"Where should we take photos on our wedding day?" clients often wonder.
After all, you only get married once, and after investing so much in a wonderful photographer you want to make sure you get the most bang for your buck. In many clients' minds that translates to "i want a photograph at every beautiful location in the town of X"
but here is why that is detrimental to your wedding as well as to your resulting photographs.
As a documenter my job is to visually tell the story of your day. The final product of which is usually an beautifully constructed album that should read as an actual story. If you want to know more about that process stay tuned for the next part of this series: how to choose the right photos for your wedding album
Here is the basics of what you should know: there should be a beginning (getting ready) middle (the ceremony) a climax (the ceremony/reception) and an ending (images that bring closure to the reception). There should also be transitions between those elements which usually come in the form of 'establishing shots' which sort of 'set the scene' so to speak. perhaps an overall image of the entire reception set up sets the scene for the following images of the reception. perhaps a shot of the bride walking down the hall is a good transition between the 'getting ready' pictures to the 'ceremony' pictures.
You should think of your album as not a collection of random beautiful images, but rather a cinematic movie with stills rather than motion.
When putting together your album, it should read like an actual story:
"once upon a time, in a beautiful country vineyard, a bride was getting ready to meet her groom. Surrounded by friends in a light-filled room she awaited patiently and journaled her thoughts to her soon-to-be husband. surrounded by all of her most-meaningful treasures, her hair was done and makeup was applied, and her mother quietly wept as she watched her little girl enter this rite of passage. as she walked down the hallway to the ceremony she felt butterflies, but upon seeing her groom at the front of the alter she knew she was making the best decision of her life"
can you mentally see all the photographs that would go along with those words? Those are the ones that should be in the album.
now what if this happened to the story:
"then they took photos by the lake. then they took photos in the vineyard. then they took photos on the street. then they took photos in front of this building. then they fake-laughed to get laughing photos in front of the river"
i bet all of those photos are beautiful- but it has turned the storyline of the day into something... well...odd.
now, dont misunderstand me, I am truly happy to take photos wherever my clients want to take photos! I will often scout out locations to do this as well; it's important to me to take beautiful lightly posed photographs of my clients on their wedding day. While i love photojournalism- there needs to be a balance of strictly documentary photography and also direction by the photographer to capture formal family photographs and some seriously stellar pictures of the bride and groom together.
However, i don't think we should necessarily leave the entire premises to go to an unrelated location, taking time away from experiencing their day with their friends and family.
Here are a few pages from a client's album that show how transition images work to connect one portion of the wedding to the next.
Note how there are a few 'scene setting' images. note how there are transitions from one section of the day to the next. note how the majority of the images are documentary in nature and only a few classic portraits. and finally, note how there is a clear beginning, middle, and end to the storyline.
of course there are always exceptions- Last year a client of mine made a special point to travel off location with her husband to take a few photos in a gazebo dedicated to her maid of honor who had recently passed away. what a beautifully loving way to include someone so dear to your heart that could only be there in spirit. It was so beautiful and so touching and added a really meaningful layer to not only their day but also their photography.
My main point is the final gallery and album of imagery should tell the story of their day in a cohesive and logical way. And while i'm obsessed with a beautiful image- i want to make those beautiful images in locations that actually have something to do with your wedding day, and for you to be able to enjoy your wedding instead of running all over town hoping in and out of a vehicle to take pictures. (can i get an amen?)
my advice is to stay at the venue whenever possible, and to take that into consideration when choosing a venue- would you want your photos taken there?
a final note- many (if not all) places require a permit for photography and sometimes a heafty fee. If you still want to take photos off location, make sure you budget in a few hundred extra dollars for permitting fees and do the necessary paperwork beforehand. Even public parks require permits. Just another reason to pick a beautiful location for your wedding that you want to stay at and be photographed in, instead of picking a venue on price alone and thinking you can make up for it by traveling to other locales to get beauatiful pictures. In the long run it will cost you more than your money- you'll be sacrificing your wedding day experience, your time, your storyline, your photography, and your album.