Professional means they are following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain, as opposed to an amateur who is doing it for the love of it.
Good, means they do it well. Bad means they do it poorly. If your friend’s photographer is seeking customers and taking money in exchange for photos, the photographer is definitely professional. If you don’t like the photographer’s work, that professional photographer may not be good. Or, the photographer may be good but does not have a style you appreciate.
We have seen a lot of photographers on Facebook with thousands of “Likes” and comments that sound great, yet none of us can stand to look at their work except to ridicule it. The best sense I can make of that is that it is a photo of someone they know and love, therefore they love the photo, even though the pose is not flattering, the lighting is bad and the exposure is terrible. Sometimes the wedding photos we see are heartbreaking. Even if it doesn’t last, each wedding is a one-time event so you get the photo, or the moment is gone. I can’t imagine why anyone would trust their wedding to a photographer they have doubts about.
You didn’t provide a link so we can’t see that photographer’s work, but reread the last couple of sentences in the previous paragraph again.
Sometimes a photo benefits from having a lot of depth of field (DOF) — sharp focus through a large area of the photo or perhaps all of the photo. Other times a shallow depth of field is more suitable. A shallow DOF is frequently employed to separate subject from background or to remove distracting elements in the background. You can see shallow DOF in lots of sports photos where the background was blurred by a wide aperture to remove or minimize advertizing. Since shallow DOF is a product of a longer lens, closer subject and wider aperture, it frequently appears in wedding photos where the venue is typically under lit, lots of church interiors are pretty dark and flash is distracting. Some reception halls have similar lighting but usually the minister is not present to object to the flash distracting from his sermon. When conditions require, DOF can be razor thin, the eyes are in focus, the tip of the nose and ears are getting pretty soft. I don’t think I would normally want that extreme but if it were the way a photo was taken, judging the photo would be based on how well focused the eyes and eyelashes are. If the tip of the nose or ears are sharp and the eyes are soft, then focus was incorrect. If the face is turned relative to the camera, the near eye should be in focus. Sometimes, the photographer will shoot people standing different distances from the camera and only one person or one group will be in focus, to bring attention to that person or group. Other times, it will be necessary to have everyone in focus so a deeper DOF will be required. Shooting the groom as the bride walks up the aisle, you might want her back out of focus and his face in sharp focus. Shooting a hundred guests standing in a big group on the lawn, you need to have them in focus from the ones at the front through to those at the back as well as those standing at both sides.
Reading through the forum it seems most posters are from the US, while I’m in UK but I don’t suppose that makes a difference, after all a good photograph is a good photograph in anyone’s eyes.
There are some UK based photographers on here. I’m not one of them. The only reason their location would matter is the cost of having someone who is not local fly in and stay at a hotel in order to shoot your wedding. Some photos are good in almost everyone’s eyes, but some people seem to like the trendy low contrast photos which seem to be popular now. Ten years from now they will probably look quite dated and in twenty years, someone looking at them might think the processing was defective and the prints have faded. However, what really matters is what you think of your wedding photos.
If you are sure you will not be using the photographer your friend recommended, just say you want a different “look”, or that you have another photographer in mind.