Magazine Article


When You Don't Have a Castle
Scouting for Great Wedding Images in Humble Locations

Peggy Bair

Peggy Bair

If every wedding event were held on the perfectly groomed lawn of a beautiful castle, where the light shines in exactly the right way on the relaxed bridal couple, then wedding photography might be easy.

But if you live in the real world of professional wedding photography, like me, you may find there are few castles in your area, the weather seldom is predictable, and the couples are often stressed amidst the chaos of their wedding day.

As professionals, we are hired to produce hundreds of amazing images from humble surroundings, and all within a short time frame. We may either succumb to the stress and blame the circumstances or fall back into photographing everything traditionally, thereby missing the creative potential of each couple’s unique wedding scenario.

There is another way. Decrease your stress level and increase your creative opportunities by scouting the locations in advance of the wedding day. Distinct Advantages

The advantages of scouting locations are invaluable. In addition to helping you find a variety of scenes with visual potential, it also helps you find solutions for scenes that may pose problems. Scouting also helps you develop an outdoor plan and an indoor backup plan, in case weather becomes a factor.

Being prepared gives you a more relaxed mind set, so you can work more quickly and confidently. With an advance plan, you can even make group pictures go more quickly and creatively. When these photographs go smoothly, you have more time and energy to capture spontaneous, unexpected moments.

I approach a scouting expedition by walking through the venues, outdoors and indoors. Using a variety of lenses, I test scenes and carve out compositions. I look for great light and notice how it changes during the day.

It’s important to actually photograph these scenes and not just look at them. Details we might overlook become much more apparent when photographed and studied in still test shots.

Lighting Is Key

One of the most important things to consider when scouting a scene is lighting. Its direction and intensity can make an average composition extraordinary. Recently, while scouting a couple’s ceremony location, I started by walking around the church grounds. At first, it looked like a plain, brick building with no architectural distinction. Then I noticed tall archways on one side of the church, which, viewed from a certain angle with the compressed perspective of a long lens, had a geometric pattern with potential for a unique backdrop.

On their wedding day, I photographed the couple in this scenario at 2:30 and 7:00 p.m. Both images turned out well, but the evening lighting made the later image much more dramatic.

Inspiring Images

Whether you’re looking for a place to take group formals, a portrait scene, getting-ready rooms, or the reception venue, taking test shots on a scouting expedition gives you a bank of ideas and options from which to draw.

So, even if the venue isn’t a castle and the “lawn” is a church parking lot, if you give your mind advance notice by scouting the locations, you’ll be rewarded with ideas and images that bring out the best in even the most humble location.