5 Tips to Find the Perfect Photographer


December 12, 2022
Words by Lauren Ertl
Photos courtesy of Hotzel Photography

Gabriela Hotzel of Hotzel Photography is an expert in all things elopement photography. We got the chance to gather her best advice on how to find the perfect photographer for a destination elopement. Read below to see what she had to say: 


Q: What attributes should couples look for in their elopement photographer?

A: 1) Personality: More than likely, you’re going to be with your photographer more than anyone else on your wedding day. That being said, your photographer should be someone that you think you can spend hours with and still enjoy yourselves. A great way to figure this out is to set up a phone or video call with them before booking. It gives you a chance to get to know each other, better understand their vibe, and see if you’ll make a good fit for each other. Ultimately, you ideally want someone that you could kick back with and eat s’mores around a campfire (photography aside).

2) Style: Another important factor to consider when choosing your elopement photographer, is their art style. Some photographers are cinematic & artistic. Others are bright & airy or dark & moody. Along with their editing style is their shooting style. Some photographers like to use traditional poses, while others like quirky and editorial posing. Some have an unposed approach where the direction is very minimal and emotive, while others use a prompting approach where more direction is given and a lot of movement is involved. A photographer’s shooting process and editing style is the best way for you to imagine what your own images will look and feel like. 

3) Process: Every photographer’s workflow, approach, and process is different. On their website, in their emails, and during your discussions with them you can get an understanding of how they plan to handle your elopement. You should be able to clearly see and understand what to expect when working with them. For example, do they handle the majority of the planning? Or will you need to hire a planner as well? How soon will you receive your final gallery and do they offer sneak peeks before that? If they do, when can you expect to see your sneak peeks? Do they have a contract in place that covers important details and sets expectations? If they do, be sure to thoroughly read through it and ask questions if you have concerns. In the end, you want the process from your initial inquiry to your final gallery delivery to be consistent and what you expected.  


Q: What are some signs a photographer might not be the right fit?

A: A photographer might not be the right fit if:

1) You don’t resonate with their photography style and process. (For example, they have a carefree and candid approach when they shoot, but you’re hoping for a lot of posing direction)

2) You find them difficult to communicate with. Communication is key when it comes to eloping because your photographer tends to be more involved than any other vendor. They might even be helping you plan your wedding day from top to bottom, so good communication is vital!

3) They are not flexible. Elopements often have a lot of factors involved and elements that may not go according to plan. Your photographer should be able to “manage disasters” well. You don’t want someone that isn’t willing to adjust and go with the flow when unexpected issues come up. Usually, you can find out if a photographer is flexible based on their website copy, stories in their blog posts, and what they share on social media. 

4) You can’t find any client reviews or testimonials. Even if the photographer you’re looking at doesn’t have tons of testimonials, they should have at least a few somewhere. 

5) You don’t vibe with their personality. Perhaps they like to use a lot of profanity and are very outgoing and outspoken. But you tend to be more reserved, laid back, and are uncomfortable with a lot of attention. Sometimes opposites attract, but the most important thing is that you feel you can work together well and have an enjoyable experience. 


Q: How can couples narrow down their photographer options before beginning their search?

A: There has definitely been a boom in the number of elopement photographers in the industry. That being said, it can get a little overwhelming if you don’t narrow things down. Here are a few tips to help: 

1) Decide on a specific location where you want to elope. The more specific the better. For example, instead of “California” think about where you want specifically. Like Yosemite National Park, Big Sur, or a venue/city you love.

2) Decide what photography style you both enjoy. Candid? Posed? Moody? Warm? Artistic? Traditional? Etc.

3) How many guests will you be including, if any? Some photographers have a cap on how many guests they can accommodate. Some locations also have a cap on the number of guests that you can have.

4) How much coverage do you think you’ll want? Are you wanting a short and sweet day like two hours? Or an all-out experience like 12 hours or multiple days? Not all photographers offer a light coverage package and not all photographers offer heavy coverage.

5) Think about how much planning assistance you want. Nowadays, a lot of elopement photographers offer planning assistance due to the nature of eloping. However, not everyone does. And while some may help with planning, they may have a limit on how much planning assistance they give. If you know that you want a full-on experience, you may consider hiring a photographer AND planner. If you’re a big planner yourself, just your photographer might be enough.

After deciding on the above, you should have a good foundation to begin your elopement photographer search! 


Q: Should your photographer know the destination you plan to elope in intimately? If so, why?

A: The short answer is yes. If your photographer knows the area intimately, that will help make the planning process run smoothly. They may be aware of location limitations, road conditions, and other factors which can help you pivot on the big day if things don’t go according to plan. They can also usually recommend local vendors, accommodations, and packing tips that are unique to the location. Typically, they would know less popular spots where you can have more privacy and intimacy during your ceremony. 

On another note, if you fall in love with a photographer because they check all of your boxes, but they have not been to the location you want, don’t lose hope! 

  • Find out if they’re willing to go to the location that you’re interested in
  • Because they haven’t been there, are they still going to be able to provide you with the same experience? I know for myself, I do a TON of research on new locations before I ever set foot there. I still recommend local vendors to my couples, I still handle the majority of the planning, and I still provide them with the same overall experience as I do with my other couples. The only difference is, there’s a lot more research and physical scouting involved. I always like to have my “boots on the ground” so to speak before the big day. If it’s a brand-new location, I’ll generally arrive a couple of days before to scout and explore the location/area. That way by the time the wedding day comes, I’m an expert. Every photographer handles shooting in new locations differently, so just ask them!
  • Do they have images they can show you that are similar to the location? Maybe they haven’t been to the California Redwoods, but they have photographed elopements in the forests of Oregon. While not exact, the locations are visually similar. This can help you to get an idea of what your own images might look like and how the photographer edits for that landscape.


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