Choosing a wedding photographer--"where is a good place for photos?"
I am often asked if I have ideas for places to go for couples who want a unique location for their photography. These are generally shoots which are more formal in nature, with some posing and specific direction given to get the most out of the experience. First off, not all clients choose to go to a different location for photography, some have their event at a location which happens to have decent areas for shooting, while some are simply less "into" the formal photo shoot. For those that do want to go to another location, I do have suggestions, however, I like to ask the clients what kind of locations are of interest to them? Are there specific places which hold significance, such as a favorite park, or a place where you met or were you popped the question. I wouldn't presume to suggest a park if you were more interested in an urban environment, or vice versa, so I want to know what is significant to you.
So, where is a good place for photos? Aside from the considerations already mentioned, choose a public space which is readily accessible, keeping in mind that your transportation (cars, limo, or bus) as well as your photographer will need easy access and parking. Also keep in mind that you and your wedding party might not be dressed for a more vigorous expedition. If you choose a private or commercial space, it is your responsibility to gain permission and access, as well as permits or fees if applicable. These are all part of your wedding itinerary planning, and are not the responsibility of the photographer. Do not assume that a "public" building is necessarily public. Keep in mind other factors, like holidays or other events which may impact traffic and potential crowds at your location. When choosing outdoor locations, be sure to pick areas which have access to shade. Direct sunlight is not conducive to formal portraits, and will result in squinting and unwanted, harsh shadows. While all professional photographers will bring extra lighting to address these issues, it is still difficult to compensate for extreme situations under strict time limits.
Remember as well that you and your party will be subject to the elements, the most common and usually not considered being harsh, hot sunlight. A contingency for rain or other inclement weather is also the client responsibility, so consider spaces which have shelter, if not a secondary indoor location. In the case of threatening rain, I often suggest that clients purchase and bring umbrellas, which can be used in a pinch and add some fun and flair to a photo shoot.
Indoor locations should have plenty of space and depth for the photographer to utilize the proper focal lengths to avoid unwanted distortion. Less complicated or detailed space is preferable to lots of distracting decoration and furniture. Having access to good window light is also a bonus. A good photographer can make effective portraits with little more than a plain wall and strong light source or auxiliary lighting; less is more.
It is not unusual to need at least an hour or so at your location, so plan accordingly, setting aside travel time and extra time it will take to organize your people. Have realistic expectations, if you have several locations you'd like to go to, you're going to need more than several hours to accomplish that. Prioritize and pick the most important or significant location. While most photographers welcome the opportunity to shoot more extensively, it's your day and you should take care to not turn it into a lot of work for yourself and your party.
In the bigger scheme of things, the most important elements of the photos are you--the clients, not so much the location which is secondary. A park is a park, I've been to plenty of them. It's my clients who really make the photos.
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This article and all content is copyright 2012 by Steven Mastroianni, all rights reserved.