Let me guess, being new to this whole “getting married” thing, you’re not really sure where to start when it comes to researching photographers. One quick Google search for “wedding photography advice” and “what questions should I ask my wedding photographer” and you’re off to the races. You set up phone calls with photographers you like and then when they ask if you have any questions, you list off what you’ve found online – after all, they seem like relevant things to ask, and at the end of the day, wedding photography is a huge investment so you want to make sure your bases are covered.
A question I get asked by couples frequently is “have you shot at our wedding venue before?”
It makes sense, especially since this question is listed in The Knot’s “Important Questions to Ask Photographers Before You Book” and The Knot shares this advice: “Why you want to know: Your shooter should be aware of any lighting needs or issues specific to the space. If they haven’t ever worked in your venue, they should be willing to check it out beforehand.”
Now trust me, I get it: at first blush, it seems like it would be the most ideal to find a photographer who has shot at your venue before because it’s easy to assume they might have some sort of mastery of the space over someone else (hint: it doesn’t). Here are a few reasons why this question, while it has honest intention, can lead you down the wrong path.
Choosing only based off of who has shot in the space severely limits you in terms of options. Ask them questions about their approach, their shooting style, how they guide you on the wedding day – make sure you connect as human being and feel connected to their work vs. just where they’ve worked before. Talented photographers move to new cities, work in multiple markets, live in places oversaturated with venue or just live in a place where people get married in nontraditional places – focus on finding the right fit for you, not just your venue.
Personally, I’ve shot 100+ weddings and almost as many wedding venues. Then add in the fact that there are thousands of venues in California and Texas, and even if I have extensive experience, I may have still not shot at your venue. That doesn’t make me any less qualified to capture your day. My background and experience has allowed me to shoot outside on a lake in the middle of a 110* day, or in a dark ballroom in the dead of winter. In the middle of a tornado warning in a lodge or during a thunderstorm during a garden wedding. The unexpected happens, so instead ask your photographer about what qualifies them to shoot your day, instead of disqualifying them based on a building.
This isn’t always necessary, but if you had a complicated or super unique venue or a logistically-complex day planned, coordinate with your photographer to do a walkthrough or ask them if they’re available to show up early to your venue to check it out. Many times, I’ve shot in venues similar to those I haven’t or have past experience that will make shooting your venue a breeze.
Because of this, I make location decisions along with nearly every other photograph-related choice based on light. True professional photographers know how to approach unknown spaces and shoot it well. What settings I use, where I stand, the angle of my lens, what lens I choose and a dozen other little factors are all things I consider before take a picture. A wedding in June on a sunny day where the bride gets dressed at 11 AM will look completely different than a wedding in November on a cloudy day where the bride gets dressed at 3 PM.
Because I may have not shot at your venue 5+ times, I have the opportunity to see your venue through fresh eyes and approach your day in a unique way. So instead of seeing the same “classic” shots that are always taken at your venue, you’ll also have photos that are reflective of you and your fiancé as a couple.
SO, all this being said, if you’re hiring a professional, it won’t matter one tiny little bit if they’ve never photographed your venue before. I could shoot at the same venue 10 times in a row and do something different every single time out of both choice and necessity.
If you’re making the decision of who to hire based on if they’ve shot at your venue before, you could be making a big mistake and losing out on both gorgeous images and an incredible experience.