bodies, cost of archiving photos, maintaining and upgrading equipment and software, to mention a few. For professionals that’s on top of making enough live on and feed a family.
So where does that leave you? When it comes to wedding photography, you really need to ask yourself what you really want out of it. Professional photographers prices themselves to make ends meet, but you should be assured of a professional service, ability to make the best of virtually all conditions, quality results and fantastic images. Photographers who will shoot a wedding cheaply tend to fall into one of several categories:
a) Newly started. Photographers just starting out and needing to develop their portfolio, exposure and experience. To do that they may have already done some second shooting for other more experienced photographers or relied on other experience. Ideally they should be able to show you some sort of previous work of theirs, but you take the risks of potentially poor image quality, that they don’t know how to behave at weddings or that they will not be able to cope with everything that the day might throw at them (camera’s packing up, heavy rain, crowd control, etc).
b) Point, shoot and burn to disk. Considering the amount of time a photographer spends upfront in consultation and after the wedding editing the photos and delivering a superb album. Editing which can easily take several days. The only way a photographer can make this cheaper is not to do this at all and just provide you all the images without editing. One problem here is that quite often couples who have only got the digital files forget about them and never do anything with them then years down the line regret not getting an album at the time and the images won’t have that professional edge.
c) Weekend Warriors. They may even be great photographers, but you run the risk that the individual is not keeping their equipment maintained (loss of image quality/chance of equipment failure), they are not insured and don’t belong to any professional society and therefore an agreed code of professional conduct. Amongst things.
For me wedding photography is an investment into a momento of the day that catches all the joy and emotions as great images you will enjoy and appreciate for years to come.
# – At the point I started the business I didn’t know I which way it would go. As it is I’ve ended up as a photographer which satisfies my creative streak and as a Learning Technologist which satisfies my academic/technical side.