Congratulations! You’ve decided to opt against the traditional and have your wedding somewhere in the world that’s special to you, and I commend you for that. There are always going to be reasons to do something more practical but a wedding is something you only get to have once in your life. I’m not shy about being an advocate for going all out to create a lasting experience. Although I’ve written about what to look for in a destination wedding photographer to some extent previously, I’ve never done a proper deep dive into it. With my experience being on the other end of the camera, I thought I’d lend a hand to the future brides and grooms out there who want to know what to keep on the checklist during their search for a wedding photographer in Mexico, Maui, Madrid and beyond! For those still looking for ideas on locations, make sure to weigh out the pros and cons of popular wedding destinations. Here’s what I recommend to keep at the front of your mind when searching for the person who’s going to capture your special day!
It may be a cliche but when it comes to being a destination wedding photographer, nothing can take the place of experience. I can read a book about dancing all day but until I get up and start to actually try out the steps myself, I can only make so much progress. This is why having a photographer with a proven successful track record is so vital – it makes the difference between someone who shows up and someone who shows up ready for anything. The photo above from a Naples wedding was taken indoors because it started to pour outside and we needed a plan B. Looking back at the photos, most people wouldn’t guess that anything went wrong because they still came out lovely. A destination wedding is not like a typical domestic wedding where a new city or foreign country like Mexico can factor into everything. From having fully-charged cameras even with foreign outlets to transportation to the venue when uber isn’t available to staying in a place safe enough to not have to worry about having equipment stolen, there’s a lot to consider. There comes a certain savviness after a few years of shooting weddings that isn’t present early on. In the same way a guitarist develops muscle memory with chords, a destination wedding photographer will develop a sense of how to work with the lighting, the couple, and the scenery to make the most out of even a sub-optimal situation. A natural consequence of experience is also being quick on your feet with anything that could go wrong. Being able to improvise when there’s rain, harsh light, or if it gets dark too quickly should all be tools your photographer has at their disposal. As an experienced destination wedding photographer, these factors and plenty more are all on my mental checklist but have only come with experience.
Talent & Creativity
The first and most obvious aspect most people keep an eye out for is how good a photographer’s most recent work is, as it should be. The friendliest, best-priced destination wedding photographer wouldn’t be a good choice if they didn’t have the talent to warrant a confident decision, plain and simple. Talent and experience are two sides of the same coin but they certainly aren’t the same by any means. A talented photographer with little experience is a tempting gamble because they may not have the improvisational skills but could be on the lower end of the pricing spectrum. On the other hand, an experienced photographer who may not have talent in the same way they used to will usually charge more but deliver less which is a far worse end result. This is why having creativity in the mix is so important because it’s not necessarily included automatically with talent and needs constant use, like any muscle, to be properly cultivated. Continued use of creativity keeps talent fresh and is easily seen if you look at the past year of a photographer’s work. If you see improvement or evolution, you can be confident that the photographer is a good selection and that their skill will be up to par on your wedding date.
I’ve said this before but I’ll continue to repeat it as long as I’m a wedding photographer – if you feel any hesitation about who you’re hiring to shoot your wedding, not because of their ability but because something doesn’t feel right, then you shouldn’t hire them. The right chemistry is so important for a destination wedding, and it’s arguably the most overlooked aspect of the hiring process so I feel so convicted about mentioning it here. This is why I love shooting for friends, like the bride above! It’s more fun for both the bride and the photographer when there’s a good match. On the other hand, it can subtract from the experience of both if the wrong photographer is chosen. I recall a story wherein a newlywed I met traveling told me she hired a Mexican wedding photographer to shoot her wedding in Adelaide, Australia. The couple paid for his travel, which isn’t unusual for a destination wedding but it certainly isn’t a cheap flight and it’s got a few layovers. The couple wasn’t in much communication with the photographer outside of their first call so they didn’t get much of a sense for his personality but did mention they sensed a lack of friendliness and an off attitude. Unfortunately, they didn’t think twice about it because they loved his work so shrugged it off and signed the contract without reading too much into it. This initial feeling was confirmed the day after he landed when the photographer complained nonstop about his flight, accommodation, long layovers and soured the overall mood of the festivities the day prior to the wedding. The silver lining is that the photos still came out gorgeous and he ended up doing a great job but she told me there’s still that bad taste whenever she looks over the photos and to this day I can’t forget it. The idea of having any negative experience lingering over such a joyous time doesn’t seem worth it to me, especially when there are photographers out there who are both incredibly talented and can add to the positive memories of your wedding every time you look back at your photos.
Final Advice For Destination Wedding Photography
Although I can make suggestions about what to look for, every photographer is different and can’t all be judged with the same yardstick. My hope is to at least give a process of elimination to help narrow down results and give couples certain criteria to keep in their back pocket. I’ve discussed a few more specific aspects of the hiring process before and would suggest looking over both to get more of a firm grasp of what to look for in prospective options before starting the hunt. In 2018, there are an abundance of choices for everything, including wedding photography, so it’s important to do thorough research and get second opinions before signing any contracts. For any questions that have fallen through the cracks, I love to be a resource for anyone who needs help for both standard and destination wedding photography. Inquiries and further questions are best directed to my phone or email so feel free to fill out a form submission or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get started on a dialogue. Here’s hoping your search for a destination wedding photographer is short and sweet and your wedding comes out exactly as you envisioned if not better!