FAQ : Photographing a New Wedding Venue

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.


Last Saturday, there was a fountain and a lake at the wedding venue...and I'm happy to say we ran in the opposite direction.
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Li Pell - I have always visited all my venues at least 2 weeks before at the time of the ceremony, or event is so I can see the venue at the time of day I will be shooting, and I can take my time to really wander the area. Couples deserve that. with the money they pay me. I am also with a Bride for the day while she is getting ready I'm not going to leave her so I can scope out the venue. It is my job to do that ahead of time.  07.18.12 - 6:18am
Wedding Snapper - I agree - stay away from Google before a wedding!  07.15.12 - 10:18pm
Calgary wedding photographer | John Cruz - I agree. Bottom line is to always be prepared!  07.14.12 - 11:14pm
cassandra-m - ;) golden advice...  07.13.12 - 1:47pm
Shirley Lund - Great advice ... step outside the box and find something wonderful. Your pictures are gorgeous!  07.12.12 - 6:17am
TERRI - Funny... I still goggle the venue, but to ensure that I'm doing something different than everyone else!  07.12.12 - 12:49am
LEOLAK - Gorgeous pic!!! Thanks for sharing...as always!   07.11.12 - 10:43pm
Melissa Avey - Cambridge Child Photographer - I just love this shot! Your blog is very interesting to read. :)  07.11.12 - 9:55pm
Erin Hernandez-Reisner - I am so glad that you ran the other way!!! My hubby and I work the same way. It is good to see others being smart about the light and locations as well. <3 Do you charge for that additional time or is it just added in on your end?   07.11.12 - 8:51pm
Denise Prichett - How funny you wrote this post this week and I am shooting in a new venue this coming weekend. I will walk the ground Friday night for the wedding rehearsal and make a plan for Sunday the wedding day. I as curious tho that you would NOT do one of those "known-for" shots only because it could have been the image that sold the couple on the venue. I will do one of those as a safe shot and then some new stuff for myself and the client.   07.11.12 - 8:12pm
Jessica Vidmar Photography - you make it seem so effortless...I'm jealous!!  07.11.12 - 7:30pm
staci - This is soooo extremely helpful. I get so caught up in the typical dictates from other people that I forget that I can also have a say in what will work best (mostly a light issue) but I appreciate your transparency in your approach. I just learned of you recently and oh my goodness, you're amazing in every way.  07.11.12 - 2:55pm
Luciana - You are AWESOME Jasmine. Thank you so much for your honesty and for writing these posts that inspire so many.   07.11.12 - 1:12pm
brady - great tips, on being creative! i still use google to check out photos but more get a feel for the venue and not so much to get ideas for a shot. i agree to be different and let the shot evolve, from a photo in my mind and let it go from there. i love to plan but be flexible. mahalos for sharing your knowledge. Aloha  07.11.12 - 12:29pm
Tony Whitmore - I do use Google, but not for looking for photographs from other photographers! (For the same reasons as you.) I use Google Maps and Streetview to check out the venue, the grounds, parking and nearby roads etc. Of course, I check it out all again when I get there, but I find looking at the site plan gives you an idea of what you can expect when you get there.  07.11.12 - 11:44am
Wendi - thats why I LOVE your work!!! You're unique, fresh and creative!!! great qualities of a photographer! Thanks again for another great post...always have so much to share!  07.11.12 - 11:43am
Mark Martinez Photography - Getting to the venue early is a terrific idea if the schedule allows. When the schedule doesn't allow for this kind of time I find it is always a good idea to make an appointment with the on site coordinator to take a tour a couple of weeks or so before the weddings (remember to smile and thank them politely for the location suggestions :)). If neither of these options is possible Googling the venue is still better than nothing. It can at least help you to avoid the shots that have been overused by other photographers and may just give you a chance to see ideas for images that others haven't seen :)  07.11.12 - 11:17am
Liz - That is hands down one of the most beautiful pictures I've seen, ever. I love your eye.  07.11.12 - 11:15am
Marvin - Yup! We do this too but we usually take a trip a day before the shoot to browse around the area and following a great habit like yours document what we need to create, if something happens in between we know where to switch.   07.11.12 - 10:49am
DSWfoto - Orlando - The problem is that often times the couple have been on Google and have preconceived vthoughts about where the photos will be at. Also, there are some circumstances that I have found locations via Google that I would have never found on my own, because it was either tucked away or at an area that others would never have seen. Many times i do find myself saying, "why hasnt anyone shown this beautiful spot before"? But, once ive done a location, I now know exactly where to go next time without Google.  07.11.12 - 10:41am
Brianna - Love today's blog topic. It's genius.   07.11.12 - 10:40am
Shannon - Your work certainly shows your dedication to this fine craft of photography.. I love that your images are fresh and unique and stray away from the conventional. I love your vision! :)  07.11.12 - 10:34am
Sandra M. - Wonderful advice Jasmine! Just getting ready to shoot tomorrow. I love this approach. I think it helps you not follow in the same footsteps of others!   07.11.12 - 9:57am
Matt - Good framework here. I like the 30 minutes as well. It's enough time to get some great ideas/locations but not too much time to where you start over thinking everything.  07.11.12 - 9:50am
Pasha Belman - Thank you so much for sharing this with us. A while back ago I did find myself sometimes googling away before a wedding - at least for a new venue that we haven't been to before... now it's a different ball game. I want to make sure that we capture the day the way we see it and not through someone else's vision... besides the venues like it as well (after they see their own place in a whole different way)   07.11.12 - 9:47am
April - I made the mistake of placing the couple in front of a fountain a few weeks ago. NEVER AGAIN!!!  07.11.12 - 9:41am
Ashley Martens - Ahhhh!!!! I have been guilty of this too!!! I have learned and don't anymore but great advice!!!! :D   07.11.12 - 9:39am
Joe O'Daniels - Loved this post. I try to do the same at every venue I go to! Here's to individuality! ;-)   07.11.12 - 9:37am
Shannon Yates - Awesome advice. My current favorite quote is "Comparison is the thief of joy." And I so love that you can do all that in 30 minutes!!  07.11.12 - 9:30am
Sarah Crawford - Dang girl... this one hit me like a punch to the stomach. In the sweetest way possible. I am so guilty of the "google" preparation, as I do a lot of out of state weddings. Seeing it for the first time day of is brilliant. Really allows that unique perspective to shine through. Love this post.  07.11.12 - 9:28am
Kate Douthwright - My sentiments exactly! The hardest part is also when wedding guests say why aren't you shooting them near the fountain and you have to politely tell them that's the worst possible location....ever! Ok, I say it nicer than that but it happens all the time. Good post!  07.11.12 - 9:24am
Katrina G. - Thank you for this! Ive always googled venues beforehand and it does imprint what I "should" be photographing. I always also show up early to scan the property...but sometimes those googled images wont leave me alone! :)  07.11.12 - 9:20am
Victoria - GREAT advice Jasmine! I don't know how you can manage all that in just half an hour though... but then again, you're awesome at assessing locations & light in a snap :-)   07.11.12 - 9:18am
Carol Davis - I'm happy you went in another direction too. :) What an awesome, personal shot.... Thank you for sharing.  07.11.12 - 9:15am
Olivier - Great article. I went your path the day I started taking wedding photos. I like idea of making sure that I don't take the photo other photographers have taken before, every bride and groom have the right to individuality! Hope more wedding photographers read this. Thank you  07.11.12 - 9:10am
Jan - Green Tree Photography - I chuckle to myself when venues/people say "and THIS is where MOST photographers take this shot!" Nice ;)  07.11.12 - 9:09am
Lisa - Good for you! Lakes and fountains can be pretty, but there can be much more beautiful places if you open your eyes to them! Always love the advice you give and your amazing photos.  07.11.12 - 9:09am
Melanie - This gives me a bit more courage to trust my instincts. Thanks. :)  07.11.12 - 9:05am
Courtney Beck - But fountains are so pretty don't ya know ;)  07.11.12 - 9:04am
Nadja - Haha, I google photos and shoot at fountains, too :) Really helpful post, thanks Jasmine!  07.11.12 - 8:50am
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