A couple kiss in front of a cow during their outdoor wedding

How To Choose A Photographer For Your Elopement: Everything You Need To Know

Planning a wedding is already stressful. But when you're planning an elopement, you have even more to take into consideration. This guide will give you everything you need to know on how to choose your elopement photographer.

Let’s be honest, while some people love planning their wedding, they come with a lot of stress! Not only do you have to find the perfect dress, there’s also the reception, finding rings, sending invitations, bridesmaids’ and groomsmen’s gifts, finding a location, choosing a first dance song. And all that’s just for starters!

You also need to find a wedding photographer. A photographer is one of the most important decisions that you can make. Your photographer is responsible for capturing the precious memories on one of the most important days of your life. Your wedding photographs can be looked at again and again as you relive your special day.

But what if you decide to elope? Elopements are becoming more popular. They are a way for couples to marry in a more low-key celebration, away from the stresses and strains of a large ceremony. With more control over the day, couples can do whatever they want without any traditional expectations. Some couples marry on the beach, others in the woods. The beauty of an elopement is that you can do whatever you want to do!

Your choice of photographer for an elopement is even more important. Firstly, your photographs may be the only way that some of your friends and family will get to share the special day with you. And if you’ve chosen an adventurous, outdoor wedding, people will want to see how amazing you look against the spectacular backdrops of the great outdoors.

Making the right choice of elopement photographer is a big decision, but it needn’t be a difficult one. With the guide below, you will know exactly what to look for to get the right person for your big day.

Although an elopement is different to a wedding, this guide may be useful for those wanting a traditional wedding too.

Portfolio

Most photographers will have a website where they show off their latest and greatest work. This will let you get a feel for their style and and the quality of their work. Websites are a great place to start because if their work doesn’t seem like what you’d like, you don’t have to go any further. This will save both you and them precious time.

If you are impressed by their work, you should consider making contact and if they’re local, maybe arranging a meet-up. You could ask them to bring additional photographs that aren’t in their gallery, just to make sure the style and quality is what you’re expecting.

Personality

You’re going to spend a whole day with your photographer, and the last thing you want on your wedding day is any difficulty or confrontation. With your elopement potentially being a long way from home, it is really important that you choose a person that you get along with and can make you feel comfortable.

Most people don’t feel comfortable posing for the camera. A photographer who you get on with can help to put you at ease, and forget that the camera is even there. The result will be natural images that look and feel natural, unposed, and show off who you are.

A great way to get to know your photographer is by having them take your engagement pictures. Engagement photo shoots are less formal, and can help you establish a relationship with your photographer. When you have your ceremony, you’ll all know each other that little bit better which will help make better photographs.

Reviews

Part of doing your research means finding out about your photographer’s reputation. Start with checking their Google reviews to see what their previous clients say about them. The more reviews they have, the more information you can gather. Going beyond the star rating is important so you can actually see what people say. After all, people can leave unreasonable reviews online which may damage an otherwise positive reputation. Google does try to filter out fake reviews, so you should get a reasonably accurate view from the photographer’s past clients.

You could also see if they have a profile on Facebook. Since Facebook allows reviews, you may also find that a lot of customers leave a testimonial on their Facebook profile. Whereas Google requires a Google Mail address to leave reviews, anyone with a Facebook account can leave one. This means many photographers have a greater review profile on there.

A lot of photographers also take advantage of other social media channels to raise awareness of their services. Since it’s all about sharing pictures it makes sense that an elopement photographer would have an account on Instagram. It’s super easy to upload pictures regularly, so you may get some more up-to-date work than what a website shows.

There are some red flags to be aware of. A photographer with no reviews at all may be new at the profession. This doesn’t mean that they are a bad photographer, but they may not have the experience to lean on that others have.

You should also look out for reviews that seem overly positive, are written with very poor spelling and grammar, or numerous reviews that look almost identical. These are signs of fake or paid-for reviews, and just having them at all is a warning sign to avoid them.

Use a photographer’s reviews to gain an insight into their past clients, but also trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, there are plenty of other photographers to look at!

Pricing

All photographers price their services differently. The average cost of an elopement can reach up to $15,000, which although less than a traditional wedding, is by no means a small amount. The photographer for your elopement will take up a portion of your budget, but it’s important to reach a balance between cost and skill. The last thing you would want is to grab the cheapest photographer you come across, only to be disappointed at the final result.

If you’ve been doing your due diligence and checking out your photographer’s portfolio and previous reviews, as well as holding either a face-to-face or virtual meeting, you should already have a good feeling about who you’d like as your photographer. The relationship between you and your photographer is very important on your wedding day, so you may want to be flexible in your budget to get the right person.

To help your photographer come up with the most accurate price, try to share as many details with them as possible. With more information, your photographer can gain a more realistic understanding of what will be expected of them. Some details such as the elopement destination, how many hours you expect to need the photographer for, whether you will be wed indoors or outdoors, if you want to hike along the beach or go rock climbing, will all help your photographer’s planning.

Experience

Although everyone has to take the time to learn their craft, an experienced photographer will come into their own during an elopement when there are more unpredictable elements.

You may have unexpected weather, which can really throw a spanner in the works of an outdoor wedding. If you’ve eloped to Florida, it’s not unusual to get tropical storms. An experienced photographer will have been there and done it all before, and they’ll know exactly what to do when the unexpected happens.

If you decide to go for a long hike in the mountains, you’ll need a photographer who knows how to make the most of the stunning views. If they’ve done it many times, you’ll also know that their legs can handle a long trek while carrying all their equipment!

Having the right experience is priceless, especially when you elope and won’t have a large group of guests with camera phones to fall back on if needed.

Skills

Make no mistake, there’s a lot more to photography than pointing the lens and clicking the button. From lighting, to backdrops, focus lengths and shutter speeds, there’s a lot to consider in a very short space of time. When choosing your elopement photographer, it helps to know that they have the right skills for the job and can perform under pressure.

Perhaps you want something a little different and unique? When choosing your elopement photographer, it’s important to have a discussion about what you’d like, so that you can be confident that they can accommodate your requests.

A popular way to get some unique images is by aerial photography taken with a drone. If you want something out of the ordinary, then ask your potential photographers to show you some examples of their past work. You’ll soon get a feel for how they can incorporate your personal requests into your photographs.

Second Shooters

You don’t need to be a math genius to know that two is more than one. Just let me grab my calculator to check that.

Having two wedding photographers means you get more photographs. Not only will you have more mementos of your special occasion, but you’ll get more value for money too. It’s a win-win! But aside from the financial consideration, having a second wedding photographer opens up more possibilities than just one.

A second shooter allows photographs to be taken from different angles, so you can get a different twist on some of your favourite photos. For example, during the first look one photographer could focus on the groom while the other photographs the bride’s reactions.

A second shooter also means you can photograph both the bride and the groom getting ready before the wedding, if they’re in a different location. That way, you as a couple can share in each other’s memories that you didn’t get to experience on the day.

While it’s not always essential to have a second shooter, there are certainly many occasions when I’ve been glad to have one around. As well as photographing different shots, they physically help to carry equipment. It’s not easy holding up a light whilst taking a picture in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and believe me I’ve tried.

Just like the relationship between the photographer and the couple, it’s important that two photographers are comfortable working with each other and have a positive relationship. If you’re photographer mentions the option of a second shooter, check that they’ve worked together before.

After the Wedding

Your photographer’s work doesn’t end after the big day. When you’re married and enjoying the start of your new life together, your photographer will be editing and compiling your wedding photos into your wedding album.

You should check on the terms of your agreement. Most wedding photographers retain the copyright to the photographs, unless they sign them over to you. This is normal procedure and nothing to be concerned about, as your photographer will most likely allow you to print and share your images for personal use, and with family and friends.

In some cases, your photographer will give you access to the full resolution digital file which is the highest quality version. This will let you print in various sizes while retaining the image quality. You should ask your photographer in advance what the terms of their agreement will be.

It’s also worth checking whether you will receive printed copies as part of the package, or just digital files. In the past it was assumed that the photographer would arrange for prints to be made, but this is becoming less common in the digital age.

Summary

Finding the best photographer for your elopement involves doing a little bit of research. You want to find a photographer who you feel comfortable with, but also has the skills to provide what you want for your special day. The best way to find out is to meet up with potential photographers for a chat, even if this is done over the phone or on a Zoom call. The time spent on research and meeting with your photographer will pay dividends when you get your amazing elopement photographs back.

Above all, don’t rush into making a decision. Choosing a photographer is one of the most important parts of wedding planning, so be sure to make the right choice! Don’t worry about asking too many questions or booking follow-up meetings. An experienced photographer will know and understand how important this is to you, and do whatever they can to set you at ease.

Booking an Elopement Photographer

If you’re having an elopement in the United States, why not get in touch with me. As an experienced elopement photographer, I’ve photographed almost every type of wedding you can imagine: from campervans in the mountains, to river boat cruises, to intimate weddings on the beach.

And remember to use the guide above to help you make your choice.