You did it – you booked your first elopement and you’re so excited! However, as the day gets closer, it’s totally normal to feel some butterflies and a little bit of impostor syndrome. This guide will give you some tips for photographing an elopement… whether it’s your first one or you’re just ready to level up your photos. Now, you’ll be able to go in feeling confident and make sure you absolutely nail it!
Before Photographing Your First Elopement
Most of the planning, preparation and a lot of the work actually comes before an elopement. Following these tips will help you ensure that the day goes smoothly.
Send an Elopement Questionnaire
One of the best ways to make sure you and your couple are on the same page is with a questionnaire. Dubsado is my favorite way to send these. You can utilize them in a few different ways throughout the planning process. Some “getting to know you” questions can be great in the beginning, and a 6-3 months before the elopement, sending a questionnaire about the details of the day can help you make a timeline.
Make an Elopement Timeline
Speaking of timelines, as elopement photographers, we often take on the “planner” role too! With a small wedding, you’ll likely be wearing a few different hats to ensure their day goes exactly how they imagined it. Creating a timeline is the best way to keep things on track and to give everyone an idea of what’s happening on the elopement day. It doesn’t have to be a minute by minute plan because flexibility is, of course, super important for elopements. However, an overview is helpful to make sure they know how long everything will realistically take. This way, you avoid packing too much into your day and missing out on any essential shots. Timelines will also help ensure you’re where you need to be for that epic golden hour lighting.
Triple Check Your Gear
A day or two before you’re photographing an elopement, be sure to triple check all of your gear! This can be tedious, but you don’t want any malfunctions. Make sure your batteries are all charged, that your memory cards are formatted, that everything is working properly and that your camera bag is packed. Spare gear like batteries, cards, lenses and cameras will help ensure you’re ready if something does go wrong on the elopement day. Don’t save packing for the morning of the elopement. You’ll want to make sure you have enough time to troubleshoot if anything goes wrong.
Along with checking your gear, it’s important to make sure you have your paperwork printed or somewhere where it can be easily accessed. This includes your timeline, family photo list (if there is one) and any questionnaires.
Familiarize Yourself With the Elopement Location
Taking photos outside brings its own set of challenges. For example, trails and roads can close unexpectedly in national parks. With the possibility of weather challenges, you’ll need to be prepared for anything! Make sure you’re familiar with where you’ll be shooting when it comes to LNT principles, safety, and what to expect when it comes to the difficulty of the hike or the location.
It’s also a good idea to do a little bit of scouting to find potential backups in case you need them! You can do this in person or online with Google Earth Pro, Google Maps, All Trails or another website. This will ensure that if you can’t get to the location as expected, you’re prepared to give your couple all the info they need. Then, they aren’t feeling lost and overwhelmed if things don’t go as planned.
Brush Up on Couple’s Poses
It’s important for us photographers to always refresh our knowledge! Sometimes we get caught in a cycle the same poses and it can be hard to be creative on command. It’s helpful to spend some time looking up couple’s poses and remembering your favorites a day or two before the elopement. This will ensure that new poses are fresh in your mind! For some inspiration, check out this guide. Try not to copy the poses you find, but use them to get your own creative juices flowing.
What to Bring to Photograph an Elopement
Elopements are so different from big weddings. Here are some things to bring to photograph an elopement – aside from your gear – that you may not have thought of!
Water and Snacks
When you’re outdoors, it’s extra important to bring water and snacks. Staying hydrated and fed will keep you safe, happy and ensure that you’re 100% present for your couple. Bring some extra too, in case they need it!
Cold Weather Gear
When you’re hiking or heading out to the backcountry, weather can change unexpectedly. Even if you aren’t expecting snow or chill, bring some gear! This can include hand warmers (those instant packs are great) and maybe even a backpacking stove for hot chocolate on the go. To really impress your couple, having some extras for clients to borrow – like jackets, thermals, shawls, and other warm layers and keeping them in your car can really help in a pinch!
Your couple will need one to sign the marriage license and it’s something that a lot of people forget to pack! There are a lot of instances when having a pen comes in handy, so pack one in your bag. When you’re photographing an elopement it can be a real life saver!
Toiletries and Supplies
Getting a small toiletry bag and packing some essentials that couples might need is a great way to impress couples and to be prepared for anything. This can include mini hair sprays, deodorants, bobby pins, baby wipes, dry shampoo, a small sewing kit and other things that are useful to have on hand.
The 10 Essentials
If you’re photographing an elopement in the backcountry, even for a day hike, the 10 essentials are a must! These are 10 items that you should always bring with you. Think safety when you’re somewhere without phone service…
Here are the 10 essentials:
- Navigation – Download offline maps on your phone and maybe have a physical backup in case your phone dies.
- Headlamp and batteries – Even if you don’t plan to be out past dark, things happen!
- Sun protection
- First aid
- Pocket knife
- Matches or lighter
- Shelter – At least a light emergency blanket
- Food (+ extras)
- Water (+ extras)
- A change of clothes or layers
The Day of The Elopement
Here are a few tips for photographing an elopement day and making the most of it – for you and for your couple!
Focus on the Couple’s Experience
When you’re photographing an elopement, keep in mind that this is all about the couple. While it’s so amazing to be able to get all the shots you want with those epic backdrops, remember that you’re there for the couple. This is their wedding day! Follow their lead if you feel like they need a break from photos or from exploring.
Keep Things on Track
Along with snapping pics, your job is to make sure the experience is perfect for the couple – so keep an eye on the time. Keep them in the loop about things like time left and what photos you need to get that are important to them! Remember not to be too rigid with the timeline though. Eloping is all about eliminating stress and making sure the wedding experience is about the couple, not about rushing to get things done. Communicate with them and be flexible to changes in plan.
It’s totally normal to feel nervous! The great thing about eloping is that it’s much more relaxed and laid back than a traditional wedding. This is the case both for the couple and for the photographer. While you’re there to be a professional and to get things done, the most important thing is how the couple feels about their experience with you. So be yourself, remember that they hired you for you… and have fun with it!
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