There are so many decisions involved in planning a wedding, it can truly be overwhelming. One of the first and most important decisions is choosing a venue. As photographers, we have a unique perspective on what makes a photogenic venue. Certainly whether your venue will be a great background for your photos is not the only consideration in choosing a venue, but it should be one of them. With that in mind, here are some tips for choosing the best venue for photos:
1. Wide Open Spaces
The best venues are spacious, whether inside or out. The more free, open space, the move of a blank canvas we have to work in. Cramped quarters are difficult to shoot because we are much more limited in our options. When you can, choose a venue with lots of space.
2. Clean, and Minimalist
While decorations and vintage furniture may make the venue look great in person, too much clutter detracts from photos of you and your partner on the big day. The best venues for photography are not overly cluttered with decorations or furniture. We often will move televisions, furniture, pictures on the wall, etc. to create the best environment for photos. The less time we have to do this the better for getting great photos.
3. Lots of Window Light
For interior venues, lots of great window light makes photos beautiful. This is especially true in the spaces where the bridal party is getting ready. Large windows with translucent shades are the best to capture soft, flattering portraits.
4. Light Colored Walls and Ceilings
Professional photographers will bounce light off the walls or ceiling, creating depth to an image and avoiding the harsh “deer in the headlights” look of a flash directly from the camera. When we bounce light, the light will pick up the color tint of whatever wall or ceiling we bounce off of. For that reason, it’s nearly impossible to bounce light off dark walls or ceilings. Green, blue, black, brown, and similar colors make it more difficult. For the best photos on your big day, choosing a venue with light colored ceilings and walls will really help.
5. Lots of Twinkle Lights, or Up Lighting
To add festive lighting, choose a venue that offers twinkle lights (aka Christmas lights) or similar lighting fixtures. Having rows of beautiful tiny lights behind you and your partner during the first dance can make for magical photos. We always encourage clients to include twinkle lights in their decoration plans if the venue does not include them.
Up lighting is also great for enhancing the ambiance of the reception hall. Up lighting lights rest on the ground and project a colored beam against the wall and on to the ceiling. You may be surprised how just a little colored light can add a lot of mood and dynamics to a photo. Up lighting is cheap to rent and make a humdrum reception hall look amazing.
6. Minimize Distractions
Wedding photographers obsess over anything that can detract from the subjects in their images. Often we’ll shoot an otherwise beautiful outdoor venue, but there will be an ugly gray electrical box mounted to a tree right behind the couple during the ceremony. (Thank goodness for Photoshop!) When looking at venues, try to think like a photographer, stand where the photographer will stand during your ceremony and look around for any distracting features.
7. Look for Symmetry
Humans are drawn to symmetrical features. Faces that we consider the most attractive exhibit a high degree of symmetry, and great works of art and architecture play off this by using symmetry and balance to make images pleasing. Pay attention to the ceremony sites at your venue, is it symmetrical, with features on both the left and right side that are equidistant from the center? Or does it feel unbalanced? Is there a large tree or building on one side of the ceremony site and not the other? As photographers, we want everything to line up and be as symmetrical as possible, so our couple is the main focus.
8. Think About Seasons and Nature
Lastly, sometimes nature can be your worst enemy. The best venues to shoot are those that have great backup options in the case of rain or bad weather. Knowing that your ceremony will still be beautiful if you have to move it indoors will take lots of stress out of your day, and your photographers will thank you!
Also, consider the season of your wedding. If you have a winter wedding, remember that the beautiful green grass and trees at the venue when you signed the contract in the spring may not be there come January. If possible, ask the venue for photographs from weddings during the same season as yours.