Written by Martin Neeves
As a wedding photographer I am aware that a great deal of thought goes into choosing a wedding venue. However, one factor that I think is often forgotten in the venue choosing process is how practical it is for having wedding photographs taken. I am not just talking about getting “fairy tale photos”. I often go to some venues and they are a photographer’s nightmare! I will always endeavour to make the best of a venue, but I, along with many wedding photographers like to use natural light to avoid making your wedding look like the paparazzi have invaded with flash going off all over the place. Also, available light looks far more natural than photos taken with flash.
Many wedding blogs cover the food, the style, the space, the geography, parking, power outlets for the DJ, colour, and the view, but few mention lighting or the photographic possibilities. Talking to other photographers I realised that it is probably only something that is considered on the day or afterwards when the photos look gloomy.
Your wedding photos will stay with you and will be looked at for the rest of your lives - so you want them to look amazing. You will have a beautiful dress and a good photographer, but a stunning backdrop can complete the overall picture. That said most photographers know that if they take good photographs that flatter you then the background is less important. In fact, I would go so far as to say that you can have the best backdrop in the world but it can be ruined by poor photography.
A professional wedding photographer will be equipped with lighting for the “set-piece” photos. But as I said, will you want flash and lighting sets glaring in yours and your guests’ eyes throughout the day? Again, a professional photographer will have high quality lenses that are capable of capturing as much light as possible – you will see that they are bigger in diameter than an amateur lenses. There are also some other tricks we can deploy, but I always think that photography should be one of the factors that should be considered during the decision making process for the venue.
So what sort of thing can be a problem?
Some historic venues that I have been to are very dark inside. They have little natural lighting and utilise candles (or artificial candles). While this may create a romantic atmosphere, such deliberately poor lighting will severely limit the options for your photographer. I like to capture spontaneous images, often when people are in mid movement, so poor light restricts the manner in which I can record that spontaneity. I can (and regularly do) work in extremely low light, but even I have a limit when I am forced to reach for my flash.
The most gorgeous rooms can look drab if they are badly lit. However, dim lighting can make a very plain room look atmospheric, until the photographer takes a photograph with flash and exposes the tatty nature of the décor that was hidden in the dim light. At one particular wedding venue I know, they keep the lighting so low that it is difficult to see expressions on the wedding guests' faces, making it difficult for me to know when to take photos at the "decisive moment".
On the subject of lighting, it is amazing how it can transform or destroy the mood and the space. I always advise to visit the venue at the time of day you are getting married. Is the sun going to blind all those sitting opposite the windows. Photographing people who are squinting because they are being blinded by the sun does not make for a great photo. Also, has the Hall got enough light, besides the problems for the photographer, who wants to spend 4 to 8 hours in a gloomy room?
I have also photographed weddings where the venue itself is fine, but the options for the “set piece” photographs are severely limited. The back-drop of a dual carriageway or some other unattractive view, the other side of what should be an ideal location makes for some cramping of the photo opportunities.
Some venues have the capacity to host multiple weddings or receptions at the same time. I think it is a shame when two brides bump into each other at the venue, as each bride wants to be the centre of attention, but it is not uncommon for that to happen at such venues. This can also lead to competition or queuing for the prime spots to get your “unique photographs. Also, you may visit a venue during a special event when it has been really given a makeover. Will all the decoration still be there when your wedding is going to take place?
When you visit a venue, think about the opportunities for photographic locations that are available. It is fine having some beautiful gardens, when you look at it is the spring or summer, but in the autumn or winter they are a mess. Also, some parts of private house wedding venues may seem like great photo locations, but they are out of bounds because the owners keep some beautiful bits to themselves and don't allow public access. On that subject, some priests, vicars and registrars will not allow photography during the wedding ceremony, so it is essential to check before making a booking.
Apart from the choice of wedding venue, much consideration should be given to the time of day for your wedding ceremony. In the spring or summer you will have plenty of choice as you will benefit from long days with plenty of daylight until late into the day. When the clocks are turned back for autumn and winter however, the daylight starts fading from 2pm onwards, so I would advise you to have your ceremony as early as possible to maximise the daylight and to give your photographer a fighting chance.
If you are dead-set that you want a particular venue that you think may challenge the photographic skills photographer, then make sure you get a good professional wedding photographer who has a track record working a in a wide range of environments.
If you would like to see more examples of my reportage wedding photography, please FOLLOW THIS LINK to view my full portfolio or CONTACT ME if you wish to discuss your wedding photography. Alternatively, you could just give me a call on 07973 638 591 or on 01455 271849.
Here are some examples of how I am able to adapt to varying lighting conditions to produce great photogaphs of your wedding: