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Wedding myths: Should my photographer visit my venue before the wedding?

If you’re planning a wedding and have ever read a wedding blog or magazine, then the chances are that you may have received some really bad or really outdated advice. Lots of that bad advice that relates to wedding photography is written by people who are not wedding photographers themselves. Not only are many of the posts or articles about photography written by non photographers, but they’re based on research that’s not totally up to date too.

Advice about photography from people who aren’t wedding photographers

To give you an example- lots of articles discuss which questions you should ask your wedding photographer before booking. More often than not one of the questions that is asked is “will my wedding be the only one that you photograph on the day?” This is a question that hasn’t been relevant, for the most part, for around 20 years.

It dates back to when wedding photographers tended to only cover the wedding ceremony and subsequent group photos. Because of this, they could (and would!) sometimes shoot multiple ceremonies per day at the local church or registry office. This would mean they’d usually need to rush off to be at their next wedding. With the introduction of digital photography it is much more common to have wedding photographer photograph the full day. Shooting multiple weddings per day just isn’t something commonly attempted by any photographer we’ve ever met!

So now we’ve set the context, i’m going to discuss something else that is often spoken about by wedding blogs and magazines. Ensuring your wedding photographer visits your wedding venue before the wedding day.

The type of photographer you’ve booked

For any wedding photographer worth their salt, this is totally unnecessary regardless of whether they have worked at the venue before or not. Especially if you have booked a documentary style wedding photographer. Here’s why.

Wedding photography is about capturing your day as it happens. It’s about capturing all the excitement and anticipation and fun as it unfolds. It’s about telling the story of your day. A skilled photographer will use the light available or their own lighting equipment to ensure that all the key stuff is covered. When it comes to things like portraits, the best spots for photos are the spots with the best light.

The only time it may be worth a visit to a venue in advance is if you have booked a very traditional photographer. They may only (or mainly) take posed photographs. As such most of their time will be spent photographing in pre-decided locations, moving from one to the next. These tend to be more old school photographers, sometimes photographers who usually work from a portrait studio for example who are more used to working in this way.

For a photojournalist or documentary style wedding photographer in particular though, it most likely wont be necessary unless they are fairly new or inexperienced working in the type of venue you’re marrying in.

Light is more important than anything else

Even if you visit in advance you cannot be sure where the best spots will be because light changes minute by minute according to the weather, time of year, time of day etc. You could visit a venue on a gorgeous sunny day and have several locations picked out for couples photos, only for it to be pouring down on the day itself. Then every plan you’ve made has gone out the window.

A good photographer knows how to read light. They can distinguish between how the eye sees a scene and how a camera sees it. These are not always the same. So just because a venue has some pleasing spots to the eye, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be the best spots for photos. Nice backdrops, lakes and so on aren’t always quite so pretty if it’s a very very bright day and you’re squinting into the sun. Or in contrast, if it’s a very very wet day and you’re getting soaked to the bone.

The only way to know for sure what the best spots will be is to see them on the day, in the actual lighting situations. An experienced photographer can do this quickly and efficiently as they are walking along and doing other things. It’s not a time consuming activity or something that must be done separately.

Sometimes it is a venue that suggests a photographer visits for a walk around if they have not worked there before. Again this is usually so they can show you the “best spots for photos” but again, this is usually coming from someone who is not a photographer. They will usually just be advising based on what looks pretty to the eye in very specific situations, or what they have seen other photographers do.

This is absolutely fine if you have booked a paint by numbers photographer and you’d just like the same 6 or 7 poses and specific photos that you see taken at the venue time and time again. If you would like your own set of photographs that are unique to you and the situation on the day, a walk around will not be necessary.

To conclude, it is not necessary to ask an experienced photographer to visit your venue in advance. An experienced photographer will be able to read light quickly and efficiently to ensure that they are aware of the best spots on the day. Additionally, they can assess the best locations for posed couples or group photographs on the day itself, as this rarely a time consuming task.

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