Whether you want less than 10 people, or just you and your significant other, you’ll want to capture the memories, so you’ll need to find an elopement photographer. With such a low barrier to entry (basically anybody with a camera), “professional photographers” are a dime a dozen and we want to help narrow down that field with these 5 tips to hiring an elopement photographer.
There’s so many niches to photography – there’s food/product photography, landscapes, architectural/real estate and of course portraiture. But even within portraits, there’s still many sub-categories, and your regular ol’ portrait photographer probably mainly shoots family photos and the like. There are many who specialize in maternity and newborn photography, because there’s a lot of intricacies that go into that – same for headshots, high school senior photos, etc.
That doesn’t mean that someone who’s a specialist can’t shoot an elopement, but there’s certainly intricacies in elopement photography that might be missed by new photographers.
Without further ado, let’s start with the #1 tip, and that’s finding the location…
1. How About One of the Most Beautiful Places on Earth… Hawaii!
“The pressure and stress of planning a wedding can be overwhelming, which is why we see a lot of couples escape and elope here in Hawaii,” says Jay Soriano, an engagement and elopement photographer based in Maui.
One of the nice things about Hawaii is that it’s such a popular destination for elopements (and of course engagements, honeymoons, etc.) that most photographers have packages designed specifically for the occasion.
You also don’t need a witness, so it can just be you and your significant other. Some photographers are also ordained ministers, or more commonly known as “wedding performers” in Hawaii, which can save you some money on hiring another person.
Another pro-tip if you want to remove a little stress around your elopement day, is that you can get married at the courthouse in your home state (or state of choice) and then “get married” in Hawaii. Essentially, you’re officially getting married (the paperwork) in your home state, this can save you a lot of time and money in Hawaii. You won’t need an official wedding performer, and won’t need to make a few trips for the legal work in Hawaii and you can just focus on your vacation!
Another alternative is to hire an ordained photographer. It’s actually quite common, says Jay Soriano, “In Maui, it’s actually not atypical to see a photographer who’s ordained. Because Hawaii is such a popular place to elope, one of the most cost effective ways to get married, and capture the memories is to hire an elopement photographer.
2. Is it an elopement? Or a microwedding? Or minimony?
TheKnot.com has a guide on how to differentiate your wedding, which could better serve you as you look for a photographer. In short, a micro wedding is defined as up to 50 people. A minimony is a mini ceremony that celebrates the original wedding date, but is now held attended by just a few loved ones (we saw a lot of this during Covid). And an elopement is usually just the couple and the minister, but it’s subjective and often a wedding with less than 10 people can be considered an elopement. Visit ElopeInLasVegas to help you out in your elopement plans.
Knowing the type of wedding you have can help you better communicate with your photographer, and the photographer can plan accordingly.
An elopement photographer even has stark differences between your average wedding photographer. Wedding photographers shoot the ceremony and the reception, essentially starting out with their planned poses and such but then they evolve into essentially an event photographer, who are often on the move shooting run-n-gun type photos.
3. Find a photographer who specializes in working with couples: engagements, elopements, etc.
There’s a lot of photographers out there who specialize in just headshots, or product and food photography, or street photography, or landscapes, or family photos, or senior photos, you get the idea. There’s a lot of intricacies with couples photography that differs from product, food, and even other types of portrait photography!
I’d recommend a photographer skilled in working with, and posing couples. So if you’re having trouble finding an “elopement photographer” expand your search and start looking for a couples photographer, engagement photographer, surprise proposal photographer, etc.
4. Read the Fine Print
Some photographers offer packages, some offer à la carte pricing. The latter usually come with cheaper sessions, but you’ll often have to purchase the photos you’ll want separately. But with à la carte pricing, you’ll only pay for exactly what you want. Both have their pros and cons, and it really comes down to personal preference on what’s best for you. If you’re confused or have any questions, be sure to schedule a phone consultation with the photographer.
Other considerations are what rights you have with the photos, because by default, the photographer keeps copyright. Some photographers deliver the photos with a visible copyright signature on the photo. Some photographers don’t grant print rights, instead requiring that you print through them. Again, just read the fine print and ask the photographer any questions that you may have.
There are no mulligans, you want to be sure it gets done right the first time. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few elopement photographers with pricing that you’re happy with – it’s time to check out their reviews. Google and Yelp will be the most popular, but also check lead sites like Thumbtack, Bark, WeddingWire, etc. Be wary of fake reviews, oftentimes you’ll see a lot of reviews in a short time period (like a week or a month). Some direct leads sites like Thumbtack show verified reviews, Yelp is pretty good at filtering reviews (though they filter a lot of genuine good reviews!), and Google has some filtering as well. Overall, choosing a photographer with a good reputation may save you a lot of headache in the future as you can do a Google search for “wedding photographer horror stories” and you’ll have hundreds, if not thousands of stories!
Finding an elopement photographer doesn’t have to be complicated, and I hope these 5 tips will help you find the photographer of your dreams!