Having the right photographer will absolutely make or break your day. You want someone who knows how to put together an epic elopement itinerary, has tons of activity ideas for how to make your elopement special, and will be one of the only people to witness you getting married … so you better choose wisely!
I've put together this guide to help you find the right photographer for YOUR elopement day (even if that isn't me! I'm not the photographer for everyone!)
Choosing a photographer for you elopement will be one of the MOST important decisions you make for your day and honestly, finding the right elopement photographer is something that doesn't get talked about enough.
Why is it such a big deal? Elopement photographers do SO MUCH MORE than just take pictures. We're your planners, your adventure buddies, and the eyes of all the people who couldn't be there for your day.
What does an elopement photographer do?
While there are definitely wedding photographers who also shoot elopements, a photographer who specializes in elopements is a totally different beast! While most wedding photographers just show up and take pictures a true elopement photographer (sometimes called an “elopement photographer” and “planner or elopement photographer and guide”) is an expert not only on photographing elopements but also on planning out elopement days, recommending elopement-friendly vendors, and helping clients navigate any necessary permits needed to get married in nature.
Wondering how an elopement photographer is different from a wedding photographer? This is for you!
Best Places to Find an Elopement Photographer
Finding the right elopement photographer is a little different than looking for a traditional wedding photographer. While so many people rely on word of mouth to find their wedding photographer, that isn't always possible for elopements – unless you have a friend that has eloped too!
Finding your elopement photographer is going to require a little more digging (and may feel a little overwhelming with the number of photographers out there) but don't worry, you've got this!
Here's where I recommend starting your search:
By nature of our jobs, most photographers are highly active on Instagram. Searching for hashtags with the location you want like #coloradoelopementphotographer or #icelandelopementphotographer. I love Instagram because you can quickly scroll through someone's grid and get a fast overview of their style!
Google is another awesome way to find photographers in the area where you want to elope. It's also awesome because most photographers will have Google business profiles so you can read unbiased reviews from former clients about their experiences! Search for things like “Colorado Elopement Photographer” and see what comes up!
Good old Pinterest! Pinterest can be a really good source for all sorts of elopement inspiration including finding the photographer of your dreams! One thing I will caution with Pinterest (and all of these platforms) is to be sure that the photos being posted are from ACTUAL elopements, not just styled photo shoots. We'll talk more about that later!
Do you need to know where you want to elope before you reach out to a photographer?
The general answer to this is no but there are some caveats! Most elopement photographers (myself included) are avid travelers but some very understandably only shoot close to home. If you KNOW you want to elope in a specific location (like “Colorado” or “Utah”, make sure that your photographer is either located in that place or up for traveling there. If you have NO idea where you want to elope, find a photographer whose work you love and who travels for elopements! They will have TONS of ideas for you on the best places to elope – this is the stuff we live and breathe and we're experts at it!
What if I find a photographer whose vibe I love … but I don't love their editing style? Can I ask them to edit in another style?
You can ask but chances are they will say no. 😉
Making sure you love your photographer's editing style is one of the most important things to consider when hiring a photographer.
Editing styles are generally classified as “dark and moody” (which is what I lean towards) or “light and airy” but the truth is there is a whole world of ways to edit in between! While there is no right or wrong editing style, personally I always look for good skin tones (no oompa loompa skin!) and consistency in editing.
Questions to Ask Your Elopement Photographer
Once you've found a photographer whose work and vibe you love, it's time to reach out to them!
But … what do you ask? Here are the questions I'd ask if I were looking for an elopement photographer (some of these may be obvious on their website):
“Do you specialize in elopements?”
Elopement photography is MUCH different than wedding photography and while many of us started in the traditional wedding world it involves a pretty different skillset, especially on the planning side! A photographer who knows how to put together a killer elopement day, can recommend stunning locations, help with timelines, and has navigated all the ups and downs of helping couples get married somewhere wild is worth their weight in gold. You definitely want an elopement specialist!
“Will you help me find a location?”
This is a HUGE one! Most couples who are planning adventure elopements don’t really know exactly where they want to get married (outside of “Colorado!” or “Iceland!” or “Somewhere in Europe!”) and they often need a lot of help nailing down an exact location. A good elopement photographer wears MANY hats … including that of planner and location scout. Your photographer should be able to make suggestions on specific locations for your elopement!
“Are the photos on your website are from real elopements or styled shoots?”
It is very common in the photography industry for newer photographers to attend shoots put on by other photographers to gain experience and portfolio. This is TOTALLY fine (and something I did when I was getting started!) but it can be a little misleading because photographing a real day is VERY different than photographing models. Styled shoots are awesome and can serve a purpose but make sure the person you hire also has plenty of real world experience to go along with those beautiful photos.
“Do you limit the number of guests?”/”Do you allow dogs?”/etc.
If you are planning on bringing other people or pets to your elopement, definitely make sure your photographer is ok with having other people and critters along. It is very common for elopement photographers to have strict limits on the number of guests that can be at an elopement. This is TOTALLY fine – just make sure your photographer is ok with the number of people (or pups) you are bringing!
“Do you help with timelines/permits/and other logistics?”
Again, this is where a good elopement specialist is worth their weight in gold! We know how to put together an elopement experience that maximizes the good light for photos (good light is all about good photos!) as well as making sure you have an awesome time on your day.
“How do we book you?”
While every photographer does things differently, the most common way that photographers are booked is with a signed contract and 50% retainer. Be ready to pay that to hold your date and start planning!
And the biggest question you should ask yourself ….
“Is this someone I can see spending one of the biggest days of my life with?”
I call it the “Beer Rule”. Is this someone you could see yourself sitting down and having a beer with? If not, you might want to keep looking!
Every photographer's style is different and we all do things differently. One of the MOST important things to consider is whether or not you think you'll like hanging out with this person!
Your photographer will likely be one of the only (if not THE only( people you see on your elopement day! Make sure this is someone you feel comfortable with and whose company you will actually enjoy!
Looking for an elopement photographer? Maybe I can help!
I'm Jen Dz! I'm a Colorado-based adventure elopement and micro wedding photographer. Since 2016 I've helped hundreds of happy people have the best damn day of their lives in locations across the country and around the globe.
…. and I've also heard lots of stories about how it can all go wrong when the photographer doesn't know what they're doing, or (more commonly) just isn't a good match for a particular couple!
My goal for this article is to make everyone's lives easier – both couples and photographers alike – by helping you understand what to look for when finding the right photographer for *you* and your elopement!
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