Planning a destination wedding is already hard enough. So when it comes to selecting your vendors, how do you decide who to bring with you? How do you pick who is the right fit for your most cherished day? And where DO YOU START?
Being a destination wedding photographer, and specializing in destination weddings across the world, this is one topic I can talk for days on. It really hits home for me, and is my career and passion. With over ten years of destination wedding photography experience, and having photographed real weddings in over 13 countries, here are some tips that may help if you’re looking for a destination wedding photographer:
Research the local market. First and foremost, see if there are any local photographers in the area of your choice that you love! Second, before you continue to drool over photographer’s Instagram feeds, research the local market of photographer’s in the area you’re getting married at. It’s important to know what the typical investments are for local photographers and vendors. Also know what percentage your total budget is for a specific vendor. For example, in Dallas, Texas, most couples spend 10% of their total wedding budget on photography. As an example, if your wedding budget is $40,000, then most couples would invest around $4,000 for their photography. This will give you a great starting point on what to expect photography investments to be. With that, set a realistic budget and find a photographer that fits into your price point.
Experience. It’s everything. If only I had a dime for every time I’ve heard the horror story of a photographer missing a destination wedding. Out of all the tips in this post, this is the most important one. While I realize every photographer has to start somewhere — so do clients’ wedding expectations. If you hire someone who has never photographed a destination wedding, your expectations should be more lax since that person doesn’t have as much traveling experience. Experience is priceless. And photographer’s pricing should also reflect this. More questions to ask prospective photographer’s when searching for ‘the one’: How many destination weddings have you done? What motivates you to travel for clients? What about work visas?
What percentage of weddings a year do they shoot that are destination? This is a good starting point for conversation when interviewing destination photographers. Some may do 60%, while others do 10%. And that’s ok! Just gives you more insight into their experience with destination work, and what you as the client, are comfortable with contracting.
Ask the photographer to see full client galleries of destination weddings. This is the best way to see the photographer’s work, from start to finish, and in a real situation where time is of the essence. This is extremely important when it comes to lighting and how a photographer works in both light and dark spaces. For example, if your wedding is all candlelight in a ruin in Italy after sunset, you would want to hire a photographer who knows how to shoot in low light or with artificial light. Ask for specific examples to see from real weddings. If you’re having a church ceremony, ask to see church examples, so on and so forth.
Do they have a passport? I know this may sound crazy, but you would be surprised. I recommend the photographer having already had a passport prior to you contacting them, and it not being up for expiration in the next 6 months to 1 year.
It’s not a vacation for the photographer. Destination weddings are actually a ton more complex and intense than local weddings. So much goes into them, and in return they tend to be a lot more of an investment for the photographer. While many people see a destination wedding photographer’s job as being dreamy and perfect – It’s actually a LOT of work, both physically and mentally. At an average destination wedding, I’m traveling for 4 days and shooting for 2 or 3 of those. How many times does my swimsuit get use while on one of these trips? Zero. Scouting, travel time wear and tear, gear prepping, and networking in a new area are a lot more of an investment for a photographer. If a photographer says they will do it for ‘free’ for a ‘vacation’….do more research.
Have they shot at your venue/country before? How important is that? In a nutshell, having destination experience is important. Some countries are more specific than others when it comes to knowing laws and rules needing to follow, etc. Of course it’s a plus if the photographer has shot a wedding at your exact venue, but don’t be discouraged if they haven’t. If they are experienced, then one thing about destination wedding photographer’s is that they are used to working in new places all the time. They will know what to look for, what to do pre-wedding and how to plan for it with you and your wedding planner.
Find a photographer whose style best represents your vision. Don’t expect them to change it for your wedding. If you like darker and moodier images, it’s best to hire a photographer who specializes in that. When going through client galleries, find the work that jumps out to you the most as what you love. Photographers each have their own art and style that makes their work unique.
Understand the difference between real weddings and styled shoots. First off, both are absolutely gorgeous. Styled shoots are where a vendor team get together and collaborate to create a wedding inspiration photoshoot with models, and they typically have a specific theme where time is not limited and creativity peaks. Many people take part in styled shoots when there is a new venue they want to get business at, or have in their portfolio to market to. Real weddings are real weddings. That means real clients, running off strict timelines, no stopping the clock, and only having one shot to capture the events. There is nothing more real in experience than this. This is why asking to view examples of full, real weddings is important.
Do your personalities and expectations work well together? This is so important! An outgoing couple needs an ambitious photographer. A bride who does not desire candid photographs should hire an editorial photographer for a more staged look. If you’re getting married on a mountain top, don’t hire a photographer that gets altitude sickness. Will they get along with your family and bridal party? Photographer’s spend a solid 8-10 hours with you on your wedding day, so liking their personalities is important!
Are they equipped? A destination photographer should always carry at least 2 camera bodies on them to each wedding, per shooter. Anything less is risking you not having wedding photos. Make sure to ask this question!
Ask for references from past clients. It’s important to ensure the photographer you select has praises from other destination events. Word of mouth is the best reference!
If you’re interested in having me photograph your destination wedding, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or shannonsklossweddings.com. I’d love to hear from you!