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It's all about location for your creative wedding shoot

Gone are the days of your great grandparents' stiff, formal and unsmiling wedding portraits where big, bulky equipment confined the happy couple to a photography studio, and film (if it wasn't a tin daguerreotype!) was expensive and colour unreliable. Thanks to some nifty technological leaps, we can now snap away on our digital cameras free from film fatigue and cavort about the countryside in search of the best locations and perfect ambient lighting.

So, do yourself a favour. Take some time to think about your location and your photoshoot. If you hire a professional photographer, they will ordinarily ask you to complete a questionnaire. Amongst other things, this will usually detail which photos you want to have taken and which moments you'd like captured. Most of us fill this out pretty automatically - photo of bride and groom with family (check), photo of groom with great aunt Mabel (check), photo of first dance/cake cutting/first kiss (check). But if you pause a moment and really think about the photoshoot and your location, not only can you communicate your desires clearly to your photographer, but you'll have a greater emotional connection to the photographs after the big event. This is because you were actively involved and not just a posing passenger.

Typically, on the day of the wedding, your photographer is going to cover various shoots such as the creative shoot, documentary record and formal family photos. And the flavour of these shoots is going to be very much dependent on the style of wedding photography you want to go for: traditional, contemporary or photojournalism (we will go into more detail on these styles in our next wedding blog).

Whichever style you are going for, location is king. There's the location for the bride's preparation, the location for the groom's preparation, the ceremony and reception venue and at least three locations for the creative shoot. Now, your photographer will probably be a deft hand at spying the best sites, but that's not to say you shouldn't have a gander around your wedding venue beforehand to see if any locations ring your bell - especially for the creative shoot. The photos from the creative shoot are the romantic ones that end up on display on walls, hall tables and computer desktops. So you want the location to speak to you - whisper things like "You're in love, and this is the most romantic spot in the world!", not "what are you doing squatting beside this random tractor?"

To help you go about picking great locations for your wedding photoshoot, have a look at our location break down to see why they work and how to get the most out of them.

Water, water all around


What could be more idyllic than a shoot beside a lake? The location conjures up romance, nature and serenity without any need for props. Hop in a rowboat, and there's some quirky fun too. Water can also provide a pretty even tonal backdrop - allowing the figures (bride and groom) in the landscape to really draw attention. The photographer will need to work carefully with what the light is doing around the water - reflections, shadows, and so forth - so keep this aspect in mind.

If you are planning a Brahman Hills wedding - then have a look at the lake by the chapel or Springholm dam to suss out potential water locations for your creative shoot.

A trek through the bush


If you are lucky enough to be near natural veld, then this location has to be on the cards. The endless stretches of wild savannah offers beautiful natural landscape which provides a striking contrast to the formal wedding attire. And, of course, for those who love the bush, the scene is deeply evocative. You can pick a distinctive feature - rocky outcrop, acacia tree or fiery aloes - to add interest and variety to the shot. The sky is big, and the scene stretches from horizon to horizon - it's got all the drama you need. If you're lucky, non-lethal local wildlife might even make an appearance on camera.

Seeing as Brahman Hills is set in the Blue Crane Natural Reserve, there is no shortage of natural veld for you to choose from. Have a roam around before your big day to see which locations appeal to you. And with buck, zebra and Nguni roaming around, you might get that one-off wildlife shot!

Working in the field


Another wedding shot winner is the farmer's field - be it a humble sheep pen to wide-open meadows - this landscape captures bucolic bliss at its best. The backdrop is unified, allowing the couple to really pop, and despite the private nature of the location - there is still the evidence of man's hand in the paddock gates, old farm equipment (you can pose beside a tractor if you want!) and fences, which could act as a foil to the rolling pastures. You may even get some shots with curious cows or hungry horses trying to eat your bouquet. Be sure to get permission from the farmer before going into the fields, remember cows can stampede and don't trample any crops!

If you're looking for something a little more farmyardy and a little less agricultural, then consider visiting an animal farm to get shots with your farmyard favourites - goats, bunnies, fluffy sheep and miniature horses - could be great extras for your creative shoot. They may not take direction well, but you won't have to pay them either!

The Midlands is not short on animal farms, so visit around, chat to the owners and see what's on offer.

Make for the trees


A forest setting has a lot going for it - whimsy and magic; nature and atmosphere. This will take some planning on the part of the photographer as there is no vast sweeping landscape and sky to root the composition. But, if it's done right, these are gorgeous shots. Towering trees make for a strong vertical presence where height is emphasised - a change-up from the wide-open spaces where the horizontal is usually dominant. There's also plenty of natural features to take advantage of - ferns, bark, fallen trees and wildflowers. Keep an eye out for a woodland track or foot trail through the forest as another interesting, albeit less natural feature. Remember that light will come into play here as your photographer will need to deal with fluctuations in ambient light levels depending on the density of the trees and the direction of light.

The Midlands is home to a few precious remaining mistbelt forests. These forests are old - very old - and inspire a sense of reverence. Get in contact with the local conservancies to see if you can have your photoshoot beneath these ancient canopies. For a more uniform forested look, you can check out the numerous plantation forests - it's here you'll find the timber tracks and felled timber stacks as items of interest.

If you build it, they will come


Ok, so far this post has pretty much covered all things natural, but what if you want a manmade structure in your photoshoot? Keep an eye out for buildings on or near your wedding venue that capture your attention. They can be derelict buildings being slowly overtaken by the wild. Broken windows, cracked floors, and fallen rooftops can all add elements that are arresting or provide striking contrasts. Your building of choice could be functioning - a lodge, chapel, bar, restaurant, farmhouse or even a museum. What's important is that it has an emotional pull on you and that it's within a feasible distance. Also bear in mind that with buildings come people. So be prepared, depending on where your structure is located, for other people to be around. If you can't handle the attention, maybe stay away from a city centre shoot!

Now, this list is by no means exhaustive, and we have focussed exclusively on the creative shoot and locations available in the Natal Midlands. Depending on your venue, you can have a few separate sites at one location or choose a few different locations to travel to. Still, it gives you a jumping-off point to start thinking about your creative shoot and chatting to your photographer about what you would like.

Like the old wedding photos from your very own ancestors, these will be the pictures passed down through the generations of your family as a record of you and your wedding day - so make sure its a true reflection of you.

The Brahman Hills Team
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