Does a Wedding Photographer Need to Visit My Venue Beforehand?
A common question and sometimes myth is about should your photographer visit your wedding venue? We have asked the professionals themselves about whether they do visit the wedding venue before hand.
Do you need to visit my wedding venue beforehand?
23 professional wedding photographers give their opinion on whether they need to visit your venue before the wedding.
I don’t visit venues beforehand anymore, mostly because I don’t need to. I’ve been shooting approx 35 weddings a year for 8 years, and before that I was shooting venues for other reasons for an additional 4 years, so I feel totally comfortable in my ability to figure out the venue as the wedding rolls on. Plus planning out photography beforehand has never worked for me, seeing as lighting can change so much and I never know what the couple will have their venue set out like on their day.
I could plan for some gorgeous pictures against a lovely wall only to arrive on the wedding day and see there is now a bar set up against it. Or the day I visited the venue may have been grey and rainy with the wedding day being sunny, so my options for photography will once again drastically change. Plus I regularly shoot all over the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, so a quick visit to a hotel in Sorrento or the Isle of Skye isn’t always possible beforehand!
The main thing about wedding photography is being able to hit the ground running and not have to deliberate over what settings your camera should be on; it should be second nature. All of my best work happens when I think on my feet – for me it’s about capturing unique moments, not relying on predetermined locations. Come rain or shine there’ll always be epic opportunities for memorable photographs.
No, there’s no need. As a documentary photographer I’m going to be wherever the action is so I don’t really need to scout any locations.
I’ve been photographing weddings for a decade, so 2 minutes is enough time for me to pick out the best spots for portraits and group photos! I also find that it’s so dependent on the weather, the light and the time of year that the best spots can often change from day to day anyway.
Yes, it’s always advisable especially if it’s a new venue to me. Having a viewing with the couple gives us the opportunity to talk about their plans and how they see the day unfolding. It also allows us to find those alternative shooting spots before the wedding day.
Always. Even if I am familiar with the venue and know those magical spots where I can get great portrait images, we want at least 30 minutes for me, and my second shooter, to capture the sites of the ceremony and wedding breakfast. These will be all set up but free of guests, and will be looking their best. We also want to photograph buildings and surrounding grounds, again at quiet moments.
We travel throughout the UK and often arrive the day before the wedding and may check out and photograph hotels and grounds then. We would never deliver ‘staging’ images showing people not associated with the couple’s wedding.
I’m very familiar with 90% of the venues in my area, but even so, I make sure that I meet with the couple at their venue a couple of weeks beforehand to draw up a schedule of the day. We’ll take a walk around too – I need to know where I’ll be at various points in the day and I also need to formulate a contingency plan if the weather turns bad.
If we haven’t worked at the venue before we always go and take a look beforehand. If the venue is miles away from where we live in The Cotswolds we either arrive super early on the day or visit the day before if we are staying overnight to shoot the wedding.
For us it is important to see what backdrops the venue has to offer inside as well as outside in case the weather is unfavourable. If it looks like it is going to be a wet day we do encourage the grabbing of an umbrella and wearing of wellies!
If the couple are lucky enough to get a sunny wedding we like to know where the sun will be at various points of the day to check for shade for family group shots and also where the sun goes down for an arty Bride and Groom sunset shot!
If I haven’t been to the venue before I will always visit beforehand. I need to see the space you are getting married in, where the light is and how it will be lit on the day, the best place to stand for the best shots. Then the reception space, gardens etc where great places for photos of the couple might be, and of course any group shots. I take a few shots on my iPhone or any ideas that I get when doing a recce to refer back to.
I need to know the logistics of the day, where the Bride will enter the ceremony from, where confetti might take place and what the dancefloor area is like etc so I know what to bring in terms of lighting.
Yes I always try to visit a wedding venue that I’ve not been to before. This can be a few weeks before or sometimes the day before (when I can also take photos of the wedding set up). I’m looking for photo opportunities, building a rapport with the wedding planner and other staff, mapping out in my mind how I think the day will go in terms of timing, best place for group photos, looking to see whether there are any potential issues that I can resolve before the wedding.
Entirely depends on each shoot. Usually I wouldn’t visit pre wedding, as I actually prefer to get there early on the wedding day and actually see the grounds, buildings etc on the actual wedding day. Things change, and I’d rather see the location with the most relevant “eyes” and see what the weather has been like etc.
If we haven’t visited a venue before, or haven’t shot there for a while, we always check out the venue before a wedding day. We try to do this relatively close to the wedding day mainly because of light, features, staff insights and plants (odd, right?).
Light is key to photography and it changes how it hits a venue throughout the year – it’s a sun thing! We can make decisions based on light on the day, but it’s nice to be prepared. The same goes for the greenery – it changes. What elements can we make the most of throughout the day? Where are the stunning spots for photos? That’s what we’re looking for.
No – it’s not a great help to us or the couple. You can never predict what light you’ll be shooting in, or the weather conditions. And of course, a venue is completely different when a wedding is in full swing with all the guests and staff present. So we just react to the situation on the day as needed, it all helps keep things feeling very relaxed.
Visiting beforehand depends on whether I have worked there before and if so, how recently.
So for a venue I have worked at recently then everything is going to be much the same, though with venus with lots of plant rotations, such as say Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park I still like to walk around the gardens on the morning because the flowers are always changing – if the daffodils are now dying it influences the route I will take my couple for their scenic walk. So for this example, 30 minutes before I start.
For venues I have not been to, or have been to a long time ago, then I try to get to see them before the wedding day. If not then, on the day I like to get there around an hour before I officially start so I walk around and look for photo opportunities and have a chat with the staff.
What I look for is the available natural light for the ceremony, the areas I can use for the group wedding pictures, the route for the couple’s romantic, scenic walk and the light and space available for the wedding breakfast / first dance.
If it’s a venue that I’ve not worked in before, then yes I would visit to check out the photo opportunities, a month or so before the wedding, sometimes with the couple if we’ve not met or even if we have, as it’s a good opportunity to get to know each other and discuss exact requirements before the wedding.
Absolutely, I always visit all my wedding venues around two weeks in advance of the day to gather information about the best little corners for shooting the couple. The light at the venue, inside and out, this also depends on the time of year so that’s why I wait until two weeks before.
I don’t want to get a false impression in July and the venue is completely different in November, makes sense to keep it close and seasonal. I also look to speak with the wedding manager/coordinator, introduce myself, get to know everyone.
I used to visit venues before the wedding, but after 11 years of shooting weddings, I’ve realised that it’s really not vital. I’m unlikely to be able to see the venue at the exact same time of year that the wedding is scheduled for, so the light will be vastly different anyway.
This is something I always used to offer but, unfortunately, can no longer do so due to having such a busy calendar now! Nevertheless, I always do a TONNE of research around the venue before going and as I said in the answer to the previous question – I’ll always arrive a lot earlier to survey the venue and capture destination pictures! Always key to look for good lighting spots, where to have the family portraits, beautiful landscapes to have the couple’s portraits and a backup option for the rain!
I only visit if the couple really want me to. It isn’t essential for me and unless all the conditions are the same on the visit day as they are on the wedding day, often the only reason for going is putting a couple’s mind at ease.
I visit wedding venues if I can. I’ll often arrange to meet my couples at the venue a couple of weeks before to have a walk around and it’s also a time to say hello in person and run through the final plan for the day. I’ll get an idea of the layout of the venue and also scout for ideas for family shots and couple portraits.
It depends, unless there are specific requirements I don’t usually visit the venue, but sometimes when the venue is not too far, I will usually get a look at it beforehand, or I try to arrive a little earlier on the day…
When it is possible I try to visit the venue before the wedding but with the couple, visiting a venue with the couple beforehand gives me a good chance to talk with them about the logistic and planning, at the same time I can spot the best places outside and inside and I can talk with the couple about my ideas on how to shoot.
Absolutely! I always like to familiarise myself with the wedding day venue. I would generally do this approximately 4-6 weeks prior to the wedding day. When I visit the venue I’m looking at the best locations for photographs and also reviewing the lighting variables in various settings: bridal prep room, ceremony room/church, outdoor gardens, food and dancing setting.
I also like to introduce myself to wedding staff at the venue and start to build relationships. It’s also important to understand how the wedding will flow on the day at a specific venue.
Not always. If the venue is local and I haven’t been there before then I will go and take a look. I’m looking for locations for couple photos, I see what rooms the venue has which I can use just it case it rains and also to where the sun sets as this gives me a good idea for lighting on the day.
If I can’t get to the venue then I will research it online and then arrive a bit earlier on the day so I can have a walk around and get my bearings for the day.
It’s a question I get a lot, but it’s not necessary. The venue will be very different on the day, including the setup and the light, and I prefer to come with a fresh set of eyes and no preconceived ideas of how the couples story will unfold.
I rarely visit the venue before the wedding day. Having photographed about 600 weddings photographed over the whole of the UK, I can assess a venue, church or location within moments of arriving. The best places to stand or photograph the couple can change from moment to moment as the sun comes out or goes in on the day and I will know how to allow for this and still capture the best photographs.