So you and your partner have decided to elope. You’re ready to get started planning your day, which means it’s time to start looking for an expert who can help you put together the elopement of your dreams — your elopement photographer! If you at all considered planning a traditional wedding, it might surprise you to hear that the first thing you should do is hire your elopement photographer. We’re going to go over exactly why that’s a crucial first step. Then, we’ll walk you through the process step by step of how to choose an elopement photographer.
While wedding and elopement photographers both photograph couples getting married, there is a huge difference between the two. The main difference is in the scope services they are providing. A wedding photographer will meet with you one or two times before your wedding day, spend 8-12 hours with you at your wedding, then edit your photos. An elopement photographer, however, is so much more than just a photographer who shows up on your day. An elopement photographer will guide you through the planning process.
Hiring a elopement photographer, rather than a big wedding photographer, means you’ll get help planning every aspect of your day (including things you might not have thought of. Here are some things you can expect from a photographer who specializes in elopements:
➡ Recommending locations
➡ Navigating permits
➡ Suggesting vendors
➡ Building a timeline
➡ Making backup plans
➡ Preparing guests and making sure your wedding day Leaves No Trace
When you’re planning a traditional wedding, the first few steps usually look something like this:
But because a specialized elopement photographer will be the one to help you find the perfect location, connect with vendors, and make the timeline for your day, it’s important to reach out to them as early in your planning process as possible so they can help you with the rest. Waiting too long or planning too much before reaching out to photographers can mean that your dream photographer might be already booked for your date (once you’ve set your date in stone by booking travel, lodging, or other vendors), or may lead you to needing to pivot some of your elopement plans (if, for example you had your heart set on a specific location that does not allow elopements and had already planned around it). Hiring an expert will ensure that your dreams are feasible from the start.
And that’s it! An elopement photographer will help you dream up and plan the rest of your day from there.
So now that you know when to hire them, let’s get into the nitty gritty of exactly how you choose your elopement photographer.
We wrote a whole blog post about how much it costs to elope. If you’re just getting started thinking about planning your elopement, we recommend that you check it out here. But in the meantime, the first step of hiring your photographer is knowing how much you are able and willing to spend. Because elopement photographers provide services above and beyond traditional wedding photographers, elopement photographers tend to charge as much if not more than their traditional counterparts. Photographers price ranges vary widely based on amount of coverage hours, skill, and experience. But on average you can expect to invest somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000 on your elopement photographer. This of course goes up if you’re considering bringing a photographer to a location that is not local for them.
Next, you’re going to want to figure out what style of photography you like. So many factors play into an artist’s style, from composition and framing, posing or directing, and editing. As an example, below you can see the same image edited in a variety of styles. But don’t worry — you don’t need to become an expert! Photography styles fall into a few different categories that are easy to notice when you know what you’re looking for. Spend some time scrolling on Pinterest and Instagram and save some of the elopement images you find yourself most drawn to. Once you have some saved, look over them together and see what they have in common.
Start by asking yourself…do the photos I like…
Plan a date to sit down with your partner to start dreaming up your elopement day together. Go out to your favorite restaurant or cozy up at home with your favorite beverage and start thinking about what you want out of your day. Here are some questions to ask yourselves to get started:
Once you have a general idea of your ideal elopement, it’s time to start searching for the perfect photographer to bring your vision to life.
If you know someone who eloped, ask them about their photographers. Look on Google, Pinterest, and through Instagram hashtags for elopement photographers in the general area you want to get married in (e.g. Oregon elopement photographer or #yosemiteelopementphotographer). You can also utilize elopement specific resources like Wandering Weddings, which is a vendor directory broken down by state.If you know someone who eloped, ask them about their photographers.
Once you’ve identified your top choice(s), hit the ‘contact’ button on their website and fill out their inquiry form. It is helpful to be as specific as possible when answering the contact form, so your photographer can get a good sense for what you’re looking for. You don’t need to write a novel, but give them a bit more info than just how many people you’re inviting and when you want to get married.
At this stage, the photographer has emailed you back. If you shared any immediate questions when you contacted them they will answer those. Most likely they will also send you a link to their full pricing guide. It’s important to look over their full pricing, even if you looked at their pricing page online. Their pricing guide should break down each of their packages more in depth, and may also share some additional information on the booking and planning process.
Once you’ve looked over that information, it’s time to schedule a consultation with them. Consultations take place either via phone call or video call, and are an important part of the booking process. During the call, you’ll have a chance to get to know each other, share more about your vision for your elopement, and they’ll be able to go over the process of working with them and answer any additional questions you have.
You are going to be working very closely with this person for the next 3-12 months, and you’ll spend almost as much time with them as your partner on your wedding day. It is crucial you get to know each other to be able to determine if you’re a good fit for one another before booking.
Spend some time getting to know each other and going over any additional questions you have about the vision you have for your elopement or the process of working with the photographer. This is also a good time to go over the package options so the photographer can walk you through how many hours of coverage you’ll need for your day. This call is also when you can talk with the photographer about where your schedules align so you can decide on a date.
Once you’ve found an elopement photographer whose style you love, offers the level of planning help that you are looking for, and who is a great personality fit, it’s time to officially book them! Everyone runs their business a little bit differently, but industry standard is to require a signed contract and retainer (usually 50% of the total package price) to book. This gets you officially on your photographer’s calendar, unlocks any planning resources and questionnaires they send to their couples, and allows them to start helping you make some of the big decisions like where specifically you will have your ceremony.
Although contracts might not be the most exciting part of booking an elopement photographer, they’re really important for both you and the photographer. They protect you as a client, them as a business owner, and help set expectations and boundaries for everyone.
If you have any questions about their contract, make sure you ask them for clarification! However, it is worth noting that most professional photographers are not able to renegotiate the terms of their contract, as making changes may weaken the protection that the contract offers both them and you.
This is an important step if you initially reached out to multiple photographers! Here’s why you should make sure you follow up with everyone else once you’ve booked your photographer:
So if you’ve made this mistake before – it’s okay, we forgive you. It can be awkward, and you might not know what to say. So moving forward here’s a little template you can use!
Thank you so much for sending over that information/hopping on that call with us. After discussing it some more, we have decided to go another direction. [Insert reason here if you’d like]
We really appreciate your time and wish you the best!”
We hope you found this helpful as you begin your search for the perfect elopement photographer. Best of luck, and happy wandering 🙂