Three Things You Can Do To Find Your Perfect Wedding Photo Location
A few weeks ago I shot a wedding for Zac and Beth, a couple in Ft. Collins Colorado. We sat down a few weeks before the wedding to make sure we were all on the same page, and one of the things we talked about was where we would shoot their bridal party and couple photos on the day of their wedding. They had a few options in mind, and I had a few suggestions as well, but the only thing that really stood out was this one property on the south end of town. We looked up the street view on Google maps and from what we could tell, it looked beautiful. It was a relatively large property with willow trees and a little stream and a covered bridge. It seemed to be pretty well taken care of, and it fit perfectly with the aesthetic for this couple's wedding (their colors were silver and green, lots of greenery). There was only one problem. It was a private property and none of us knew the owners.
So how did we end up shooting in this idyllic location? It basically boils down to three things: we kept our eyes open, we put in some work, and we weren't afraid to just ask.
Keep Your Eyes Open
Keeping your eyes open is always the first step to finding the perfect place to shoot. You have to see the options. You have to look at the world around you, everywhere you go, and think of it as a potential spot for a photo op. You've got a phone with a camera and chances are you'll be planning your wedding for somewhere between 9 and 18 months. For however long you're planning, just keep it in the back of your mind that you should be looking for places to shoot. If you see a place that looks interesting, stop and take a picture of yourself there, it will have the location data tied to it, so you can always find the spot again later, or share it with your photographer. While you're at it, snap a few photos of the surrounding area as well. They don't need to look great but they will give your photographer a much better sense of what they will be able to do there with the space and the light. Chances are many of the places won't work for some reason or another, but don't let that stop you. It'll be worth it when you find that perfect spot.
This was how Zac and Beth even knew of this spot in the first place. At some point when they were driving around Ft. Collins, this location caught their eye. And they didn't just think to themselves "That's cool." They thought "I wonder if that would work?" They didn't take pictures of it, but they did file it away in their minds as an option, and they made a note of where it was so we could look it up later.
Put Some Work In
Once you have found a place that has captured your heart, the next thing you need to do is put a little work in (or hire someone who will do it for you). You'll want to verify with your photographer that you will actually be able to take the photos you want in the space. You'll want to figure out what the restrictions are. Lots of the locations you find will be privately owned, or heavily trafficked, or only open at certain times or day, or subject to some other restriction. Once you know what they are, you can figure out how to work around them. I mean, this is your wedding right? Getting pictures that encapsulate you and your partner and the energy of the day is important to you, right? Then it is worth a little effort. If it is privately owned, figure out who the owner is. If it is heavily trafficked, figure out when the slow times are or if it can be shut off from the public for a time. If it is only open at certain times of day find out who you would need to get permission from to go in after hours. Etc. Put in the work.
Side note: Contrary to my last paragraph, you should not be doing all these things yourself among all the thousands of other small tasks on your plate when planning a wedding. Some wedding planners might be willing to do some of this leg work for you, or any photographer worth her/his salt should be willing to do whatever it takes to get you the photos you want and this prep work is part of it. Make sure they know you expect it of them, and don't take excuses. Or find a new photographer.
Zac and Beth opted to do the grunt work themselves, or so I thought. It turns out that it was actually Zac's mother Kat who tracked down the owner of this private property we wanted to shoot on. I asked her how she did it and here's what she said:
I went on the County Assessor website and looked up the parcel, then the homeowners name and then found their phone number. Got lucky that they were older and had a landline listed :) I called and just explained that my kids fell in love with the look of their property – what we could see from road anyway – and asked if they would be open to us taking photos there. They wanted to meet with us first, so we went over one afternoon and then they said yes!!!
Don't Be Afraid to Ask
That is my last bit of advice: don't be afraid to ask. In my experience, this is the thing that most often stands in the way of people getting the photos they want. They just don't ask. But you will, and you will be surprised at how often people are pleasant and willing to help a stranger out, especially on their wedding day. Be polite, be honest about what you want to do, smile, and be thankful whether they say yes or no. As Kat told me, "It never hurts to ask - worst case they say no and then we are at the spot where we started."
Kat had the boldness to ask, and we are all thankful she did. We got there on the day of Zac and Beth's wedding, secure in the knowledge that the property was ours for the next few hours. And surprise! There was a vineyard in the back of the property that isn't visible from the road. So we got the photos we had planned on and we got some bonus photos of the couple playing in the vineyard. How can you beat that?
If you look closely at this last photo, you'll see that Zac is carrying what appears to be a bottle of wine in a bag. The couple who allowed us to shoot on their property also gave Zac and Beth a bottle of their own vintage as a wedding gift. Good things come to those keep their eyes open, put in the work, and aren't afraid to ask.