Elopement Photography Tips
Coming to Scotland for an elopement? Fantastic – you’ve chosen a brilliant place for your wedding. Having had the privilege of shooting hundreds of weddings of all types and sizes I’ve put together 7 elopement photography tips that, as a photographer, I think might make your day a little bit easier and make the photographs that extra bit more lovely. For some of the tips it might already be too late but, if not, just see them as friendly pieces of advice that you can ignore if you like. Above all else, please don’t ever hesitate to ask me a question and I will always be delighted to help. I have been photographing weddings of every kind all over Scotland for 20 years and am always delighted to be able to help.
You can of course completely ignore all of these tips and forge your own path. That is generally what most of my clients have done and, it goes without saying, I will work with you on the day and help you come away with great photographs regardless. However, if you can even give just a small thought to any of the things I’ve written about below it might make your day just that little bit more enjoyable and, as a result, improve your photographs even a tiny bit.
Tip 1 – Timing
With no venue to work around, or long guest list of people to please, you are literally free to be married at whatever time of the day you like. I have found that all wedding suppliers tend to fall into the mindset of automatically having the ceremony at 2 PM regardless of the time of the year simply because, well, that’s the time that weddings always are. As a photographer I can tell you that 2 PM is not really the best time to get married, unless your wedding is perhaps between October and March, because the light is far from ideal.
I do have to say in advance that a lot of this depends upon whether or not it is sunny on your wedding day which, assuming you are planning your wedding in Scotland, is definitely not a given. The sun actually does make an appearance here quite a bit though, so it is worth thinking about. The two absolute best times of the day for photography are just after sunrise in the morning and just before sunset in the evening.
Now, although I am very happy to get up early and travel to a wedding to be there at sunrise I do understand that this isn’t always practical for your wedding. Nobody wants a grumpy bride who had to get up at 3 AM in the morning to have her hair and makeup done so the morning may not be so easy, which is a shame because I am forever driving up through Glencoe early in the morning, on the way to a wedding, thinking just how spectacular the lighting is at that time of the day. One easy solution is to get married in the winter when you can get the same 6 AM June morning light at 10 AM in January (but you’ll definitely want to sneak some thermals under your outfits for that one).
In the summer months in Scotland – April to August – you can try and schedule your wedding to be later in the afternoon. At 2 PM the sunlight is most likely directly overhead casting terrible shadows. The light is stark and there is little you can do in terms of creativity. Obviously I usually just have to put up with it, such is the life of a wedding photographer, but where possible I would urge you to consider a later ceremony time of 4 PM or thereabouts. Of course, as for the early morning ceremonies you could get married in the winter when it is dark by 3.30 PM but that brings with it other issues such as the sleet and gales.
Above all else, please just ask. If you are unsure about the best time for your ceremony on a given day simply send me a message and I will always be more than happy to advise.
Tip 2 – Shoes
If you are getting married in the city centre, or maybe even a Scottish Castle, this advice is probably less relevant but if you are planning to go up to the highlands for something a little more remote then please read on. Over the years I have photographed so many weddings where the bride (and sometimes the groom) have seriously regretted their choice of footwear.
I am all for fancy shoes, don’t get me wrong, but a pair of Laboutin heels are not going to make walking about in the squelchy heather much fun for you. I would urge you to at least think about your shoe choice. Will your footwear dictate what you do, or don’t do, on your day? Will you want to walk across the sandy beach or up to the top of a viewpoint in Glencoe if it will spoil your shoes or be uncomfortable? Will anyone ever even see your shoes? There are, of course, three solutions. You could wear the shoes and accept that they will get moss and deer poo on them. You could go all-out and wear something more robust (I’m not necessarily talking about hiking boots here either, although they can be cool too) or you could bring something better for walking in and change into your fancy shoes for the ceremony and photographs.
Tip 3 – The Dress
The same advice for Tip Two applies here too. Even I really do appreciate that you will want to have a lovely dress and, although I won’t pretend to always understand why someone would buy something so impractical, I have no problem with that whatsoever. However, I get disappointed on behalf of my clients when I have pre-wedding chats with couples who are full of wonderful ideas about photographs next to remote lochsides. They describe images of themselves walking side by side across the white sands of Morar; they show me photographs of couples on a rocky outcrop overlooking the river Etive and want that for themselves. And then, on the day, they arrive with a beautiful dress with a 2 metre long train and announce that they can’t do any of those things that they really wanted to do because it would ruin the hem.
Basically what I am trying to say is, don’t let your dress ruin your enjoyment of your wedding day. I have worked with countless brides who have had the most beautiful dresses that were also practical (in a fancy frock sort of way). Some had short trains and some were simply short. Pockets are useful too (anyone have a tissue?), as is finding a dress that’s loose enough to fit a set of thermals underneath if you plan to be outside. Don’t laugh – I have had plenty of brides with amazing dresses who were wearing Smartwool leggings underneath. Your wedding dress might just be the most expensive item of clothing you will ever wear – at least make sure that it fits into your vision for your wedding day.
Tip 4 – Location
If you’re coming to Scotland then you can get married pretty much anywhere you like. Many of my clients have visited before and had a favourite loch or glen that they fell in love with. There are countless castles and properties you can rent for any size of wedding so the world (well, Scotland) is your oyster as they say. One thing to think about when choosing a spot to say “I Do” is it’s popularity. Now I like the Quairaing on the Isle of Skye as much as the next person but it did always strike me as slightly odd that you’d trek all the way to the tip of a Scottish island only to be married at the exact same spot as everyone else. The Quairaing, along with so many other places, can be really busy with tourists all year round and you might find that you are not the only couple getting married there either.
Just about all of Scotland is lovely. When you drive to the Quairaing you have to pass so many lovely beaches and rugged mountainsides that would make great spots for your elopement. I would suggest making a trip to choose the place for your wedding a few months before the day itself if possible. Drive around the islands and up and down the glens and I promise you will see the perfect spot. If you can’t come and visit (sorry folks in the USA) then ask around. I know some places, your celebrant will know some places and the internet is full of places. I guess what I am trying to say is, don’t just plump for a popular location just because everyone else likes it. There are a lot of other spots that are most likely quieter and far more secluded. The picture below is Glen Nevis and there were exactly zero other people in that spot that day.
Tip 5 – Be Happy
You have already made the decision to elope. Whether you are with only your partner, or perhaps you have bought along a few friends and family, you don’t have to do any of the things that you might not want to. There’s no need to inherit any of the customs and traditions from a full-size wedding if you don’t want to. You don’t even need to have a photographer (but you might regret that later). Above all, the very best thing you can focus on is simply doing whatever makes you happy. If you are happy and comfortable on your wedding day then not only will it shine through in your photographs but you will definitely have so much more fun.
Tip 6 – Midges
Unless you are getting married from November to April you really need to consider midges, particularly in the Highlands. Scotland is ever so beautiful and must be one of the best places to be married outside but, like so much else else in life, there is a downside. These little guys are not like mosquitos. They are much tinier and much more numerous and they love eating people. Fortunately all is not lost. No matter what alternatives people tell you are the best, there is a product that I cannot recommend enough called Smidge. Everyone has their own preferred repellant, and I am sure I have tried all of them, but this one works REALLY well and it smells nice. It works so well compared to other products in fact, that I often end up dishing it out at weddings to people who didn’t listen and bought something else with them. I have photographed 12 hour weddings in damp woodland and survived unscathed whilst my comrades have been eaten alive. Don’t make that mistake and pick up some Smidge, you won’t regret it.
Tip 7 – Videography
I am guessing that you are going to spend a fair wee while choosing a photographer whom you can relate to and is going to be able to capture your wedding for you in the way you would like. My clients tend to choose me for my relaxed documentary style of photography, and also for my many years experience as a wedding photographer. If you are being quite picky about your photographer (as you definitely ought to be) you should be equally as choosy when it comes to picking a videographer too. There isn’t much point booking someone to photograph your elopement because you like their relaxed vibe but then picking a videographer who is very staged and specialises in heavily posed shoots.
If you get stuck or would like some recommendations I can certainly send you a list of the people I have worked with before who will film your wedding for you in a very similar style to my own way of working.