It’s 2017 you all. More and more couples are thinking outside of “local” when they go to choose their wedding photographer. (See: How to Choose the Right Wedding Photographer for YOU!)
And we’ve all seen the photography Instagram bios. You might even have one: “Chicago + Worldwide”, “Have Camera, Will Travel”, “Texas and beyond”, “Passport ready!”…No shame in it! Mine over at @lyndseygarber currently says “Traveler. New Mexico Based.”
Who wouldn’t want to get paid to travel? I LOVE it. Travelust runs in my blood and experiencing new places feeds my soul.
But the truth is A LOT of people WANT to be a traveling photographer but very few have actually booked paying destination clients. I get asked almost daily through social media, emails and phone calls…”What’s your secret to becoming a traveling photographer?”
And now after having walked-the-walk of a traveling/destination photographer I’m here to bust a few myths and bring to light some truths.
Ok this can kinda work if you’ve got lotsa time and moolah. But I’ve also watched a lot of my photographer friends dump thousands of dollars into traveling and styled shoots in highly coveted areas…with no return. Iceland anyone?
So how did I do it? I sure as heck couldn’t afford traveling like that. The honest-to-goodness-truth is I didn’t set out to become at traveling wedding photographer. I didn’t even market for it…it ACCIDENTLY HAPPENED.
Before I ever booked my first travel client, I’d spent 5 years developing my skills, brand, reputation, style and business. I worked HARD exceed client expectations and connect with my followers. I strove to be genuine, real and authentic. And I worked to consistently put content in front of my fans that tugged at their heartstrings.
Eventually, people from afar saw my work and felt I was worth the investment. That is how I got started, plain and simple. Sorry it’s not more earth shaking.
My solid inquiries usually always start with: “I’ve followed you for years!” “My first thought after getting engaged was I hope I can book Lyndsey!” “I’ve always dreamed of you taking my pictures.”
What my inquiries don’t say: “I found you on google.” “I saw you use #jacksonholeweddingphotographer.” “Your bio says you travel.”
Side note: Hashtags & SEO are really really important. I’ll blog about it sometime. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.
I know I sound like I’m contradicting my first “Myth” by saying this is a truth. What I was saying up there is that trying to “force” it like that doesn’t always work. But the truth is that once you start to book real, paying clients…the more people will actually start to think of you as a traveling photographer.
You can shout that you’re a “traveling photographer” until you are blue in the face. People are watching to see if you REALLY are traveling to shoot real weddings for real clients? This is their once-in-a-life-time wedding day and hiring a wedding photographer + travel this is a really big investment and don’t think they aren’t watching to see how “legit” you are.
Booking travel photography starts slow. But then it builds and grows. The more people see the successful results of your travel the more they will be willing to invest in you.
No. It’s not. Flight delays. Weather cancellations. Early mornings. Creepy gas stations. Late nights. Running to catch shuttles. Hassling with rental-car companies. Long lines. Eating on the run.
So while IT IS fun to travel. It isn’t ALWAYS fun to travel. You just have to weight the pros-cons and decide if your love of adventure outweighs the stressful situations that are inevitable with traveling.
It’s glamorous be a “traveling photographer” until you look at your bank account.
For most photographers starting to wade into the world of travel…you are gonna have to eat some travel cots. And if you ask a lot of travel photographers, when they subtract what they are spending in travel, they are likely going to be making around the same as their local peers…or less, because travel is so time-consuming they have to take fewer clients.
It’s a growing process. You can’t jump from being a $3000 local to a $9000 traveling photographer. It’s baby steps. But always be sure you are calculating your CODB (cost of doing business) and charging at least what you need to break even at first. You can’t properly serve your clients if you can’t afford to pay your bills.
And it takes you away from your loved ones and community.
Last year I spent 61 nights and 97 days away from my husband and daughter. And the hours and hours of time it takes to price shop and book flights, hotels, rental cars, etc…is unbelievable.
In a perfect world, I’d take Nelson and Paisley with me on EVERY trip. But did I mention how expensive travel is?
It won’t happen overnight. But you CAN make your dreams happen. I know I once believed I’d never be “one of those” photographers that had the kind of dream clients who wouldn’t hesitate to fly me across the country….
Two years ago my clients were 100% local New Mexico. In 2017, 100% of my clients are travel/destination.
If I can do it, you can too!
PS. Keep in mind you if you choose to pursue travel…consult with a professional regarding paying taxes. Different states all have different requirements. It gets really confusing really quick who you need to pay and who you don’t.
Myths and Truths about becoming a Traveling Photographer | Lyndsey Garber Photography