Some venues come up quite regularly and this means that you get to know the location, the wedding coordinator and what works photographically. But with that, there is always the chance that you can slip into safe, tried and tested pictures. I love going to new venues and will usually arrive early to have a look around before I start to get my bearings and possible photographic opportunities logged for later on. That way, without having everything planned, I can tackle it with my usual photojournalistic approach, which is largely why the couple have booked me in the first place.
At a recent venue that I had not photographed at before, I arrived early and was having a quick look around. I spotted another photographer doing a ‘pre-wedding shoot’ in the gardens with a couple who were getting married at the venue later in the year. The other photographer and I got chatting and I told him I’d not been there before. He, on the other hand, was a regular and was on the venue’s ‘approved list’ of photographers. Apparently, he does about 30 weddings a year there! Now that’s all well and good and I’m sure it keeps the wolf from the door, but personally, I think I would find this a little stifling, creatively. There’s no doubt that I could go along to each wedding I photograph and shoot every scene from the same angle, because on the whole it works. But you can’t think like that. The format to every wedding is, on the whole, fairly similar. The day runs usually to the same sort of timings and the same photographic opportunities present themselves each time. What is different on each new wedding is that there will be a new couple there, with family and friends that you haven’t seen before. If you add into this a new location, then this adds to the appeal.
Often when a new enquiry comes in or a couple come to see you, they will often be more interested if you have previous experience at working at their particular chosen venue and know your way around. I’m sure that photographers do get booked over others because they are familiar with the venue or if they see that the venue recommends them. It’s a sort of seal of approval. But it’s worth noting that these recommendations often come at a price. The other photographer shooting 30 weddings at the same venue each year, pays a huge kickback to this venue for this privilege (along with the other six photographers who are recommended). You can understand why venues do this. They get to work with suppliers they trust and like, ones that fit their profile and are happy to pay for it. There are a couple of very nice venues that aren’t a million miles away from where I live and in the ten years I been photographing weddings, I haven’t had one enquiry for a wedding at these venues. There may be nothing in this, but it’s worth noting that both of these venues have ‘preferred suppliers’ lists.
It’s not to say that I’m against such lists; in fact I’m on a few myself (although I don’t pay to be on any). I will supply pictures to these venues (or other wedding suppliers involved around that wedding) if I have photographed a wedding there, so that they have some pics to use in their promotional material. Unlike the other photographer, I usually do no more than three or four at the same venue each year and that works well for me.
So just to reassure you if you are reading this and getting married in the future. Having prior knowledge of a venue isn’t always vitally important. There are plenty of good photographers out there, working all over the place and not necessarily getting their work direct from venues. Personal recommendation has and always will be for me, the best form of advertising and promotion. Happy clients passing the word on…what could be better?