Should I pick a photographer who has worked at my venue before?
One attribute you might look for in a wedding photographer? Experience working at your venue. Yep, you love the place and you want to be sure they can do a great job there. But here’s the thing: It might not make as much difference as you think. Sure, there are advantages. But it can also be a bad thing. So tag along while I explain the pros and cons of using a photographer who has experience at your wedding venue – and give you an even more insightful question to ask instead.
Let’s play ‘Two Truths and a Lie’…
Two of the following statements are true and one is a lie:
- It really helps if I’ve worked at a wedding venue before
- The Easter bunny is real
- It doesn’t help if I’ve worked at a wedding venue before
Which one is the lie?
Need a clue? The Easter Bunny is real … just like Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and politicians who keep their promises.
What gave it away? It was the Tooth Fairy, wasn’t it?
Yep. No. The Easter bunny isn’t real. (Sorry if I just destroyed your dreams of discovering hidden chocolate eggs in your garden.)
So that means it really helps if I’ve photographed at a wedding venue before and it doesn’t help if I’ve photographed at a wedding venue before.
Both answers are absolutely true. But they’re opposites! So how can that be? Pros and cons, lovebugs. Pros and cons.
Completely confused? Get comfy and I’ll explain why you might – or might not – want to book a wedding photographer with experience at your venue.
Why you might want to book a photographer with experience at your venue
There are a handful of wedding venues that I work at regularly.
Whenever I have a wedding at one of them, I set off from home, feeling relaxed, take all the time-saving shortcuts, make a quick pitstop at the nearest Starbucks, smugly pull up into the best car park space, and arrive well ahead of schedule. No complications, no sat nav.
When I walk inside, the staff greet me like I’ve arrived home (minus the wet noses and slobbery licks). I ignore all the signs and speed through the rabbit warren of corridors straight to the wedding suite. When everyone’s ready, I know the fastest route to the ceremony.
When it’s time for the portraits, I know exactly where we’ll find a beautiful backdrop with shaded shelter from the intensely hot sun. I know an ideal indoor spot, that doesn’t require a half-mile hike in heels, with lovely light for wet-weather photos. And I can quickly navigate a route to the staircase which bypasses the wedding guests so we’re not delayed by interruptions en route, and still get back in plenty of time for when the roast is cooked to perfection and the Chef shouts “Hands!”
So. Much. Ease.
Which is great for you too…
Three reasons you’ll love a photographer who’s worked at your venue before
1. Your venue will shine in your photos. A photographer who knows your venue will be familiar with the iconic features that make it so special. And they’ll have road-tested all the different options and locations. Which means they’ll know exactly how to bring out the best in your venue, whatever the weather or season.
2. You’ll get more photos and fewer holdups. Since they’ve been there before, your photographer will know their way around your venue, including all the handy shortcuts and weather-proof nooks and crannies. Which means more time taking photos and less time working out what to do, where to go, and how to get there.
3. You’ll know what to expect. You’ve seen, and (presumably!) loved, photos they’ve previously taken at your venue. You might even have booked them precisely because you fell in love with their portfolio at your venue. Which means you can feel reassured they’re able to create photos you adore.
So it sounds like it’d be wise to book someone with experience at your venue, right? Well, yes … and also, no.
Hold onto your horse-drawn carriage while I uncover the downside.
Why you might want to book a photographer without experience at your venue
Memory cards on the table:
The venues I regularly shoot at are my comfort zones.
And you know what happens in comfort zones?
snuggle under the duvet avec tea, Netflix, and doggos stick to what we know. We all do it. It’s human nature. Especially when we’re under pressure. And on a wedding day, which can be as stressful to capture as it is fun, it’s all too easy to hit default and recreate past photos.
And whilst that’ll guarantee you some nice safe shots … it won’t lead to anything meaningful.
But when I shoot somewhere new? I’m naturally alert, open-minded, and primed to capture one-off personal pictures.
Think of it this way: How excited are you to explore your honeymoon destination? Off the charts?! Isn’t it inspiring to discover somewhere new, take in the sights, soak up the atmosphere … and of course, fill your phone with random photos of everything you see?! It’s the same for me when I see a new wedding venue – but with a proper posh camera instead of a phone!
And that spark of inspiration that comes from seeing a venue with fresh eyes will help your photographer capture original pictures that stand out from other photos taken at the same venue. They’ll be led by you and your day, not what they’ve done before.
So yeah, a photographer who’s new to your wedding venue can be a great thing for your photos.
It’s not better, or worse, one way or the other.
It’s just different.
So don’t rule out a photographer because they haven’t worked at your venue before. And don’t assume one who does have experience at your venue will automatically do a great job.
And before you ask, yes, you can have your wedding cake and eat it with the best of both!
So how exactly do you work out who’ll be a great choice?
Questions to ask your wedding photographer about their experience at your venue
Want to book a photographer who’s worked at your venue before?
If you decide to hire a photographer who’s experienced at your venue, ask them this:
“How will you make sure we get photos that are unique to us?”
Why you should ask this: There’s a fine line between doing what you know works well to deliver great photos and doing the same thing every time cookie-cutter style. So it’s good to understand how your photographer will focus on you and your wedding to capture your unique story.
Shortlisted a photographer who hasn’t worked at your venue before?
It comes down to this: You want to be sure they’re capable enough to capture your very specific kind of wedding.
So get granular and ask them this:
Have you shot at a venue like mine before?” “Have you shot at a venue like ours in the summer before?” “Have you shot a winter wedding after dark in a venue like ours before?”
A seasoned pro wedding photographer won’t hesitate to show you examples of weddings they’ve captured that are similar to yours. And chances are, they might even show you something closer to the type of wedding you have in mind than a wedding they’ve photographed at your venue.
But there’s still one more box to tick.
Even if you’re satisfied they can capture your day the way you want, how can you be sure they won’t be late because they couldn’t find the venue, not make you wait while they check out locations for group photos, and not miss a really beautiful but hidden part of your venue?
“How will you prepare to shoot at our venue?”
There’s no right or wrong answer to this. But their answer should fill you with confidence.
How can a photographer who hasn’t shot at your venue before prepare for your wedding day?
One word: Google. Google search, Google images, Google maps, Google street view, Google earth … Google was invented for working out wedding day plans and logistics! There’s not much that can’t be researched online.
Social media is a great resource too. You know that feeling when you meet someone you’ve been following IRL and it feels like you already know them? It’s the same with photographers and wedding venues. When I’m planning to photograph at a venue I haven’t been to before, I’ll follow them and soak up every detail so it feels familiar when I get there.
Sometimes, I’ll make a quick phone call to the venue’s wedding coordinator too. That’s useful if I need to find out about things like wet-weather locations for family photos, available times to access private areas for portraits, or identify a high viewpoint for a photo of everyone.
And when the day arrives, I get there extra early. I leave plenty of time to find the venue and then have a good look around before my ‘official’ start time. And if the reception is in a different place to the prep and ceremony venues, I allow even more time and do it en route to the getting ready location. A recce before the day is another option – and a subject for another blog post!
Can I tempt you to more?
Want less chat and more photos? Check out at my wedding photography portfolio.
Here for the gossip? Read my other wedding venue photography guides!
Woof! Our hearts (and noses) always take us to great places: Sarah, snacks, smelly socks, and the tennis ball we left by the fallen tree in the park last week.
So follow our lead and let your heart – and nose – guide you.
If you’re unsure about something, speak to your intended photographer. Humans give great advice. But then do what feels right for you. You know you best.
Daisy and Poppy