Guest blog by Steph Cox, owner & lead photographer of Hazel Lining Photography.
Attention wedding photographers! Today’s guest blog is all about how to book your first destination wedding! So while we’re all stuck at home dreaming of far away destinations, take a peek at this blog by Steph Cox and find out how you can make those travel-work dreams happen.
While you’re home… focus on your niche!
This process will be different for everyone. Just like the start of your photography hobby. Just like the start of your photography business. Wherever you are, there is no better time to start working toward your goals than right now! One of the best places to start is by only broadcasting your ideal clients. You may still be shooting families and seniors, but if your goal is to only photograph couples and weddings in the future, just post those!
Another rule of thumb is to share your best. Social media is your best friend while you’re working toward shooting destination weddings. Instagram is made for photographers – what an amazing, free resource we have at our fingertips! Embrace all that social media has to offer, including free marketing and making new connections. Using targeted hashtags spreads your platform and shares your images with potential clients. However, it is important to use hashtags that are based on the photo you are posting because Instagram could hide your photos from even your followers if they are irrelevant to the post.
So how do you reach clientele in destination locations if you don’t have photos from that location? It’s simple: go to the places you want to shoot, and SHOOT! You will most likely have to make your own destination sessions before clients start booking you and paying you for them. Prepare for your trip by joining a Facebook group local to where you’re going and make a post asking for models – I tend to do trades with other photographers in that area so we both get something out of it. Share your website and maybe a few photos, so people with similar style and aesthetic will be drawn to your work and want to model for you. You can also do this by posting an IG Story asking for models in a specific area.
Do your research on the area before you schedule your destination trade sessions to figure out exactly where you want to shoot, or even ask your models for suggestions! Find out if you need a permit to shoot where you want to, because it could take a few weeks to obtain one. When you get to your destination, make sure you have time to scout the area (I like to do this the day before so I know for sure I know how to get to the spot and where to direct my models to meet me).
Know your worth
Destination sessions while I travel are some of the only times that I will shoot for free, and I still do them! In the long run, these sessions will pay off because you will be able to post those photos, share relevant hashtags, and tag local pages to get your name out there. But eventually, you will need to start charging or they won’t be worth it.
An important factor to this is to seek out pricing trends in your preferred areas (at least when you’re first starting out). If you charge your base price — what you charge where you live — then add travel and lodging on top of that, your clients will be more likely to book a photographer local to them instead of you. To book your first destination wedding you may have to charge a bit less than what you normally would. For my first few, I only charged by base pricing and covered travel and lodging on my own. Luckily, as a business owner, I am able to write off all of these expenses which makes it sting a little less.
Eventually, you will figure out the best way to charge for destination sessions. Many photographers do a flat travel/lodging rate. I, personally, charge a lower-rate wedding or elopement package for destinations that I want to shoot at most and have my clients find my flights and lodging themselves if they want! Sometimes a room block, or even lodging in a family home is the way the clients like to keep pricing low. As always, even at home, the right clients will find value in your work no matter the cost.
Another great way to find your ideal clients is to connect with vendors in your preferred area. This goes any destination wedding as well as weddings at home! When you travel, use hashtags local to your destination to find florists, planners, dress shops, and other vendors to connect with. See if any of them need photos taken of their goods, or even if they just want to grab coffee and make a connection. If they get to know and love you, they will be much more likely to refer you to their clients!
Sometimes meeting vendors (cold call version) is a little intimidating or hard. Consider doing a wedding or elopement workshop in your preferred destination where there are already other vendors involved and make connections that way! Sure, they were there for the lead photographer, but you were there capturing their items and hopefully chatting with them. I’ve made some of my best friends this way!
It takes time!
No matter what your craft, getting to your peak, working with your ideal clients, or shooting only what you want to shoot, takes practice and time. Be patient and give yourself grace. Each photographer comes at growing their business differently, and as much as these things helped me gain some amazing clients, you may find a better way! It’s my hope that you are able to take some of these tips and implement them into your business in your own way in order to gain your dream clients! There is no time frame on progress and growth, only that you keep going.
Steph Cox is the owner & lead photographer of Hazel Lining Photography. HLP is a team of photographers captivating aesthetic moments for wile and timeless souls. We specialize in capturing raw moments with a bold, moody look for couples, weddings, and elopements all over the world!