To say weddings require a lot of planning is an understatement. I wouldn’t hesitate to call the months before my own wedding some of the most stressful of my entire life. As a destination wedding photographer myself, anyone could safely assume I highly value photography and finding my own wedding photographer a huge priority but over the years I’ve noticed how often photography is a top priority for the couples I shoot as well. Whether it’s the rise of social media and the sharing of photos or the evolving tastes of a new generation, the importance of a good destination wedding photographer has seen an upsurge. I notice myself constantly being asked what to look for from friends and couples when I’m unavailable to shoot for them myself. Although I’ve written about what to look for in the past, I felt compelled to cover more ground and give a more comprehensive answer to the question of what to look for in a destination wedding photographer. After nearly 10 years and experience on both sides of the camera lens, here’s what I’ve found to be the 8 most aspects to keep an eye out for in your search for a destination wedding photographer.
Knowledge of Location
There are a few easy ways to ensure your destination wedding photographer is going to be comfortable shooting your location. One is hiring local, which there are both pros and cons of, and the other is simply whether they’ve been there or not. I’m a huge advocate for destination weddings but the root of that is my love of travel and encouraging people to see more of the world, which is the reason I’m so comfortable being a Mexico wedding photographer. After 2 extensive trips to Mexico, I had a familiarity with everywhere from the cobblestone streets of Guanajuato to the beaches of Oaxaca to the bohemian atmosphere of Tulum which gave me the confidence, before I’d even shot my first wedding there, to call myself a Mexico wedding photographer. The same goes for Greece, Italy, Columbia, and a multitude of other countries I’ve spent a significant amount of time in. Make sure the destination wedding photographer you hire can say the same thing about the country where you’re tying the knot.
How willing to work with you are the destination wedding photographers you’ve reached out to? I can’t feel good about recommending someone not willing to be flexible to fit your needs, whether it’s your budget, timeline, or other variables that may not be solidified yet. I’m always puzzled to hear how strict some wedding photographers’ demands are for their clients when I’m meeting with couples who are surprised to see how flexible I am compared to the photographers they’ve previously spoken to. For an upcoming destination wedding in Playa Del Carmen, I had what I’d consider a low maintenance client book me after our first meeting because of how easily I was willing to accommodate to her handful of simple requests. She shared with me that the two previous vendors she’d met with had hesitated to say yes to what I would consider relatively simple changes to the norm. Not everyone wants to go the traditional route, especially those opting for a destination wedding, so be certain your destination wedding photographer is able to be flexible and accommodate to your needs, whatever they may be.
Up For Anything
Another typical characteristic of a couple who decide to pursue a destination wedding is being adventurous and that often means going off the beaten path. In my experience, it’s crucial that your destination wedding photographer matches your enthusiasm and willingness for adventure. Whether it’s taking a lengthy hike, jumping over a fence, or getting soaking wet in the ocean, the right photographer will do what it takes to capture the shot you have in mind. I can’t say how many times I’ve ended an elopement shoot with the bottom of my jeans or fringe of my dress covered in saltwater but it always ends up being more than worth it for the end result. This has been particularly common for me with a number of Los Angeles elopements but could just as easily apply for any coastal or beach wedding. This may not be as much of a priority for couples who are satisfied without having to be on the edge of a cliff for their engagement photos but for those who do, I’d bring it up to whoever you’re considering hiring to ensure you’re on the same page.
I cannot overstate the importance of a photographer who knows how to think on their feet. Any good destination wedding photographer should have the improvisational skills to make the most out of a sub-par situation. When disaster strikes, ranging from heavy rain to a wardrobe mishap, a photographer with enough experience should be able to calm their bride down and have a course of action for the next steps that still allow for exceptional photos. In my experience shooting weddings all over California, I’ve had to deal with rain and fog changing plans for proposals, elopements, weddings, and more. My goal whenever something goes awry is for anybody who sees the photos to think nothing went wrong, which I’ve been able to achieve without any exceptions so far. A destination wedding photographer who can’t do the same shouldn’t be in the running, so consider asking what they’ve done when something has gone wrong in the past and see how they answer.
A good destination wedding photographer doesn’t guarantee a good fit for every couple. There are, of course, the obvious disqualifiers like too high of a price or lack of flexibility but I’m talking more about the right fit here. In some cases, it could be a simple case of a clash of styles. A wedding photographer accustomed to shooting luxury destinations in New York City might have a hard time with a Hawaii elopement being used to indoor lighting and less suited to capture a golden hour with a gorgeous view than someone who has experience getting similar shots. In actuality, I’m mostly referring to a more fundamental personality or character difference that couples often overlook. Spending one of the most important days of your life with someone who isn’t agreeable or doesn’t add to a positive environment is a recipe for a negative taste in your mouth when you look back at wedding photos. I had one destination wedding photographer who told me she got hired when she passed the ‘beer test’ which I wasn’t familiar with until she explained it to me. Her client told her she’d been picked over 3 other candidates because out of the photographers they had spoken to, she’d been the one who they’d most want to have a beer with – it helped that her photos were incredible too! Your destination wedding photographer will spend more time by your side on your wedding day than most of your guests. Be certain they’re someone you’ll be comfortable spending 8-10 hours with!
Not everyone thinks they need to be able to distinguish a photographer’s work. I would argue that something is lost when a couple looks more like a stock photo than real people having an authentic moment. The ability to tell when a photographer’s work is their own could be seen as a subjective characteristic because it comes down to taste and preference but there’s an objective importance to it. Drawing out emotion is the job of an artist and without that, wedding photos often fall flat and unremarkable which I think is a shame. I had a Mexico wedding photographer tell me that it took him 3 years of shooting destination weddings to discover the creative skill that allowed him to transform an average wedding into something extraordinary. Photography is the only part of the wedding that lasts years and it’s certainly no small investment so find someone who can make your wedding as fantastic as you envision it. Being able to look back and be filled with memory and emotion from your photos should be an absolute requirement for any destination wedding photographer you consider hiring.
Destination Wedding Photographer Final Thoughts
This article, in combination with the first one I mentioned in the introduction, covers 90% of what I say when giving destination wedding photography advice. The last 10% are little details like quick delivery time because you don’t want to wait forever for your photos and access to a second shooter, which I recommend if it’s in your budget. Anyone who meets all the criteria I lined up above is certainly worth hiring, so I’d keep these all in mind for any upcoming meetings you may have! As a Mexico wedding photographer, I always get asked what destinations I recommend and with so many to choose from I suggest you start here for ideas. I genuinely enjoy writing these blogs because I love to be a resource for brides and grooms in the planning stages, so I encourage anyone who has more questions to reach out to me at 786-270-8527 or fill out a form submission and I’d be happy to help with any other destination wedding photography needs!