I get asked this question alot. In short the answer is “No.” It really isn’t important for your photographer to have shot at the location before. Any skilled photographer is going to be able to shoot at any location.
I photograph weddings all around Australia and often don’t get to see the location until I arrive and start shooting.
Photographers look for light and that is where they will gravitate. Next they look for background or textures. On any given property there will only be a handful of locations truly worth shooting and they will be instantly apparent to most photographers with a keen eye.
So why do you so often hear that it is so important? Many photographers are on a vendor list, one of a recommended few from the venue who have worked at the location before. Venues like to work with people they have worked with before because it makes it easier on everyone. It doesn’t mean they are the best choice of photographer – it may just mean that they are the easiest to work with or that they have a long standing relationship. Also, don’t forget the ‘favours’ that might be exchanged for leads that secure a booking.
Photographers like shooting at good venues close to their house and so make a point of letting you know that they are the right person for the job since they know the property so well and have shot there before.
In reality, it’s just not that important.
In addition, having worked a location one too many times can make them complacent and not really look for new ways to carve amazing images out of a location so it could even wind up being a rehash of last weeks shoot!
In short, select the photographer whose composition, lighting, technical skill, post production, price and personality you like, the rest is simply conjecture.