Once you've selected a venue for your destination wedding, the next item on your to-do list is probably going to be hiring a photographer. Choosing someone you trust to document the most important day of your life is tricky no matter where you're tying the knot, but it can be especially difficult when you live hundreds or thousands of miles away from your chosen locale. You don't want to hire someone blindly, but you also may not have the luxury of arranging face-to-face meetings. To help make this major decision a little easier, we asked wedding photographers who specialize in destination events to share their must-do tips for couples booking this key vendor far from home.
Check with your wedding venue.
Some venues—destination or otherwise—require you to use a photographer from their preferred vendor list. These are professionals they've worked with before and trust to deliver great quality work. If this is the case at your chosen locale, it can actually make things a bit easier since the pros are pre-vetted for you. Cavin Elizabeth, San Diego-based photographer and owner of Cavin Elizabeth Photography, recommends thoroughly reviewing the photographers from the list to see if any of their portfolios resonate with you. If your venue doesn't have a list of required vendors, you may still want to ask the property manager if he or she can recommend a few people that previous couples have hired. They'll know of all the local pros worth considering, or of photographers who have happily traveled to the venue in the past.
Factor in any added expenses.
Destination weddings often require a great deal of transportation and hospitality arrangements, not only for guests, but also for your vendors. For this reason, many destination photographers—or those who are willing to travel to document your big day—hold their clients responsible for their travel expenses in addition to your chosen package. "Some photographers will provide their quotes with travel already included and some will provide quotes without travel and stipulate that travel expenses will need to be reimbursed on your final balance bill," explains Elizabeth. If you need to stick to a firm budget, she suggests opting for the former so you know what your photography costs will be ahead of time and can budget accordingly.
Hire someone with experience.
Experience is essential when it comes to hiring any wedding vendors, but a few notches under the belt is even more important when it comes to a destination wedding. "While many photographers may jump at the chance to shoot a wedding in beautiful location, there are many issues that come with it that you want them to be able to anticipate," explains James Berglie, destination photographer at Be All Inclusive. "Photographers who don't have experience shooting in the tropical environment can run into equipment issues. Lens fog, for example, is brutal and can stop a photographer from working for up to an hour."
Consider their photography style.
Every photographer has his or her own style, and the bride and groom need to understand how each differs so that they can find the right pro, explains luxury destination wedding photographer Hannah Arista. This is good advice for every couple, not just those throwing a destination event. "You will find that the aesthetic style of a photographer will also affect the flow of your wedding day experience. For example, if you choose someone with an authentic documentary approach, you'll spend more time in the moment," she says. "If you choose a photographer with a more traditional approach, your photographer will plan more posed shots." This comes down to personal preference, but it's something you'll need to ask about early on.
Know how long to hire them for.
You might initially think to hire your destination wedding photographer for the same amount of time you'd hire a wedding photographer back home, but the experts say that there's often more to a destination wedding than just the ceremony and reception. When guests are traveling so far for the celebration, most couples end up filling the entire day, or even the full weekend, with events. If that's your plan, you may want to bring in a photographer for some of these pre- and post-wedding events, too. "Be sure to hire your photographer for the longest time you can, especially if you really want to tell the story of your celebration," says Berglie.
See if they can travel in advance of the wedding.
As any wedding vendor will tell you, it's always smart to think ahead. If you've booked a destination wedding photographer who has to travel for your wedding, see if they're able to arrive at least one full day prior to your nuptials, if not even earlier. This way, if a flight gets delayed or even cancelled, there's still time to remedy the situation. Most pros will already plan to do this, our experts add. "I give myself ample time to deal with the worst case scenario and still arrive with plenty of time to settle in and scout locations," says Melissa Ryan, owner of Marble Rye Photography in Oakland, California. "The last thing you need in the lead-up to your wedding day is to worry about where your photographer is!"