Your elopement photographer is going to have a huge impact on your elopement planning experience, and on your actual elopement day.
When you elope, you've made the decision to spend the day alone or with a chosen few. Your photographer is one of the few people that will be with you for most of the day (sometimes even multiple days). Obviously, you want to get along with them. So how do you make sure you hire the right elopement photographer?
First, you need to get on the phone with them! You can't confidently make this decision without talking in real time. Here's a list of questions to ask prospective elopement photographers in your consultations.
1. What is your communication style?
If your communication styles do not align you can expect to encounter some friction during the planning process. Do you want a hands-off approach or do you want someone very communicative? Do they send tons of long emails that you'll honestly never read? Do you prefer to text or talk on the phone? Do you need someone who will respond very quickly at all hours? Be honest with how much communication you are expecting from them.
Steph's Answer: Since most people have never eloped before, I provide a lot of helpful information up front. I err on the side of giving too much information rather than not enough. I do a lot of research for my clients, and I want them to have all the options. That means I do expect/need them to read some longer emails (although I DO try to make them easily digestible) and sometimes hop on the phone or a video call to talk through it. I prefer email over texts or DMs in order to stay organized and maintain healthy boundaries. My goal is always to respond within 24 hours.
2. How do you approach posing?
Some photographers don't do ANY posing, preferring a documentary style. Other photographers will pose every last inch of you. Neither way is the "right" way, but these approaches produce very different photographs. Do you hate the idea of overly posed photos? Or do you dread the idea of receiving no direction? Do you want someone who does both?
Steph's Answer: I take a hybrid approach! Different parts of the day call for different techniques. I will be in full fly-on-the-wall documentary mode during your ceremony. Then when we're taking sunset portraits I will give you prompts and light direction. I will almost never be posing every inch of you.
3. What is your editing style?
Hopefully, you've already looked at the photographer's portfolio if you're on a consultation call. Do not expect the photographer to adapt their style to something you like better. If you want very warm and bright photos but their portfolio is very dark and moody, then unfortunately you are not a good fit together. You are hiring them in part for their specific editing style!
Steph's Answer: My images are true-to-life, on the bolder more vibrant side. I don't overly process my photographs. I prefer to take the image and do subtle enhancements. My hope is that the images match your memories and bring you back to that moment in time!
4. What happens if our plans get derailed (by weather or other unpredictable factors)?
This is a big one for adventure elopements in particular. Eloping outdoors can be a little risky! Make sure your photographer is adaptable and prepared to handle sudden changes.
Steph's Answer: I approach last-minute changes with positivity and a sense of humor. Shit happens! Part of the reason eloping is so wonderful is the ability to pivot and embrace whatever the day throws your way. If I've done my job right, we'll have at least one or two back-up plans and alternative locations on deck. No matter what goes wrong, I've never seen an elopement day be anything less than wonderful. Your attitude is what makes or breaks a wedding day. It's all part of the story of your elopement.
5. Are you an inclusive business?
Adjust this question to fit your unique relationship if you wish (i.e. Do you work with LGBTQ+ couples?). Hopefully, this was already apparent in the photographer's portfolio. Assess their body of work for diversity!
Steph's Answer: Yes. I believe everyone deserves beautiful photos of themselves. Full stop. I welcome all genders, races, ability levels, sexual orientations, ages, body sizes, religions, and nationalities in front of my lens.
6. When should I expect to receive the finished photos?
Make sure your expectations are set from the beginning. A great gallery takes time! If you really want some preview photos within a couple days of the elopement be sure to ask if they provide "sneak peeks."
Steph's Answer: My turnaround time is usually 6-8 weeks depending on the time of year. I provide previews (10-15 images) to all of my clients within 24 hours of the conclusion of their elopement coverage.
7. Do you travel outside of your home base?
Self-explanatory. If your heart is set on a specific location make sure the photographer will travel there if they aren't already based in that place.
Steph's Answer: YES! I love to travel for elopements. I'm lucky enough to live in an elopement destination (Death Valley, CA) but I definitely go to other destinations as well. I will follow you anywhere.
8. Will you scout the area prior to the elopement day?
A photographer who knows the destination you're eloping in is invaluable. BUT it's not a dealbreaker if they haven't been there before. What matters is if they SCOUT! Location scouting is the process of assessing a space ahead of the actual photoshoot or elopement to work out any logistical issues and jumpstart creativity before the couple is on site.
Steph's Answer: I always, always scout before an elopement. Even if I'm only traveling a few miles down the road, I will go out the day before an elopement to make sure everything is as it should be. This allows me to catch last minute, unpredictable things that will affect an elopement day timeline (like road or site closures that Google Maps doesn't know about yet). Or maybe it rained really hard the day before and now the ceremony spot is washed out. Then I can come up with an alternate plan, run it by my couple, and we're good to go for the next day. If I haven't been to a location before, scouting lets me get familiar with the space and the lighting and helps me plan some killer shots!
9. How adventurous are you willing to be?
This is another one for the adventure elopers! If you're really looking to amp up your adventure elopement with thrill-seeking activities like skydiving, or you want to bag a fourteener, make sure your photographer is equipped to deal with that level of activity.
Steph's Answer: I describe myself as adventure-lite. I am so here for your adventures, and I have my limits! I love to hike on an elopement day, tapping out around 8-10 miles. If you want to do an activity that I can't join you on (like rock climbing), I can bring gear that lets me photograph you at a large distance.
10. Can you share a finished gallery with us?
This is a great way to assess their style at a deeper level. Do you see good variety (details shots, landscapes, portraits, etc.)? Do you think their images tell the story of the day? Would you be happy to receive a gallery like this?
Steph's Answer: Absolutely, I am happy to provide a link to a finished gallery upon request.
After the call, do a gut check.
Do you get along with the photographer? Did they make you feel comfortable and heard? Did the laughs and conversation flow freely? Did their answers align with your expectations? Have they already started to show you their value?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, congratulations, you just found your elopement photographer!!!