Should you hire a specialized adventure elopement photographer?

Hiring an Elopement Photographer vs. Hiring a Photographer for Your Elopement

Yes, there is a difference in hiring an elopement photographer instead of just hiring a photographer for your elopement. Is it really worth it to hire a specialized elopement photographer? And what really is the difference in hiring an elopement photographer verses hiring a photographer for your elopement?

What Kind of Elopement are You Having?

It really depends on what type of elopement you are having. If you know exactly where you are going, you just want to say vows & a take few quick photos, just hiring a regular photographer could be fine for you.

But if you have no idea what exact location you want to go to, or if you really want a great experience, or if you need some planning help, or if you want include certain activities like hiking, Jeeping, backpacking, or kayaking, hiring a specialized elopement photographer is going to be the way to go!

Bride and groom stand under a red stone arch during their Moab elopement in Arches National Park.

I can say that, for the most part, elopement photographers believe that your elopement (which is still your wedding day!) deserves so much more than a few quick photos. At more traditional weddings, the couple spends the whole day celebrating with each other & their guest. But many times they really don’t get to spend that much time together & may have to deal with guests that stress them out.

An elopement should be a whole day, free of the things that could stress you out, & full of fun times celebrating together! You can accomplish something challenging together. A groom recently told me that the challenging hike him & his bride accomplished together seemed symbolic of the challenges they would face together later in life & I thought it was such a great illustration. Having an elopement photographer there during the whole day is a great way to preserve those memories. Much like a wedding photographer is there to document the real events of the day, elopement photographers don’t do too much posing but are there throughout the day to document the memories you make together.

How Traditional Wedding Photographers are Different

Contrary to what you might think, there is a difference between traditional wedding photographers & elopement photographers. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t hire a painter to create a sculpture. Both are artists that create beautiful works of art, but they each have different skillsets.

A more traditional wedding photographer may be lightly involved in the planning process, helping you create a timeline that works for photos & organizing a shot list for the family photos a couple may want. But for the most part, their time is primarily spent showing up the day of & the editing work afterwards. With traditional weddings, wedding planners are common & can take on the bulk of the planning work. But with elopements, elopement photographers take on the bulk of planning AND the photography.

An elopement photographer is going to be much more involved in helping you plan out your entire day, giving travel advice, helping you know what airports are best, creating timelines that may involve hiking or Jeeping, & being ready to go with the flow!

Bride and groom walk together in the snow during their elopement in Grand Lake, Colorado near Rocky Mountain National Park in winter.

An Elopement Photographer is So Much More than Just a Photographer!

A photographer that specializes in elopements is going to be so much more than just a photographer! I personally help couples with all sorts of things & my planning assistance includes things such as knowing the best times to elope in certain locations, in-depth location scouting, extensive knowledge of the outdoors, knowing & preparing for fast changing weather conditions, having backup locations & plans in place, knowing how to act around wildlife, caring about the environment & leave no trace, having backup outdoor & camera gear, helping you find vendors for your day, keeping in contact with rangers about current conditions or regulations, giving you fun or unique ideas for things to do, helping with marriage licenses, signing to make your marriage legal, photographing couples in landscapes without one overpowering the other, & so much more!

In-Depth Location Scouting, Backup Locations, & the Best Times to Elope

One of the biggest parts & most time consuming tasks of planning elopements is the location scouting. For just one elopement, I can easily spend 20+ hours coming up with a completely customized location list. No two elopements are the same, just as no two couples are the same. That’s why every couple gets a completely custom location list.

You not only need to have your main locations picked out, but you also need to have or know of backup locations. In the past year, I’ve had to change locations last minute due to wildfires, rock slides, snowstorms, wildlife activity, restrictions imposed by land managers, altitude sickness, & other factors outside my control. At the drop of a hat, I’m ready to change to a backup location & still give you an incredible experience.

Knowing the best times to elope can be the difference between a great experience & waiting in lines or having a large audience of tourists. The various landscapes also affect the lighting in different ways. The mountains, deserts, mesas, slot canyons, & other landscapes all have different times that the lighting is best. All of these landscapes also have different ways that they photograph best.

Couple out hiking before sunrise in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Outdoor Knowledge, Being Prepared for All Sorts of Weather, & Wildlife

With my outdoor experience, I’ve helped couples be prepared for all sorts of adventure elopements. I am definitely not a paramedic but have some basic training. I carry various equipment & supplies in case of an emergency while we are adventuring outdoors. As an elopement photographer, I’ve done my fair share of hiking & adventuring. Part of the process is me getting to know both of you & what you’re comfortable with. That way I can suggest whatever level of adventure you are comfortable with!

Weather is one factor that many couples & other non-elopement photographers sometimes seem to forget. Weather is a constantly changing factor that can affect timing, travel, locations, lighting, & other plans. Heat, tides, mountain thunderstorms, & other elements are things that can affect the day.

Knowing how to react to wildlife is also important for elopement photographers to know. I do carry bear spray with me during some elopements, depending on where we are. But even other animals such as moose, elk, and porcupines can be a bit aggressive at times. An elopement is not quite the same as a wedding & some outdoor experience & knowledge is definitely helpful.

Permits, Contacting Rangers, & Leave No Trace

One of the biggest stressors about locations can be the permits that are required in certain areas. I also contact rangers in different areas to keep up with the permit requirements. In order to keep good relationships with land managers in different areas & to keep permits accessible & affordable, following leave no trace principles is super important.

Vendors for Your Elopement & Ideas for Your Day

Whether you’re looking for a florist who make a bouquet tough enough for a hiking elopement or you need a guide to take you down a technical Jeep road, there’s a vendor for that & I can help connect you with the right people. Your elopement can be more than just vows. It’s your day! Make it fun! I’m happy to share what things previous couples have done, as well as give you more ideas of things to do for your elopement day.

Weddings usually have a more set timeline to follow & lots of other people to think about. But as elopement photographers, we can go with the flow & change things up as needed!

Bride and groom with head lamps during an elopement in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Hiring an Elopement Photographer vs. Hiring a Photographer for Your Elopement

Expertise & AbilitiesSpecialized Elopement PhotographerJust Another Photographer
Basic Photography Skills
Backup Photography Gear
Coordination with Your Day
Creating a Timeline?
In-Depth Location Scouting?
Outdoor Skills & Knowledge?
Cares About Leave No Trace?
Knowledgable About Permits?
Helps with Vendors & Fun Activity Recommendations?
Contacts Rangers in Different Areas?
Plans for Backup Locations?
Helps With Marriage License & Legalities?
Prepared for All Sorts of Weather?
Can Keep You Safe in the Outdoors?
Brings Extra Gear for Couples Just in Case?
Knows How to Photograph Couples in a Landscape ?
Are they worth it?YES!Sometimes?

Are Elopement Photographers Worth the Cost?

For every hour you see me photographing & behind the camera, I spend 8-10 hours working on things behind the scenes!

This can include not only editing & delivery of photos but also creating backups, communicating with national park offices, pulling permits, marketing, maintaining social media, creating resources for couples, planning timelines, creating location lists, location scouting in person & online, contacting & building relationships with vendors, having phone calls & video chats, & more! Not to mention, as the demand for elopements increases, a photographer can only take on so much & sometimes prices go up because of demand.

Elopement photographers do so much more than just photography & are worth it if you need help with locations, planning, timing, & more!

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