We live in a day and age where if there isn’t photo proof of a moment, a story, a specific situation, it’s arguable that it didn’t really happen. And if that photo is uploaded to Instagram, Facebook, shared on a Pinterest board, and doesn’t get more than 50 likes, it’s also arguable that the moment or story doesn’t really matter to the internet trolls (also known as close friends and acquaintances) that make up your social media footprint.
So when it comes to figuring out what you need and what you want on the biggest and most expensive day of your life, the day you say “I do” to a person who is also vowing to stand by your side through thick and thin waistlines, it’s only right that a voice inside of you will scream, “Duh, I want to hire a professional wedding photographer, and a good one at that!”
But when you’ve landed your wedding planning spaceship back down on earth and start to put dollar signs next to how much each of your wedding must-haves will cost, you may start to ask yourself, “What the heck can I cut out of my budget so that I don’t have to drag my feet into Bank of America and ask them for a loan to pay post-wedding bills?”
A wedding photographer should be something on your cut list. I know, it sounds crazy but hiring one will set you back anywhere between $2,000 and $9,000, depending on your location and the package that you fancy the most. While saying bye-bye to a professional behind one of those giant lenses may seem ludicrous to you because now you’re wondering who will take that perfectly captured first-look photo, you’d be surprised to know there are many ways to still get the photos you want to hug forever for a price that’s f-r-e-e.
1. You can go old school instead
I’m about to get real old school here. Are you ready? Two words for you: disposable cameras.
I know, I know. These things are so 1990s that you’re probably scratching your head wondering where the heck you can buy one (hint: Amazon sells everything) and your follow-up question is probably where you can get the photos developed after your wedding extravaganza (I’m a psychic, aren’t I?). The answer is most chain drug stores, like CVS or Walgreens, still print these photos for you dirt cheap and give you digitized version.
But the benefit of putting a couple of these on each table at your reception is that you can put the power of photo in the hands of your wedding guests. Guests are always taking photos during the ceremony and reception anyway.
They’ll capture parts of your wedding that a traditional photographer would never have the behind-the-scenes kind of access to.
Sure, some of these photos may make your eyes bulge when you see them (courtesy of your more open-bar loving and rowdy guests), but some may be so darling that you choose to mail it back with a thank-you card to the guest in the pic.
2. You can ask a pal or turn your family into paparazzi
For the moments you may want to Instagram or put in a frame and hang beside your LCD flat screen TV, you can ask a friend you know is going easy on the open bar or a family member who has already invested in a professional camera for their once-in-a-lifetime (emphasis on the once) trip to Europe. Arrange for them to meet you before the ceremony, or when cocktail hour begins, to take a couple of candid shots and ask them to be front row during the ceremony for the ooey-gooey love photos and moments of fresh marital bliss. You can also put the maid of honor and best man in charge of getting ready photos simply using their iPhone. These aren’t flip phone camera we’re talking about anymore and we rely on it for everything else, right?
3. You’ll never look at 95 percent of your wedding photos again
It’s true. With a professional photographer, you’ll spend a chunk of your wedding smiling for their camera, another chunk of your post-wedding time scrolling through 1,000 photos and picking the top 50 for a wedding album and zero chunk of your life ever looking at them again. Maybe you’ll pull out your wedding album once every 12 years or share the link to your digital wedding photo album, once, to 12 people, but the truth is, professional wedding photography is an investment that doesn’t bring much of a return in the future.
4. You can DIY — selfie style
We are officially known as Generation Y but really, we should be known as Generation selfie. We’ve all mastered skills at taking our own photos, slapping them with an Instagram filter, and feeling like they are worthy of being added to a photo database at Getty Images.
More: Couple’s wedding photos go viral for all the wrong reasons
While wedding dresses and tuxedos don’t have selfie stick pouches on them yet, and carrying one of those things around may make your own personal wedding vibe feel like you’re getting married at Disney World in line to ride Splash Mountain. So I’m not advising you invest in a selfie stick, or two. But if there’s a moment you want to capture, there’s nothing wrong with taking out your iPhone 5c, flipping the camera, and capturing the goofy, yet love-filled look on both you and fiancé’s face.
5. Staged photos may make you feel awkward
After spending years looking at professional wedding photos suffocate my Facebook newsfeed, I’ve begun to think that all these photos are exactly same, just the faces of the couple are different. It’s always the same pose, the same facial expression and the same arm placed here while the groom’s hand is placed there.
My problem with these kinds of photos is less that they photocopies of one another and more that they are totally and completely awkward. You can see it in the couples’ eyes, in their body language. They look like they are playing a game of Twister, wearing their wedding’s best. Their eyes are screaming, “When is this over? I just want to go down a glass of overpriced Champagne and a more upscale version of pigs in a blanket?”
Will you miss having your face posed in these formulaic wedding photos? No, never. You’ll be glad you don’t have to sort through 450 of these photos, picking only one or two that you feel safe sharing with the world, while you take the others and triple delete them off your computer and internet browsing history, for fear that people will discover your secret, which happens to be universal: You have no idea how to smize (smile with your eyes) and that is OK.