Whether you’re saying “I do” on the beach or atop a mountain, you need the right photographer to capture those dreamy memories. But how do you go about hiring a photographer for your destination wedding if you don’t know the local market?
According to destination wedding photographer Bethel Ann Clark, it’s similar to hiring a local wedding photographer—but there are some tips and tricks to keep in mind. “It’s important to have a connection with your photographer first and foremost,” Clark says. “It can also be surprisingly affordable, which is something many couples don’t realize. If I knew how affordable a destination wedding could’ve been, I would have done it myself!”
Meet the Expert
Bethel Ann Clark is a seasoned wedding photographer based in Pennsylvania. She has photographed weddings everywhere from Italy to India.
How to Find a Destination Wedding Photographer
Finding a wedding photographer in your hometown isn’t challenging—many couples ask for friend and family recommendations—but what if you don’t know anyone who’s tied the knot in your destination of choice? Clark says you have two options: Hire a photographer from your destination or find a closer-to-home destination photographer willing to travel. Either one works, but the latter may help you foster a connection with your photographer, which will ultimately put you at ease on the big day.
“Both options are fine, but sometimes it’s harder to connect with a photographer who’s overseas,” she says. “If you’re searching for a destination photographer who’s willing to travel, make sure they actually like to travel and do it a lot. Look at their Instagram stories or blog. If they have experience traveling, they’ll be able to think on the fly and find solutions for you when things go wrong—because when travel is involved, things inevitably go wrong.”
It’s great if your destination wedding photographer has actually photographed a wedding in your chosen location, but Clark says that’s not as important as their experience with travel.
“It’s ideal if they’ve photographed there because they’ll have helpful insights,” she says. “But if you really love their work and you’re connecting with them as a person, just make sure they have travel experience with at least a similar location so you know they understand the logistics and potential problems.”
So how do you go actually about finding this destination wedding photographer? Start on Instagram and look through hashtags like #destinationweddingphotographer, or search for destination wedding photography on Pinterest to see which wedding photography styles resonate best with you. Then, pull your list together and head over to their websites. Browse their previous wedding galleries, learn a bit about the photographers, set up calls or in-person meetings, and see which one you click with best.
Destination Wedding Photographer Cost
The short and obvious answer to how much a wedding photographer costs is it varies, but the general rule of thumb is it includes the wedding photographer’s typical cost, plus flights, two nights of accommodations, meals, and transportation. For most wedding photographers, typical prices are between $3,000 to $6,000; so just add estimated travel prices for your specific destination to get a general idea.
Far-flung weddings may seem glamorous and luxe, but Clark says destination wedding photography isn’t always as expensive as it seems. She’s a budget traveler at heart, and like many fellow travel lovers—which includes destination wedding photographers—she’s always looking for deals to help her clients save, too.
“Prices will depend on who you’re hiring and where your wedding is, but for someone like me, I like to travel as cheaply as possible,” she said. “Also, destination weddings, in general, can be less expensive than expected. You typically have fewer people attending so you save in areas like catering. Or, if you have a big wedding planned, you’ve probably already budgeted for that price level anyway.”
When it comes to paying for travel, it's typically best for the photographer to book their own travel and send receipts to the client for reimbursement. This is important because the photographer may have an airline or flight-route preferences based on gear; just make sure to set a budget cap based on average prices before they buy to avoid any issues.
Things to Consider When Hiring
It’s important to make sure your destination wedding photographer has experience with travel, but Clark says to keep an eye out for photographers who use destination weddings solely for the free trip. “A lot of photographers are out there trying to make it big in destination wedding photography, but some just want it for the trip or to add this to their portfolio. Their heart isn’t in the right place,” she says. “Find somebody who cares about your wedding first and foremost. You want to get married in this beautiful place, but at the end of the day, you’re getting married. That’s why you’re there!”
This red flag is a bit trickier to spot. If the photographer is sharing past travels on their blog and Instagram, they check that travel-experience box, right? Yes, Clark says, but it really comes down to the tone. “Look at their Instagram captions or blog content. Are they bragging about the places they’ve visited or talking about why the weddings in these places were magical?” she says. “Look for the photographer who’s more about the moments and less about the flashy images. Meaningful captions about the wedding, not just the destination, are a good sign.”
Another mistake couples make when hiring a destination wedding photographer? Making sure that the photographer can actually work in your destination. Clark says she’s never had issues working in places like Europe or even India, but rules do vary—and that’s something you should clarify before signing a contract.
“Every place is different, but for me, I know I can’t legally work in Canada, so I don’t take weddings there,” she says. There are loopholes and roundabout ways to do this, but it’s a headache and not worth it, in her opinion. Most destination wedding venues or planners will have insights based on past experience, so you can gather this intel from them before starting your destination wedding photographer search.
Clark says photography permits in the U.S. are stricter than most overseas destinations, but this is something your photographer should research and help you navigate. That said, she recommends taking a step back before even having the permit discussion to make sure your photographer understands your unique interests as a couple. It’s easy for destination wedding photographers to get caught up in the destination’s most iconic beauty and photo spots—but it really comes down to what you, as a couple, want most.
“Your photographer will help with location scouting, but make sure they’re picking locations based on who you and your partner are, not just whether or not a backdrop will look amazing,” Clark says. “I like to ask my couples where they feel more peaceful and inspired, and I choose the location based on that criteria.”