Before I get started, if you’re a couple planning to elope, then a massive high 5 to you. How awesome!
A large percentage of my bookings this year are eloping couples or those wanting an intimate ceremony and very small celebration afterwards. I sometimes also get booked by couples who are having the town hall ceremony and main celebration on different days, maybe even in different cities. If you’re in one of these categories, then finding a photographer is a very different ball game.
The traditional offering of wedding photographers is the full day wedding package (or a variation thereof), but an increasing number of photographers are now also offering hourly rates to allow for more flexibility. I am one of these.
The latter option is what an eloping couple will want, so the next question is how to make the most of your photographer in these circumstances.
Planning Your Photography & Schedule
Most of my couples simply want the ceremony and some portraits captured and most typically they book me for 2-3 hours in these circumstances. Assuming I start at the ceremony, this works very well. But you can request me to start whenever you like, I will always arrive a bit earlier than your ceremony anyway, just to ensure I am on time.
A town hall ceremony is typically 30 minutes long in London and I suggest factoring in another 30 minutes to buffer for any delays, time for the confetti shot after the ceremony, some group photos and mingling. I then suggest 1 hour for portraits, in my case this is because my couples and I usually go for a stroll in the vicinity of their ceremony and it’s plenty of time to get lovely portraits and for you to just relax! Obviously you can have more photography time if you wish. But I think less than 2 hours might be too rushed.
Sometimes, couples also want further coverage at the next venue, which is typically a restaurant with a very small group of friends. I personally don’t advise having a photographer there throughout the whole meal.
Firstly because no-one wants to be photographed when they’re eating and secondly because given that you’re having such an intimate day in the first place, you don’t want to spoil the mood by having me in your face for too long.
So when I get asked to photograph the restaurant bit, I will always suggest to plan the things that you want to have photographed for the very beginning.
For example, if you are having a cake cutting, speeches or anything else memorable, simply arrange to do so on arrival at your restaurant (or relevant venue) then I can take those photos and leave you to enjoy the rest of your day in peace. I do try and take photos of the details without being asked, I take candid photos of guests enjoying themselves and I also take photos of the food as it arrives, but once the food is on someone’s fork, I put the camera down.
If you have any special requests at all, do ask and I’ll plan with you how best to accommodate for it.
Where to do your portraits
Most of the time couples leave it to me to lead them for portraits. I always ask if there are any special requests or preferences (such as how far they are willing to walk or travel). I will discuss and accommodate for all requests if possible and I create a plan. This usually involves a recce of the ceremony venue/area beforehand so I know exactly where to take you on the day. I like to mix up green spaces with urban spaces. I focus heavily on outdoor shots for the best light, but usually also have an indoor photo plan in case of rain or sometimes maybe because it’s artistic.
How much daylight time will you have?
One of the important considerations for me is how much daylight time we will have for portraits. My shooting style is highly reliant on natural daylight. I do capture images indoors and I do have a flash for these circumstances, but in order to be able to deliver my style of photography, I need some daylight. So, if you want to calculate this for yourself, google the time of sunset time on your wedding day. Minus 1 hour (the hour before sunset is very dark already) and minus again another 1-1.5 hours for portrait time. That the latest I need to start portraits to deliver the best results. I do this check with every enquiry, but for the geeks amongst you, you can do the preliminary research beforehand.
If you have a ceremony late in the day and daylight is an issue, an option is to do some portraits before the ceremony.
Keeping your images private
Another thing to mention with eloping is that understandably, many of my eloping couples don’t want to share their images publicly. Very often they haven’t told anyone they are getting married and are waiting for the right moment to share this with their loved ones. Sometimes they might be in the public eye and just don’t want this to be public. Sometimes we just don’t want to share everything on Facebook.
Most photographers, including myself, like to share and blog our favourite wedding images online so that other potential couples can be inspired and also see what our photography style is like to potentially book us. It is mentioned in my photography contract that I like to do so, but you don’t have to agree to it.
I understand the desire for privacy, it is your special day so you can ask to keep your images private. I like to ask my couples for their preference up front. If you don’t get asked by your photographer, then do talk to them if it is a concern for you.
How many images will you get?
It’s always hard to quantify, but I typically delivery around 100-250 images for 2-3 hours of coverage.
For inspiration, here are some elopements I’ve shot in London and if you have any questions at all about the topic, do get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer. I always have a phone call with my eloping couples to discuss their plans and talk through things in a bit more detail.
Tom & Elsa had a London ceremony followed by a private dinner in Islington. Their main wedding celebrations will be in Italy this summer. I was booked for 2 hours. The registrar was late so I stay 30 minutes longer as it was not their fault. Elsa had some great ideas for where to do the portraits so we combined both our ideas together for locations.
Tilly & Toby had an intimate ceremony in Hackney followed by another intimate ceremony in Thailand. They booked me for their London ceremony for 4 hours. This included speeches, cake cutting and so on.
Nishat & Nabil had a traditional Indian ceremony in Birmingham and booked me for an intimate western gathering in London. We had 3 hours to capture portraits in the Knightsbridge area, as well as some family photos at the hotel. They trusted me to choose portrait locations, I combined traditional Knightsbridge with the modern Serpentine Gallery exhibitions as well as the greenery of Hyde Park.
Xiaofei & Thomas had an intimate town hall wedding in London followed by dinner with friends. After the ceremony we went for a walk through Victoria Park, giving them plenty of time on their own to relax and enjoy their first moments as a married couple. I was booked for 3 hours.
Jasmin & Jon had a big traditional wedding ceremony in India and booked me for the legal town hall elopement in London. They also got photobombed by Amy Schumer when I was taking their portraits! This was a 3 hour booking and included the ceremony, family photos & some images at the restaurant including cake-cutting & speeches.