Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

DIY Wedding Photography

The more DIY your wedding is, the more work it is. But--at the same time--the more rewarding, personalized, and memorable it is.

Matt and I decided not to have professional photographers for a couple reasons:
  1. It wasn't in our budget. We didn't want to go into debt. In fact, we wanted to save money for our first house. And we didn't want to borrow money from our families because we wanted to retain complete creative and executive control of the wedding to ensure it represented us completely.
  2. Both of us have had bad experiences with professional photographers at our friends' weddings (i.e., I actually avoid dancing next to the married couple on the dance floor because I know that flash is going to be right in my face).
  3. We have three great friends who are perfectly good photographers.
If you are going with a professional photographer, I understand. Sometimes I'm dogmatic about things, but this isn't one of them. There is absolutely a difference between the quality of photography from friends and professional photography.

But Matt and I have never hired a professional photographer for any other major event in our lives (e.g., college graduation) and we don't anticipate ever hiring one (e.g., the birth of our children), so our wedding honestly didn't feel any different to us.

And, frankly, we just didn't want to be annoyed our entire wedding weekend.

So we entrusted the duty to three people who would not annoy us. We decided to go with three people because 1) we didn't want any one person to feel responsible for capturing the entire wedding (we wanted our friends to have fun, even though they were helping out!) and 2) we hadn't seen any of their work in a long time, so we didn't want to put all our eggs in one basket.

Then we came up with very specific directions about what we were looking for and what kind of photos we wanted. I am a big fan of candid photos or funny posed photos. I could take or leave regular, bland photos of smiling groups.

I asked Matt's mom which pictures of smiling groups she would really like to have. She sent back a very thorough list with every possible combination. Aack!

Since we were taking photos after the ceremony (there just wasn't time before the ceremony when we were making guacamole and salsa), I wanted to make it quick. Getting to the reception and enjoying myself was my number one priority. I asked her to cut back the list (very carefully explaining the above reasons), and she did so with vigor. I very much appreciated her willingness to revise.

In the end, we had a very short list of required group photos, but each photographer was assigned to take shots at various points throughout the entire wedding weekend so we could have lots of candid shots. At the bottom of this post, you'll find the directions I sent to them.

We also asked our guests to upload their photos to a single location so we could easily access all of their photos.

At one point in the middle of the reception, I grabbed Matt's hand, grabbed my friend, Marsha, and led them across the street so Matt and I could just play together and have it all captured on camera. It didn't feel contrived at all. Marsha didn't try to pose us or talk to us. We just played and she just snapped away.

Honestly, I feel very happy with our wedding photos. They capture everything I felt during the event. The only time I have any reservations about them is when I have to post them on this blog and feel like I'm competing with wedding porn taken by professionals. When that happens, I just have to listen to the rationale voice in my head who says, "Oh, Sara, don't be silly. Post away!"

-----Directions for Photographers-----

JOB: Photographers
Things to Know:

First and foremost, we want you to have a good time. You are our friends and guests first—photographers second. Do not stress out about the pictures. We will have tons of pictures of the wedding from everyone who is there.

Feel free to take any kind of shots you want: candid ones, posed goofy ones, still shots, etc. We just don’t want people to have a negative experience because of the presence of cameras (which is what usually happens with obnoxious wedding photographers!).

When the big event is over, please upload your photos to our flickr account.


  1. Wednesday: Hiking with family (Doug)
  2. Friday evening: Informal dinner and hang-out (Paul and Doug)
  3. Saturday morning 10:15-11:45: Rehearsal at Meeker (Doug)
  4. Saturday afternoon: Family lunch (Doug)
  5. Saturday afternoon 4:30-5:00: Ceremony (Marsha, Doug, and Paul)
  6. Saturday afternoon 5:00-5:30: Formal photos (Doug)
  7. Saturday evening 6:00-8:00: Dinner & hanging out (Marsha, Doug, and Paul)
  8. Saturday evening 8:15: Cake ceremony (Marsha, Doug, and Paul)
  9. Saturday evening 8:45: Wedding dance (Marsha, Doug, and Paul)


  1. Thursday afternoon @ Sunshine: Pre-set up--putting up lights, ironing, etc. (Marsha)
  2. Thursday in Estes Park: Dinner with friends (Marsha)--if you are available to go to dinner with all the early arrivers!
  3. Friday morning 8:00-10:00: Breakfast at Sunshine (Marsha)
  4. Friday afternoon: Set-up (Marsha)
  5. Saturday morning: Breakfast at Sunshine (Marsha)
  6. Saturday afternoon 3:00-4:00: Getting dressed (Marsha)
  7. Saturday afternoon 4:30-5:00: Ceremony (Marsha, Doug, and Paul)
  8. Saturday afternoon 5:00: Doug is taking the formal photos, but please stick around to take the family shot (with Doug in it!)
  9. Saturday evening 6:00-8:00: Dinner & hanging out (Marsha, Doug, and Paul)
  10. Saturday evening 8:15: Cake ceremony (Marsha, Doug, and Paul)
  11. Saturday evening 8:45: Wedding dance (Marsha, Doug, and Paul)


  1. Friday evening: Informal dinner and hang-out (Paul and Doug)
  2. Saturday afternoon 1:15-2:00: Final cooking preparations (Paul)
  3. Saturday afternoon 4:30-5:00: Ceremony (Marsha, Doug, and Paul)
  4. Saturday evening 6:00-8:00: Dinner & hanging out (Marsha, Doug, and Paul)
  5. Saturday evening 8:15: Cake ceremony (Marsha, Doug, and Paul)
  6. Saturday evening 8:45: Wedding dance (Marsha, Doug, and Paul)
  7. Sunday morning 8:00-10:00: Breakfast at Sunshine (Paul)

List of Formal Photos:

1. Entire wedding (B & G + wedding party + guests)

Everyone will stay seated at picnic tables immediately following wedding

2. B & G with Lynn, Dan, Dustin, Marge, Roy, Brittany, Kristin, Gail, Doug, Sue, Harriette, and Richard

Marsha will take this shot

3. B & G with Lynn, Dan, Dustin

Lynn, Dan, and Dustin can leave after this shot

4. B & G with Katy, Mark, John, Mike, Bradford grandparents, Hickey G'ma

5. B & G with Bradford G’Parents

Bradford G'Parents can leave after this shot

6. B & G with Hickey G'Ma

G'Ma Hickey can leave after this shot

7. B & G with Katy, Mark, John, Mike

8. Groom and Katy, Mark, John, Mike

John and Mike can leave after this shot

9. Groom and Katy and Mark

Katy and Mark can leave after this shot

10. Close-up shot of B & G with Hoss

11. Full-length shot of B & G

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Cate Subrosa said...

Your photos are adorable!

Wedding photography here starts at about £1000, which just wasn't an option for us considering we weren't willing to go into debt and we're determined to bring the whole thing in under £4000. My colleague's cousin is a photographer, he's Venezuelan and just starting out over here so he's going to do it for us for £200. Baddie's little sister is also a photographer (in a portrait studio) but we didn't want to ask her to spend too much of the day taking photos, so we just asked her to take photos of people arriving for us.

I have been a bit shy about the whole photography thing, feeling embarrassed when people ask about it because of people's attitudes that you can't miss the chance to get great photos so you should spend a lot on it... thanks for making me feel better about it. That point that you don't hire a professional to capture any of the other important events really resonated with me.

Unknown said...

Another advantage to the friend-as-photographer option: since you've mentioned that you intend to turn your wedding experience into a book, you'll probably have an easier time of including some photos in it. Did you know that photographers (that is, all photographers, professional or amateur) retain copyright on their photos? Even if you own the physical copies, they own the intellectual property. Most pro photographers would demand royalties if you wanted to include their work in a published book, whereas with friends you can probably just ask 'em and they'll grant you permission.

Jess said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this-it's very timely for me. I'm a professional photographer (corporate and editorial stuff) and my partner and I are "eloping" next summer in a very out-of-the-way warm island. All of the photographers in a 1000 mile radius are either (a) really, really, really amateur or (b) really, really, really expensive. I can't stomach having a bad wedding photo, nor can I afford to spend or justify several thousand dollars for 2 hours of coverage. This really only leaves me one option--to shoot self-portraits!

I've been going back and forth--on the one hand I really want some nice portraits of my future hubby and I (as a photographer there is a bit of shame in this too) but on the other hand I don't want to spend more on photos than I am on the whole darn shebang! The idea of taking self-portraits was really intimidating at first, but seeing these photos--cute, fun, irreverant--I'm feeling like I could do now. And stay in the spirit of the trip.

So I guess that was a really long, narcissistic way of saying thanks, ha!

It's so nice to read wedding blogs by real people... Thank you for keeping it down to earth and REAL.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU! I am so sick of hearing about how money should be no object when you book a photographer, how you should choose some one with an amazing ability to capture 'magazine quality' photos, how photos are the ONE THING you'll have after the wedding (um, yes, and a spouse for life).

Our photographers are good but not amazing, they fit our budget, they are great to work with, and we'll be happy with the photos (one of which will be framed in our hallway, the others which will likely gather dust on a bookshelf). There is so much pressure to have an AMAZING photographer, when the fact is that most people can't comfortably afford the same photographer as Jennifer Aniston.

Kudos to you-- your photos are adorable.

Anonymous said...

Sara, I've been obsessing over your blog for about an hour now. I am for sure saving it in my faves for future references. Your wedding looked amazing and just like what I would imagine coming from you and Matt. Congratulations on the house! Don't forget to check out World Market for those blinds.
xo, jasmine
p.s. thanks for the ride to central market, you rock!

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