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Wedding Photography in Roanoke, Pro vs. Amateur

Wedding Photography in Roanoke, Pro vs. Amateur

Ah, the wedding photographer. Here in the Roanoke Valley there are roughly 140-150 wedding photographers with many of them being amateurs trying to get into the upper tier of the professional market. 

When you look online at places like Facebook wedding groups or Craigslist, you're going to find a lot of these turn and burn people with super cheap prices. 

Well, today, I want to help educate you in the differences on the professional vs. amateur and how to help choose one that's right for you. 

If you're simply looking at the cost, then this article is most likely not for you, as you will spend the least amount anyway, but for those looking to weed through all those seeking a great wedding photographer in the Roanoke Valley Metro, then keep reading!


The main difference from a wedding professional and the much less expensive amateur is experience. Like with anything else in the world, the MORE versed you become in something, the better off you are at doing it typically. 

Most professionals are going to have a good background in not just the technical skills of lighting, ISO, focus, shutter speed, focus length and the like, but they're also going to know which ques to look for at a wedding to help figure out what could happen next. 

Let me give you an example. You're at the wedding reception and you're getting ready to cut the wedding cake. But, off in the distance the wedding planner is putting up a chair in the center of the room.... what gives? 

Well, any professional will know what that will mean and will be prepared for it. 

Being able to adjust quickly and professionally at a wedding is part of what you pay for, a well seasoned photographer is going to be able to get those great moments when the couple THINKS no one is looking. 

Additionally, a pro wedding photographer is going to have a written out game plan of sorts. Of course the obvious, the ceremony pictures, the family pics afterwards, but getting those one on one moments, the couples pictures other than standing in a field kissing are going to make that photographer stand out in a crowd. 

Being creative is a BIG part of the experience. 

Speaking of experience, typically a good wedding photographer is going to work out most of their kinks and bugs by year 3 of shooting weddings, so try to look for someone with at least 3-5+ years of experience. 


This is a bit technical so bear with me. The gear that a professional uses is much harder to tell in today's world than it was say 10 years ago.  The DSLR camera has become so advanced that just about anyone with a low end $500 version can make a decent image. But is decent really what you want? 

Can you tell the difference in the $500 vs $2,500 camera here? 

Of course not. You want great! And with the experience comes good, high end gear. 

Here is what I'm going to tell you, I'll try to make it in layman's terms that you can understand without being too technical. 

If a wedding photographer uses a camera that has the word Rebel in it, just don't. While Canon and Nikon make some wonderful photography cameras (Panasonic, JVC and Sony for the wedding video) that can range from the $2-6,000+ range, they also make some entry level, eh, cameras. 

The Canon Rebel series comes to mind, its a starter camera with a couple of low end lens and price point of about $3-600. 

Check out these images and see if you can tell which one was done on the $500 camera and which one was done on the $2,875 camera. 

Things like the zoom (mm range), ISO, shutter speed, f stop, etc. ALL come into play with a camera. Knowing how to quickly adjust the camera for the right type of shot is important. 


Every wedding photographer has a certain style that they like to shoot. Style comes down to the types of wedding images, how they are framed in the image, the angle and if there is any post editing, like if the image seems blurry around the edges. 

While style is not a huge factor in weeding out the professional vs amateur, it does make a difference in how the images will come out and how they will "feel" to you. 

How Can a Professional be different from the amateur wedding photographer? 

Ah, simple – by acting like a successful business – always.

I get job requests all the time from companies who don’t normally hire professional photographers.  Law firms, real estate agents, branch offices of big corporations etc.

I am not talking about industry professionals who are used to working with photographers and things like licensing – people like art directors or advertising agency associates.

I am mostly talking about potential clients like business executives who have never worked with a creative professional before.

They think that they are just looking for someone to come by and snap a portrait, or take some pictures of their products for a hundred bucks.

When I give them a professional quote, including licensing rates, I usually never hear from them again – and that is fine with me – because I am not going to waste my time with someone who does not value my work or my profession for a hundred bucks.


Yup, price is the last factor to think about here. In the Roanoke Valley, you basically have four tiers of pricing for the wedding photographer.

The low end, those seeking services under $1,000, the mid range which is $1,000-2,500, the upper range, $2,500-$5,000 and the ultra tier for those $5,000 or more.

Just remember that with price, you get what you pay for in wedding photos. I recommend that you find someone in the middle with a range of about $1,500-$2,500 if you're getting married in southwestern Virginia.  That's the middle of the road sweet spot where you're going to find the better photographers and still feel comfortable with the costs too.

A good rule of thumb is to budget about 14% of your budget for a wedding photographer in our area.

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