Should You Hire a Destination Wedding Photographer?

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SHOULD YOU BRING YOUR OWN DESTINATION WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER? – A PHOTOGRAPHER’S TAKE

TO HIRE OR NOT TO HIRE A DESTINATION WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER

So you’re getting married, and running away to the tropics to do it! Awesome! Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials – and on your planning genius! A destination wedding is the most low stress wedding planning you can dream of.  It’s basically a pre-packaged wedding. Everything is taken care of for you. You just have to bring your warm weather wedding duds, maybe a sentimental heirloom and your favourite people, and ta-da! You’re ready to get married!

should you hire a destination wedding photographer There’s no decorating or tear down to worry about. You get a complimentary wedding planner, your choice of spectacular tropical florals and an awesome vacation with only your favourite people! If you’re at a resort there’s no fuss about how to occupy your guests between the ceremony and reception while you go take pictures. They can eat, lounge, nap, tan, eat shop, make friends or eat. I mean, it’s a destination. It’s all about the non-stop free food, am-I-right?

So now you’re ready! Except for one major detail. Did you remember to pack your must have trusty destination wedding photographer? I speak from experience on both ends. I was a destination bride in 2016, and I’m a wedding photographer who has shot many a destination wedding. So for me, my pictures were very important. Plus we had family attending from 3 different countries and we knew it would be the only time in our lives we would have our people together.

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MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AS A DESTINATION BRIDE

I knew I didn’t want a resort photographer. This is not because I’m a photography snob. I met my husband while I was photographing a destination wedding, and I was well aware of the criteria the resorts have for hiring their pricey photographers. Basically it goes like this. “Can you speak English? Can you press that little button? Excellent! Take this 12 year old camera and go!” And that friends, is why the pictures you see from every resort wedding look exactly the same. Camera on auto, point and shoot. Why would I pay the high prices for that? I had my mom there who could do the same thing for free.

Of course, there are exceptions to this. But they’re few and far between. So I thought I’d look for a local photographer. There is amazing talent everywhere and I was confident I could find someone. So I scoured the island, and I found one. Just one. One photographer who’s style, standards and gear could be considered professional by our standards. His work was really very beautiful.  I was so excited and ready to hire him.

And then I got his prices. $1,200US for 2 hours of photography and 50 digital images. Every extra digital image would cost me an extra $20US. Plus another $800US in travel expenses (it was a 2 hour drive to my wedding) plus 4 days at the resort. All in all, I was looking a cost of over $2500US for 50 digital files and 2 hours of photography. I nearly fainted. It was at this point that I decided to find a destination photographer to take along with me. It wasn’t just the insane lack of value and the fact that I felt as if I was being extorted. There is an enormous discrepancy in what is considered professional quality of work and I was feeling really frustrated.

WHY THE DIFFERENCE IN PHOTOGRAPHY STANDARDS?

In many places life priorities are just simply different. The visual arts are not a big part of the culture and therefore not generally developed, valued or rated with the same standards that we have. So photographs for example, are more of a fun-to-have luxury item. But the art of photography and the quality of a print is insignificant to many locals, so the market doesn’t develop around it. Where as for us, our photos, especially for milestone events are meaningful memories. And we want them to be beautiful.

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It simply holds a different cultural importance that is neither better or worse. Just like for us, being a good dancer is great but doesn’t hold a huge priority in our culture. The same goes for photography in certain cultures. With a DSLR and a computer someone can have a side income, since very few of the locals have cameras and less have computers. So when someone does get married, someone with a camera can charge a premium regardless of how good or bad the pictures are.  But it certainly made it challenging to find someone to shoot my wedding!

I had found a handful of other wedding photographers. But it was the same scenario as with resort photographers. And most wouldn’t give the digitals, only some 100 or so prints. To our way of thinking this is simply unacceptable. Hence the birth of the destination photographer.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR DESTINATION? SHOULD YOU HIRE A DESTINATION WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER?

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Your destination may be different. There may be some fantastic local talent, in which case I urge you to hire local. But make sure you do your research and have a close look at the work you’re seeing. If you’re not sure what to look for, here are a few helpful tips.

  1. If the pictures don’t look like much thought was put into them, pass. Is every picture taken from the same angle? Are they really far away? Are they all really close up?  If they don’t look creative then composition is lacking. Composition is a huge part of good photography. If no thought is given to it, it’s a red flag and you’re going to pay a premium for an album of point and click images.
  2. If everything in every picture is in perfect focus, pass. The photographer is shooting on auto because they don’t know how to control their camera settings. The artistic beauty is lost in shots like these. Again, you’ll have an album full of snapshots.
  3. Have they been edited at all? Is there garbage or bird droppings or does the background just look dingy? Are the colours looking flat? Pass. Either the photographer is lazy or they don’t know how to enhance and clean up images. You’re paying a premium for ho hum images.
  4. Is the photographer making the couple face into the sun? Pass. You can get some great creative shots using hard sunlight for effect in some shots. But if you’re facing the sun in every photo, you’re going to be squinty with unflattering shadows. You will not be happy with an album full of squinty, badly lit pictures. A trained photographer will know how to work with bright sun and place their subjects with backs to the sun. But this takes knowing how to shoot and how to light a picture. It’s much more flattering and if you’re not seeing this in their work, it’s because they don’t know how to properly expose or use difficult lighting.
  5. Do most of the pictures from different weddings look very, very similar? Pass. Unless you want a clone of those albums, because that’s what you’re going to get. Every couple is unique  and every wedding should reflect that. What suits one couple won’t suit the next, and there has to be creativity in the capturing of personalities. Your photos should tell your story. They should not be the same as every other couple who came before you and who will come after you.
  6. Do you feel any kind of emotion when you look at the pictures? Do you oooh and awwww and laugh and feel moved? The photos need to move you. I don’t mean ooohing over imagining your wedding with a certain backdrop. The ocean is the ocean, the mountains are the mountains. They will be there no matter what. So removing the backdrop, are you still drawn to the picture? Do the photographs capture the emotion of the couple and the guests and the energy of the day? Look for glances, looks, laughs, tears. Look for the moments that make the day memorable. Not just a of pictures of faces looking into the camera all day long.

As I already stated, if you find a local photographer who has the skills and experience to deliver then by all means, hire them. But you may find what many couples find. That hiring a destination photographer is the way to go. It makes sense for your budget, and you’re much more likely to love your pictures. Nothing is more upsetting than walking away disappointed with your wedding photos. Whether you bring a photographer with you or hire local, your destination wedding will be a time to remember! Have fun and congratulations!

What do you think? Should you hire a destination wedding photographer? I’ve been shooting destination weddings for several years, and would love to shoot yours! So have a look at the my galleries, and let’s connect!

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