My best tips for becoming a top destination wedding photographer.
Destination wedding photography is a part of my business that I truly adore. Glamorous locations combined with a holiday atmosphere, and a chance for me to see a bit more of the world. It is however, not for everyone. Below I have listed a collection of pro’s and con’s along with some tips and advice on how succeed in the world of destination wedding photography.
Firstly, I’ve come up with 3 negatives of travelling afar to shoot weddings.
Time. As professional photographers our most valuable asset is our time, and travelling abroad takes lots of it! If you are attending a wedding in the UK no doubt you will always leave plenty of spare time for unexpected travel delays – one to two hours maybe if it’s a lengthy distance away? With overseas weddings these hours need to become days. Ultimately if your flight is cancelled/delayed it is not your brides problem – you HAVE to be there and if that means flying one to two days earlier then that is what you will need to do. My advice would be to embrace this and take the chance to grab a day or two’s relaxation in the prior to the wedding. Having said that, you also need to consider the impact that undertaking too many destination weddings might have on your family life. After years of travelling abroad I’ve learnt to be much pickier now on the destination weddings that I accept.
Money. This leads on to my next point. Spending a few days in the sun is all very well, but this extra time is your insurance policy against delays and as such it isn’t an expense that you can justifiably pass on to your customer. Yes, the night before and the night after the event is fair enough, but any more than that would be a little unreasonable. In addition to this, you may be one of the best destination wedding photographers in the UK, but at the end of the day you are still working on behalf of your client – 5 star hotels with luxurious spa’s and prosseco on tap are all off the cards. A budget airline return flight and a modest local B&B is the most likely scenario. I make a point of never discounting my wedding photography prices, but with business expenses I feel it is important to offer realistic value to my customers. Another factor to consider is that a destination wedding on a Saturday will mean that you will lose the ability to shoot another wedding on the Friday or possibly even the Thursday too. With many venues/suppliers offering discounts Thursday and Friday weddings are getting more and more popular.
Language. OK so I am lucky – I speak English and am incredibly lucky that a huge part of the world is savvy to my local tongue. However, this is not always the case. As I’m sure you are aware, at weddings you very regularly need to react fast to situations. As the photographer I am often the only person available to help my brides when the unexpected occurs. A rip in her dress, a spillage, a delayed wedding car – all of these are things that your bride should not be dealing with. if I am the only person available it is IMPERATIVE that I can easily and swiftly communicate with the local staff. My advice – take a phrase book and familiarise yourself with the local language. You never know, it could be a life saver!
OK, so if I’ve ruined your mood with all the negatives, here comes the good bits. Please don’t get me wrong, I love destination weddings and I am sure you will too. I just felt it was important to highlight the downsides before moving onto (in my opinion) the far outweighing upsides.
Light. Hands down my favourite part of weddings in sunnier climates is the light. I shoot all my destination weddings using medium format film and having good light to work with makes my job SO much easier. The golden light of the south of France is just a delight to work with and makes the whole experience more pleasurable. Contrast this with a rainy, grey and drab London. Really there is no competition.
Venues. Sunnier climates mean that many of the major part of the wedding day are held outside. Dark churches are swapped for island beaches, and old english banquet halls are swapped for flowery verandas. Capturing beautiful pictures becomes infinitely easier in beautiful locations!
Atmosphere. All weddings have a fabulous atmosphere. Everyone is there in the right frame of mind; to celebrate the marriage of someone close to them and have as much fun as they can. But destination weddings have the added bonus that everyone also feels like they are on holiday. Good wedding photography will really show the emotion of an occasion and with everyone in the holiday/wedding mood it will make life so much easier for you as a photographer.
So to summarise, weddings abroad are fabulous to shoot in so many ways, but just be careful that you account for all the extra costs, time and extra complications that are involved.