It’s becoming more and more common for couples to hire wedding photographers who aren’t local. As a traveling wedding photographer based in Berks County, Pennsylvania, I have photographed weddings on both the east and west coasts and thought it would be beneficial to share the questions that you need to be asking before hiring a non-local wedding photographer.
If the wedding is within driving distance (typically within 4 hours), be sure to ask if they have a reliable car (you don’t want them relying solely on public transportation on the day of your wedding). Also note how much time they allow for reaching your venue, being certain that they are allotting time for the unexpected, such as traffic. You want a photographer who arrives to your wedding fully awake and refreshed, so if they will be driving more than 3 hours, be sure to ask if they will be arriving the evening before your wedding.
For weddings that require air travel, always ask when your photographer plans to arrive to their destination. They should plan to land 2 days prior to the wedding, to account for any travel delays or cancellations and to familiarize themselves a bit with the area. If they insist that they would be fine landing the evening before, or even the morning-of, the wedding, it may be best to continue your search for a photographer elsewhere.
New laws state that a driver’s license or ID card must be Real ID compliant. Some states, including Pennsylvania, are not compliant and therefore a passport is required to travel by air – yep, even domestically. While it isn’t necessarily your responsibility to ensure that your photographer is legally able to travel, it may be a good idea to ask if they have the proper travel documents. The last thing you want is a phone call from the airport, letting you know that they aren’t able to travel to your wedding!
It is also important to ask your wedding photographer how they will be transporting their gear. The idea of checking bags full of photo equipment is just plain scary It’s all too likely that their camera and lens will arrived damaged (just think of how much those suitcases get tossed around – yikes!) Without hesitation, they should assure you that all of their equipment will be packed in their carry on.
While you may not be able to schedule an engagement session if you are considering a photographer from a distance, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still receive the same experience as other brides! Ask if you’ll be able to “meet” virtually (skype, facetime, etc) prior to the wedding and if he or she will be reaching out to you periodically throughout the planning process.
Odds are, your photographer is using a camera that writes to two cards. This means that at the end of the day, all of your photos are on two separate memory cards. If the venue is within driving distance, this should be plenty of protection for your images -provided that your photographer doesn’t leave the memory cards in the car, unattended (Yes, I’ve heard of it happening. Yes, the cards and equipment were stolen. No, they never got them back).
When flying, however, it may be a good idea to add a little more protection to your memories. In addition to keeping each memory card in separate spots (for example, one in a purse, another in the camera bag), it is wise to add an additional back up such as a travel hard drive or uploading them to the cloud…or better yet, both.
(Just a quick note, this article is intended for weddings in the United States only. Wedding photography travel to international destinations varies greatly from country to country and I do not have experience in this area.)