Finding The Right Adventure Photographer
Hiring an elopement + adventure wedding photographer can be quite different than hiring a traditional wedding photographer.
You’re much more likely to hire someone who lives in a different city, state, or country.
You’ll spend almost the entire day with them in a more intimate setting.
You’re putting a lot more trust in their guidance and expertise.
There are two questions that I think are really important to answer when hiring an elopement + adventure wedding photographer:
Do you love their work?
Could you see yourself chatting around a campfire with them?
As someone who has worked years in the traditional wedding industry, to move almost entirely into alternative elopements + adventure weddings--I’ve noticed some pretty important differences in the hiring process + session experience. With traditional wedding photographers, it’s important that they have experience, can manage logistics of a wedding day, and that you enjoy their work. But elopements and intimate weddings...you better like them AND their jokes! Because you’ll probably be seeing them bright and early for a hike!
My contact form generally gives me a great idea as to whether we’re a good fit. Really, it’s mostly about whether you have a love for the outdoors. A love for the outdoors doesn’t mean rock climbing every weekend, or summiting every 14er in Colorado. We all spend our time in the great outdoors differently, none more or less important than the other. We’ll be spending a ton of time together on a trail or celebrating your love within a National Park--if we can agree that nature is straight up awesome, we’ll probably get along great.
I have a calendar set up where you can schedule a video chat or phone call with me (and sometimes Ryan) to get to know each other better and to talk logistics. I still consider it an optional part of the process. However, I think it helps answer the 2nd question from above very quickly: do we get along with each other? Would I hangout around a campfire with them?
Another thing to keep in mind is their experience level in the outdoors--and how it reflects your day. In my opinion, it isn’t all too important whether they have worked in a given location before. Sometimes I find my most creative self on new trails and scouting new locations. However, it is important that they have experience interacting with Park Staff, are knowledgeable about park rules and regulations, and that they have the appropriate gear to be prepared for less predictable weather. I used to live within Grand Teton National Park, where I hiked (or got out on Jackson Lake) every weekend. You don’t need to hire Bear Grylls, but you want to look for someone who:
Has frequent experience on trails or in the outdoors
Would (and does) spend their free time enjoying the outdoors and hiking
And respects the land, park staff, and their rules and regulations.
What does a full gallery look like?
I’m happy to provide full, online gallery previews to clients who request it. I used to do it with traditional weddings, but I still provide gallery previews today. Sometimes, photographers provide a lot of in depth blog posts that already show you how they capture a full day. I try my best to do this so future clients get a sense of what a full day looks like. But even a blog post of 70 photos isn’t the full delivered product. How does the photographer use the landscape? How do they capture detail shots? It’s really exciting to get caught up in epic sunrise photo at Yosemite. But you want to make sure that your elopement/intimate wedding day is documented in full. I don’t always recommend asking depending on how extensive their blog posts are. You might already have a great idea of what their final product will be. But this is a good question to keep in mind.
Trusting Your Photographer
Beyond finding someone who is a great fit, has experience, and captures your full elopement or intimate wedding--you have an important job too! Once you hire them, you need to trust them. Unlike traditional weddings where they might help with the wedding day itinerary and just follow along, adventure photographers play a much larger role in your day. Your photographer has done a lot of hikes with clients for elopements and intimate weddings in the past. They’ll know how to avoid busy crowds, tell you what gear to bring along to be prepared, and help choose a hike that fits your day. Working with an adventure photographer is a more collaborative experience.
Keeping Your Priorities
I will recommend couples to get up early for sunrise, encourage them to keep on hiking to reach the summit, and to help them push themselves to have an epic outdoor experience. Eloping at an epic viewpoint with perfect lighting requires more work than just showing up at a venue properly dressed and ready to go. I want those epic, sun dripping photos on the cliff edge, with the alpenglow, with the hard lines of sun and shadow against a nearby peak--but at the end of the day, this is your big day. And what takes priority for me, is your wellbeing, your experience, and then...your photos. It can be tough to balance priorities as a photographer. They are your tour guide, your photographer, and occasionally a bit of a life coach. Most of my couples enjoy pushing themselves, even just slightly, to have a better experience in a National Park. I do my best to set expectations and boundaries early on. It is very easy to end up on a hike you are not physically prepared for, if you don’t communicate effectively with your creative team. This isn’t my first and only shot at a great sunrise photo, and therefore, I’m not going to confuse my priorities or put you in an uncomfortable situation. But like I mentioned above, trust your photographer to create and help you prepare for a beautiful outdoor experience. And in addition, communicate your outdoor comfortability, hiking prowess, and just your general preferences!
I hope this article helps you better prepare for hiring your photographer! It can be a tough decision, but so often do people not really know what to ask or what to look for in an adventure photographer. Some articles will tell you to ask about equipment, back up plans, or other logistical things. But in my experience, the number one question to ask is:
Can I see myself hanging out around a campfire with them?
Most other concerns with an experienced adventure photographer will fall into place. But other secondary questions would be:
Do they have sufficient experience in the great outdoors to reflect your elopement + intimate wedding day?
Are they prepared and experienced in shooting in a variety of outdoor conditions?
Are they aware of National Park/Forest rules and regulations? Permits?
What does a full gallery look like? Will they fully document my day?
Are they passionate about respecting and experiencing the outdoors?
Do I have confidence in their knowledge and am I willing to trust them in this collaborative process?
You already have a lot of details on your plate with logistics and planning. This article should help you clarify priorities in hiring the right photographer for you, and hopefully, demystify what it means to find a good fit. As always, if you have any questions or comments--I’m happy to chat!