Hey, I'm an elopement photographer based in Alaska! I love genuine moments between people and love that I get to document them for a living <3

Meet Donna

If you’re in the process of hiring a wedding or elopement photographer, you probably already know how difficult it can become! It’s a fun task to do: you’re finding the person who’s going to capture one of the biggest days of your lives. But once you realize just how many elopement photographers there are out there, it can get overwhelming – fast.

wedding photographer questions

Your elopement photographer is one of the most important vendors you’ll hire. And I don’t just say that because I am one myself – though I am a tiny bit biased 😉 I say that because your photographer is the one who’s going to capture the memories you’ll have for the rest of your lives! 

If you’ve never planned a wedding before, you probably don’t know how to find the perfect photographer for you. So in this blog post, I’ll be going through why hiring the right elopement photographer is so important, and 10 things to look for when hiring one! Let’s dive in!

elopement photographer

Why Hiring the Right Elopement Photographer is So Important

Experience Matters

Storytime: I had a couple once that REALLY wanted to hire me. But, they got back to me and told me they felt obligated to have a family member photograph their elopement. Apparently, the family member guilted them by saying they were hurt that the couple didn’t ask them to begin with!

Once I’d heard this, I double-checked to make sure the family member was professional and emphasized the importance of hiring someone that knows what they’re doing. Because photographing an elopement is NOT easy – you’re responsible for capturing the biggest moments of a couple’s life.

elopement photographer

And So Does Local Expertise

The family member ended up being professional but had never been to the state their elopement was in. This can be fine in some cases. But, hiring a local (or at least someone who has traveled there multiple times) is always going to be the most beneficial. They’ll be able to location-scout ahead of time and create solid backup plans, as well as recommend local vendors.

Even though I’m primarily an Alaska elopement photographer, I do travel outside of Alaska for elopements. However, I don’t claim to be the ultimate expert of any given location that I don’t live in or haven’t been to very much. It would do my couples a disservice to claim to be an expert in an area that I’m not.

elopement photographer

This is why hiring local photographers is incredibly beneficial! I’m Alaskan born & raised, and know this state like the back of my hand! That’s why I’m able to provide my couples with a top-knotch Alaska elopement experience, and am able to offer all of my expertise on the area.

So if you’re looking for an Alaska elopement photographer who knows her stuff about this beautiful state, I’m your gal!

wedding photographer questions

More Than Just a Photographer

Finding the right photographer is also important because your photographer will really be more than just a photographer.

A professional elopement photographer will not only provide you with an incredible elopement photography experience but should also be by your side during the whole process to guide you with their knowledge.

wedding photographer questions

Your photographer will do SO much more than just show up and snap photos. Here are some of the things they should do for you!

  • Scout locations for your ceremony, portraits, etc.
  • Get to know you for the most natural photos possible
  • Help you with outfits/adjusting outfits the day of
  • Removing hairties in photos (a small but important detail they should pay attention to)
  • Provide backup ideas & have solutions to potential problems
  • Give you inspiration & ideas to help you create your unique elopement
elopement photographer

Here’s What Photographers AREN’T

And one thing real quick: elopement photographers do a LOT for their clients, but the one thing they are not is wedding planners/day-of coordinators.

We do help create timelines and are available on the day of to help with the flow of the day! But, if the responsibility of planning or coordinating falls on us, it distracts from our true purpose for our clients: telling the story of their elopement through photographs.

wedding photographer questions

A Note to Photographers

Before I get into 10 important things to keep in mind when hiring your elopement photographer, I wanted to add in a note to my fellow photographers:

Don’t expect or obligate your friends & family members to hire you!

Your family and friends deserve the right elopement photographer for them, just as much as your couples do. It would be unfair for you to expect that you’re automatically the perfect photographer for them, simply because you have a close relationship. So always encourage your loved ones to find the right photographer for them rather than coming to you immediately! And don’t expect them to come to you, either!

elopement photographer

10 Things to Keep in Mind When Hiring a Professional Photographer

Now, let’s get into the main stuff you came here for: 10 important things to keep in mind when hiring a professional elopement photographer.

Keep these things in mind throughout your whole search for a photographer! From the moment you start looking at websites until you get on a call with one and sign a contract!

wedding photographer questions

1. How much experience do they have?

The cost of your photographer will largely depend on the amount of experience they have as the value they provide you with. If you want an experienced photographer, prepare to pay a higher price than if you were to hire a beginner.

Find out how much experience they have with elopements and weddings! You’re welcome to ask to see full gallery examples if you’d like! Some photographers who don’t have as many years of experience may still be just as talented & able to provide you with amazing value! Especially if they do photography full-time and have worked hard. 

Full elopement galleries are the best way to see examples of a photographer’s work and are a good way to see how their experience level is shown in their photos.

elopement photographer

2. Are they licensed & insured?

Having a business license and business insurance is incredibly important as a professional photographer. It means that they take their business & the experience of their clients seriously, and are not simply doing this as a hobby.

Don’t be afraid to ask if a photographer is licensed & insured! Especially if you’ll be eloping at a location that requires your photographer to have business insurance (this can be common at wedding venues)! They should be happy to tell you everything you need to know in order to be confident in their services & professionalism.

wedding photographer questions

3. Do they keep good backups of their photos?

As a photographer, it is crucial that we know how to back up our work, and keep it safe from possible issues. We usually cannot prevent corruption of a hard drive or any unfortunate circumstance like it. But, we can keep multiple backups (both physical & online) to make sure we never lose our clients’ work.

elopement photographer

Ask your potential photographer what kind of backup system they have in place to ensure your photos are always safe! Make sure you also know what their policy is for keeping photos online! Some photographers only keep galleries online for a certain time period before you are required to download them & back them up yourself.

On that note – it’s always a good idea to back up your elopement photos yourself, too, just in case!

elopement photographer

4. Do they have backup equipment?

What happens if your photographer’s camera breaks or malfunctions in the middle of your elopement? Will you be left without a photographer?

Any professional elopement photographer should have at least two cameras, multiple lenses, and plenty of other backup gear such as batteries, SD cards, and flashes. They should be prepared and ready to capture your day even if any of their equipment malfunctions!

elopement photographer

5. Do they have solid contracts that protect both parties?

It’s important for the photographer you hire to have a solid contract that will not only protect them as the vendor but also you as the couple.

Oftentimes, beginning photographers will photograph events without contracts, and therefore leave plenty of room for miscommunication, misunderstanding, and potential issues to arise later on.

elopement photographer

Make sure the contract you sign with your photographer covers everything you need to know! Make sure it protects both of you in case of a cancellation, reschedule, unpredictable event, etc. And please read through your contract thoroughly so you fully understand what you are signing. Don’t just sign it after skimming through! 

wedding photographer questions

6. Are they intentional about continuing their education & growth?

A great photographer will be interested in continuing their education and growing their skills, not staying stagnant or never improving. You’ll likely be able to tell whether or not this is true for a photographer by the types of things they post on social media, and topics they talk about! I personally am constantly investing in my business to improve my client experience, and I never want to stop growing.

elopement photographer

7. Are they familiar with locations you’re considering for your elopement?

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s important that your photographer is familiar with the location of your elopement. It’s up to you whether you want to hire somebody local who has photographed the location multiple times. Or, if you’re comfortable hiring somebody who is skilled at research & planning for a location they’ve never been to!

Ask them (and look through their website) for information on the guidance they’ll provide you with their location, whether they’ve photographed there before or not. This will give you an idea of how they’ll be able to help you create the perfect day! And, if they’ll be invested in creating backup plans + prepared to solve potential problems that could arise.

wedding photographer questions

8. Do they offer prints & products?

If you’d like to be able to purchase high-quality prints and products (such as canvases, albums, & frames) of your elopement photos, make sure your photographer offers that!

Yes, you can buy prints at a place like Walgreens or Costco. But, many photographers will work with professional printing labs to offer high-quality products to their clients. Because your elopement photos deserve beautiful displays!

Make sure you also know what type of printing rights you have – this should be outlined in your contract.

elopement photographer

9. Do you like them as a person?

This is a huge one: do you like them as a person?! You’re going to spend more time with your photographer than anyone else on your elopement day (besides your partner and guests). Make sure you like them and connect with them as a person! This will ensure that you’re able to feel completely comfortable, able to be yourself and taken care of by your photographer.

wedding photographer questions

10. Are they good at what they do?

And finally, make sure they’re dang good at what they do! Do you like the way they edit, pose, and direct? Do you want a photographer who captures more candid images, or more high-fashion poses?

One last thing before I let you go – be realistic as well about your budget expectations, and the price you’ll pay for an experienced, talented photographer. You get what you pay for!

wedding photographer questions

wedding photographer questions


What to Look For When Hiring Your Elopement Photographer

  1. Luke Smith says:

    I like that you talked about how a professional elopement photographer would not only provide you with an incredible elopement photography experience but should also be by your side during the whole process to guide you with their knowledge. My older sister is going to get married soon and the couple picked an elopement ceremony. Elopements are a bit different from traditional ceremonies, so they should definitely hire some experts to help them out.

    • Donna Smith says:

      Thank you so much Luke!! Elopements are definitely a different ball game and a little more hands-on time with the couple. I’m so glad that resonated with you:)

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