How to Choose an Elopement Photographer

What does eloping mean?  If you’re not sure eloping is, don’t worry – many people are as well. If you’re curious (or considering eloping yourself), here’s a quick summary of …

What does eloping mean? 

If you’re not sure eloping is, don’t worry – many people are as well. If you’re curious (or considering eloping yourself), here’s a quick summary of what eloping is and isn’t.

Eloping is often confused with running away, but they’re pretty different. Eloping is a conscious decision to get married without involving friends or family in the process; this doesn’t necessarily mean excluding them from witnessing the elopement. It just means the family and friends in attendance are close to the couple and are privileged to witness such an intimate exchange of vows.

Young Gay Couple Running On Empty Beach Florida 2 - How To Choose An Elopement Photographer Gay Wedding Guide

Eloping can be a coordinated event, just like a traditional wedding without the running away aspect. In the age of Covid, more couples are deciding to elope to keep their friends and family safe; the most important vendor you will choose will be the elopement photographer so that you can share the details of the day with them.

Many couples can become confused about elopement photography; it is assumed that the same person can capture wedding photography and elopement photography to the layperson. But not necessarily.

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An elopement photographer usually has more logistical experience within their resume than is required for an elopement and many elopement photographers assume the role of the wedding planner and day-of wedding coordinator to give their couples the best elopement experience possible.

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They will help with timelines, vendor coordination, permit assistance, and recommendations for ceremony locations. Some elopement photographers even help find hotel or Airbnb accommodations for your guests and the betrothed couple.

why choosing the right elopement photographer important?

With a lack of attendees, the most important vendor you can choose is the elopement photographer. You will depend on this individual to create, coordinate and capture most, if not all the details of the day; it can be an undertaking that requires good communication skills and trust.

They need to know your criteria for a ceremony and portrait locations. They will need to effectively create a schedule for the day that will allow you to maximize the beauty of the location for pictures, work around the schedule and communicate with all the other vendors.

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As wedding photography has evolved to include both posed moments and candid documentation, your elopement photographer should be able to capture all the details of the day.

Storytelling allows for an emotional connection that can’t be achieved through photographs alone. This is why storytelling is important to wedding and elopement photography. Storytelling in photography may not seem like a vast topic. Still, for elopement photography, it’s paramount in response to documentation for generations to come or for the guests that aren’t in attendance of elopement.

The best kinds of elopement photographers will be able to fill a wedding album with both unobtrusive documentation and posed imagery from getting ready images, maybe even a first look, and posed family pictures if they are in attendance.

How to thoroughly vet your elopement photographer candidates?

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  1. Select an elopement photographer who thoroughly understands your vision for the day and has a portfolio that reflects the posing and editing style that speaks to you.
  2. Make sure your elopement photographer has experience documenting elopements and not just weddings. While weddings might fill their portfolio, there are many more logistical aspects to an elopement.
  3. Your elopement photographer should have an online portfolio with many images that have a consistent style so you have a thorough understanding of what your elopement pictures will look like.
  4. Any wedding or elopement photographer that you are considering should have reviews from reputable sources such as Google or the Better Business Bureau. The reviews should reflect positive elopement experiences and a timely turnaround for wedding album delivery.
  5. Every professional photographer should carry some kind of liability insurance policy in the unfortunate event that an SD card is corrupted, an emergency hinders the photographer from working, or someone gets hurt during the elopement. Unforeseen, rare events will pop up to protect all parties involved, and an insurance policy is an essential financial safety net.
  6. Every professional event photographer should have at least two camera bodies on hand. The industry standard for two camera bodies is so that two different lenses can be used, and if one camera body malfunctions, then the other one is on hand. Elopement photographers should have a minimum of three lenses and their gear; this allows for wider angles for a slightly different perspective of the day and gives variety to the wedding album. Another important piece of equipment is an external hard drive. Having an external hard drive with all the RAW images from past elopements and weddings as a memory backup minimizes the possibility of losing photos if a computer crashes.
  7. Comfortability, friendliness and professionalism should be high on the list of necessities for an elopement photographer. This is one of the most important days of your life, and you should feel acknowledged and satisfied with the personality traits that your photographer has. They should support your wedding day vision and consider themselves a co-creator in the project that is your elopement.
  8. Without the comfortability factor missing, there is a strong possibility your unease will show in your wedding images. No matter how well verse the photographer is in posing, poses will be stiff without a level of confidence in your photographer. Ask the elopement photographers you consider their posing methods and how they get nervous clients to relax? It could be as simple as getting to know their couple through various phone calls and meetings throughout their engagement period.
  9. Budget is an important factor when hiring your elopement photographer. Of course, a more experienced photographer will fetch a higher price and demand more. Ask your potential photographer if travel is included in their packages or separate. See what type of products they include in their packages; while digital images are lovely, a complete wedding album or a wall print is nice to have to be a daily reminder within your home of the most special day.
  10. Adventurous couples might want to search for a niche within a niche and find that elopement photographer with no restraints for an elopement. Whether it be capturing you two rock climbing, backpacking, sky diving, or white water rafting, whatever you choose to do, your elopement photographer should have the experience and training in the case of an emergency. As an army veteran, Britanny have extensive experience in CPR and first aid. It could be a lifesaving skill; your elopement photographer should also have the endurance to take on such an expedition.
  11. Within the elopement photographer’s contract, there should be clear language outlining what you will receive and the duration of time the elopement photographer will be hired. An outline of the services should be provided within the contract, along with an estimate of the number of images you will be receiving and how long the editing process will take.

Where should we elope?

If you are anything like us, the idea of elopement was romantic when we first heard it and it’s still that way, but in a more reality-based sort of way now that the idea is no longer strange and foreign to us. But one thought kept occurring to us as we were slowly piecing together how we’d make our elopement happen: Where?

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How to choose the best elopement location?

  1. Pick the type of climate you like. Love spending time outside in all kinds of weather, but you’re not a fan of humidity or high elevation? Pick somewhere dense with trees. The lush environment will keep you from overheating on sunny days, and when it gets cloudy out, you’ll stay nice and dry. Love sunrises and warm weather? Pick a place with palm trees and beaches, or choose a desert wedding. With the amount of National Parks The United States has, there are a variety of beautiful landscapes for every season.
  2. The time of year will need to be considered if you want privacy for your elopement. If you choose to elope in a National Park, crowds will surge when parents take their children, so avoid spring break time frames and summertime when schools are out.
  3. If these peak dates are unavoidable, consider having a sunrise ceremony. The light will be optimal for pictures, and there will be fewer people than around sunset, where points of attraction are filled with visitors getting that last peak of the day’s light.

Things to Avoid when Selecting your Elopement Photographer

Smaller doesn’t mean less important, and just because your eloping doesn’t mean your wedding deserves any less than quality images, avoid hiring a friend or a novice photographer that is cheap.

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You will continue to see your return on investment year after year if you invest in a quality elopement photographer experienced in creating a tailor-made adventure.

To fully appreciate the artistry of your elopement, refrain from leaving all your wedding images on a computer and print several images to hang within your home or inquire with your elopement photographer about creating a wedding album for you.

How to hire your elopement photographer?

  1. Inquire by completing the contact form of the elopement photographer’s website. You should receive a reply within the initial 24 hours after reaching out to them.
  2. Request to meet in person, video call or over a phone call to see if they are what you expect. Use this opportunity to discuss packages, retainers, possible payment plans, and protocol in the event of another Covid shut down.
  3. Once you have decided upon your elopement photographer, they will send their contract to you. Take your time and read the fine print. Having a thorough understanding will alleviate any surprises during or after the elopement.
  4. After signing the contract, a 50% deposit is usually required to reserve your date, with the final payment due 30 days before the wedding day.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it better to elope?

This question is all dependent on the couple. Many couples have introverted characteristics, and the pageantry of a traditional wedding is anxiety-inducing. Many couples seek to have a more intimate experience and see elopement as an opportunity to focus on each other and not the distractions of a larger wedding.

Does eloping mean excluding close friends and family? 

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No. They are welcome to join you on your elopement adventure if that is what you desire. Many couples who already have children from previous relationships use an elopement to create unity and mark the occasion to celebrate forming a family.

Are elopements cheaper than a traditional wedding? 

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One of the greatest benefits of elopement is the money-saving aspect. Depending on the photographer and other vendors, an elopement can be done for under $2500, a fraction of the price of a traditional wedding. Many conventional weddings are upwards of $20,000 or more depending on how elaborate it is and the number of attendees.

How important is photography for elopement?

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Just as important as a traditional wedding. Many elopements take place in beautiful and picturesque locations that can’t be easily recreated, so it is essential to hire an experienced wedding photographer with the skill set of capturing those unique moments between you and your partner.

What happens if it rains on an elopement?

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This is dependent on the photographer. Some will embrace the opportunity to create unique images. What’s not to like when shooting in the rain, usually with rain comes with a dramatic sky. It’s crucial that the camera is weather-sealed so that it can capture couples in moody weather. If there is severe weather like a tornado, hurricane, flood or hail, rescheduling is advised for the safety of everyone involved. Remember, rain on your wedding day is a sign of good luck!

What are the advantages of elopement over a big wedding?

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Privacy, budget-friendly, safety(from Covid), and less family drama when planning an elopement. An elopement allows you two to get back to the roots of a wedding, celebrating the union of two people in love.

How long do we book the elopement photographer for?

Again, that is dependent on the couple and what they are comfortable with. Some couples want getting ready images, and some do not. Six hours should be enough unless you want the photographer to capture you two in several different places. Booking an elopement photographer for two days isn’t unheard of either if you two decided to have a camping elopement and want to visit several locations.

Where are the best elopement destinations?

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Of course, this is a personal preference, but we love Yosemite National Park for domestic elopements and Iceland for international elopements. Yosemite National Park is very accessible for people that aren’t avid hikers; several locations like Tunnel View, Glacier Point, and Taft Point are less than a mile hike. This is one of the most popular national parks, so we would completely void it while public schools are out.

Is elopement photography more challenging than wedding photography?

Brittany has photographed weddings and elopements. There is more planning involved in an elopement, and the activities like hiking are physically demanding. Still, a traditional wedding can be demanding with lots of guests in attendance. She prefers to photograph elopements since she has more creative input, so the extra work of an elopement is worth it.

What will be included in the photography coverage?

My elopement packages include creating a unique timeline for the elopement day(s), permit assistance, location scouting, vendor recommendations, a highlights album delivered within two days of the wedding and the whole gallery delivered within four weeks of the wedding.

How do you put couples at ease and make them feel comfortable?

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Once a couple has booked her, Brittany continuously communicates with them up until the elopement day. They are given my phone number, and she lets them know they can text her about anything. Communication is paramount when trying to create comfortability on their wedding day. Even if it’s something trivial like what shades of the ivory photographs are better for a wedding dress, it’s all part of the process. She wants them to feel like they know her and considers her a friend that cares about all the details by the time of their wedding day. Our initial meeting is always face to face, either in person or on a video call.

What does a typical eloping day out in the field look like?

Every elopement that she creates for a couple is unique, but she’ll give a timeline example of an elopement she did recently. We’ll use the pronoun bride and groom in the following context since the couple like to be referred to as. The day before the elopement, she scouted the ceremony location and decided on the location for the couple’s portraits.

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  1. Arrive at getting ready location with the bride and start shooting. Get shots of the bride getting ready, getting hair and makeup done.
  2. Arrive at the groom’s location and shoot him getting ready with his best man.
  3. Go back to the bride’s location and capture a first look with the mother of the bride and bride.
  4. Left getting the ready location of bride and travelled to the designated trailhead in Big Sur National Park
  5. Brittany travelled with the bride to meet the groom at the trailhead, where she captured a “first look.”
  6. Met officiant
  7. Hiked with the couple, their five guests and the officiant to the ceremony location within the forest at Big Sur
  8. Captured wedding ceremony
  9. Captured the first toast with the bride and groom and their guests
  10. Brittanny hiked back down the trail to the parking lot.
  11. Parted with guests temporarily and took the couple to a location Brittany scouted along the coast for a sunset portrait session
  12. Returned to vehicles and travelled back to the original location where the groom got ready and met with guests who had hired a private chef to prepare a meal to celebrate the couple’s wedding.
  13. Capture the dinner with guests
  14. The bride and groom had a cake, so Brittany captured the cake cutting.
  15. Captured a first dance between the couple

Now, this is just a typical elopement, but Brittany day looks very different when she is editing.

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If you are interested in having a tailored made elopement experience like no other, visit Brittany West Photography!

Brittany West
Author: Brittany West

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