Rangefinder’s Favorite Destination Wedding Photos of the Year

August 10, 2018

By The RF Team

We tasked the members of the Rf team to choose just one destination wedding photo that made them stop and pause—and explain why. Here are the results, with a common thread: Fabulous wedding portraits from around the world don’t always need to be location-specific; a hint of a country’s surroundings can add just enough flair and visual interest to strengthen the shot, while also creating a sense of place.

Photo © Petul Angeles

Photographer: Petul Angeles
Image Location: Oaxaca, Mexico

Four hours before he was going to capture this couple’s first look, Petul Angeles arrived at the Hotel Azul in Oaxaca, Mexico. This staircase caught his eye right away, and he decided he would set up the big reveal right there. But the light can change a lot in 4 hours, and on top of that, Angeles says, “the roof of the hotel was movable. When we arrived it was completely open, but minutes before the first look, they closed it partially, which turned out to be something perfect because I could see the star shape that it formed. It gave a special composition to the shot.

Why it caught my eye:

I love a shot with layers. The first commanding component for me here was actually the color of that blue wall, especially as it contrasts with the warm sunlight that bounces off of the rusty-red ground and onto the wood beams peeking out from the shadows. The lavender ombré effect in the foreground is as much of a bonus in my book as the spontaneous star shape. Not only do the shadow lines from the twin roofs happen to line up with the stairs on both sides, but Angeles also cropped in from the top so that the shape wouldn’t be ruined by the moveable roof’s full arch. As with any good destination photo, I’m getting a feel for the location, especially with that Aztec pyramid-like staircase and those filigreed white flags. (At first, I thought they were the backs of chairs lined up for the ceremony, but then I saw that some are blowing in the wind—and at closer inspection, they include the groom’s name: Cameron.) Despite all of this exquisite detail, this photo does not feel constructed or posed. The bride—who, come on, is literally glowing—is seconds from meeting her groom in their wedding attire. How fitting that the beauty of that impending moment, suspended in time, is surrounded by exceptional visual and personal indications.

—Libby Peterson, Features Editor

Photo © Lukas Piatek

Photographer: Lukas Piatek
Image Location: Amanjiwo Resort, Central Java, Indonesia

According to Lukas Piatek, this wedding was “truly a dream to photograph. It was exactly what a destination wedding should be—an exotic place, warm temperatures, amazing location, a wonderful couple [Alvina and Stephen] and a truly unique experience.”

Everything, he adds, is conveyed perfectly in this image, right down to the native flowers caressing the couple’s faces and filling the frame.

Technically, it’s an in-camera double exposure with two frames—first of the bride and groom, and then of the bride’s bouquet—shot on the Canon 5D Mark IV with a Canon 35mm f/1.4L II lens at f/1.4.

Why it caught my eye:

At first glance, this may seem like a random double exposure, but the longer I gaze at it, the more I am struck by the delicate details that start to emerge and tie everything together to make this a truly stunning destination portrait.

Creatively, I love that you can see a hint of location with the mountain range in the background, as well as the atmosphere in general. Not every destination photo has to hit you over the head with an exact location to feel exotic and lush. That’s what I love most here—it’s open to personal interpretation.

—Jacqueline Tobin, Editor-in-Chief

Photo © Weddings By Qay

Photographer: Qay
image location: Singapore

Qay, an Rf 30 Rising Star in 2017, was hired to shoot an Indian wedding in Singapore, a modern city-state located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula. He captured this particular shot during a pre-wedding event at the groom’s apartment. The subject in the image, the groom’s cousin, was taking a breather on the balcony when Qay snapped this shot. “I rarely shoot a wedding or ceremony in an apartment,” he explains. “I really wanted to get the high-level view facing another building.”

Why it caught my eye:

I had the great fortune of visiting Singapore earlier this year during a whirlwind trip around Southeast Asia. While my time there was brief, I still have vivid memories (and photographs) of the country’s distinct, modern style. Looking at this image takes me right back to the view outside my hotel room. At first, the photo could be mistaken for an outtake; the cousin is silhouetted against the backdrop of a nearby building. Look closer, though, and you’ll see the nuances of Singaporean style: the greenery built into the structure of the neighboring building, the large windows and openings in the architecture, the cuboid layout of apartments. Known as the “City in a Garden,” Singapore—which, as a whole, is smaller than the five boroughs of New York City—is filled with discreet and thoughtful green spaces. In this frame, the orange flowers along the window ledge, the line of trees at the bottom of the frame and even the large, unobstructed view out the window are all subtle nods to the region’s efforts to protect and cherish green spaces as it continues to develop. For the bride and groom, it serves as a subtle but sweet reminder of their wedding destination.

—Stacey Goldberg, Managing Editor, Creative Services

Photo © Jordan Voth

photographer: Jordan Voth
image location: Amalfi Coast, Italy

When Seattle, Washington-based wedding photographer and Rf 30 Rising Star (2017) Jordan Voth first got the call for Kalen and Kyle’s wedding, it was supposed to happen more or less in his backyard. “Kalen and Kyle live in Oregon and were originally planning a big wedding there,” Voth says. “After some thought, they decided to travel back to the Amalfi Coast, which is where they got engaged.”

Voth and the couple decided to grab some additional portraits the day after the wedding and had “scoped out a rad spot” for the session in a waterway. This image came at the very end of the shoot. Voth directed the couple into the water, where he captured this image using a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 35mm f/1.4L II lens.

Why it caught my eye:

This image doesn’t scream Italian coastline, but the combination of imposing cliffs and the arched, stone bridge give it an Old-World feel. Beyond the towering landscape, there’s a lot of symbolism in this image that makes it, in my view, a great wedding photo. For one thing, we’ve been conditioned by years of Grimm fairy tales to expect ugly, trollish-things lurking beneath bridges. Voth’s image flips that script and instead gives us a scene of carefree love. Then there’s the symbolism of the bridge itself, connecting two separate and imposing landmasses in much the same way that marriage bridges two disconnected individuals into lifelong union. The couple is perfectly situated between the two landmasses with background light tracing a path directly to their feet.

—Greg Scoblete, Senior Technology Editor

Photo © Hartman Outdoor Photography

photographer: Shelley Hartman
image location: Jökulsárlón, Iceland

Having already visited this “very uniquely Icelandic” spot, Shelley Hartman says she knew she wanted to go there with this couple, who were in Iceland on their honeymoon, for their post-wedding photo session. “I took them to a little pull-off along the road so we could hike into our own private section of the lagoon,” Hartman explains. “It was very chilly and windy—we actually didn’t spend too much time here before running back to our cars and blasting the heat. I took this image from uphill so that I could get the best view of as many little icebergs in the photo as possible. Even with the cold, they were such good sports!”

Why it caught my eye:

The contrast in this photo grabbed me immediately, but it was the subtle illusion in the image that kept my eyes on it. At first glance, I saw an attractive landscape image, but I was quickly moved diagonally from the white glaciers in the upper left corner of the background to the couple holding hands on the opposite side of the image in the foreground.

The bride and groom themselves weren’t the initial focus to me, and I appreciate that. I had to be led to them by the other elements of the photograph. This is all achieved by the shape and translucence of the bride’s dress that mimics the color and shape of the glaciers behind her. It’s as if she is part of the water, and the groom, in his dark suit, is part of the rocky shore. Together, the couple meets holding hands at the water’s edge. There, the warm color tone of the couple’s skin against the crisp blue water adds another level of dimension and anchors the focus on them.

—Zachary Gilyard, Art Director

Photo © Aria Isadora/Zach Hilty for

photographers: Aria Isadora, Zach Hilty + Dave Prutting
image location: Marrakesh, Morocco

BFA Weddings co-founder Dave Prutting knew these two separately before they became a couple. “Both asked about the other to me to see what I thought,“ he says, so it was fitting that years later, they’d ask the BFA team to shoot their weekend of wedding festivities in Morocco.

The photographers arrived a couple days early to scout locations for the half-dozen looks they’d be shooting. “The heat in Morocco was pretty intense,“ Isadora says, so they saved these iconic-looking tiled pillars for the couple’s actual wedding portraits—that way, they’d catch them looking their best.

Why it caught my eye:

This photo of Hannah Bronfman and Brendan Fallis—both health and wellness entrepreneurs, and DJs—offers just a glimpse at their Insta-fabulous Moroccan wedding. Photographers Aria Isadora, Zach Hilty and Dave Prutting of BFA Weddings captured every aspect of this four-day celebration, but it was this serene moment that really lingered in my memory. The romantic, dreamy quality of the image goes hand in hand with the symmetrical composition and posing. Their loving glances against a backdrop of gorgeously colored tiles instantly transports you to Marrakesh. Often, celebrity wedding coverage can be lackluster; photographers might sometimes rely on their famous subjects to carry the images, or perhaps the hectic nature of a press-heavy affair such as this doesn’t always allow lots of time for creativity. But this one is different. Isadora and Hilty were careful about how they framed this shot, and it will serve as a lasting memento that encapsulates the love between this couple on that day.

—Moneer Masih-Tehrani, Creative Services Director

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