7 Tips for Hiring a Destination Wedding Photographer You'll Love

From pricing to travel fees, you'll be able to navigate your search like a pro.
Beth Ann Mayer - The Knot Contributor.
by Beth Ann Mayer
Beth Ann Mayer - The Knot Contributor.
Beth Ann Mayer
The Knot Contributor
  • Beth Ann writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, including venues, honeymoons and planning advice.
  • Beth Ann is a lifestyle freelance writer, with bylines on healthline.com and parents.com.
  • Prior to freelancing, Beth Ann was a writer and editor for Long Island Pulse Magazine.
Updated Nov 09, 2021

Having a destination wedding can add an element of adventure and uniqueness to your big day. From beach bashes in Hawaii to chic soirees in Italy, the possibilities for wedding ceremony locations—and photo backdrops—are seemingly endless. Whatever you choose, you'll want to have a destination wedding photographer on hand to capture every incredible moment and detail.

Choosing the right photographer is important, as they're providing you with something you'll be able to hold onto long after you say "I do." "For some, it's the foundation for photos they will have in their home," says Christophe Genty of Christophe Genty Photography.

Couples planning a destination wedding have a few extra challenges to navigate when booking vendors—for example, they may not be able to meet their wedding photographer before the big day.

Navigate these challenges and find your dream destination wedding photographer with this guide.

1. Set a realistic budget.

First things first: You need to set your photography budget. A general rule of thumb is to allocate at least 12% of your budget for photography and videography. After that, consider visiting The Knot Marketplace, where you can search for photographers based on your budget.

Your wedding day marks a new chapter in your love story. Your pictures will capture the emotions you and your loved ones experienced during your big day better than any wordsmith. You also likely put a ton of thought into all the details of wedding planning, like seating cards and linens, and the snaps will ensure you remember them forever.

If you're trying to stick to a budget but the photographer you love is outside of your price range, see if you can save elsewhere, such as purchasing your wedding dress at a sample sale.

2. Remember: Elopements count, too.

Genty says even couples jetting off for intimate elopements often hire destination wedding photographers.

"I have clients who spend good money on photography because it's how they show family and friends everything afterward," he says.

The pictures can also be a central part of the wedding announcements you send to loved ones when you return home.

3. Identify your favorite photography style.

Wedding photographer styles have evolved over the years—albums are no longer full of posed shots with perfectly symmetrical bridal parties. Some of the most common styles include lifestyle, photojournalism, editorial, classic and fine art. If these are new terms to you, don't worry. Sifting through various examples online can help you get a feel for what types of shots you'd like from your photographer.

Genty cautions couples against pigeonholing a photographer. These days, he says, it's essential to be a "multi-hat" artist in order to be successful in the wedding industry, so photographers often have experience shooting multiple styles and can adapt to your needs. It's good to ask for examples from their portfolio just to be sure.

4. Do your research.

Once you have an idea of your budget and style, it's time to meet your match. Genty recommends using social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram since they're essentially digital portfolios and they're easily searchable. Look into hashtags like #destinationweddingphotographer, as well as location-specific ones (like #SFWeddings for couples tying the knot in San Francisco).

Reviews can also help you with your research. A photographer may have a stellar portfolio and sound great on Zoom, but what do previous clients say? Check sites like The Knot Marketplace when trying to find the best destination wedding photographers. Look for qualities like timeliness, efficiency and how comfortable a couple felt when the photographer shot their wedding.

5. Lean on other vendors.

You likely aren't as familiar with your destination wedding location as you are with your hometown. And your loved ones may have had local weddings, so they won't be able to provide referrals as easily. But Genty says other vendors, like your wedding planner or venue coordinator, can often offer a list of stellar recommendations in the area.

"For a couple coming from far away, the vendor list from the venue is going to be important and will give you some ideas," he says.

6. Conduct interviews.

Once you've scrolled through Instagram and read reviews, it's time to reach out to your top prospects and ensure they can deliver. Genty suggests asking these questions:

  • Are you free on my wedding date?
  • Are you familiar with my wedding venue and location? If so, do you have photos from past weddings you've shot there?
  • If you've never shot my venue or location, are you willing to see it with me? If so, do you charge for travel expenses?
  • Will you reach out to my venue before my wedding day?
  • If you're not from the area where the wedding is being held, do you charge a travel fee? Do you require a daily per diem for meals? Who covers your airfare and lodging?
  • What is the pricing breakdown on your photography packages?
  • How do you make couples feel comfortable for photos?
  • What are your hours? Do you provide full-day coverage from getting ready to the last dance?
  • Do you offer engagement sessions?
  • Can you come for the rehearsal dinner if we don't have a chance to meet in person before my wedding weekend?
  • Who has rights to the photos? Do I have to use watermarked pictures on social media?
  • Who makes the wedding album? Can I create my own?
  • Do you include videography? If not, do you have another vendor you can recommend?

7. Consider a photographer from the area.

Genty says it's often beneficial to have a photographer who has years of experience shooting weddings at your venue. They'll know the ins and outs of the space, such as where to get the best natural lighting. "If [a photographer] knows a property well, it's great," he says. "They know the best places, and where to stand the couple, [wedding party], family and other guests for wedding photos."

You can also cut down on costs. If your destination wedding photographer has to travel far to shoot your special day, they'll likely charge for their travel expenses.

However, you may really click with another photographer and love their unique style. If you decide to hire someone from your area, Genty recommends having the person see the wedding venue with you in advance of the big day.

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