In my opinion, photography is one of the most important aspects of a wedding. After all of your guests leave, the chairs are put away, and the floors are swept, you are left with only your memories and the photos from your big day. Having spent all of your time and money planning your wedding, you obviously want outstanding photos when it’s all said and done. Picking a great venue is hugely important to the overall look and feel you’ll get from your photos. A good venue also makes your photographer’s job much easier. Bad venues can be hard to work in, have bad lighting, cramped spaces, or just plain boring scenery. If I could build a wedding venue that would be a veritable playground for photographers, here are some things I would include.
1. Long Diminishing Lines
Perhaps my favorite thing to see at a venue are long diminishing lines with repeating patterns. Rows of grape vines at a vineyard (like at Folino Estate), rows of trees, lavender fields, long walkways with foliage on both sides and bridges are great examples. This is something I look for wherever I go because it makes the photos stand out without fail. It makes composing photos so much easier and more aesthetically pleasing. The convergence of the lines gives the eye a natural path through the photo, with your husband or wife at the center. If you’re in an urban setting and between two buildings, there is an added benefit of the light being diffused. The light will enter the scene and bounce off the walls in all directions, making for nice soft light.
2. Bright Reception Venue
Reception venues are often the worst-case scenario from a lighting standpoint. A lighting technique that photographers use frequently is to bounce a flash off of ceilings or walls. A lot of venues have high ceilings, which don’t lend themselves to bouncing light around. Dark colors on the walls or ceilings don’t allow for much bounce light either. Additionally, light bounced off of a surface will come back with the color it was bounced off of. If a wall is painted red, any light bounced off it will come back red. That being said, white is the best color for bouncing light. It doesn’t create colorcasts and it also allows for the most light returned to the subject. Large windows that let in plenty of light are a huge bonus. The Goggleworks in Reading PA a prime example of a venue with plenty of light and white walls. It’s one of my favorite venues to work at for that reason. Full blog post from this venue here!
3. Unique Props
Things like antique cars, pianos, bicycles, benches, and chairs all make for versatile posing aids. In my experience, the best photos are the ones that look as if they were captured candidly, even if they weren’t truly. Having something to do while getting your photos taken is a great way to appear more relaxed and natural. The Tulpehocken Manor is one of my favorite venues to work at for many reasons, one of them being the beautiful antique car sitting on the property. Full blog post from this venue here!
4. Large Windows
If your ceremony or reception is indoors, large windows will let in an abundance of light. Natural light isn’t always better than flash, but it is often the easiest to work with. The less gear your photographer needs to keep track of, the more they can pay attention to you and your wedding guests. This goes hand in hand with having a bright reception hall.
5. Diffused Light Outdoors
The majority of ceremonies I photograph are outdoors in direct sunlight. If the sky is overcast, the light is great. Clouds act to diffuse the harsh light the sun offers. While blue clear skies are usually seen as cheerful and warm, they are sometimes a nightmare to a photographer. Un-diffused sunlight is very harsh and not at all flattering. A pergola with white cloth draped across it is the perfect solution to get nice light during the ceremony. The cloth will act as a softbox and diffuse any light passing through it.
6. String Lights
Light sources are an obvious necessity for photography. String lights are a light source that almost always makes photos more interesting. They make for great bokeh and leading lines. Bokeh is the term used for the blurred out circles you often see in the background of photos. It happens when light is being emitted or reflected from a small source, such as string lights or leaves. Just like the long leading lines of a walkway or a row of trees, these can be used as a leading line into the scene.
7. Open Spaces Without Obstructions
Some reception venues are small and cramped. If you add support beams into the equation it makes for a constant battle to get good angles. Support beams have a knack for being placed in the exact spot the photographer would like to stand to get the best shot. Large open spaces allow the photographer to get further away from the action with a long lens. Long lenses are often the most flattering for portraits and are great for eliminating distractions in the background. Having room to move around, get closer and further away from the subject, and the ability to use different lenses will give more variety to your photos. It also allows for the most flexibility. Some photographers like being in the thick of it, up close and personal to all the people dancing or the toasts. Other’s prefer to observe from afar, using the environment to frame people or take in the whole event at once. Most prefer to do both, and having enough space to work in is a massive benefit.
8. Scenic Vistas
This isn’t a feature of the venue itself, but it does effect the photos and especially the light in the photos. Under number five or this article, I stated that diffusing light outdoors is a surefire way to get better photos. Another way to diffuse the light is the let nature do it for you. Late afternoon wedding ceremonies are probably the best as far as lighting goes. If the sun is low in the sky (and in the right location), the photographer can use it to their advantage and back light the bride and groom. The sun at your back is the best position it can be in, at least for my style of shooting. No harsh light and dark shadows will fall on your face, and it will give your photos an amazing warm glow. If you’re really fortunate, it will be overcast on your wedding day. You might think it looks dreary but I promise you your photographer will be rejoicing at their luck. When it’s overcast, the sky becomes one massive softbox, diffusing all of the light hitting the ground.
If your venue has any or all of these attributes, your photos will turn out spectacularly! Naturally you want the best photos possible from your big day, but some venues just don’t lend themselves to good photos. A professional will of course be able to make amazing photos anywhere, but just imagine how much better they’ll look if you’re surrounded by breathtaking sights! As a photographer, I’m of the opinion that the two most important things to consider are the venue and the photography. After the wedding day is over, only the photos will remain. The backdrop of all the photos will be the venue. Do you want it to be breathtaking or simply passable?
TL;DR – If a photographer were to design a wedding venue, it would be large and open, have big windows indoors, a way to diffuse light outdoors, string lights, awesome props, long diminishing lines, and scenic vistas.
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