Questions I wish all South Wales Wedding Venues would ask Photographers

We hate to hear from a wedding venue that photographers have developed a bad name within the industry. Full time professional wedding photographers have a lot invested in building relationships with venues on the wedding day and beyond. Communication is key and a dialogue between venue coordinators and wedding planners and the photographer can help both parties have a smooth day and work to their best standards.

Here are a few things that many venues will ask photographers in advance of a wedding day, although unfortunately many do not.

Do you have public liability insurance?

This is one of the key factors that separates us full time professional photographers from the friends, amateurs and “weekend warriors”. Many top venues demand a copy before allowing us to work at a wedding. Unfortunately there are still many who do not.

For those of us who do this as our full time profession we’ve invested everything in what we do. We photograph weddings in order to pay our mortgages, feed our children and therefore we have so much at stake.

Public liability Insurance

Over the years we have invested so much in equipment and skills that to conduct ourselves without insurance would be insane.

Professional wedding photographers should have £3m-£5m public liability insurance and will be experienced in risk assessing our activities and minimising dangers to guests and staff at your venue. My business insurance is through the industry leader Aaduki and is underwritten by Hiscox.

As well as asking us for copies of our insurance certificates, licences for drones is also a more prevalent issue. To be able to fly a drone in a public place or around private property the pilot needs PfCO Drone Licence from the CAA as well as the relevant training certificates and insurances.

Do we all have the same timings for the day?

About 3 weeks before any wedding I send out a questionnaire to the couple asking for confirmation of the timings and the running order of the day. From that I play how we are going to get every photo they want from me. Often there’s a huge list of group photos they want gathered as well as photos of just them alone.

Planning the photography for the day around the existing running order can be difficult as there often just isn’t the time. Light is crucial to everything we do so planning around golden hour and sunset is something else that we have to consider.

Calon Lodge, Llanerch Vineyard
Calon Lodge, Llanerch Vineyard

Things can become very stressful when, after all that planning, we discover on the day that the timings have changed. Food has been brought forward by 30 minutes, the room won’t be ready until 15 minutes later or a last minute major change the week before the wedding means that major chunks of the promised wedding photos are impossible.

No professional wedding photographer would ever want to upset the planned running order of a day for a venue and wedding planners. We all know how chefs can be and how difficult is can be to keep 100 starters warm while everyone waits for the newlyweds to return from photos.

The only times this has ever happened to me it has been accidental and due to a lack of communication from the couple or the venue about changes and differences between our timeline and that at the venue. Sharing this information in advance, or even early on during the wedding day can be extremely helpful.

Would you like somewhere secure to store your expensive equipment so it isn’t a health and safety hazard?

Many of us bring bags or cases with up to £20k worth of photography gear along to weddings. We need regular access to our equipment and leaving it unattended in corridors or in the corner of function rooms just isn’t suitable.

Some smaller venues have such limited space that our bags can become obstacles for guests and staff during the day. This is something that we’re always keen to avoid.

Allowing us access to staff areas, back corridors or store rooms to store our gear can be so convenient and helps us avoid any health and safety accidents.

Not only is our gear vulnerable to theft when it’s in open and public area and unattended for long periods, but it’s also susceptible to accidents. Drunk wedding guests are more likely to spill drinks or step on bags in the main wedding areas and can cause us expensive insurance claims and renewal bills.

Are you fully aware of the procedures and priorities at this venue?

Every wedding venue is different and have a culture, priorities and procedures that we may not have experienced before. For example, some venues have the ceremony room open before the wedding starts, others have a total ban on access, and we only learn this when we open the door to peak inside and get shouted at.

Trestle Table Set up in the Farmer's Barn
Trestle Table Set up in the Farmer’s Barn

Some venues call guests to be seated 15 minutes before food is served, others venues it’s 30 minutes and a few are instant. This is our best time to get a few minutes alone with the newly married couple and we’d hate to upset the timings and make things late.

Confetti is a part of all weddings yet has a total ban at some venues, a limited usage in specified areas at others and no rules at many more. A heads up on this before we start asking the guests to line up for throwing is a great help.

There's no such thing as a cheap wedding photographer
Confetti moments

Many venues have such limited space in the ceremony areas and have unwritten rules about where photographers can and cannot stand – explaining this to couples when they book and again to photographers on the day can alleviate uncomfortable situations and disappointment on the day.

Canapes . . . . . oooh, we all love them. Many venues allow their staff to include photographers when they’re being given out, others have a blanket ban. There’s nothing more embarrassing than the hand slap and a “no! not for you!”. This leads us onto . . . . .

Would you like us to organise you some food at the same the guests are eating?

Larger venues and resorts usually have a separate restaurant or bar where we can order and pay for our own food during our break. This usually coincides exactly with when the newlyweds and their guests are eating as we have to rush back to photograph the speeches.

There’s nothing more welcoming at a venue than the words “go and sit down and we’ll bring you some food and water over” when you’re 8 hours into a 14 or 16 hour day.

Bridal prep starts as early as 8 or 9am for a 1pm ceremony and guests sit down for food around 4, by which time we’re usually exhausted and starving. Having the stress of having to find food, water and place to sit taken away means so much to us.

We’d love to recommend you to future weddings, could we have some photos from today that we could use and fully credit you for?

Between weddings I’m lucky that I also have a commercial photography business specialising in photographing food and interiors. I work for several wedding venues and have photographed their menus, spaces, rooms and staff. As part of this I work closely with venues and licence the images for usage.

© 2019 Owen Mathias Photography

On a wedding day we are working for the couple as our client, although afterwards we retain control of the photography and it’s copyright. This is to protect the client as well as ourselves. Many photographers will only provide photography from weddings for a commercial image licence fee that can be anything from £100 to £500 per image for two years.

Building relationships with venues is important for photographers and we always appreciate being respected for the work that we do at weddings and for venues. Venues can support photographers by promoting them to their clients. Correctly crediting them when images get used online or in brochures is the best demonstration of this mutual professional respect.