I scout each and every wedding venue, well in advance of the wedding if I haven't already photographed a wedding there.
I like to know where to park on the day and to introduce myself to the staff. I like to familiarise myself with the building and the grounds. Mainly I'm looking for interesting backdrops for photographs, both posed and candid. It can inspire ideas ahead of the wedding day, so I know what equipment to bring and where to be ahead of the action.
For Tanya and Craig's wedding at Newton Hall, I scouted the venue within a month of photographing the wedding in order to get an idea of what the light might be like at that time of year. Of course there is no way to know what the actual light will be like on the wedding day because of the unpredictable British weather, but I like to stack the odds of getting good photographs as much in my favour as I can.
The danger in having set ideas for wedding day photographs is that you ignore what is actually happening on the wedding day, and the personalities of the couple themselves, and simply shoehorn them into your photographs. This is something that I'm incredibly wary of, and as much as I can I try to use my scouting trips as inspiration, not as photographs to be ticked off a shot list.
Take this photograph of Tanya and Craig below.
When scouting the venue I'd noticed this window on the stairs, complete with an imposing statue, long hanging curtains, and a tangle of wood on the left wall. I had it in my 'back pocket' as a shooting location for couple portraits if the weather was poor.
Newton Hall was rainy and foggy on the morning of Tanya and Craig's wedding day. Tanya and I were walking down the stairs and we talked about using the window for photographs. Tanya grabbed Craig, and I got them to seat on each side of the statue. Without my direction, Tanya got them both in a lotus like pose; a nod to the far eastern statue in the window.
The resulting photograph is a collaboration between me, the photographer, and Tanya and Craig, the couple. It's the type of photography I love.
It doesn't work when the couple save dozens of photographs from Pinterest and try to get me to recreate them - as a photographer I have my own style and look and this should be why the couple are hiring me.
Similarly, I can't just impose all of my ideas on the couple - it's their day and I want to spark off them to create a set of photographs unique to them and their day.
Good wedding photography is a collaboration between the wedding photographer and the couple.