There are so many variables that lay outside of a photographer’s control on a wedding day. This is why it’s important to be as prepared as possible. You want to be able to think on your feet when facing undesirable circumstances such as poor weather, time delays, and other potential conflicts that might take place.
I always scope out the areas where I might be photographing ahead of time. Getting a lay of the land prior to the wedding day allows me to have a solid grasp on many of the elements that could affect how the photographs turn out, while also giving me a chance to create a backup plan in case some logistics fall apart or mother nature decides to be complicated.
Furthermore, seeing the areas firsthand prior to the big day allows for some creative brainstorming which is a huge advantage when I get behind the camera and work with my clients! Predetermining the exact locations where I’ll be photographing portraits fuels me with the excitement and confidence I need to do my job well!
Here is what I look for when I arrive on site to choose specific locations for wedding day portraits…
1 // Even & Natural Light
I carefully use the words “even” and “natural” when describing the kind of light I seek out for portraits, rather than simply saying “shade”. Why? Because finding the nearest shade is actually not always in the best interest of the photograph. Shade can very often come in the form of a dense, dark shadow that can throw off your subjects’ skin tones and overpower the frame. Or, the shade may be inconsistent, with scattered pockets of harsh light which can create a polka-dot effect across your subjects.
Instead of sprinting to the nearest standalone tree and quickly trusting it’s relief from the sun, I recommend taking the time to try and seek out an area that has a larger, softer overcast and is surrounded by natural reflectors. By natural reflectors, I am referring to surfaces that project the sunlight back onto your subjects in a way that promotes even skin tones.
Here are some examples of where you can often find this softbox effect on a bright sunny day…
2 // Depth & Interest
Photographing a couple in front of a wall or other flat surfaces can translate nicely on camera, but I do prefer to mix it up and take advantage of locations that provide much more depth. My goal is for the couple to be in focus, while the world around them melts together with blur and beautiful bokeh. When I refer to bokeh, I’m talking about that magical, spot-like detail that your lens creates when rendering specks of light behind your subjects!
What to look for…
Stuck with an abundance of flat surfaces, maybe in the city or an industrial park? Don’t get stuck photographing straight on. Shuffle your feet to the right or left so that you can change your angle and capture a totally different perspective that provides a much more dynamic shot.
3 // Meaningful Backdrop
It’s very important that you get to know your clients, their love story, and why they chose to celebrate their marriage at the venue where you’ll be photographing. You can use this meaningful information to guide where you photograph their portraits. Favor areas that will celebrate their love surrounded by details they already feel so deeply connected to.
Here are some questions I ask during the planning process…
Do you feel a bit overwhelmed when preparing to photograph a wedding? I dodge this pre-wedding anxiety by making sure I collect ALL the pertinent details weeks before the wedding. I send out my Pre-Wedding Client Questionnaire!
This form covers all the bases – timeline and locations, contact information, decor aesthetic, etc. It helps me remain on the same page with my clients and further understand their photography expectations!