Happy Monday, friends! With proposal season upon us and lots of new brides planning their weddings, today I thought I’d answer a common question I tend to get at this time of the year when I’m entering my busiest booking season. Historically, the fall is when I get the highest number of inquiries – typically about a dozen inquiries per week! Since I only accept around 30 weddings per year, a dozen or so inquiries every week end up being a lot! Of course, not every inquiry is a perfect fit so I consider it my job to help couples figure out whether or not I’m a good fit for them as quickly as possible. The sooner you know, the sooner you can book your photographer, and the less likely you are to get shut out of your wedding date, which means the sooner I’ll book out my year with ideal clients, too! Clients I’m going to love working with! So today, I thought I’d answer a frequently asked question that I tend to get from new brides looking for a wedding photographer:
“Have you shot at our venue before?”
This question is listed in The Knot’s “Important Questions to Ask Photographers Before You Book” and I think that’s why it’s so popular. In their article, The Knot shares this advice:
“Why you want to know: Your shooter should be aware of any lighting needs or issues specific to the space. If they haven’t ever worked in your venue, they should be willing to check it out beforehand.”
To be honest, I don’t blame The Knot for including this question in their important questions to ask a photographer before booking. After all, according to their 2019 survey where they surveyed nearly 27,000 couples married in 2019, the average cost for a wedding photographer was $2,400. The survey also states that in 2019, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. was $33,900. The same survey shows that the average wedding cost in New Jersey last year was $53,400. When you compare those numbers and apply the results to weddings in the Tri-State area, you quickly realize that the average person surveyed is not looking for a luxury and/or extremely experienced photographer. If you are working with a photographer who charges $2,400 in our area, the photographer is likely less experienced and probably has another full-time job. If I were considering that newer photographer myself, I’d be tempted to ask that question, too.
So you’re probably wondering how I’m going to answer that question since the answer obviously depends on which venue you’ve chosen for your big day. Personally, when I get that question, I tend to ask brides why they’re concerned whether or not I’ve shot at their venue before. Of course, that doesn’t answer the question so I have to also include a “yes” or a “no.” And then I’m left wondering if they’re going to cross me off their short list simply because I haven’t shot at their venue before.
I’m sure that has often been the case with certain inquiring couples, and that’s fine. I’m fortunate enough to book out every year with couples I love and I wouldn’t have it any other way! However, if it’s a venue I haven’t shot at before that’s on my bucket list, then I might be a little disappointed that I got shut out of the opportunity when the answer to that ever popular question is actually that it doesn’t matter if I’ve shot at their venue before.
Photography is all about light, right? Photography styles are determined by a lot of factors, but mostly by how light is used. Photographers work so hard to develop a style and then work even harder to consistently use light in the same manner in order to deliver work that is representative of that style. Luckily, if photographers are experienced and know what kind of light they are looking for, they’ll be able to find that light no matter where they are shooting – whether that’s at a park, beach or gardens. And in a reception hall where the only available light is the one that comes from chandeliers and uplighting, photographers actually have to create their light! This means that what does matter is whether or not a photographer has an established style and knows how to find or create similar light no matter the location.
Back to that question from the article published by The Knot. I agree that your photographer “should be aware of any lighting needs or issues related to the space.” However, professional and experienced photographers will assess this within seconds upon arriving in a new space and will be able to adapt quickly and find the light that will allow them to capture images that are representative of their style. And the light at your specific venue? It’s different each and every time. It is highly unlikely that the light will be exactly the same at your venue as it was even just a few minutes before you arrived. Light changes constantly, even during a portrait session. All it takes is turning a few degrees and you’ve got a different lighting scenario. So it doesn’t matter if photographers have shot at your venue before. What matters is if they can find the light that will allow them to create the types of images you fell in love with when you were looking at their portfolio.
Brides who are asking this question generally just want to make sure that they’re getting an experienced photographer who is confident in getting the best photos at a given venue. In this case, it’s really important to look at all their work. You can do this by heading to their portfolio, blog, or even their Instagram feed! Look at how they shoot in gardens, on beaches, in parks, on streets, or in harsh light, on overcast days, at sunsets, or whatever else your big day might include. In their portfolio you’ll easily see what their established style is. If you can’t find a consistent style then it’s easy to tell they lack experience. By checking out their blog you’ll be able to tell how consistent their work is from one wedding to another. And in their Instagram feed you can immediately see both their style and consistency. Are all the images light and airy? Dark and moody? Or are the images a mishmash of several distinctive photographic styles? If their images are all over the place, that will likely signal lack of experience and inconsistent use of light and editing techniques.
A question that might help you assess the experience of your potential wedding photographer would be how many venues the photographer has shot at in their career. If you find that the photographer has worked at many different venues and has a consistent style, you know they’ll be able to adapt and find the light that characterizes their style no matter what time of the day or season of the year.
Truth be told, although I’ve shot over 200 weddings at well over 100 venues in the Tri-State area, we still probably haven’t shot at your venue before, considering there are thousands of venues in this area and a photographer might shoot at just a few hundred over the course of an entire career, but if you’re planning a classic, romantic, and timeless wedding in New Jersey similar to those of our photographic style and portfolio, you may discover that I’ve shot at your venue on more than one occasion. However, that’s not why you should hire me to photograph your wedding day. You should hire me based on many other important factors, but most importantly because you love my light and airy style as well as my mix of classic and candid portraiture and our clean, natural editing.
For fun, here are a few images I shot at venues where I had never shot before – that is, until I did! I bet you’d never be able to tell I had never shot a wedding at these locations before!
Juliana and Joseph, Park Chateau Estate
Rosemary and John, The Ashford Estate
Thalita and Damir, The Rockleigh
Jennifer and Joseph, The Palace at Somerset Park
Ryann and Jack, Mantoloking Yacht Club
If you’d like to see some of the venues where I’ve shot before to see what kinds of experiences I’ve had, feel free to click here for my NJ Wedding Venues Guide.
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