There's a wonderful photography magazine I subscribe to called RangeFinder. I think it's a perk I get for being part of one of my photography memberships (there are too many to keep count of at this point!). But it always puts a smile on my face when it comes. There are some truly beautiful artistic composition in each issue. I'l confess, that's usually what I focus on when I flip through it. But today, the Business Issue arrived and a big bold headline caught my eye on one of the pages. The quote said:
"If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail."
That's an old adage, right? I've probably heard it a hundred time in my life, but it stuck with me today and it made me read the article. Later today, while working on some of my favorite images from Kelly and Dan's big day (don't worry, that post is coming soon!) I realized it probably jumped out at me because I'd read something similar on one of Felix Kunz's FB posts earlier in the day. He stated something simple like "I don't believe in going in cold." And then the post showed a few of his behind the scenes lighting set ups. Both of these "words to the wise," coming from different gurus in the industry helped me settle a debate I've been having with myself for over three years now.
Should I scout a venue prior to the wedding? Should I go and take the time to look around and let my creative mind wander? Snap a few cellphone pics? Even if I've shot there a dozen times or so?
I should and I do. Well, I do NOW. And I've decided that that's the right answer, specifically because of my creative process. And it works for me. Preparation helps propel (rather than stifle) the creative process for me. So that's my advice. Do it. Scout. Go spend some time in the space. EVEN if you are super busy. EVEN if you've shot there before.
I used to believe the opposite. I used to believe that if I was a "true" professional and a "true" artist that I could shoot anywhere, anytime, and still create fantastic, artistic images. And I do still think there's some truth to that. Light is light and you either get it or you don't. I've also heard really fabulous, big-time photographers say "No way, man. Don't go into a wedding shoot with a shot list. You'll drive yourself crazy because the timeline will get blown and you won't be able to do what you want to do anyway. Plus, you should just go with inspiration you feel on the day of."
But then I started shooting portraiture. And I LOVED IT. My portrait sessions really had a glam/fashion feel to them and they required me to really tell a story, to create an editorial, creative backdrop for my shoots. I watched a training a few months ago, put on by the iconic Miss Aniela (Natelie Lennard). Did you know she spends about 4 hours on a TEST SHOOT before she actually shoots a campaign?! Yeah, she gets the gown, she gets the model, she tests out poses , strobe set ups, all of it BEFORE the actual shoot. And her work is world renown and earth-shaking.
So I realized that part of what I loved about the portrait shoots was the planning I could put into them. All the time was mine. It was just about me, my vision for my client, and the imagery I wanted to create. I love it! I found myself sketching out different poses, dreaming up different fantastic stories my clients could live out and it kind of knocked me upside the head..."DUH! Why am I not doing this for my wedding clients?!" Because I thought it meant I wasn't artistic enough to shoot on the fly? Well, the exact opposite was true. I was denying my clients the full deal. I wasn't giving my creative side time to really play and develop a story for them. But now I do :)
And not only have I grown as a photographer, but it's become easier and easier to give my clients those jaw-dropping shots they expect. Because I've already shot them, over and over and over again in my mind. So when the make-up artist runs late, or the groomsmen aren't where they need to be, it's ok. I have TONS of mental images I've already created that I can run through quickly, because I planned it that way.
So that's my two cents on the scouting question. Here are some of the images I've created for my clients, that I scouted for, planned out, and scheduled before hand. I think each one is worth the extra time and effort I put into styling, planning, and preparing for the big day. (And yes, there's a sneak peek of some of Kelly & Dan's big day in here to boot!)