May 22nd 2015, Planning your Wedding Photography
Do I need a pre-wedding venue visit?
“Have you worked at my wedding venue before?”
“Can we meet at the venue to check out portrait locations/ the lighting?”
With nearly 150 weddings under my belt, I’ve worked at the same venues a surprisingly few number of times. Only a handful of my weddings this year are at venues I’ve worked at before. You could be forgiven for thinking that knowing a venue well would be an advantage, but I actually prefer not to have any preconceived ideas about how I might work on the day because doing so impacts on my creativity.
Let me explain.
Well actually firstly let me explain that I turn up to any given wedding with everything I could possibly need to work in any given situation. Well that’s not strictly true – if you spring an under water portrait session on me I wouldn’t have the correct housing to keep my cameras dry so I’d probably have to opt out, which would be a shame. I am PADI qualified though.
Scuba diving shoots aside, I have cameras, back up cameras, a back up back up camera, high spec professional lenses that are “fast” enough to allow me to shoot in very low light, speed lights for use on and off camera, lighting modifiers to soften and sculpt the light from my speed lights, lighting stands to put them on and a whole bag full of bits and pieces that allow me to work in any given situation. I’m an experienced low light shooter, including winter weddings where it’s dark at 4pm.
All of the above means I am technically ready to go, where ever you put me. Unless it’s under water, as I said before. That’s just one of the reasons I don’t need to do a pre wedding photography scouting trip.
Other reasons actually mean it’s counter intuitive to do so, the main one being light.
Light is changeable, especially in the UK where the weather seemingly switches every five minutes. To perfectly illustrate my point, there was a massive thunder storm with hail stones while I’ started writing this, although looking out of the window right now it looks like a glorious summer’s day.
If I visit your venue at 3pm on any given day before your wedding, the chance of the light being the same on 3pm of the day of your wedding would be slim.
As a creative documentary wedding photographer I work reactively and a crucial part of this is working with the light that’s available to me at the time or adding my own light where I need to.
Another huge reason is creativity. I am at my most creative when I am working reactively. I react to the environment, I react to the light but most importantly I react to you and the way you interact with each other. I react to the outfits you’re wearing and whether you’re having a free spirited wedding in nature, or a wedding in the city. All of these things come together to make your portraits.
If I pre-scouted locations, without getting a feel for you and the vibe of your wedding day, I might have a fixed idea in my head about how the shoot will pan out that means I’m blinkered and miss other opportunities that present themselves.
That’s not to say I go into the portrait part of the day with no idea where I’m going to shoot. I have a look around the local area at the start of the day to see if there are any potential off site locations that might work (checking the position of the sun and where it will be later) and then I’ll look for locations at the venue either before I start coverage or during the drinks reception, keeping a particular eye on what the light is doing and what the weather might be like later in the day.
Relying on my experience, having the correct equipment to work in any given circumstances and checking out possible locations on the day, with the light in mind, means that I really don’t need to do a pre-wedding venue visit before the day and it doesn’t matter if I’ve seen (or worked at!) your venue before the wedding day.
Add to the mix the fact that I want my portraits to reflect you as a couple and you’ll see why I prefer to work reactively and creatively. If you have any questions about venue visits just shout in the comments or drop me an email.
And do check out the rest of my Planning Your Photography series.