When making a simcha, many people play a game of “give and take” with their budget. If they opt to have a bigger hall, then the family may choose a simpler menu. Some people choose to cut out the photographer. After all, with digital technology as accessible as it is, is that job really necessary for the amount of money it costs? “Absolutely,” insisted Yaron Karl, of Hello Video & Photo Studio. “People think that they can just take a photography course or two, buy an expensive digital camera and call themselves a photographer, not realizing that professional simcha photographers have a minimum of 10 years to achieve the pictures they take.” Karl explained the multitude of factors that go into a professional’s job at the event—to say nothing of the training beforehand. “Lighting is often an issue at events, and most people do not know how to use even the fanciest cameras off manual.”
“People who don’t use professional photographers are often disappointed,” echoed Stefanie Diamond, a Teaneck-based family and simcha photographer. Indeed, a quick Google search of “Should I hire a photographer for my event?” turned up a multitude of blogs, questions and answers and other strongly worded stories of people who opted out of a professional and regretted it. For personal events, Diamond herself does not rely on her own skill to “Do It Herself,” or on her friends and family to chronicle events for her. When it came to her own photography needs, she hired a professional photographer, which not only made sure the pictures were high quality and captured the right moments, but also allowed her to enjoy her own event.
Ultimately, most people prefer to hire someone else to do their pictures, and want someone who will do it well. But what are other options when a photographer is just not in the budget?
Some people try to break up the photography into different parts. For one recent bar mitzvah, the family had a photographer come for formal portraits, but chose not to have one at the party itself, thereby reducing the expense, and had no regrets about how they chose to document their simcha. Another family chose not to hire a photographer at all for their own wedding or any of their children’s bar/bat mitzvahs, and while the mother does not regret the choice, she does wish they had been able to pose for a family picture.
Photography is often about creating memories for families through their pictures. Both Karl and Diamond appreciate the artistry behind photography, and are passionate about achieving that goal. They also understand that a simcha’s cost can be prohibitive, so the pros offer some advice to families looking for alternate options.
To photographers, what is often of utmost importance is that one captures the event itself. Diamond insisted that if a family decides to forego a professional photographer, they still appoint someone as the event photographer. She also recommended hiring film students, or high schoolers with a photography interest who may have some understanding but are not professional yet, and may charge less.
Karl offered tips as well for those trying to plan outside the photography box. Karl suggested that anyone with any interest in photography practice by “taking as many pictures as possible. It’s more about the use of the camera than the camera itself.” He quoted one of his early professors by saying that, “The best camera in the world is the one you own.” As he explained, whether photographing wildlife or people, there is no time to start learning about the camera, how it works, reacts and where its pitfalls are when one only has a moment to snap the picture. Especially at simchas where moments come and go in the blink of an eye—or in this case, blink of the shutter.
As one happy client remarked to Diamond after the event, “Pictures are the only thing we will have after this is over.” Whatever route one decides to go—whether with a professional, an amateur or a friend, “Just make sure you have someone recording the simcha,” both Diamond and Karl stressed.
By Jenny Gans