How important is it to work with a wedding photographer with experience at your venue?
In the ten+ years I've been photographing weddings I've had both of the following experiences many times: 1) Photographing at a venue I've photographed so many times I know it like the back of my hand and 2) Photographing at a venue I've never photographed before.
Prospective clients ask me often if I've photographed at their venue before. Most seem happy to learn I have photographed their venue before, and I am too. It means I know the venue well, its secret spots, the lay of the land, and the wedding staff.
That said, working with someone who *hasn't* photographed the venue can have a powerful advantage too, IF the photographer meets certain criteria.
As an artist, I *love* experiencing new venues. I get a huge rush of inspiration when I visit the property for the first time, exploring it and all its unique beauty, its contours, textures, and light. It's kind of like trying a delicious new ice cream flavor I've never tried before. I'm filled with wonder and excitement at something new and delicious.
In my experience, photographers who are new to venues often uncover new ways of seeing the space that others haven't, and that's magical. There's a sense of inspiration and newness that can fuel amazing photographs. Many of the weddings I've photographed as first-time venues have been published, received rave reviews, and led to more weddings at that property.
That said, I am also extremely rigorous when it comes to photographing venues I haven't been to before. I always do a site visit to learn the property, how the light moves over it, seek out its beautiful spots, and meet the wedding staff. In many of the venues at which I've worked, failing to do a site visit like that could be quite disastrous.
Instead of asking a photographer whether she or he has photographed at your venue before, consider asking how she or he approaches new venues generally. You should be able to get a sense right away about whether it's a bad idea or, perhaps, a great one.