Does it matter if our wedding photographer hasn’t shot at our venue? It’s a question that pops up a lot, and one I remember floating around when my husband and I were wedding planning. Wedding blogs would include it on their “List of Questions to Ask Your Potential Wedding Photographer” (some of these lists are really really… not good. I’ve been meaning to make my own, so stay tuned).
So does it actually matter if your wedding photographer hasn’t shot at your venue before? Is it really important to hire someone who has?
My opinion: not really. While yeah, it can be nice shooting at familiar spot, I can definitely say that it doesn’t make a huge difference in comparison to when I’ve shot somewhere unfamiliar. If you look through my wedding galleries, you’d have a hard time figuring out which I’d been to before and which were new to me.
A better question to ask when looking for a photographer is: “how do you approach shooting at a new venue?” They should have an answer for this. Personally, I show up early to the venue whether I’ve shot there or not. Before each part of the day starts, I walk around to see where the best light is, or where I might have to set a light up. I’ll also scout out spots for portraits and family photos.
Some of the main reasons why it’s not super important that your photographer has shot at your venue before:
Things change day-of
Venues can change their setup drastically from one wedding to another. Some couples will use the inside space provided, some will have the whole reception in a tent on the lawn. Rain might also affect the setup. Where the tables are, where the ceremony is… all of these things can change from wedding to wedding. By scoping out the venue early on YOUR wedding day, I can make decisions based on your specific layout. It doesn’t do me much good if there’s a spot that’s usually awesome for photos, if that spot is where your buffet table will be. Not only that, but light can change depending on your timeline. A tree that was awesome for one couple’s fall sunset photos might be terrible for your summer afternoon portraits. An experienced photographer should be able to find good locations and light as they go anyway.
Having a fresh perspective can be good
Shooting at new venues keeps things creatively invigorating. It means I can create something totally new that day. Of course every wedding is different even if I’m shooting at a venue I’ve been to before, but having new venues in the mix just makes me a better photographer with more diverse shooting experience. And that’s really always a good thing!
Having range is also good
Related to the above: range is good. It’s actually going to be much better to work with a photographer whose portfolio shows lots of different lighting scenarios and venues–it shows that they’re capable of handling any crazy situations thrown their way. Many photographers travel all over for weddings now, and it’s just not feasible to have shot at every venue in every state (or country!) before.
Many venues have a “type”
Each venue and location has its quirks and differences, but they tend to kind of fall into categories. Most experienced photographers will have shot at venues that represent most or all of them. Some common types of wedding locations:
- Estate/historical house
- Warehouse/industrial space
- Restaurant or brewery
- Mountain or lakeside
- Tented or backyard
There are others obviously, but these cover a lot of the common ones. Some could be a combination of a few. If you’re a little concerned that your photographer hasn’t shot at your specific venue but you love them aside from that, ask to see some galleries shot at similar venues to yours. They should be happy to send some over.
So “does it matter if our wedding photographer hasn’t shot at our venue?” If it’s important to you, you should find someone who has. I just always encourage couples to make sure it’s not the only deciding factor, because it’s so much more important that you hire someone whose work and personality you connect with.
Just for fun: Two of the galleries below are from venues I’d shot at before, and one was new for me. I won’t tell which are which ;).
Jenny + Johnny’s Burr Homestead Wedding
Vicky + Anjuli’s Huckleberry Wedding
Sam + Allison’s Lighthouse Point Wedding