The amount of times I am asked as a wedding photographer “have I worked at this venue or that venue or this venue”. I’ve worked at quite a few but the odds always are that I haven’t worked at your particular venue. For some unknown reason the fact that a photographer has worked at a particular venue seems to be a major factor. But why is it? Oh go on then lets open this can of worms shall we?
What are the benefits of a photographer actually working at the venue before?
“They know what it looks like and the areas that will make a good picture and what lighting equipment to bring”. A visit to the venue before hand or even on the day of the ceremony will give the photographer a working knowledge of the venue. This would not take a decent photographer any longer than 30minutes to fully view and understand the venue. And as for lighting there are so many factors that a photographer would and should take an assortment of equipment to cover as many lighting scenarios as possible.
“They have worked with the venue and understand how the venue operates”. A phone call to the venue planners/bookers will give the photographer all the information and rules the venue operates on. This should take no more than 10minutes for a photographer to understand the do’s and don’ts. And the photographer will know that the bookers of the venue 9 times out of 10 will not be the staff on hand on the day of the ceremony anyway. And a good photographer will want to communicate with the venue and ensure that the day runs smoothly anyway as it is to all parties benefit anyway.
So is it really important that your photographer has worked there before? Or is it a bonus if they haven’t? Let me explain that. As a photographer a new venue that I haven’t shot before literally sends me into a frenzied excitement, just like a kid in a sweet shop. All the new possibilities for shots and backdrops really get ones creative juices flowing. Surely that has to be a bonus and counterbalances the fact the photographer hasn’t shot there before. And to be honest, we all see things differently, I for one get excited by a garage door with peeling paint, as I think it makes an amazing backdrop to a couple. So I try and get things like that into the shots, the couple will want certain shoots of them and the venue. So they bring an element of knowledge regarding the venue and any photographer that doesn’t work with the couple on what they want isn’t really worth it are they? After all it is the couple’s day and we are paid to shoot what they want. Aren’t we?
Alot of venues will operate a preferred suppliers list. And they will heavily sell the idea that it is better to use suppliers off the list and will state some of the reasons mentioned above for this. Again there are some benefits, namely you won’t have to do as much research into suppliers if you operate from the list. But if you did source your own suppliers it can ensure that your wedding is truly unique. And to be honest some venues take a percentage off of the supplier’s commission to be on the list, this is an old fashioned approach but believe me it still exists. So it is in the venues interest to push their suppliers. But is it in your best interests? You are the only one that can make that decision. When Rae and I got married, we knew from the start who was going to shoot our wedding before we even had a venue. We actually turned a venue down as they were so pushy on the fact that they we should use a photographer from their suppliers list. They actually said “Well you can use your own photographer, if you meet all 14 photographers on our list and if you don’t like their work. We will then meet your photographer and if we like his work and get on with him we might allow him to shoot your wedding”. This is of course their prerogative but as I was paying for our wedding not them, We had who we wanted. Obviously, they lost our booking and we went somewhere where we could have our wedding exactly the way we wanted it, with our own suppliers. I can safely say that this venue has now changed their approach, as I shooting a wedding there this year and I’m not on their list. But don’t get me wrong alot of venues have a recommended suppliers list and suppliers can only get on the list if they have worked there before and the venue can vouch for the quality and professionalism of the supplier. That is helpful to couples. But you should ask the right questions i.e. do the suppliers pay to be on the list? Can I use my own suppliers? I would be wary of any venue that is really pushy that you use their preferred or recommended. After all you are paying for the services not them.
So to sum it up. There are some benefits if the photographer has worked at that venue before, but I think it is more important that your photographer is the right person for you not your venue. After all they will be with you for the majority of your most important day. And a good photographer will do their homework anyway and be like a boy scout and “be prepared”.
If people only booked photographers that have worked at their venue before, there would never be any new photographers in the industry and wedding photography wouldn’t have evolved from what was around in the 80’s.
Below are some images of venues that I have worked at and all the images were taken the first time I worked there. And I will happily recommend each of these venues as they were all a pleasure to work with. I am not on their preferred or recommended suppliers list and I do not receive any payments in any way to actually recommend them to you. “It is your day and you should have it your way”.
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Aaron is a young dynamic photographer that specialises in weddings. Aaron is based in Kent, but covers all of the UK and is happy to travel to destination weddings.