You just got engaged, and with that shiny new rock on your finger, you’re probably starting to figure out that planning a wedding is like a whole new world. Who knew there were so many vendors you have to book, tiny details you have to iron out, and big decisions you have to make? One of the first things couples tend to do is search online for “wedding planning advice” and “what should I ask my [vendor name]?” You want to make sure you hire the right people who are going to do the best possible job on your wedding day. Not only is it a big investment, but it’s the most important day of your life!
There’s one question that comes up quite a bit in my first few emails back and forth with potential couples.
“Have you shot at our wedding venue before?”
I totally get the reasoning behind asking this question, and, since it’s on The Knot’s list of “Important Questions to Ask Wedding Photographers Before You Book,” it’s not surprising it comes up quite often.
They say it’s an important question to ask because “Your shooter should be aware of any lighting needs or issues specific to the space.”
At first, it sounds like a totally valid question to ask, but there are a few reasons why basing your decision on how the photographer answers this question might lead you down the wrong path.
Why it doesn’t matter if your photographer has shot at your venue before
1. Your photography decision should be based on i) the quality of the photographer’s work and ii) how well you connect with them.
Simply choosing who you want to work with based on whether or not they’ve been to a certain building before could seriously limit your options. Instead, ask them about their approach to the wedding day, how they handle things like posing and directing, and how they approach light on the wedding day. Focus more on their approach to photographing the wedding day, and make sure it’s a good fit for you, not just your venue.
2. A photographer can shoot hundreds of weddings and still not have ever shot at your venue.
I live in Dallas, but I also regularly serve couples in Fort Worth, Waco, and Austin. Though I don’t market myself as a destination photographer, I’ve shot a few out-of-state weddings and have even more destination weddings on the books for next year. There’s just no possible way I could ever have photographed at every wedding venue in the DFW area, let alone all the other areas I serve. But not shooting at one particular venue doesn’t make me any less qualified to photograph that wedding day.
3. An experienced, professional photographer should be able to adapt to the lighting at any venue.
I’ve photographed outdoor weddings in beautiful sunshine and in the pouring rain (with a tornado warning). I’ve shot weddings inside a well-lit open-air chapel and inside a dark church with no windows. I’ve shot weddings on a golf course and on a boat in the middle of a lake. I’ve had wedding days with a perfect, glowing sunset for bride & groom portraits, and I’ve had weddings where the ceremony began at sunset and every single bride & groom portrait was with flash. Part of my job is being flexible and knowing how to handle different or unexpected lighting situations at a moment’s notice.
4. Many photographers will do their due diligence to research the venue ahead of time, whether online, in person, or both.
I can’t speak for all photographers, but I personally will do a lot of online research for a venue I’ve never been to before. I’ll look on their website, check out photos of the space, and make mental notes of spots around the property I want to check out. I also arrive 30-45 minutes early on the wedding day to walk around, scout locations, and make a plan for the day. I’ve had my fair share of shooting at unique and challenging venues before, but I know how to quickly assess the space and make a plan for where and how I will shoot before I’m even on the clock!
5. Venues look different depending on the time of year, time of day, and the weather.
Finding good light is my top priority, and every decision I make on the wedding day will be because of that—from the location, to my settings, to whether or not I need to use flash. If I shot a wedding in the summertime and have another wedding at the same venue in the dead of winter, I’m still going to show up early and scout locations because the light will be totally different. True professionals know how to approach unknown spaces and lighting situations which is a must, regardless of whether they’ve shot at your venue before.
6. New venues are inspiring for photographers!
While there are many venues I love to shoot at over and over again, I get so excited for weddings at a venue I’ve never been to before. It’s an opportunity to do something different and go beyond the “classic shots” at a venue because I see the venue with fresh eyes. When I shoot a venue regularly, it’s more challenging to do something different, but there are so many exciting possibilities at a brand new venue that I love!
Moral of the story, don’t make the decision of who to hire based on if they’ve shot at your venue before—you could be losing out on gorgeous images and an incredible experience!