We are back this week with the SECOND wedding planning post of the year! Today’s post dives into a question that I don’t get too often but did want to address on the blog. I know it is definitely something that crosses a couples’ mind every now and then! I am SO lucky to have couples that trust me and my team on their wedding day, but even still, I do know that this question could come to mind: Where will my portraits be done on my wedding day?!
Surprisingly, the answer may be a lot different than you think. We’re going to dive into a few different questions to fully cover this topic all the way from my role as a photographer to the role my couples take on!
Just as a heads up: this post also applies to how I choose locations for everything I photograph, from weddings, to seniors, families and everything in between! For simplicity sake, I am going to keep this post about weddings only!
How do you determine where my portraits will be?
TL;DR answer here: My focus when selecting locations is always on LIGHT!
Yes, the background and feel of the location is SO important, but even more than that is the LIGHT! I am fairly confident that you have posed for a vacation selfie and felt your eyes uncontrollably squinting, right? Then, chances are, you looked at the photo and noticed shadows under your eyes, maybe around your nose and under your chin. Maybe you were squeezing your eyes shut or had a funny look on your face? While these photos can serve their purpose on vacation and in casual moments, I believe that your professional images should flatter you a little more than that!
Not only is it a bit uncomfortable to have your photo taken while staring straight into the sun, it also isn’t going to make you look your absolute best. My goal when lighting an image is to use light to highlight YOU and to make YOU look like the star of the image. I’ll first look for even light on my happy couple and will then start looking for light that will add a little pop or glow to your portraits! If you hear me getting excited about “glow,” you should get excited too!!
What makes a place have “good light?”
This one is a little harder to explain without showing you a breakdown in real life, so I just want to let you know that the BEST thing you can do is to trust your photographer! Every photographer has differences in style when it comes to their favorite lighting scenarios, but my favorite light yields even skin tones and true-to-life colors! When I am looking for locations on a wedding day, I’ll often bring along my second shooter to check out what the sun is doing to their skin! Are there any harsh shadows or funny color casts? Will the spot allow us any flexibility if we are doing anything with movement (Like a first look or getting a bride into her gown!)? Where will the sun be in a few hours? Are there clouds? If so, where is the sun behind the clouds? All of these questions sound funny and super specific at first, but they all go in to determining where the good light is, and then they help to determine where the best spot will be to position the happy couple!
Will you tour my venue to pick locations before my wedding date?
Believe it or not, I personally do not believe that venue visits done by a photographer (specifically to scout light and location!) are the best use of time! Bold to say, but hear me out… there are SO many factors that can change the light in a specific location— from the cloud coverage, to the time of day, to the time of the year, amount of foliage on the trees, pollution levels and reflections off of buildings and objects in the location) When my couple and I arrive on a wedding day with our hearts set on a specific spot before I have had a chance to see what the light is doing on their wedding day, it can cause confusion and even panic on the couple’s end on a wedding day when the location isn’t the way we had imagined it come showtime. That is never a client experience that I want to provide. This is why I love scouting out locations when I arrive.
When I am able to location scout for portraits and first looks the morning of a wedding, I have a better idea of how light is flowing through the property on that day. Our weather and cloud coverage situation is easier to read, and I have a basic idea of how fast the sun will be moving through the sky and what direction it will be moving.
If this is making you a little panicky, don’t worry… I arrive early to every single wedding to check out the property and light the day-of! I would say that I am shooting at new venues for 85-90% of my weddings these days! The challenge of learning a new location’s lighting situation is one of my favorite things to take on, and I really am quick to make a call when it comes to light!
Should I pick my locations beforehand?
I’ll help you out here, no worries! If there are a few locations that you love and would want to incorporate as an inspiration for your portraits, please do share them with me! I’ve noticed though that when we have a full list of portrait spots to hit, it causes much more stress for the couple than it is worth. (Think endless road trip with limited time!)
Oftentimes, when we see locations that look really beautiful, grand or iconic, the light for portraiture doesn’t always match up. Remember: We are looking for even light and maybe a little bit of pop/glow if we are lucky! I have taken portraits in parking lots, open fields and side streets, in front of grand monuments, and right around the side of them, in front of stunning venues and right on their tree line, tucked back underneath porches and along the sides of buildings. The point is… your portraits are about making YOU look YOUR best! Trust your photographer because oftentimes what you see in real life is SO much different than what they are seeing through their lens! I promise… some of our locations seem crazy in the moment, but when you see your photos, it will all make sense!
Another point of encouragement: Sometimes, the BEST locations are actually the most simple! I recently shot a wedding where ALL of our outdoor portrait locations were photographed right next to the hotel! The light was beautiful and the wall that we were standing in front of was neutral with a little pop to it. It really allowed the couple, wedding party and family members to stand out!
I hope today’s post was encouraging and helped to answer a few of your questions! To sum it all up: here are the TOP things I look for while selecting your wedding portrait locations:
- Light, light light!
- Color casts and funky shadows— Are any of these things present? If so, this is not our spot!
- Future conditions in the spot— Where will the sun be moving?
- Do we have any flexibility to move around in the location?
- Physical location and background— Will the background allow my couple to pop off the background or will it be distracting?
- Is this location consistent with my photography style and what my couple will be expecting?
As always, if there is something you want to see as part of my wedding planning series, send me a comment or an email!
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