Brittany West is an elopement and destination wedding photographer who helps plan, coordinate, and capture the most important days of a couples married life in scenic locations.
For most people, a wedding day is one of the most important days in their lives, and for 54 percent of men and 60 percent of women, it is the only wedding day they will have. So, making sure everything runs smoothly from having the best wedding cars, wedding reception, and of course the best photographer is essential.
Choosing the best photographer who will capture every important moment of the wedding and turn those images into a thousand words can be difficult. The trends of just having a wedding photographer have changed, and now people are hiring destination wedding photographers who will travel all the way to the wedding location. One elopement and destination wedding photographer who has become one of the best in the business has traveled all of the world helping the bride and groom have the best day of their lives.
I sat down with Brittany West to learn more about life as an Elopement and destination wedding photographer, this is what she had to say.
Can you share a bit of background about yourself and how you got into photography?
I got into photography after opening a Best Buy credit card account and being told I needed to use it, or it would be closed after about two years of never buying anything. I bought a DSLR camera and learned to use it to document my life and my children’s life. I enjoyed it and started second shooting for a local photographer capturing weddings and Bah Mitzvahs. Before becoming a photographer my husband and I were both active-duty army and we were business owners.
Ok, can I stop you there. What is a destination elopement photographer?
Essentially, it is a photographer serving domestic and international locations for couples wanting to elope. Some photographers only service a certain area or state. I do not set boundaries on the couples wanting to elope, I want them to have the exact location they want and the elopement photographer they want with the artistic style that they desire their wedding images to have.
Can you remember the first picture you ever took, and the first professional picture you took?
I can’t remember the first picture I ever took but I do remember my grandparents allowing me to play with their old, cedar trunk that sat at the end of their bed with vintage old polaroid cameras in it, there was a wooden tray in it with storage space underneath. This is where the real treasure was; I can still smell that woody fragrance when I think about it but there were probably around a hundred of images dating all the way back to civil war era to around the 1960s, all the people in it were my ancestors. I loved rummaging through old tin types and the discolored, fading images on thick stock paper and imagined what these people were like.
These images were so old that my great grandmother couldn’t tell me much other than their names, but it was nice to put faces to those names and pick out the family facial features that were passed along. So, I guess you could say the most earliest influencing photography memories didn’t come from using a camera but more from enjoying the pictures from so many years ago.
What made you want to pursue photography as a career?
I love working with couples and giving them something a bit different that still has a timeless style. I want to not only document them on their wedding day, but I want to document it in a creative way. Thinking about the generations to come that will love those images feeds my soul. When I am posing a couple, I think about how I could portray them to show future generations their deep connect. I like to think of myself as a historian for future generations and my lens is the medium that tells that story.
And why did you choose destination weddings & elopements as your focus?
Elopements are always small and destination weddings usually have a smaller guest list as well. I can really capture the connection between the couple, a traditional wedding goes by so quickly and there is a large emphasis on the family including extended family. It’s hard to make a wedding about the couple when the guests in attendance make it seems more like a family reunion. If family does attend its usually immediate family or people that have a really meaningful connection to the couple, and I always feel more inspired when there is a real story and bond between these people.
Was it hard to get established as a destination elopement photographer?
It took about a year to develop a decent portfolio that really showed that I am skilled in location scouting and it took some time to develop the best way to educate my clients on the differences between a traditional wedding photographer and an elopement photographer and how they are both different.
How did you manage to get your first booking?
A wedding photographer friend of mine had a couple change their original date and decided the stress of a wedding with a 200-person guest list wasn’t worth it so she asked me if I could help her out because she was booked on the new wedding date that they wanted. The new location was an 8-hour drive away and she didn’t want to travel that far. Ever since then I knew that elopements and destination weddings were my niche.
What is the advantage for the couple of having a destination photographer?
Destination wedding photographers are usually very adaptable and can adjust quickly to changing circumstances that deviate from the initial plan. Whether that’s a change in weather or wedding timeline. There is a greater emphasis on their style because there is an understanding that clients want you based off your artistic talents and not because of the proximity to the wedding location.
When you are hired to take photographs for a wedding, what research is needed on the location of the wedding?
Sometimes restrictions are in place at certain times of the year. Accessibility can be a big issue and that’s why I always check out the location the day prior to the elopement and keep additional locations in mind if there is a circumstance like bad weather that might need me to change the location.
How many images do you take during a typical wedding, and how many of those pictures do you use for the final wedding album?
That is all dependent on how long I am booked. My packages range all the way from 6 hours to two days. For a 6-hour elopement I usually deliver around 400 images. It can be more depending on what is going on. During the ceremony I’m constantly shooting, and that specific event will always have more images. The number of images within an album is always determined by the album size that the couples decide upon. I send all my images to the couple through an online gallery, so it is up to them what goes into the wedding album.
What do you find most challenging about wedding photography?
If I could clone myself and be in two places at once, then 99% of my problems would be solved. Marketing could be a whole 40 hour a week job and there is always a list of things that I need to get done to market my business.
What tips would you suggest for couples looking to have a destination wedding?
I have so many, and I feel like this question is the ongoing topic of my blog. My best tip is to utilize your vendors and wedding party, even if you need a favor that isn’t within the typical job description it never hurts to ask. There have been times when I needed to meet a florist to pick up a bouquet or made a run to the store to grab a bride some false lashes. They are there to support you and as a wedding vendor I want the couple to have the least amount of stress and really enjoy the process including the planning.
What do you wish people would understand better about hiring a photographer for their wedding?
Choosing a photographer based off their style will lead to a more satisfying outcome. Most photographers on vendor preferred lists at resorts, hotels and venues have simply paid to be there. It’s unfortunately another advertising medium and another way for venues to make money.
You must have been to some magical places, what has been your favourite?
I love Yosemite National Park and Iceland. The locations and light in Iceland are just amazing and Yosemite National Park has so many epics but accessible locations so going to several different locations within one day is possible.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Various movies, typically love stories. Water for Elephants with Reese Witherspoon is a great movie to watch and see how the characters connect in the romance scenes. There is an indie film named To the Wonder with Ben Affleck that has amazing cinematography and I have used many movie stills from this film as inspiration, pretty much any movie directed by Terrance Malick captures light and connection beautifully.
Is there any picture you have taken that sticks in your mind?
Of course, there are the ones that are artistically pleasing and have gotten quite a bit of social media attention and shares but the ones that speak to me the most have an element of human emotion behind them. It’s a bride embracing her mother that is sick with cancer or the groom helping the 4-year-old ring bearer tie his shoes that is about to become his stepson that are my favorites.
What is the secret to taking a good picture?
Most photographers would say good lighting is the first element in every genre of photography and angles are important as well but anyone that is taking a picture should ask themselves what they are trying to communicate to whoever is viewing the image and make a decision based upon the answer to that question. I’ve taken pictures in all types of lighting situations where it wouldn’t be considered traditionally beautiful but because a message and mood were communicated through the image it worked out well.
Can you describe when you use flash and natural light during a wedding?
I only use flash for receptions with dark rooms otherwise I use natural light or am working with the ambient lighting that is available.
And how important is natural light for taking a great picture?
It’s one of the most important elements of a great image but it’s more important to know how to make the best of it. While there are other aspects that are important lighting is so much more than just a tool used to flatter a subject. Lighting can communicate and help to set the scene so much.
What are the most challenging situations you have experienced in your professional career?
The decision to become a destination elopement photographer meant that I would be traveling more and away from my family. I am lucky to have a supporting family and extended family to help with my children when I am working. It took me about 10 months to come to the conclusion that I would best serve my clients if I loved what I did.
What has influenced your style and work the most?
I love color in pictures, it’s very rare that I decide to edit an image in black and white and of course connection, intimacy and the dynamic between a couple gives me inspiration.
Is there anywhere in the world that you would love to go to as a destination elopement photographer?
Bali and Santorini are definitely on my bucket list and there is actually something in the works for Santorini so right now I am crossing my fingers and hoping next year I will get to capture a beautiful wedding in Greece.
Do you have any tips you could share for aspiring elopement photographers out there?
Yes. Try to focus on creating a great experience for your client and brush up on your communication skills. Help them to make their wedding day the best day possible
Learn more about Elopement and destination wedding photographer Brittany West here https://brwest.com/