Deb and Jim, a couple currently living in Virginia, decided to have their wedding in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Whenever I get asked to do a destination wedding, the reasons behind it usually have to do with (a) the client REALLY¬† loves my photography and (b) it’s hard to know what you are going to get if you hire a photographer locally in the islands. While I’m always flattered about letter “a,” it also makes you feel, to some extent, that you have to really, really, deliver in order for the client to maintain that it was worth flying you down there in the first place. In the case of Deb and Jim’s wedding, I can honestly say I walked away feeling that I accomplished that mission. The photos are beautiful!

Island Weddings: The Island Vibe!

Weddings that take place in the islands are really-wonderful-but-entirely-different than Philly weddings. First off, there are usually a lot less people in attendance. Also, the event is very compressed. The entire event from beginning to end usually takes less than 5 hours, as opposed to the 10-12 hour days we usually shoot when doing local weddings. In fact, The Ritz Carlton in St. Thomas did multiple weddings that weekend, which happened to be Thanksgiving weekend as well.

Deb and Jim had about 35 of their closest friends and family along for the trip, and it was clear that everyone was settled into the island pace by the time we arrived. The pace is wonderfully slow and relaxed, and spending the entire day on the beach was a lot easier than I thought (C’mon, I didn’t go down there JUST to work!). I usually get restless on the beach, but somehow, I was really content to just hang out. Maybe it was that island wait staff that kept bringing strange rum drinks to me every 25 minutes…

Ok, back to the wedding…

You could of course, look at the compressed timeline as a disadvantage, as I was aspiring to get all the same shots I would have gotten if I had a “normal” amount of time to shoot the wedding. Thanks, however, to the formidable planning skills of the bride, we were able to figure out a schedule that worked photographically. For me, a key element when shooting a wedding is to get the photos I need to get without making the bride and groom feel like their day is all about the photography. It’s a slippery slope, but through many years of experience I’ve learned how to manage it very successfully.

Do your Homework

Since I arrived on location 2 days early, I took a lot of time to walk the property to find the best locations for photography. Islands are tricky during the day, because the sun is typically casting hard light just about everywhere. It’s important to scout your locations at about the same time you plan to shoot at the actual event, so you can figure out where the sun is, where the shade is…these variables are pretty constant from day to day assuming the weather is largely the same. I found some wonderful outdoor locations as well as some really nice shaded indoor locations. As usual, I had my off-camera lighting assistant with me, who happened to be my wife for this trip. Off camera light when you’re outdoors can really save you by filling the shadows as a secondary light (fill) while using the sun as the primary light (key). I use the light both ways. I recommend if you’re planning to shoot an event, whether it’s here or anywhere, go find the light and assess the challenges and advantages the light will present. Your shoot will go better if you do!

Anyway, my thanks to Deb and Jim for having us down there. It takes a lot to get a photographer to a location, and when the client feels that strongly about you as a photographer, you want to make sure you don’t disappoint. For me, this was a wildly successful destination wedding, and stay tuned to hear about where we might be traveling next year!