In looking back, I think yes, we would have survived without Kiersten and her amazing pictures (but they were so worth it to me). I think our friends managed to do a great job capturing our wedding and the different moments, at least on a broad scale of "we have pictures to show our grandkids". I'm going to take you through some pictures of the day - and I would say a lot of these are pretty typical. I'm going to start with the bad, and then move on to the good, and then get to the really really good. As far as the bad, and the good, we have a lot of similar shots, all from slightly different angles. We have a whole bunch of pictures of our first dance that are grainy and out of focus, with horrifying red-eye, or where the flash only caught my dress and it's too bright. So here's a smattering of some of the pictures from our friends which would make me nervous about not hiring a professional photographer:
Cake! You are MIIIIIIIIIIINE.
Moving a little too fast here
This shot is good, but just a little too dark and grainy to be blown up and put in an album
Just a bit hazy.
The problem with wedding dresses and sunlight is they are more likely to be overexposed.
The number one piece of advice that I would give anybody considering not having a professional photographer is this: Have a daytime wedding and an outdoor ceremony and reception. The lighting conditions in the tent were great up through dinner, but after that, the lack of lighting made it very difficult for anybody to get decent shots of us with a point and shoot.
I love this picture of me and one of our ceremony musicians.
This shot was by the same person as who took the cake shot above.
The pictures above were all taken with a variety of point and shoot cameras - a Canon Powershot A550 - it's a 7.1 megapixel camera, a Canon 850-IS (an 8mp which I happen to own as well), a Sony DSC-W350. But because the users didn't have to use the flash, they were able to get a whole bunch of shots of the ceremony - yes, a number of them are out of focus, but some of them are really good. Also, understand that all of these pictures were taken by people sitting down during the ceremony - so the people in the back didn't take as nice shots of us getting married, but have GREAT processional/recessional shots. If you were asking friends to shoot during your ceremony, presumably, some of them wouldn't stay in their seats. The closer they can get to you, the better.
The pictures that our family and friends got with their DSLRs are just phenomenal.
from Mark's aunt and cousins
same as above
same as above - all taken on a Nikon D50
This one is still one of my absolute favorite shots.
My cousin Matt, who has a pretty serious setup and a flash, took these on his Pentax and they're some of the better of the darker reception photographs:
Here is what I would say about not hiring a photographer:
1.) Talk to your friends who have nice cameras about bringing them. A lot of your friends with DSLRs might not bring them to weddings - we had at least three of our more experienced photographer friends not bring their cameras. Also, pick one or two of them, who have the most experience or whose pictures your really like, to shoot during the ceremony and move around and take pictures. Don't just ask ten people to take pictures willy-nilly from their seats.
2.) Give somebody a shot list, especially to do group pictures. When doing group pictures, if more than one shooter is taking pictures, have the person taking the picture raise their hand so everybody knows where to look. Try to avoid having more than one person take the group pictures though, and whoever is taking them should shoot them on an SLR/DSLR because it is often necessary to take 5-10 pictures to get one where everybody is looking at the camera.
3.) Consider lighting. If you are having an indoor wedding, or an indoor reception, figure out the best way to get the most light into the space, especially wherever the ceremony is happening and wherever the reception is. If you are having an indoor or church wedding, it's going to be a lot more challenging for your guests/photographers.
4.) Rent a camera/system/lenses if you have a guest photographer who knows what they are doing. (I would definitely suggest renting a 50mm lens and possibly a 35mm lens for a wedding, and possibly a professional camera body. The whole thing might cost less than $100 or so to rent.)
5.) Know what you're going to get. You're going to get good shots from people using a point-and-shoot or a DSLR with a kit lens, but you're not going to get shots like these unless you are using a lens which allows you to use a very low aperture. These both have an aperture of 1.8 and were taken by Kiersten of Prema Photographic using a 50mm lens.
6.) Know how to get the pictures back from people - either issue your guests very large SD cards (you can get 8gb cards for $15 nowadays) and have them give them back to you at the end of the night (unless they are editing), or have them arrange to get you a DVD of the pictures once they've been edited, or pull the pictures off of their cards the next day, or set up a Flickr site or a Picasa album. Whatever you do, you should make sure you are getting the full resolution photos and you should organize them all first into photos by the name of the photographer and then put them in chronological order.
7.) Ask your guests to make sure to take pictures of each other. When we got our pictures back from guests, some of them made me really happy because they were great pictures of my friends having a good time. Some of them, the guest had clearly been more concerned with taking great pictures of us than of each other, and so there are definitely some gaps in our reception coverage, and if you've got 10 friends playing professional photographer, you're not going to get as many great pictures of the other people at your wedding having fun, which is what a lot of us want - so ask a few friends to make sure they capture people who aren't you dancing and having a good time.
*The reality is, even if our wedding day was well documented, I also wanted beautiful and artsy photos, which we got, for a great price. But there are many many people out there who are simply satisfied as long as the day is captured.