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Why are elopement photographers so expensive

The Journal

Now that you’re engaged and in the thick of planning, you’re probably searching for your perfect elopement photographer. Someone who’s not only going to document your elopement day, but also will really vibe with the two of you- but, there’s a problem… After doing some research, you may be thinking to yourself, “why are elopement photographers so expensive?”

Great question!

Let’s break down why the costs are what they are and why investing in your dream elopement is equally, if not more, important to that of a traditional wedding.

Bride and groom kissing in lake

Wedding vs Elopement Costs

Before we jump into the specifics of what elopement photography includes, let’s briefly touch on the costs of a traditional wedding. It’s no secret that weddings can be expensive.

According to and CNBC the national average cost in 2019 for a wedding (which did not include a honeymoon) was approximately $33,900. Costs associated include but aren’t limited to, the venue, meals per person, DJ, Photography, Videography, Florist, Hair and Makeup Artists, Wedding Cake, etc…

But what about elopements…

Honestly, there’s so much that varies here based on where you’re located and where you want to travel but we’ll do our best to give you an accurate range of costs. Let’s break it down.

  • Travel (Flights & Hotel / Air BnB stay): $500 – $2000
  • Photography: $3500 – $9000
  • Flowers: $100 – $300
  • Dress & Suit: $500 – $4000
  • Food & Drinks: $50 – $500
  • Officiant: $500 – $800
  • (Optional) Hair and Makeup: $150 – $600
  • (Optional) Videography: $2500 – $7000

That gives a total cost for your elopement somewhere between $5150 to $16,600. At the higher end, the difference between $33,900 and $16,600 is a savings of approximately $17,300.

Also keep in mind that often times elopements can double as a Honeymoon for you and your new hubby/wifey. You’re in a beautiful location with tons of adventures to be had. (Tip: choose a location that is either a bucket list destination or someplace super special to the both of you).

bride holding bouquet in the air with groom holding her

More Than Just Photographers

The short answer to why elopement photographers are expensive is that we are so much more than just photographers. With traditional weddings, it’s common to have a planner for all of the pre-wedding planning and a day of coordinator to help make sure things run smoothly on the day. When you hire a photographer for your elopement they will be doing a lot more than just showing up and taking photos.

As elopement photographers, we help with location research, timeline planning, permits & license gathering, etc… We also act as travel guides, day of coordinators, as well as photographing your intimate wedding.

That’s a lot of different tasks that one vendor is taking on. For reference, the average cost is approximately $1800 for a wedding planner and $600 for a day of coordinator.

“You Get What You Pay For”

Another major reason elopement photographers are expensive goes back to this old adage. It is so true. More than the end product (the photos) what you’re really paying for is knowledge, expertise, and experience. The reality is that with today’s every growing technological advances many people have the tools available to take great photos. Even the photos people take on their phone can be quiet nice but, having the tools and using the tool to it’s potential are two very different things. Imagine, just because you have a scalpel, are you ready to perform surgery? Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic- but hopefully you understand where we’re coming from.

Speaking for ourselves, we have countless hours of real world experience surrounding weddings, elopements, and couples sessions. We’ve invested yearly on improving our equipment and learning how to provide the best possible value and experience to our couples. In addition, we’ve traveled internationally as well as domestically for all kinds of elopements/weddings. Travelling and photographing outdoors presents it’s challenges and requires quick thinking, avid planning, and proper equipment. We’re ready to take on anything that an elopement day has to offer.

groom wrapping up bride in his arms

Invest In Documenting Your Story

Now we might get some slack here but, we feel that photographing an elopement is more critical than photographing a traditional wedding. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, that doesn’t mean that we look down on or de-value a bigger wedding by any means! We came from photographing traditional weddings for about 2 and a half years.

But, here’s why we say this.

Your wedding day is much more than just the photos, it’s the ENTIRE EXPERIENCE. It’s how you felt, what you did, the vows you say, the place/s you go to, etc… With a traditional wedding, your guests are in attendance for a majority of the day, meaning that they will have experienced the excitement and celebrations with you. With elopements, you might have a few guests in attendance- specifically close family or close friends- but you might be eloping “just us”.

Without the photos taken on your elopement day, no one else will be able to witness what your wedding day looked or felt like! That’s a lot of pressure that we as photographers need to be able to deliver on.

Travel Costs All Rolled Into One

Traveling is a huge part of elopements. Makes sense right? When you elope you’re wanting to say your vows in the most epic destinations like atop a mountain or along a waterfall. Well that requires travel from not only you as the bride and groom but also us.

Many photographers, ourselves included, like to make things simple. We add the cost of our travel (including flights and stay) into the total cost you see. There are no hidden additional fees. We take care of all our travel arrangements and won’t be billing you a separate invoice for it. That’s one less thing that’s on your plate!

Working With A Professional

The wedding/elopement industry can be a little odd. There isn’t a certification requirement or test that dictates which businesses are equipped to handle and operate such an important day. With that being said, there are photographers out there who aren’t ready to take on clients legally. There are “businesses” that aren’t licensed and insured, aren’t paying taxes, etc. This is scary for not only them, but also for you. If something should happen with your photographer, and without a proper contract in place, you could risk losing all of the images that were taken on the most important day of your life. We’ve heard of some horror stories that couples have experienced and we wouldn’t want that for anyone!! A cheaper photographer might seem smart in theory, but could cost you in the long run more than you know.

Protecting Your Precious Images

Working with a legitimate business also means that they will have more systems in place to safeguard your photos. In our business, we use cameras with dual memory slots so that if one card gets corrupted we have another with everything backed up. We also have multiple Hard Drives that we store photos to and have cloud backup on top of that. Yes, it can be redundant but these are the memories that’ll you’ll look on throughout your lifetime and we take that very seriously.

bride and groom walking in the lake

Hours of Work

Most couples, when pondering the question regarding why elopement photographers are so expensive think, “why do we need to pay so much for 8 hours?” Well, because we don’t work just the 8 hours that we are with you.

As previously mentioned, we spend tons of hours prior to your wedding day doing research on locations, permits, and timelines. Then of course comes the hours we are present during your day. Lastly, we spend hours upon hours in the post production phase backing up images, culling photos, and editing/retouching the best photos of your day.

Instead of 8 hours it might more accurately look like this:

  • Initial correspondence and booking: 1 – 2 hours
    • Phone consultation
    • Emails
    • Contract Drafting
  • Planning Phase: 10 – 20 hours
    • Location Research
    • Permit Gathering
    • Timeline Building
    • Preparing Gear
    • Cleaning Gear
  • Travel: 1 – 12 hours
    • Flights
    • Drive to Hotel / Air BnB
  • Elopement Shoot: 8 – 16 hours
    • Driving to different locations
    • Getting Ready
    • First Look
    • Ceremony
    • Couples Session
    • Etc…
  • Back Up & Store Images: 2 – 3 hours
  • Cull Photos: 2 – 4 hours
  • Editing: Up to 6 weeks depending on quantity of images
bride pulling groom suspenders

In Summary

When considering why elopement photographers are so expensive, just know that the cost will be well worth it. You’re investing in a professional who will help to not only document your experience but, will act as planner, guide, and coordinator. They will spend countless hours helping you achieve your dream day. Photography is, after all, a service based industry and that’s what we aim to do. Serve our couples the best we possibly can.

As a closing note, remember that ultimately what you spend on your elopement or wedding day DOES NOT determine the value of your day.

Our best piece of advice to you is to be sure to prioritize your experience above all else. This is the day that you will be making a lifelong commitment to one another. You chose to make this vows in this intimate and beautiful way. It is 100% intentional. You both deserve to walk away with an experience like no other; one that you can carry with you for the rest of your lives!

If you’re interested in working with us, we’d love to hear from you and see how we can guide you towards your perfect day!

Ready to talk about your dream elopement with us?

We’d love to connect with you and hear all about it!


  1. […] have a whole break down of cost comparisons between traditional weddings and elopements on our blog Why Are Elopement Photographers So Expensive if you’re interested in learning more about that specifically but, as a quick snap shot, […]

  2. Kathryn says:

    This is such an excellent article on why elopement photographers don’t just charge $500 to do something that seems simple and straightforward. I’m going to bookmark this!

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