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Hire a Photography Student to Photograph Your Wedding, Make a College Kid Happy



Dear Good Morning America,

I just watched your segment “Bride on a Budget,” during which ABC’s very own Ginger Zee gave listeners money-saving tips courtesy of her very own wedding coordinator.

First of all, a heartfelt congratulations to Ginger. Planning a wedding is very exciting and a bit overwhelming. I’m glad to see she spent money on a wedding planner to help her with her day. It’s alway a good idea to use a professional with experience rather than leave the day in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing, which is why I found this money-saving advice from Francesco-the-wedding-planner a little disturbing:

Rethink your wedding photographer. “The best thing to do is contact your local school — find somebody that wants to build a career with their skills,” Bilotto said. “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.

Francesco… Francesco… Francesco… I was a little surprised by this advice. You recommended using an actual florist and having a buffet reception (no doubt professionally catered) and an actual wedding cake (no doubt from a bakery) but when it comes to one of the only lasting memories of a wedding, you advocate hiring a student who is still learning?

Francesco, when I heard this, I kind of wanted to reach through the TV, take you by the shoulders, look into your eyes and say, like Michael Corleone to Fredo in The Godfather II, “You broke my heart, Francesco. You broke my heart.”


Now, GMA, I get that not every bride has a huge budget. I get that. I understand it. And sometimes, compromises have to be made in wedding arrangements to accommodate that budget. Cutting corners here and there when you can. I also know that each vendor feels as though its product or service is THE most important aspect of a wedding.  After all, what is a wedding without flowers? Or a cake? Heaven knows, you need a wedding dress. And, actually, they are all correct because it’s all important.

And let’s face it, Ginger, like most brides, will have spent months on her wedding preparations. She will have carefully selected her invitations, her flowers, her dress, the tuxes, the bridesmaids’ dresses, the venue itself, the reception, the decorations, the menu, the wedding cake and a hundred other details you don’t even think about until you plan a wedding.

She will, no doubt, have made sure that everything was just as she wanted, just as she imagined. And then, on the day of the wedding, as she surveys her fairytale, the little-to-no experience wedding photographer/student will arrive to photograph this most magical day.

Weeks later, Ginger will more than likely realize how silly it was to spend all that time and attention on the details of her wedding when so much of it never made it to the photographs. Will there be a few good images in there? Sure. The law of averages says there have to be, right? But nothing like if Ginger had actually used a REAL wedding photographer.


Here’s the thing that I think Francesco might not understand: saving a few bucks by hiring some student from a local school who has little to no experience photographing weddings will most likely result in photographs that look like they were taken by some student from a local school who has little to no experience photographing weddings.

See, there’s a reason you hire professionals. Let’s take Good Morning America, for example. You all boast a huge pool of professional on-air talent. Folks with real experience. Qualifications are important to you because you want it done right.

Now, using the advice dispensed by Francesco in today’s piece, you really don’t need professionals. Heck no. You could just grab a few journalism or communication majors from a local area school, instead. I’m sure they could read the teleprompter and smile and save the network A LOT of money. Plus, you would be helping them grow their resume. I mean, what you do isn’t that hard, right? It’s just talking and laughing and asking questions and smiling. Anyone can do that.

Yeah, okay, I know it’s more than that… but so is wedding photography. The people in our industry who do it well have spent years and years perfecting their craft. They know that when all is said and done — when the flowers have died and the cake has been eaten and the guests go home and the dress has been cleaned and boxed and put away — what a couple is left with are the photographs.


It’s their testimony to an extraordinary day. Their album is what their great-grandchildren will one day hold. Professional wedding photographers understand this; they know what’s on the line when they show up to photograph a wedding. This isn’t a hobby for them; it’s their life. It’s their career.

They know how to handle the unexpected surprises (and there are almost always surprises). They know how to perform under pressure. They know how to get the shot. They know how to work with people. They know how to deliver. And yes, they do charge good money for this… because they know what they’re worth.

Most wedding photographers can also help a couple with a tight budget save money with ideas like a “Wedding Photography Registry” where guests can purchase a gift in the form of a payment toward their photography package, or helping the couple to structure the day so they aren’t paying for unnecessary photography time.


Now, GMA, lest you fear I am disparaging photography students, I assure you, I am not. I realize that we all start somewhere. That’s why the photography students are still photography students. They are still learning their craft. Practicing. But, GMA and Francesco, here’s the thing: You don’t practice wedding photography on an actual wedding. (Just writing that gave me heebie jeebies).

A bride and groom are not homework; they aren’t models, nor are they test subjects. They are a couple for whom these photographs are very very important. Why would you trust that to anyone other than a real wedding photographer?

In closing, GMA and Francesco-the-wedding-planner, I sure hope you understand this. And if you don’t, then I’m pretty sure Ginger, the bride-to-be, will. After all, she realizes the value of experience and is paying a professional to help plan her wedding day instead of just using a spiral notebook and some Post Its.

Image credits: Photographs by Chris Metcalf, Dmitri Markine, David Ball, Andre Engels and Andrew Bird.