I arrived early and as the venue coordinator wheeled me around in golf cart, the summer sun shined on my knees. As we passed the 17th hole, she pointed out various greenways I could photograph the bride and groom, should I wish. I'd never shot at the country club before, so I wanted to get a lay of the property before I began photographing the day. The coordinator swept me around the property quickly and kindly offered prospective locations.
And there's the lake with the fountain most photographers use on a wedding day, she pointed from a distance as we carted along a dirt path. Right at that moment, I had to smile because four years ago, would've heeded every suggestion and held onto every tidbit for dear life, like her words were photographic commandments.
Thankfully, I've changed.
Back when I started my business, I fell into the habit of Googling photos from wedding venues a few days before I was slated to shoot there myself. I wanted to see what others were doing, make sure I had the "right" shots, and ensure I didn't miss the "perfect" wedding picture. And if there was a fountain springing from a lake, my clients WOULD SO STAND IN FRONT OF IT SO HELP ME GOD. Because I'd seen it on Google. Duh.
Nowadays, I'm shooting at new venues more often than not, but my approach is entirely different. It's pretty basic, but it's as follows:
*I show up 30 minutes early to walk the property with JD.
*Learn what's accessible to the wedding photographer (for instance, some resorts/hotels only allow photography on certain portions of the property).
*Once I know what I can work with, I'm looking for good light, as well as anticipating where the light will change throughout the day to ensure I craft the timeline to ensure my clients can play into its illumination.
*This 30-minute portion of the wedding day is imperative because it allows my mind to see the venue as a naked canvas, free from how hundreds of others have seen it before.
*I choose the First Look location...and an alternate location (just in case something changes at the last minute we can always stay on the same page).
*I map where I'll take the bride and groom for their 30 minutes of wedding portraits (this ensures the videographers, the coordinator and the photographers are on the same page at any given point in the day).
*I choose the bridal party portrait location.
Once this is complete, JD and I separate and we document the bride and groom individually preparing. Because we've established each location beforehand, very little communication needs to happen between us and we're freed to focus on simply photographing the moments, the couple, and the venue uniquely.