I don’t mind seeing a wedding location before the event. In fact it can be very beneficial for seeing what difficulties are present and how to approach the photography. Where I get derailed is trying to plan out what my shots will be before the event. Oftentimes when I spend a great deal of time trying to analyze the location, plan my angles, determine my compositions, and visualize my images, I find it all a waste. It can even hamstring me into making poor choices and trying overly hard to make something out of nothing.
My style for shooting weddings plays off my style for shooting engagement photos, portraits, and other assignments. In all these situations I might have a general idea of what I am going to shoot, but I do not have specifics lined out. My style is to quickly analyze the location, determine a good place to start and then develop some great images. My first choice may not be the best, or it might be right on the money. If it is not a good choice I quickly change things up, introduce a new look, and start developing again. When I find the right balance of composition, light and atmosphere then I will explore that look to its fullest potential.
In the case where I have pre-planned the shots, I have a hard time pulling back and re-analyzing the situation. With so much already invested in the idea, I feel compelled to continue shooting even when the idea does not seem to be leading to productive images. The tendency is to continue photographing with the hope that the idea will pan out to a creative end. This is not a favorable situation for either the client or myself. Time is valuable during an event, and emotions are captured or lost with each passing moment.
I am not advocating throwing all caution to the wind and walking into an event unprepared. It is still critical to do some preliminary research and come up with a general plan for covering the event. Much of my pre-planning involves looking over the venue and making mental notes on the features that are attractive and will work well in an image. I keep an open mind and realize that I need the flexibility to adjust and re-evaluate on the fly as the event unfolds.