Can we book a last-minute wedding photographer for our elopement?

Guest post by Jon Holmes
Can we book a last-minute wedding photographer for our elopement?
Chelsey and Mike took their elopement photos themselves!
“My partner and I have been talking about getting married for the last two years. Since neither of us wants a big wedding, we've agreed that eloping will probably be our best bet. However, that is the extent of our planning. We do not have a date or a location set. Even though I am a pretty Type-A personality and love to have plans A-Z for everything, my partner is more of a go-with-the-flow type of guy, so I half expect for him to wake up one day and say, “Let's go get married today.”

I love his spontaneity, but it doesn't allow for things like hiring an awesome photographer to capture our day for us. I think even if we set a date tomorrow, we might have trouble finding someone short-notice to take photos of our ceremony, since life circumstances are pointing toward a marriage sooner rather than later.

I suggested that we do a photoshoot post-elopment, but I'm worried about the images being too posed and unnatural. Are there any other options for capturing spur of the moment nuptials?” – Larissa

Can we book a last-minute wedding photographer for our elopement?
Photo by Lovesick

Jon from Lovesick here. I’ll lead with this: I think you’ll regret not having someone there to document your wedding in some way, shape, or form. Hindsight is always 20/20, and those are moments that you can never get back. What’s more, by choosing to elope you’re stepping outside of the wedding paradigm and implicitly stating to your friends and family that your wedding is about you, not necessarily them. Your family and friends will undoubtedly be a bit disappointed that they couldn’t share in your wedding. Great pictures however, will soften the blow.

As for the post-elopement photoshoot, don’t worry about the shots being posed and unnatural. Just be sure to hire someone you would want to sit down and have a drink with. All too often couples hire photographers based on the work and never consider their personalities. If you dig your photographer as a person and like their work, there’s no reason your photos won’t be dope. But let’s get back to the question at hand: how to score a rad photographer on short notice.

Step one: Find someone

Start getting a list together of some local photographers that you like (If they’re local it will be easier to do it last minute). At this stage, just look at their work. We think one of the best ways to do this is to simply ask yourself if you could see you and your partner in their photos. Does the work feel like you two? Do you dig the aesthetic? And lastly, can you afford them? * Sidenote: Unfortunately, most photographers are guilty of not putting prices on their website. It’s incredibly annoying, but in most cases you’ll have to email them to get their “price sheet.” Ugh!

Step two: Reach out

I say lead with your story and be honest about your expectations. If you called us and explained your situation, I would simply send you the days that I wasn’t currently booked over the next month or so. Photographers typically book at least six to eight months out, so any photographer you reach out to shouldn’t have a problem letting you know if they’d be interested in this kind of spontaneity.

Step three: Plan, even if it’s just a little

Find a place of compromise between your desire to plan ahead and your partner’s fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants attitude. I’d pick two dates, let your photographer know, and commit to one of them based on the weather. Since your photographer has already said they were free that day, it shouldn’t be an issue to make the call a few days out.

All of that said… we’re a bit unconventional as a company. You may find that the photographers in your area won’t be very accommodating. If that is the case, you’ve got a few more options. First, you could look beyond your local community and reach out to someone who you’d have to bring in. This will cost more, but you’ll have a much bigger pool of photographers to work with, and you will undoubtedly find someone who is down for the adventure.

If that doesn’t work out, do yourself a favor and get a nice point and shoot camera and a grippy little tripod that you could hang on a tree, stick to a rock, or put on the ground. Take some selfies and other shots along the way, and when it’s time for you to say your vows (if you’re even doing that type of thing), park your camera somewhere, make sure you guys are in frame, and set it to take a picture every few seconds. Or better yet, bring a friend along and have them snap off a few pictures.

Once you’re married and take a look at the casual photos you took, you can assess whether you’d be interested in having a professional do a post-elopement shoot. Who knows, the low-key photos you took by strapping your camera to a tree might be just want you wanted.

Last but not least, try not to let anyone talk you out of this idea. It’s a dope plan, and you’ll never forget it. If your friends and family want to be a part of it, have a fun party when you get back. That’s a nice concession and an opportunity for you to show them some of the photos that either you or a professional took on your wedding day.

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Comments on Can we book a last-minute wedding photographer for our elopement?

  1. I ended up hiring my videographer the mornin of my wedding because my original one bailed. It is possible, but you shouldn’t plan on it. It helps if you have other wedding professionals able to reach out to them, because professional courtesies and what not.

    We did have a backup plan: selfie sticks and a camera on a tripod. Not going to be as great of results, but still will capture the day.

  2. I recently booked a photographer on very short notice for a friend’s elopement, and everyone was really great about it. I sent what the date was and the plan, and 2/5 of the photographers were free and up for it.

  3. I love the idea of capturing an elopement with a great photo shoot!! My wedding photographer specializes in elopements! She is photographing our planned, intimate, outdoor wedding but she really loves capturing a couple who has decided to make it a REALLY intimate affair. She travels. I imagine there are others. Find someone who has a passion for it.

  4. It’s your wedding — one of the biggest moments in your life — and a day that (hopefully) will only happen once. Take the time to find someone to document the day, even if it is only a friend. There are lots of photographers (like myself) who specialize in elopements and work on an hourly basis. I would recommend you go to a website where vendors have been pre-vetted. Offbeat Bride, New York Magazine Weddings, etc. are great resources. Don’t go to Craigslist or try to randomly find someone through Google. You might also try a professional wedding organization such as the Wedding Photojournalists Association (WPJA) or Professional Photographers of America (PPA). Each of these organizations have databases of available photographers in your area.

    And always make sure to ask for references and see a full wedding from the photographers. Check out this article for a full list of questions you should be asking your potential photographer:

  5. Thank you to everyone for the advice! We eloped yesterday (yay!) and ended up asking a friend who is very handy with a camera to take a few pictures. She did a nice job and we are happy with them (and having them immediately helped when we broke the news to family). I think if we lived in a more urban area or had more money to spend to cover travel, we may have had better luck finding a photographer on short notice. I agree that having the moment captured somehow, even if just by a friend or by using a tripod, is so important. Being able to look back on photos for years to come and share them with others is the best gift we could give ourselves. Thanks again!

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