Skip to main content

Blog | Photography

How to Choose Your Destination Wedding Photographer

The comprehensive guide to getting perfect photos of your destination wedding that will last a lifetime.

Destination wedding photography of bride and groom kissing under a veil
Lindsey Valenti |

Wedding photos are a staple of the wedding day and the family long after. Your destination wedding will undoubtedly have fantastic backdrops and scenery, and it may be challenging to entrust someone with the task of capturing it all. The choice will need extensive research, so talking with your destination wedding specialist will help you identify your priorities and the needs of your venue. While your decision will end up being unique to you, here are just a few things to consider when on the hunt.


Black and white photo of a photographer with a camera


Your budget was likely the first thing you thought of when the question of a photographer came up. While the budgets allotted to each part of a wedding will vary, photography is something that many couples are willing to splurge on. Unlike many of the other elements of a wedding, which will come and go in a day, photography is an investment that will stay with you for the rest of your life. 

Wedding photographers will vary in price by experience, location, and package. While many websites will have a general estimate of how much past couples have paid, you will likely need to meet with the photographer to get an exact quote that will fit your wedding’s needs. Most reliable photographers will be upfront about what parts of their services they believe your wedding will and will not need, which can help you take comfort in your investment.

Destination wedding aisle on the beach

Local or Coming with the Party?

When it comes to hiring a wedding photographer, especially for a destination wedding, there is no perfect option. The process takes patience and prioritizing to conclude where the photographer will come from long before diving into portfolios and websites. Hiring locally and bringing a photographer from home have pros and cons, but some of the big ones to consider are cost, connection, and knowledge. 

The cost of travel is something that will need to have been considered in all avenues of a destination wedding, and the photographer is no different. Unless otherwise stated in a contract, you will likely be responsible for the photographer’s cost of transportation, lodging, and food. Bringing a photographer long-distance may allow for common travel annoyances, like delays and lost bags. In contrast, a local photographer would likely have far less of an expense for travel, would need fewer nights in lodging (if any at all), and would be able to navigate the area with ease. 

However, for many, it is also important to have a connection with a wedding photographer. Nearly all photographers note that being comfortable with your wedding photographer significantly affects the outcome of pictures.  This can be accomplished in several ways, but they admittedly are easier when you can meet face-to-face before the big day. Many couples meet for coffee, meet periodically to discuss details, and even do an engagement shoot with them long before the wedding arrives. While technology offers many options for meeting your photographer beforehand, it is understandable why couples may want to have an in-person bond before the big day.

A meeting with your photographer will also make you aware of language barriers that may interfere with communication on the wedding day, especially if you are hiring local to your venue. Communication is key with your photographer, and making sure you both understand each other enough to effectively get your shots will be best ahead of time.

Your decision should also consider the knowledge of the venue and area. Each venue and the area it is in will highly influence the style of photography needed, the settings on the camera, the time pictures are taken, and much more. A local photographer may have shot in your venue before, or at least in the general area, and may be familiar with the nuances of it (best place for a family portrait, the lighting needed in the reception hall, etc.) instead of having to learn it on the spot. However, a photographer who focuses on travel may not know the venue, but will likely have worked in countless others and is used to adapting their process quickly. The kinds of venues photographers have shot in are a good question to bring up when you meet them. 

Your venue may have an in-house photographer as an optional add-on. This option will likely be more cost-effective, but will greatly vary on the ability to meet the photographer, styles, and length of service. Additionally, many resorts carry a preferred vendor list and charge steep fees for the use of outside vendors. Each resort has different policies regarding who counts as an “outside vendor,” so the best way to avoid extra fees is to work with a destination wedding specialist who is familiar with the resort’s policies and will help you design the perfect vendor package.

Destination wedding couple kisses on the shore

Portfolio and Meeting

Your first stop for most wedding photographers is going to be their website. Take a look at the design of the site and the style of the pictures they showcase. What do you notice immediately? Most websites will display what the photographer does most often first. If you want to walk away with some artistic, moody shots, look for websites that showcase them. If you are more for candid or standard poses, look for these within the first few pages. Some notable styles to look out for and consider are:

  • Traditional
  • Dark and Moody
  • Light and Airy
  • Photojournalistic
  • Desaturated

Some photographers may be more “trendy” and have a style that fits exactly what is going around on social media, while others will have a more signature style that is unique to them. Something to keep in mind is these photos will be your forever memories of your wedding. Unless you adore the style enough that you are sure in 20 years you will still love it, try to avoid getting too caught up in trends. 

A scheduled meeting with a potential photographer is going to be your likely next step. This is where you and your partner will share the details of your wedding, your budget, and anything else the photographer may need to know. Additionally, this is a great time for you to get to know the photographer. Asking about their approach, their experience, and their timeline will give you a better idea of what you are getting into by hiring them. This is also a great time to ask to see a full wedding album that they have shot. While their website will feature their absolute best work, being able to see the full day from their perspective will help you better envision your wedding in their hands. 

Some weddings may require more than one photographer. Even the fastest and most talented photographers cannot be everywhere at once, and if you have an extensive guest list, it may be beneficial to have at least one other set of hands around. If a photographer has been established for long enough, they may have second shooter hand they trust to help, or may have recommendations for other photographers they have worked with. In this case, trusting both photographers and ensuring that you enjoy both of their styles will keep you grounded the day of.

Of course, this can be worked around if a second photographer is not in your means or your preference. Adjusting getting ready time so the photographer can be there for both, purchasing a package with the longest on-site time, and working out a schedule with your photographer can help ensure you get shots of all the most important moments.

Close-up of a photographer with a camera

Employing a Friend

We all seem to know a friend (maybe even multiple) who has a photography social media page and is consistently trying to get their business off the ground. After posting about your engagement, it may seem tempting to contact that friend and get the hiring process out of the way quickly. There are, of course, a few things to consider before sending over a deposit.

For one, it is vital to evaluate the relationship with that person before anything else. Business can always strain a relationship, and if this is something that is going to stress you out, it may be best to keep the two entirely separate. On the other hand, if you are close enough to this person that they would receive an invite or maybe even be in the wedding party, having them as your photographer will likely exclude them from those opportunities. Photographers run around all day and will have few breaks to line dance or raise a toast. However, for some, photographing your wedding day may be a bonding experience and an honor, even more so than attending. Having conversations with your friend about both of your expectations and desires will be best to smooth over any misconceptions before they happen. 

While wanting to give your friend business is honorable, the vetting process should not stray too far from that of hiring strangers. The same questions of style, experience, and accessibility should still be considered even when in discussions with a friend. If your friend is not as experienced as you may need for the size or scale of your wedding, or you are just looking for a different style than your friend is accustomed to, it is better to discuss this than settle. The truth is, if you hire as a favor and do not love your pictures, you will remember that every time you look at them. 

It is also important to note the tools photographers will have access to and ask the hard questions about your friend’s access and familiarity. Established photographers will likely have a working relationship with their equipment, editing software, and printing labs. A couple must know about the quality of their investment before diving in. 

Finally, it should never be assumed that hiring a friend will be cheaper than hiring a stranger of similar experience and style. While your friend might be willing to discount or throw in some add-ins just for being a supportive friend, this should not be expected. If your friend is running a business and you are hiring them to work your wedding, their compensation should reflect their efforts, regardless of their relationship with you. To reiterate, these are the kinds of conversations that will need to happen before hiring. 

Close-up of wedding bouquet and shoes

Shot List vs Family Formals

In the age of social media, many couples are anxious to provide their photographers with a shot list, or a list of specific pictures, to help achieve photography goals. This should be discussed with your photographer during your first meeting, as some photographers are open to (or even prefer) shot lists, while others do their best work without them. 

It should be noted that shot lists are very different from family formals, which most photographers will specifically ask for a list of. While shot lists are specific to the subject, angle, time, etc., family formals are a simple list of subjects you would like pictures with on your wedding day. 

To visualize it, here are some examples of potential items on a shot list: 

  • Wedding dress over a bedpost
  • Bride applying lipstick in a mirror 
  • Mother of the bride securing the veil 

Whereas here might be some on a family formal list:

  • Bride with Grandma
  • Bride and Groom with Bride’s Grandma
  • Bride and Groom with Groom’s parents
  • Bride and Groom with Bride’s parents

Conversations with your photographer will be the best way to determine if you should give them a shot list or a family formal list. While shot lists can be helpful, it is best to keep them as nuclear as possible to allow the photographer some freedom and allow the day to unfold naturally, without the stress of posing for every second of the day. If having a shot list is incredibly important to you, it is wise to bring this up early in your photographer search to find photographers willing to jump on board. 


Like the other facets of your wedding, you will know when you have found the right photographer. It will take time and thinking, but your wedding photos deserve to be as special as your wedding! Your destination wedding specialist will have insight into the nuances of your wedding’s needs and will be able to front a good amount of the research needed, so let them know what you are thinking!

Up Next