I’m in a lot of photography groups on Facebook. I LOVE connecting with and learning from other photographers. It makes this whole business (which most of us do at home in our pajamas when we’re not out shooting!) a lot less isolating. One of the questions that comes up often in these groups is how to become an adventure elopement photographer or adventure wedding photographer. There are a lot of people out there who want to photograph adventure weddings and elopements and man, who can blame them?! Working with awesome, outdoorsy couples, visiting beautiful places, and getting to go hiking for work? Its a dream gig!
But breaking into this world can be a little bit difficult. If you’re a photographer who is wondering how to shoot more adventure elopements or weddings, hopefully these tips will help!
(thats me, my husband and one of our two dogs, deliriously happy after a week of camping and mountain biking in the desert! We don’t do this stuff because it looks cool on Instagram. We do it because its what we LOVE to do!)
#1 Be adventurous.
Now before you all close this page and walk away because this is so freaking obvious, let me explain.
I had a really easy time breaking into this market, in part because being outdoors literally is my life. I’ve been hiking, mountain biking, camping, and exploring for as long as I can remember. Its what I do. Its what my friends do. Its the world that I’m immersed in. I was into outdoor photography way before I ever considered shooting weddings or elopements and to be honest, I would have never made the jump into the wedding world if it weren’t for the realization that I could combine my love of outdoor photography with my passion for storytelling and the way that I connect with adventurous couples.
The truth is that your potential clients can smell authenticity (or a lack thereof!) from miles away. So go have your own adventures … and connect with others who love the things you love. Be true to who you are and what you’re all about. The couples who connect with that will follow. I promise.
(That’s yours truly racing pack burros in Leadville, CO. Photo by my friend Amber Wann)
#2 Know your limits.
I feel like this is super important but something that rarely gets talked about. When you are considering taking your couples into the backcountry its incredibly important to know what you’re capable of – and what you’re not!
For me, personally, I know that long hikes are my jam and that I can handle super cold weather. And I know that I’m not afraid of heights. Want to hike to the top of a mountain or say your vows on a cliff on the Kalalau Trail (seriously, someone please plan an adventurous Kauai elopement and take me with you!)? I’m your girl. Want to do anything that involves backcountry skiing on avalanche terrain? That’s outside of my comfort zone and I don’t want to put myself (of my clients’ photos!) at risk.
I first thought about this a while back when I was at a workshop a few years ago with a photographer who was advertising “hiking adventure sessions” but was really struggling to walk up a short hill during a shoot. An hour into an elopement isn’t the time to realize that hiking in the mountains with all your gear isn’t easy or that you get struck with crippling altitude sickness anytime you get over 12,000 feet! Know your limits … and don’t be afraid to communicate them honestly to your clients.
#3 Understand that it can be HARD work.
While we’re on the subject of limits, its probably important to point out that a lot of the stuff we do? It’s NOT easy!
Hiking, especially at altitude, can be challenge but hiking with ALL of your gear? Its a lot of work, you guys! When I’m doing any kind of adventure session I’m usually carrying two heavy camera bodies, 3-4 lenses, some sort of adult beverages, extra water and snacks … and thats on top of all of the normal hiking stuff I bring.
And its not just about he physical aspect of it. There’s this idea floating around that elopements are “easier” or “less work” than weddings and I have NOT found that to be the case. Sure, the editing goes a lot faster but I spend a LOT of time on the front end helping my clients plan their perfect elopements or adventurous weddings. Traditional weddings have a pretty set formula – certain things happen in certain places in a certain order. Elopements are a whole different deal! I spend a lot of time scouting locations, securing permits, and helping my clients find the perfect spot! Its a pretty hands on (and super rewarding) process.
#4 Be ok with being uncomfortable.
Despite how glamorous shooting in wild places can look I think its important to know that its not always super comfortable. When I shoot adventure sessions in the mountains or elopements in Iceland I’m usually pretty cold (bordering on freaking freezing!) and often very wet. The good news is that I rarely notice it! Some kind of adrenaline kicks in when I’m shooting and the discomfort that I’m feeling typically takes a backseat to the magic we are making!
I always remind myself that regardless of how cold I am, my couples are probably WAY colder! Suck it up, buttercup!
#5 Be willing to sacrifice your gear.
As photographers we invest a LOT of money into our gear. Pro-level cameras and lenses? They are EXPENSIVE. Few things make me more nervous than wading through water up to my calves with $10,000+ of electronics on my back (even if they’re mostly protected in my pack!). But sometimes thats what you have to do to get the shots.
I’ve bashed my cameras on rocks, soaked them under misty waterfalls, and had buttons (on a brand new 5D Mark IV. Ugh!) get stuck when they’ve gotten jammed with sand. I take good care of my equipment but I also KNOW that I’m hard on it. In my view, that’s what it (and I!) and there for. And its a risk I’m willing to take.
(one of the coolest places I’ve ever shot … and somehow my camera survived. and if it hadn’t? this still would have been worth it!)
#6 Be ready to see some amazing places – but more importantly, to meet some amazing people!
I have a much longer blog post about this coming (its in the works!) but one of the things I realized recently is that very little of this job is actually about the photography. Its about connecting with people who connect with each other – and then using all those connections to create some beautiful, impactful work. You know when you go for a hike or a bike ride with a new friend and by the time you’re done you feel like you’re BEST friends? That’s what this is like. And its incredible.
The places you go are just a small part of this gig. They’re the big, beautiful backdrops that grab your attention and make you take notice. But at the end of the day? This is a job thats about building relationships and capturing stories. And doing it in some of the most beautiful places on earth? That’s the icing on the cake.