Alrighty…we’re starting off the month with one of my least favorite questions: Have you shot at our venue before?
Why is this one of my least favorite? I think the frustration comes from the disconnect between a couple’s vision and how I actually work as a photographer. I’ve had consultation calls that go well; the vibes between the couple and myself electrify the room, artistically I’m excited about their vision…and then this question douses all the fire that we’ve been building because a couple mistakenly thinks this is a red flag.
And from what I’ve heard from some other photographers–I’m not alone.
So why isn’t it a big deal if you ask your potential photographer, “have you shot at our venue before?” and she says no?
A common misconception is that once you see a plot of land, you’ll be able to map out all of the best spots. The reality is that very little of what I consider a good location translates from day to day.
So, what produces dreamy light on one day won’t always work the next thanks to weather. The changing seasons and sunset times also have a major impact.
In the summer, sometimes trees can diffuse light (make it softer) so that some spots turn into little hidden gems. But then in the other three seasons when leaves are sparse, the lighting is harsh.
And, as you already know, the sun sets a lot later in the summer. So a gorgeous spot in June during the 5 o clock hour when the sun is setting late into the day will look completely different than in December when by 5 it’s pitch black outside.
I’ve photographed a wedding at the same venue during the same season, only a few weeks apart, and had completely different experiences. Why? The first wedding was overcast, while the second it was pouring rain. Spots that worked well for the first wedding just weren’t options for the second.
When hiring a wedding photographer, you should look for someone that’s adaptable. Of course, having systems in place is super important–I have lighting rules, location rules, and posing systems to help me get the results my clients hire me for. But within those guidelines there is a lot of flexibility. I don’t always put clients in the same exact spot and expect to pose them in the same exact way. So much customization occurs with every couple!
Trust me, you don’t even want to get me started on allll the little technical details that factor into a wedding day. I’ll probably put you to sleep!
Different couples had different sized families, wedding parties, timelines, and so on, so different decisions must be made.
Sometimes a fantastic spot is a bit of a walk away, so for the couple, it works. But if it’s family portrait time and we need to get great grandma to a location up hill? It’s just not happening.
I photographed one July wedding where the heat index was in the 100s, and I had a bridesmaid that was 9 months pregnant. Of course, every single person in the wedding party, including the bride and groom, wanted to be in the shade. Any one of us could have passed out from heat exhaustion. But on that day I was extra determined to keep the wedding party shaded for the health and safety of that bridesmaid.
So while lighting and background of course matters, so do the people that I’m caring for right in front of me. Sometimes plans have to be tweaked to keep everyone accommodated.
I’m so glad you asked!
Of course, you should always ask to see full wedding galleries so that you know your photographer consistently provides amazing photos.
But really, to get the venue experience, you should ask about your photographer’s scouting process.
Scouting is when a photographer goes out and makes a plan for their shoot on location. A scout day (at least in my opinion) happens very closely to the wedding day.
It’s a bit different from a site visit that might happen months or even years in advance because a scout day accounts for the weather, as much as one can.
I actually utilize an app on my phone called Sun Surveyor that helps me assess where the sun will be in the exact spot I’m standing in. So while I’m scouting, I can actually make the most informed decisions.
I also pay close attention to weather apps while scouting. I have 9 different ones I check…yes, you read that correctly!! 9! I want to get the best idea of what should be happening when.
For weddings with rehearsal dinner coverage, I can usually get a good scout in a day before the wedding. For days when the extra coverage isn’t happening, I make sure to arrive to the venue extra early to walk the grounds, check in with staff, consult my apps, take pictures, and make a plan. You might not see me until our start time, but I’ll be hard at work!
So when you’re tempted to ask “have you shot at our venue before?” as you nervously want to ensure that your photographer is well prepared, remember that you’ll actually get a much better idea of how your photographer prepares for your specific day by asking about scouting.
And, for the record, I love shooting at new locations!! Sometimes I think it’s easier since I’m not tempted to simply do what I’ve done before. I’m inspired by all the possibilities and eager to create something magical and beautiful with you!
I’m your girl! You can get started by filling out my contact form here.