Header photo: Tony Wodarck. Tahiti? Maybe, but actually San Diego. Just matters where you geotag and hashtag.
I recently sat down with destination wedding photographer, Jarrod J. He's been shooting weddings for four years and his work is absolutely jaw-dropping. I personally haven't really gone after the destination wedding market as much because with my family and full-time job, it just doesn't make a lot of sense at this point. That doesn't mean that I don't totally drool over every incredible destination wedding photog I follow, Jarrod J. especially.
HOW TO BOOK DESTINATION WEDDINGS
BOOKING THROUGH PRIOR SHOOTS
I think one of Jarrod's most unique ways he books the majority of his destination weddings is through his background shooting grad photos. To be totally honest, when he said grad photos I pictured those weird glamour shot backdrops of people in their cap and gown. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. Jarrod just posted a photo from a recent shoot he did in Arizona and now I completely understand. He's doing beautiful natural light portraits of women at their college campus. Case in Point:
By working with predominately women at the end of their college career he is forming a relationship that starts at an opportune time and is then able to book the majority of his weddings through these newly formed relationships. He travels to schools throughout the country to shoot these grad photos. This may not be the strategy for everyone, but is a great formula that has worked perfectly for him.
THE ART OF HASHTAGGING
A more tactical way for everyone is simply hashtagging. You do city/state + wedding photographer, or wedding photography, or weddings. So for example: #ItalyWeddingPhotographer. Jarrod also isn't afraid to geotag locations even if the photo wasn't from that spot. If the photo he's posting looks like Greece and he's hoping to shoot there, he'll tag the photo popular cities within that country. This helps bring attention to his work from people searching those areas
A very effective way that's a bit more aggressive is to run targeted Facebook/Instagram ads. He'll pick the city/state he wants to shoot in and spend a couple hundred bucks running ads to drive leads. If he's able to book a wedding or two from it, it's worthwhile.
TIPS FOR TRAVELING
SHOOT WHAT YOU SHOW
One thing you'll hear a lot of photograhers say is you're going to shoot what you show. So if you want to book more destination weddings, you need to show more destination weddings, or couples while you travel. So what do yo do if you don't have the bookings? I loved this idea from Jarrod. You can go there on personal travel, or for one booked gig. While you're there you can ask random couples to photograph them in beautiful spots. It only takes a few minutes, you shoot some portfolio/social media shots, and then you can share the photos with them later after you edit them. You've built a relationship that might turn in to a future lead. You've also snagged a handful of insta bangers that you can hashtag and geotag your heart out.
FLY UNDER THE RADAR
One thing to be careful of is not drawing too much attention to yourself while traveling. There's a difference between a professional traveling with a ton of gear and a hobbyist traveling with his kit. You can break up your gear in to separate bags or try and pack as light as possible. You can try and pack light, but also make sure your critical gear always stays with you. Don't forget to consider your backup system as you travel. The airline lost your wedding photos isn't a fun excuse.
SCOUT AHEAD OF TIME
One thing that's important if you're shooting in a foreign place is showing up early and scout locations ahead of time. You want to see how the light hits different spots learn the restrictions and opportunities around the venue or desire shoot locations. Doing this all ahead of time makes it so you don't stumble come the big day.
One of the final questions I asked Jarrod, was "what was the best thing you've bought for your business besides a camera body or lens?". He quickly replied, insurance. I LOVE THAT ANSWER. Last weekend I watched a guy drop his 85mm lens off a cliff straight in to the ocean. My first thought, I hope you have insurance. He didn't... It costs a few hundred bucks a year to get proper liability, errors & omissions and protect your camera gear. You provide a list of your gear with serial numbers, and if anything happens to it, you just have to pay the deductible.
Last question I stole from Brianna Broyles. What's your favorite emoji? Jarrod's response. Hands up, all day. 🙌 Mine too Jarrod. I knew I liked you.
If this article helped, please shoot me a DM on Instagram or leave a comment below. Are you left with more questions? Don't hesitate to reach out. Good luck traveling and shooting!