Back in the 1970s, eloping used to be synonymous with Las Vegas. Whether celebrities were trying to avoid fanfare or couples were escaping disapproving families, a ceremony for two was a quick, easy option. Nowadays, couples who choose to elope crave a deeper experience with lush details. If you have an intimate wedding, here’s how to hire an elopement photographer to capture all the details.
Those eloping in the ‘70s only had a phone book to rely on; however, today the web is your BFF when it comes to searching for wedding vendors. Savannah Brown, the photographer at Savannah Brown Photography, suggests doing a Google search for photographers in the area that you wish to elope in, or viewing listings on Zola.
Seventy-five percent of couples who find Bobbi Brinkman, owner of Bobbi Brinkman Photography, do so through a web search. “A Google search for that state or city, followed by the type of elopement they want to do is a great way to find someone,” says Brinkman. Adding specific search terms, such as “adventure wedding elopement photographer” or “desert elopement photographer,” will help refine the search.
Social media is also vital, especially when utilizing hashtags. “Search Instagram for hashtags, including the city or state that you want to elope in,” states Brown, whose wedding photos show up under #vermontelopement. “Not only will you get a ton of photographers who specialize in elopements, but you’ll get a feel for their personality.”
Some elopement photographers, such as Edward Heard, owner of Second Shots Photography, refine their social media content to attract potential clients. “Most of my couples find me via Instagram. We are strategic in curating our timeline to showcase our elopement wedding work,” offers Heard. He also believes that Instagram is the best way to find a qualified professional.
Most couples don’t hire a pastry chef to bartend their wedding. Yes, both involve mixing and preparing things to consume, yet each has a specific area of expertise. The same principle applies to elopement photographers, who have honed in on their profession. Heard believes that hiring someone flexible and familiar with traveling is critical. “Seeing photographers who travel and understand how to capture the environment is essential when looking for an elopement photographer,” he says.
Elopement professionals are often more flexible, which Brinkman feels is an asset for couples. “Those that specialize in elopements may often have weekends off from bigger weddings, so traveling to where a couple wants to elope becomes easier,” she offers. “Then, couples really can have the photographer they want and not hire a local photographer at their destination of choice.”
Hiring someone who specializes in destination elopements can help in ways well beyond documenting your big day. Sam Starns, the adventure elopement photographer at Sam Starns, believes that professional vendors do more than wedding photography. “They specialize in this sort of day in these types of locations. That includes permitting info, vendor recommendations, inspiration for your ceremony, and your entire adventure/elopement day,” states Starns. “They provide an experience that many miss out on by thinking that any photographer can provide that same experience.”
Heard helps his couples by taking care of many of the details. “I have a team that travels with me that provides hair and make-up. We are styling large components of the day together,” says Heard. Letting your photographer orchestrate other vendors for your dream elopement can be a big time saver.
A photographer in your elopement location will undoubtedly know the area; however, don’t discount those who are acquainted with the destination, yet may not live there. “It’s really important to hire a photographer familiar with the area you’re eloping to, though that doesn’t mean that they have to be local,” offers Starns. “Often, they will sweeten the deal by only charging travel fees or having some other significant discount.”
Brinkman also believes that hiring someone knowledgeable about the destination is vital. “A photographer familiar with the location, city, or town will know the best times and perfect spot for the elopement and be aware of any restrictions, permits, etc., that you could run into,” she states. Knowing where to go and the legal constraints in that area can make or break your big day.
Your memories from your special day will be around for generations. Therefore, it’s necessary to select someone whose style aligns with your needs. “You will first want to consider the style and personality of the wedding photographer you’re hiring. At the end of the day, all you’ll have left of your day is the images, so it’s important that you love them,” Brown offers.
Heard also agrees, “The most important thing for couples to consider when hiring an elopement photographer is style,” he says. “Yes, style is subjective, but you must be able to see yourself in the photographer’s previous work. Personality, knowledge of the location, and pricing are also factors to consider, but at the end of the day, you want images that wow you.”
After all of the research, securing a photographer whose personality matches yours is the most crucial piece. Bonding and having fun is something that Brown stresses, especially since your elopement photographer may be your only wedding guest. “Finding an elopement photographer who jives with your personality is the first step in ensuring that you feel comfortable meeting on your elopement day. A great photographer will immediately put you at ease with their laid-back nature and knowledge of the surrounding area,” she offers.
Starns places a big priority on the relationship with her couples. “I put the relationship with my couples at the same level, if not higher than their images,” she states. “It’s that relationship that makes them feel more comfortable and connected, and makes their images even better.” Getting to know your photographer through video calls and viewing their IG stories can help reveal their personality.
As professionals, destination photographers have seen the trials and triumphs of their couples. They know what works best and hold the secrets to a fabulous elopement day.
“Be open-minded to the location for your adventure elopement day. Sometimes you’ll find a beautiful location when you are not married to one idea. You only do this once; think big. Tuxedos, big wedding dresses, multiple outfits—don’t limit yourself.” ~ Edward Heard, Second Shots Photography
“Slow down and enjoy the process. Try not to get distracted by the minor details. You get to make this day all about what you want!” ~ Savannah Brown, Savannah Brown Photography
“Don’t wait! Begin researching photographers early, and if you see one or already know the one that you want to have captured your elopement, get them booked as soon as possible.” ~ Bobbi Brinkman, Bobbi Brinkman Photography
“I encourage couples to think of their elopement day as an adventure first, and wedding second. You’d be surprised how often couples think things like, ‘Oh man, I’d love to do something like a ride in a helicopter or go snorkeling during my best adventure ever, but my dress would probably get in the way.’ Because of that, they automatically throw away whatever idea they had and shortchange their options before real wedding planning has even begun. Trust me, if you want to do it, there’s a way to experience it on your elopement day.” ~ Sam Starns, Sam Starns
Are you ready for a modern-day elopement? From scouring social media to chatting with your photographer over Zoom, set up your wedding-for-two for success. A true professional can help you plan your wedding, scout locations, and suggest once-in-a-lifetime excursions for the best day possible.