After many years photographing weddings in every type of wedding venue imaginable I started thinking about some of my favorite venues to photograph in and ones that are really challenging to work in. The challenging ones have many different reasons that make them challenging and are not necessarily reasons to completely take them off someone’s list of choices, but knowing what the obstacles are beforehand would help facilitate an easier day on both the photographer and possibly even your guests! This post is going to be about some of the criteria I would use for choosing a wedding venue (as a photographer) as if I was choosing it for my own wedding… it’s some of the things I looked for in a venue when I was planning my own wedding more than 10 years ago because well, photography was my number one priority after marrying my husband! Hope these tips help!
1.) Picturesque Views – Colorado is full of amazing venues with equally amazing views… the better the view, the higher the price the venue commands (most of the time). Most couples want something in the mountains, but there are also a lot of venues in the Front Range that have mountains in the background as well. If you can’t afford a venue with a view then finding a park near the venue with some great photo opportunities is also another way you can still get beautiful photos with lovely scenery. We plan a lot of park visits in between the ceremony and reception especially if couples are getting married in a church, but still want beautiful outdoor photos.
2.) A Lot of Available Natural Light – Now there’s nothing wrong with having a church basement reception. I’ve covered a lot of events in some of the most plain establishments ever designed. A great photographer can use angles and lighting to make even the drabbest areas more interesting and there’s a lot to be said about decorating. But I’m talking to all of those people looking to have the most amazing photos ever! Lots of window light with beautiful views makes it so the photographer doesn’t have to use a lot of additional lighting unless he/she wants to. It also makes your event feel more airy and romantic. The key to this though is to not choose a space that is really dark inside with a lot of bright light pouring in, particularly behind the head table so that all of the wedding party is back-lit because even with a ton of fill-flash the area behind the people will still be very bright. Look for light and airy spaces for the best photos!
3.) Lots of Ample and Available Parking or a Solution to a Venue without a Lot of Parking – This year was really a difficult year for me with parking and at more than one event! The one that stands out the most is the one I’m about to describe… I showed up to a high-end resort for preparation photos and because there was a festival going on there was no parking to be had anywhere! The hotel was not going to let me valet my vehicle even for an hour. I had to call the bride and get her involved… trust me a call to the front desk from a bride who was paying a ton of cash to stay at the facility got me a parking space pronto! Magically, they were able to find space for my vehicle, but again not without a lot of stress and having to bring the bride into the situation. This was one of those almost not foreseen circumstances that I hadn’t ever encountered in 17 years of covering weddings. However, with a little foresight it is something that could of been addressed before the big day. Check with the place that you are staying at or having your event at to make sure that there will be parking available for all of your guests beforehand. If they only provide parking for registered guests make sure that you pay or arrange for parking for your vendors because you don’t want them to be running late due to having to find a place to park.
4.) Large vs. Small Venues, Reasons to Consider a Second Photographer – Weddings can even be held in stadiums now! For a baseball enthusiast getting married at Coors Field is amazing, but it to is not without it’s challenges. I found this out the hard way years ago when I covered my first event there. When the bride and groom are getting ready they put each person on opposite sides of the stadium! Do you know how large that venue is?! Also because of security concerns they will not allow you to walk anywhere in the stadium without an escort. I spent needless amount of time looking for my escort (who kept leaving) to walk me back and forth between the getting ready areas as well as the amount of time it took to walk back and forth between the areas (time that I could’ve used taking more photos). I now know… don’t book a wedding there unless a 2nd cameraman is hired so one can be with the bride and the other with the groom. When choosing a venue think about how close the separate getting ready areas are to each other. Perhaps you will be getting ready at a hotel and then traveling to the venue. Would it be more economical to go with a venue that provides both rooms on site near each other or would it be better to hire a company that provides two photographers so things don’t get missed?
5.) Consider How Well the Venue will Work for Inclement Weather – I’ve had previous posts on how to deal with bad weather, but this one has to do with choosing a venue that will facilitate Amazing Photos in any type of weather. Look for venues that also have great areas indoors for photography too. A nice fireplace or staircase to take your family photos in front of due to a storm is a great back-up plan. Does the venue have a place to hold a ceremony indoors should you need it? Crossing your fingers and hoping for a Sunny day is not really a good plan unless you are ok with having a drenched cake and guests.
6.) Pay special attention to the lighting. If a venue is too dark, it can make it tricky for your photographer to capture all of the details that you worked so hard to plan. While a great photographer still has ways to work around this, your photos will still look a lot darker if the walls and ceilings are all cherry wood as opposed to walls painted white. I’ve been in churches that won’t allow any flash photography during the ceremony and then their hall is super dark without additional lighting. Modern cameras can take better photos in low light situations, but you won’t be able to see much of your background in the absence of light and it’s something to consider. I also recently took photos at a wedding that was held outdoors after dark. The only thing the couple lit was the gazebo they were getting married under. While it was different and really dynamic, it was very difficult for photography. We had to add video lights on either side of the couple so we could see their faces to focus as well as use a handheld light to light them coming down the aisle. And no amount of light that we added would show off a completely dark background. I’m sure the couple thought it was an amazing idea, but didn’t consider that every single photo taken would have to be with flash photography or that we would have to add lights to even be able to see them!
7.) Ask if you’ll have exclusive use of the venue. It’s important to know how many functions they’ll have going on at once and how much interaction there will be between your guests and theirs (if any). The privacy factor differs for every space; some venues may offer separate restrooms and parking areas for guests from different events, while others have the rooms set close together, so you might hear the other party’s music pumping from down the hall. Will you have to compete with the other events for the most picturesque areas to do photographs? If you’re getting married outdoors in a public space, such as a park or beach, be aware that strangers may stop to give you their good wishes or find their way into the background of your wedding photos.
8.) Time Allowed for Your Wedding – Venue packages widely vary and so do overtime fees. Some venues will let you party to the wee early morning hours, while others are in neighborhoods with noise restrictions and have to be shut down promptly by 9pm. Nothing is worse than having a kicking party going on and then having the owner of the venue shut down your dance party because it’s too loud! (Sadly, I’ve seen this on more than one occasion) If you are looking to have an awesome dance party it’s good to know the venue’s policy before signing the contract. Also if overtime is allowed what their fees are. If your event starts to run behind because of some unforeseen circumstance, will the venue charge you a lot more fees and will the other vendors as well. Because every extra minute that a clean-up crew has to wait before they can start on their duties they are still getting paid by their employer.
9.) Does the venue Restrict Where You Can Take Photos At? – What if you choose a beautiful country club with many gorgeous views with plans to walk out on to the course to take some photos and then the day of the event find out that you and your guests are suppose to stay in the area you rented and are not allowed to go out on to the course what so ever. Most venues would be up-front with their restrictions before you sign the contract, but it never hurts to ask ahead of time. Maybe you saw a really neat barn and silo next to the club and assumed it could be used for photos as well, but come to find out it is not on the venue’s property. Find out if you can contact the other owner for special permission to take photos on their property. Don’t just assume that you can or plan on getting a trespassing ticket. Also churches may have restrictions on where a photographer can be during the ceremony, some just forbid a photographer from going on the alter area during the ceremony while a few will only let the photographer take photos from the back of the church without a flash! Asking questions about restrictions will help you quickly weed out venues that don’t work with your vision.
10.) If You Have a Photographer in Mind Before You Choose Your Venue Ask Them What Their Favorite Venues to Work At Are. If they’ve been working for a number of years then I’m sure they have a short list of venues that are awesome to work with. Maybe they have a lot of great spots to take formal photos at, or they know how easy the staff is to work with or can give you lots of tips and hints about their faves and maybe they can even steer you away from venues that won’t fit your vision or better yet can suggest ones that they know will come out under your budget!
11.) Finally, Be sure to go to the venue, especially for outdoor weddings, at the time and around the date you plan to get married. You will want to see how the sun shines during different times of the day to avoid you, your fiancé, and your guests having to stare directly at the sun. Squinting eyes don’t make for the best wedding photos! You may have picked a venue because of it’s beautiful views, but if you choose a time of year when the patio that you are holding your ceremony on has absolutely no sun and the background is very bright the photographer is going to have to choose whether or not to expose for their subjects (which is you) or the background. I’m guessing they will want you to be visible in the photos so they are going to choose exposing for the subjects and let the background go white thus eliminating the mountain backdrop in most of your photos that you worked so hard to find. If you don’t know a lot about photography then arrange for a walk thru at your venue with your photographer even if it costs a little extra so you can avoid potential pitfalls before the big day!
Lovely outdoor wedding venue in the Rocky Mountains to have your ceremony along a creek bed. Jessica & Jon had an amazing day with close friends and family. Check out their highlight video.
So I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a while…. The photography industry has changed a lot since I started my business 17 years ago and even more so from when I got my start doing photography with my mom and developing photos in an actual darkroom! And here’s what I see… cameras are becoming more and more user friendly with automatic settings on them, so much so that now someone with absolutely no photography experience could pick up a camera and set it on auto and get some half way decent images. Which leads to a huge influx of newbie photographers who think it would be loads of fun to snap photos all day at a wedding. In my experience those people don’t last long. All it takes is one unhappy client, or they realize charging $100-$500 to shoot an entire wedding will hardly let them break even. And here’s why –
1.) Photography Equipment is Expensive and So is the Upkeep.
I’ve invested thousands of dollars in all of my gear and yearly I’m also probably spending close to $2000 or more in just upgrades and upkeep on my gear. I send my gear in frequently to get it looked at, cleaned and repaired. My latest one cost me $580 to replace a shutter that was past it’s life (because shooting 1000+ images a wedding wears a camera out in 2-3 years!)
2.) A Professional will Carry Back-Ups of Everything!
Cameras will eventually break down and I’ve had it happen at events, but couples will hardly know it’s a problem because we carry 2-3 back-ups of everything. Someone who hasn’t been doing this a while or doesn’t know they should do this may only have one camera body… Do you want to trust a once in a lifetime event to someone with no back-up gear? Make sure you ask if they do and/or ask them to show you their gear when you meet.
3.) Insurance –
A professional will carry liability and equipment insurance. Some venues are now requiring proof of liability insurance from all wedding vendors before they are allowed to step on to the property. And like all insurances this isn’t cheap either and you have to pay for it even if you don’t use it. A seasoned pro will have all of this covered!
4.) Computers & Computer Software –
So you have a fancy camera… now you need the latest and greatest software to edit those photos and video. Along with continuing education to keep up with all the latest trends and changes in said software. There are many other types of software that you may also need to successfully run a business such as: semi regular updates to bookkeeping software, Office Management Software and more! Additional Photoshop classes cost money too!
5.) Advertising –
You can take all of the pretty photos that you want, but if you don’t advertise how are these people ever going to find you. Magazine ads are spendy and so are advertising on all of the popular wedding planning websites. There are have been some years in the beginning of my career where I spent more on advertising than I made! Really! It’s an unfortunate reality of being in business.
6.) Training & School –
Photography is not an industry that requires any special licensing or proof that you know what you are doing, yet there are tons of ways to educate yourself in this field. College, online classes, workshops and more. I decided early on in my career that getting the knowledge from the professionals in a teaching environment was the best route for me. At the time I spent way more on my education at the Art Institute than most people spent on a traditional college degree. I learned a lot and I understand lighting, and posing in ways that someone just starting out may not have the grasp on yet. Since technology is ever changing so to is our ability to use it. Continuing education is also something a great photographer will invest in.
7.) Experience –
Just as you probably wouldn’t want an intern that is training to be a doctor to do a surgery on you all alone without assistance. You probably do not want someone who just picked up a camera yesterday to photograph your special day. This requires a lot of vetting… you need to look at the work of the individual that you are planning on hiring. Look for consistency in their work. Make sure they can take photos indoors as well as outdoors. Ask them how long they have been in business and what their training has been. Ones that have been around a while are going to be charging more than someone just starting out because their experience is worth more.
Even though I really enjoy what I do for my chosen career, myself and other photographers do have to make a livable wage. Even if we work from home there is still overhead to consider just like any business you have to account for all the utilities, the cost of rent or house payments, gas to and from your event and more. Once the day is over the job of the photographer is not complete either… Six to eight hours of photography is around 20-40 hours of additional work in editing depending on how proficient you are at it. So a photographer is not making $2000 off your wedding! After they also pay their assistants, 2nd shooters, pay for the items included in your package like an album and everything else all said and done they are looking at maybe $10-$15 an hour! Really! We could all go work at McDonald’s for a lot less hassle. But we don’t because we love what we do. We give up our weekends to do what we love! I haven’t been to a Summer concert in over 10 years! Because anyone I’d like to go see is over a busy weekend for my business! I lose touch with some of my 9-5 friends because they only have weekends to hang out. But again I do it because I love it! Nothing better than hearing from a couple after the wedding how excited they were when they saw their photos and/or video for the first time!
In conclusion… I’m not saying don’t hire a photographer because they are cheap. Put everything into perspective… How important are the photos to you? If you realize the only thing after the wedding you have besides the marriage are the photos and video and that’s extremely important to you than don’t go cheap. The old adage you get what you pay for is also true. If you are a person that could care less about your images and your budget is really small than maybe take a chance on that young budding photographer (I was there once upon a time and thank the people who took a chance on me) but don’t expect your images to look like the ones that grace the cover of a bridal magazine. I’ve also done many a backyard wedding where I know I was the most expensive vendor there because the place the couple got married at wasn’t as important as capturing the special memories for the couple. There are ways to fit the photographer of your dreams into almost any budget… spend less on some other aspect of your day, ask for people to contribute to your photography fund rather than give you a gift you may not need, or work out a payment plan with said photographer.
Hopefully, if you read this to the end you have a little more perspective on why photographers charge what they charge and possibly other vendors in the industry as well. We don’t look at our wedding clients as “Cha Ching” “Pay Day”. We look at them as someone who we want to make happy, and we’re incredibly honored that they have chosen us to be with them and capture their memories on their special day.
Happy Wedding Planning!
Sarah & Jason’s highlight reel from their Willow Ridge Manor wedding!
Just dropped off these awesome wedding albums to a couple from last year. They went with our coffee table style book with companion parent albums that were personalized for each set of parents. Beautiful couple, amazing wedding and now a great way to display all of their memories!
1.) Purchase Wedding Insurance – I’ve mentioned this in one of my other wedding ideas posts, but thought it was worth mentioning again especially for weddings being held in the colder months in Colorado. What if a blizzard hit our state and nobody was able to get to your venue! You’d probably want to be able to reschedule your event and good insurance would help with that. Make sure to go over all the terms and conditions to make sure your insurance would cover all scenarios and know the cancellation policy of all your vendors.
2.) Do something unique for guests that goes along with the Season such as hay or sleigh rides, provide a ski weekend, or Snowcat rides! Think memorable activity for a wedding that guests will really enjoy!
3.) If you are going to try and still have an outdoor ceremony in Fall or Winter provide blankets for guests to cozy up in and/or umbrellas in case it rains or snows.
4.) Provide warm drink options such as cider or hot cocoa! – A cup of hot chocolate welcoming you as you come in from the cold is always welcomed… instead of a candy bar do a hot chocolate bar with a bunch of different toppings!
5.) Plan your event around the Christmas holiday and save money by using the venue’s decor and how they decorate for holiday parties! This would be great for someone who really loves the color red or just Christmas in general!
6.) Speaking of the holidays… You can even do holiday themed guest favors such as an ornament with your name and wedding date on it, or snow globes, or how about personalized coffee mugs to go along with the hot cocoa bar!
7.) Provide transportation to and from hotels where you have rooms blocked for your guests. While it’s always nice to provide this service to keep guests from drinking and driving, it’s even better to not have to worry about driving on yucky Winter roads if you don’t have to!
8.) Plan indoor back-up spots for photographs in case the it’s too cold outside to do very many photos. A nice fireplace makes for a great background or other architectural features. Also use holiday lights to your advantage for some creative night shots!
9.) Think cold weather items when planning wedding party gifts… Matching scarves, gloves, muffs and shawls work as great presents and will look great in your wedding photographs.
10.) Don’t be afraid of the snow! Some of the advantages of an off-season wedding is that some vendors might offer discounts. Snow is pretty cool (pun intended) looking in photographs and at least your wedding party won’t be sweating in a tuxedo in the hot Summer months! And you can always take off someplace warm and with a beach for your honeymoon!
A wedding we did at the Timber Lodge in Keystone, Colorado was just published on Borrowed & Blue’s blog. To see it check it out by following the link below:
1.) The day goes by so quickly and afterwards you will look back on it and say “What just happened!” While photos are a beautiful memento to hang on your wall (and being a photographer I totally understand the appeal) the only way to remember all of the details in living sound and moving pictures is through video coverage.
2.) It’s a great way to share your event with friends and family who could not attend. Most video companies also will now provide a highlight clip to share via the internet so you don’t even have to worry about getting your copy back from grandma!
3.) To view things that happened behind the scenes. The couple usually choose to get ready in separate rooms. Family and friends are maybe doing all of the decorating while you are getting ready. If you truly want to see what’s going on in areas you wouldn’t otherwise be present during then hiring a videographer or two videographers (to make sure you see the preparation of both the groom & the bride) to capture your event will ensure every moment gets covered.
4.) Capturing special people in your life on film! I’ve been married long enough to know the benefits of having had a videographer at my own wedding. Having footage of people who have passed on or who were young children, but are now all grown up is amazing. It’s truly a way to bring the memory of someone special back to life.
5.) Having a Pro shoot your video helps to make you the Star that you are! We know the right angles to shoot at, what events must be included, and not to mention professional editing gives it a more finished look like a cinematographic movie! I’ve also been the photographer at events where “Uncle Bob” was doing the video… sometimes it can work out, more often than not though issues happen… and here are some that I’ve seen: Oops, I forgot to charge my camera battery, didn’t bring the camera cords, don’t have a tripod so the camera is hand-held through the whole ceremony which gets really shaky, or when the reception starts Uncle starts to drink and forgets to film parts or most of the reception. I think it’s better to put this job in a professionals hand so you’re not mad at Uncle Bob for the rest of his life!
6.) Actually hearing the speeches, toasts and more that were made in your honor. Again, I will mention how quick the day goes by and sometimes these go by in a blur and they are hard to remember. Having the actual voice of the person speaking along with the laughs and tears of those listening to the speech is priceless.
7.) Getting to see the wedding from another point of view. Wouldn’t you love to be able to see the expression on your father as he walks you down the aisle. You will be focused on just making it to the alter without tripping and on the face of your beloved. Seeing the wedding as others got to see it is also pretty amazing!
8.) Being able to show your children how mom and dad’s life started out! Not to mention it’s a pretty good reminder of how much in love you were when the relationship gets a little rocky. A video is a great way to share this special moment with those that don’t exist, yet or to rekindle a romance!
9.) The number one regret of most couples after their wedding is not having hired someone to video the wedding. When sites like The Knot, Wedding Wire, etc. poll brides about their regrets after the big day they always mention how quickly the day flew by, how busy they were, and how much they didn’t realize they would of loved to be able to sit back and watch the day all over again. Try to prevent this regret by incorporating it into your budget early on!
10.) Video is one of the few items that you actually get return on your investment. Will people remember if you provided a wedding favor? Ahhh, probably not unless it’s a really over the top gift. Or if you had fancy chair covers on all of the seats? Not really. If cutting some of these items from your wedding makes room in your budget for a videographer than go for it! If you want to be able to re-live your wedding again and again video truly is the only way to go!
1.) Rent a Tent for an All Outdoor Location
If you are planning your wedding to take place where shelter is not readily available the most sensible idea is to plan for the worst by renting a large tent where both your ceremony and / or reception can be held. Even with great weather a tent provides shade for you and your guests and protection against wind and other elements.
2.) Consider Wedding Insurance and Keep a Phone Number of a Restoration Clean-Up Crew Handy
An event like a wedding can get quite expensive and while emergency situations don’t happen often they do happen! A few years back when the Platte River overflowed it’s banks here in Colorado quite a few wedding venues in the vicinity of the river lost their structures and or access to their venues by bridges washing out and more. Lots of couples ended up rushing to find new locations to hold their event since many guests had already bought and paid for their plane tickets to attend. Event insurance would alleviate the stress of coming up with money for new deposits on locations, because not all venues are quick to refund money in a timely manner. I also attended a wedding once where the entire facility flooded due to a quick and large rain storm. The groom had just happened to work for a restoration company and called his boss to have them come and clean up the hall so the party could continue. They had the whole facility cleaned up and back up and running for dinner and dancing in under an hour! Wow! While I know not everyone might have the same sort of pull with a restoration company, keeping a number of one near your venue close just might come in handy.
3.) Contingency Plan Information
If you have a back-up indoor location planned for if the weather is bad, it’s important for guests to have that information in advance. Including that information with the invitation is a great idea especially if the location is not on site to your original wedding location. If the venue doesn’t have an indoor location for a ceremony ask them for suggestions for places to use as a back-up plan nearby. Some ideas are non-denominational churches, clubs like Elks, VFW, or even a hotel with a nice lobby area. Paying a small fee to reserve a back-up location might be worth it even if you don’t end up using it.
4.) Write Out a Delayed Timeline of Events
Be sure to schedule enough time for each event planned that there is a little wiggle room for delays. Colorado is notorious for quick rain storms that blow over in a short amount of time. Write out a delayed time-line that maybe skips some reception events that are not overly important to you so that you can have a little extra time if a ceremony has to start 30 minutes late due to a rain storm. Give this timeline to someone in charge of helping so you can relax on your big day.
5.) Make Your Make-Up Rain Proof
Use waterproof mascara which will not only help keep your face looking fresh in bad weather, but in case you get a little teary eyed! Ask your make-up artist and hair stylist if they are flexible and can stay for touch-ups even if it’s just for some quick touch-ups right after the ceremony before you do your formal photos. I know most couples only allow for a short amount of time to do photos between the ceremony and reception so ask the make-up artist to stay and apply touch-ups where you are doing the photographs at rather than have you go all the way back to the “getting ready” room. It may not seem like a lot of time, but doing this can save 20-30 minutes of time.
6.) Scout Out Some Locations to Do Photographs If it Rains
Overhangs with decorative elements, Indoor staircases and more all work great for spots to take photographs if the weather isn’t cooperating. Be a little flexible with your photography timing as well. If for instance it starts to downpour right after you say “I do” and everyone goes rushing into the reception hall take a moment to go greet your guests while you wait for the rain to subside and then venture out to do your photos when the clouds have passed and maybe opt to do all the family group photos indoors so grandma doesn’t freeze!
7.) Bring Items to Help Facilitate an Outdoor Ceremony & Outdoor Photos in Bad Weather
Umbrellas make for cute props in wedding photos along with colorful rain boots. Some rental companies might even rent a lot of them for all of your guests. Ushers can be in charge of handing them out if dark clouds are looming. Have the men in your wedding party be gentlemen and let the ladies wear their suit jackets (also makes for a cute photo). If you are concerned about your dress getting dirty bring a white sheet or white plastic bag that can be tucked under the dress after it is fluffed out for photographs. Also include a tide pen in your bridal emergency kit to get out mud stains (I had to use this at my own wedding!) If your wedding is more of a “do it yourself” type of event make sure you bring a pile of towels to wipe down chairs if one of those quick rainstorms passes through and assign someone to help coordinate helpers to do that should you need it.
8.) Smile and Don’t Despair!
Cloudy skies make for really even lighting for photography. Guests don’t have to squint in photos and dramatic clouds, rainbows and more can add a depth to your wedding photos you wouldn’t otherwise have had. If you are flexible there will almost always be a time when the rain stops long enough to get some amazing photographs! And hey, they say it’s good luck if it rains on your wedding day!!
Since our old Blog is still up I thought I would share a link to it in case anyone cares to look back in the old archives at anything. This blog dates from 2005 – til around 2012 or so… right up to when I had my first child! And then I took a little hiatus from blogging until I started up my new website and blog that you are now visiting! I was still working, but just couldn’t seem to find the time to blog! But I’m back! Trying to document all of the work we do to share with you amazing people! So if you want to see how far we’ve come in the past 12 years on the web check it out –