Destination weddings, they’ve become so popular over the last 10 years and I gotta say I absolutely love doing a few of these each year! Whether you’re looking at going down south with your closest friends and family, traveling to Europe to elope, or going across the country to be closer to family, every destination wedding is different and beautiful. Some people swear that they save money in the process but I think it’s more of a stress relief and being able to do your own thing without having to think of all the little things that go into a local wedding. The one thing you still have to think of though no matter where you go is Photography!
Wedding photography is important no matter where you get married and there are so many options to choose from when traveling. Do you hire a resort photographer? Do you hire local? Do you ask a family member to do it? Or do you bring someone with you? My job here is to inform you about all your options, so let’s get started!
1- RESORT PHOTOGRAPHER
A lot of people think going with a resort photographer is the way to go because they either have it included in the wedding package which saves money or they think they’ll know the resort better than anyone, so why not? Well when looking into the money side of things, you aren’t really saving anything in the long run. Most resorts include a very small package for photography if any at all, i.e ceremony and portrait coverage with a CD of 10 photos. You can however pay to upgrade the packages whether it be more coverage of more photos included, but these start to get pricey. An old boss of mine got married in Punta Cana and they paid for a photographer for their smallest package and got a CD of exactly that, 10 photos and the quality and editing was so horrible that he asked me if I could re-work them (ps: a photographer can not by law edit another photographers photos unless the clients received copyrights). They had paid like $1,500 USD for this photo package and he wasn’t happy with what they got. Guys, that’s 2K of wasted money and that was just for the basic entry level package! Money aside, some people think they’ll get lucky and get the all star photographer that is actually amazing and knows all the spots. First off, resorts rotate through photographers and give them the most basic training and equipment. So in the 20+ photographers they have on resort, yes there might be an amazing one but the chances of you getting that specific one are very small. And in terms of location, any professional photographer can show up at a location they’ve never been to and find all the spots they need to create the most beautiful photos so I wouldn’t even count that as being a bonus on the resort photographers side ;) . There’s also the fact that when you get home with this CD of photos, that’s all you have. If you don’t back it up, if you lose it, if it doesn’t work, that’s it! Most resorts go through so many weddings that they don’t keep the photos for very long, so if any of those unfortunate things happen you’re pretty much SOL. Lastly the most important point aside from money is COMMUNICATION! I can’t stress this one enough, honestly. When going through the resort you have no prior contact with their photographer. You can’t tell them that; uncle Alex and Aunt Margaret are not on speaking terms and they can’t be in a picture together. Or that there’s a list of photos you absolutely need for sentimental reasons. You also have no contact with them after so if you have any questions, or you would like a photo re-edited or anything like that you are once again out of luck. Communication with my clients is (besides quality of work of course) the Number #1 most important thing. So knowing full well you’re basically going down there blind folded in terms of photography is such a scary thing to me and I do not recommend it!
2- LOCAL PHOTOGRAPHER
Now I’m not here to trash local photographers in other countries, actually on the contrary, just like here in Ottawa there are amazing photographers absolutely everywhere around the world! Depending on the location of choice for your destination wedding sometimes hiring local actually is a better option then bringing someone along with you. Now many things factor into which option is better in Local vs Bringing someone with you and it actually kind of goes back to what I wrote in the previous paragraph. Money & Communication. Communication in this case is more of a language barrier issue. Depending on where you might go, say in a country where Spanish is the primary language, it might be more difficult to communicate what you’re looking for with the photographer. There’s also the fact that the only way of communication is via email or potential facetime. I’m a firm believer that meeting someone face to face is the best way to get to know them. You will be spending a large portion of the day, if not the whole day with your photographer so wouldn’t you want someone you’ve met and you know you’re comfortable with? That can be a little difficult to do when your photographer is a couple thousand miles away. And of course money comes into play again here. A good local professional photographer will most likely charge close to the same amount as someone here in Ottawa BUT the currency is different. For example, Punta Cana, Jamaica, really most South American and Caribbean countries use USD as their currency. Yes they have local currency’s like Peso’s and what not but it’s really USD they charge. So a Canadian Charging $3,500 for a package vs a Punta Cana photographer charging the same amount is most definitely not the same. That $3,500 USD has now cost you close to $4,700 CAD, ouch right? Or look at it if you’re eloping in say, France. $3,500 EURO is actually $5,300 CAD, even bigger ouch. So really in the long run, bringing someone local to you in this case will still save you money. I’m not here to steal locals jobs, that’s not what I want. I do however want you to be comfortable with who is photographing your big day and if that means hiring local, then go for it! I just want you to be aware of the facts.
*That’s me with my bride and groom, Alex + Barry ♥ I guess you can say they liked me :P
3-FAMILY or FRIEND PHOTOGRAPHER
I don’t recommend these to anyone, and no it’s not because I have a hate on for people who do this. It’s because working with family can be difficult! As a couple, don’t you want your friends and family to enjoy their trip and of course the wedding without having to worry about working or getting the shot? Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable knowing you’ve hired a professional and they’ll capture everything for you because they are used to these types of events and situations? Scenario time: What if Uncle Joe offered to shoot the wedding for you cause he has a good camera and his nature photos don’t look half bad, right? This is awesome because you don’t have to pay him anything, amazing savings! Well maybe Uncle Joe didn’t realize that his entry level DSLR, which is made of plastic, can’t handle the Humidity that most Caribbean Countries have and his camera is acting up and decides to stop working half way through the ceremony. What happens then? Or you have a friend starting out in the photography business and they might have shot a couple wedding and they offered their services for the one week vacation paid. Still sounds like an awesome deal right? And you know what, your friend might end up doing a great job, which you know, good on them. But there’s the flip side scenario they they too only have entry level equipment that can’t handle the type of temperature and weather they have down there and the same thing happens as in Uncle Joe’s scenario. Or if that doesn’t happen, they might not know how to handle shooting in the type of Sun we get down, honestly there are so many scenarios I could throw your way but I don’t want to scare you. My point is, friends and family are definitely helpful, but the kind of things that can happen on any wedding day, especially a destination wedding day are so far and vast that the best thing you can do for yourself is to hire a professional.
4-BRINGING A PHOTOGRAPHER WITH YOU FROM HOME
Hi, that’s me, I’m the photographer from home! If you’ve read this far then you’ve already read a few of the points above, so I’ll just write them in bullet form:
Communication: You always have an open and constant line of communication when you bring a photographer with you. You also get to meet them in person and tell them all your ideas and plans and you get to build a genuine relationship with them. Which will also allow you to feel more comfortable in front of the camera on your wedding day. And bonus, you can do an engagement shoot with them to get you even more comfortable!
Cost: Ottawa photographers all charge a little differently depending on how many destination weddings they photographed or what level of experience they have. You will find some that charge no fee and only a one week all inclusive resort stay. Others may charge their regular fee as well as a 4 days stay + flight. Again, everyone is different and there is no right way to do things. I myself used to do the first option thinking I was going down for a vacation and one day of work, pssshhh that’s fine. But after having done so many myself I’ve realized that although I do get to eat well, and lounge around a pool for a good portion of the week, I do still work all week. Whether I’m scouting locations, communicating with the clients, still answering emails and editing most days, the wedding day itself, writing blog posts and editing some more, the work actually never ends. If anything, we work even more during destination weddings. That’s why I now charge $1,500 + 1 week all inclusive stay at the resort. I will be raising my prices over the next two years to reflect my current local packages. Either way, when you look at the currency convergence, it is still much cheaper to bring a photographer that is local to you with you whether they charge just the trip or even their current packages + stay + flight. In the end, bringing someone with you really is most cost effective when you consider all the bonuses that come with it!
Experience: I touched on this briefly in the Friends & Family portion but we can go into it a little deeper. Not only will hiring an experienced professional give you much better quality, it will help alleviate any stress you might have. You know that they know what they are doing, that they wont miss the shot, that they can work in crazy bright sun or dark stormy skies. They will have back up equipment with them in case something fails, actually even better, they know how to handle their equipment in a humid climate. They will have a computer with them and will back up your images so that nothing gets lost on the way home. They will handle what ever gets thrown their way which means again, you don’t have to stress about any of it. They will have proper travel and business insurance to cover them if anything were to happen. They have multiple memory cards in case of card failure, etc. Experience for any wedding is super important when hiring your photographer so make sure you ask all the right questions and ask to see portfolios.
I hope this blog post was helpful in more ways than one for anyone currently planning a destination wedding. I try not to be biased being a photographer myself but the points mentioned above are observations and information I’ve been able to gather over the past 8 years of photographing local and destination weddings. I honestly love traveling for weddings as it allows for new scenery and a new way to be creative and I hope that if you are currently planning to travel for your wedding that you will reach out so we can chat! If you have anything to add or any questions feel free to contact me via the CONTACT page or even leave a nice little comment below xo