Tips + Techniques

5 Tips to Photographing Elopements in Breathtaking Landscapes

May 14, 2019

By Brandon Fox

© The Foxes Photography

Adventure elopements are all the rage these days, with couples and photographers alike flocking to epic landscapes around the world. Inspiring these elopement dreams are stunning photos that show brides and grooms together against breathtaking backdrops of snow-capped mountains, rugged coastlines, red deserts and towering cliffs.

Capturing amazing photos in these places seems like a no-brainer, right? Just point the camera and snap in any direction—and it’s going to be epic! Well, it’s certainly harder to take a bad photo out there, but capturing a truly great photo—one that does both the landscape and the couple equal justice—isn’t a given.

There are photographers who excel at landscapes and others who take beautiful portraits. Elopement photographers need to do both in the same image.

There’s no one right way to do this; everyone has their own style. In fact, seeing photos from the same destination captured with a different eye is one of our favorite things about this industry. No matter what your style is, there are things you can do while shooting to make sure your couples really pop against a beautiful landscape. Here are five tips and tricks we use in our work to do just that.

1. Don’t focus solely on the landscape.

The landscape in this shot (made with a 50mm lens at f/1.4) is somewhat blurred out, but it’s also what makes this photo so special.

While many landscape photographers shoot wide with deep focus to capture all of the surroundings in crisp detail, it’s not always the most flattering way to shoot an environmental portrait. Just because you want to capture what the landscape looks like doesn’t mean it has to be in focus. When everything is in focus, it’s harder to make the couple stand out against the landscape.

We love shooting shallow so that the background has a soft, dreamy blur. You can still make out the mountains or cliffs or whatever the landscape is—but the focus is rightly on the couple.

2. Shoot wide, but not too wide.

This is a very wide shot (created with a 24mm lens at f/1.4). It would be easy to lose sight of the couple, but we wanted to capture that powerful feeling of standing amongst such massive trees. To make the couple stand out more, we looked for a spot that would help draw the viewer’s eye towards them. In this case, a well-positioned fallen log provided the perfect spot.

One of the best ways to capture an epic landscape is taking a wide photo of the scene. But when you do this with people in the frame, you run the risk of losing them in the composition. We’ve seen lots of photos that are flattering for landscapes but where spotting the couple is just impossible.

If you’re shooting one of these ultra-wide shots, make sure the couple is positioned in a visible area. These are some of the trickiest shots to nail, but that feeling of being really small in a vast landscape can be done right. A few of our favorite techniques are playing with movement, leading lines and silhouettes.

3. The right lens can make all the difference.

Shooting a wide shot with a long lens—like a 105mm lens, which we used here at f/3.5—can be the perfect trick to make the landscape appear even more majestic.

Choosing the right lens can also help you capture certain features of the landscape better. One of our favorite things to do is compress shots with a long lens, which makes distant mountains look much closer and more dramatic. This is an effect we’d never be able to capture at 35mm or 50mm.

4. Find a natural stage.

There’s a good reason this might be the most photographed rock in Yosemite. This was shot with a 24mm lens at f/5.6.

Whether it’s a prominent boulder, a clearing in a grassy hillside, a perch near a cliff’s edge or an opening amongst a grove of trees, finding the right spot to position the couple can make all the difference. It will help draw your eye to them, making them the main focus. Because the natural surroundings are helping to do this, the landscape is far from forgotten.

This is one of the easiest ways to blend the landscape with a beautiful portrait. We use it all the time and are often hunting for that perfect perch while exploring a new location. When you find the perfect spot, it’s like Mother Nature designed it just for that photo op.

5. Love the great outdoors.

During their ceremony, we noticed this beautiful fade of gold-to-blue happening during the sunset. Inspired, we ran back with our 50mm lens for a perspective farther back that would include the entire scene.

Okay, this might seem like a cop-out, but hear me out: When you’re really inspired by a particular landscape or hike, you see it differently. Your creativity is influenced by your sense of awe. A photographer who doesn’t get butterflies in their stomach when they’re out in these impressive landscapes isn’t going to frame the shot the same way as a photographer who is blown away by the same scene.

It’s so important to let yourself enjoy the environment in between snaps. Set the camera aside and appreciate where you are. Look around and take in the landscape from every direction. When you lift the camera back up a few minutes later, I guarantee you’ll have a fresh shot in mind that you didn’t see before.

Brandon Fox is one half of The Foxes Photography, an adventure elopement photo business that he runs on the road with his wife, Gabi, out of their 1972 Airstream. They’ve also launched From the Foxes, an educational site for photographers.


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