book destination weddings

How to Book Destination Weddings & Elopements

April 15, 2022


posted in:

For Photographers, Travel

What if I told you how to book destination weddings and elopements? That you could get paid to travel to places across the globe and explore incredible landscapes?

A lot of photographers wonder how to become a destination wedding photographer. They see others documenting epic love stories in jaw dropping locations, getting paid to travel, and exploring all over the world with adventurous couples! It may seem too good to be true, but the reality is that it’s entirely possible. However, it takes a lot of work! 

Whether you’re an established elopement photographer in your hometown and want to take your camera skills somewhere else, or you’re just getting started in the wedding world, this guide is all about how to become a destination wedding photographer and how to book couples for elopements all over the world!

What is a Destination Wedding Photographer?

What does it actually mean to be a destination wedding photographer? The definition of a destination wedding is any wedding that takes place outside of the couple’s hometown, so a destination wedding photographer is anyone who works outside of their hometown! This doesn’t have to mean traveling abroad and exploring different countries (though it definitely can) – you can be a destination elopement photographer who works in the states surrounding yours, all over the US or all over the world! Decide where you want to go, how far from home you want to travel and where you want to photograph most of your weddings and elopements.

How to Book Destination Weddings & Elopements by Traveling!

The most important thing to do when you’re working towards becoming a destination wedding and elopement photographer is to travel. While you’re traveling, you have to take photos! Now, you don’t need to be hopping from country to country all the time – but you need to genuinely love traveling if you want to do it for work… so travel when you can and bring your camera! 

Talk about your travels on your website and social media and take lots of photos. Landscape photos, along with photos of you and your travel buddies are great. If you don’t have a couple to take photos of, these are still an amazing way to start marketing yourself as a travel photographer and to share these destinations with potential couples!

How to Book Destination Weddings & Elopements by Finding Couples to Model

Searching on Instagram

While landscape photos and tripod selfies are a great start, you can also take it a step further. Finding couples to model for you is an amazing way to build your destination elopement portfolio. Since you want to photograph weddings, these will be better for marketing than regular landscape photos!

But, how do you go about finding couples to pose for photos? …Especially if you’re in a place where you don’t know anyone?

Luckily, social media makes this easy! You can browse photos through Instagram hashtags.

I recommend looking up the city you’re visiting as well as specific spots in the city. Look for couples who have taken photos together, then stalk their profiles to see if they live nearby. If they seem like good candidates, shoot them a message. You can offer them photos in exchange for their time, and see if they’re down to model!

You can also look up hashtags like “#{location}model” with the destination you’ll be visiting. This is often even better, because the people using this hashtag usually have more experience in front of the camera. See if you can tell from their profile if they’re coupled up and ask them if they’d be interested in doing some couple’s photos! If they’re professional models, it’s best to ask what their rate is and pay it vs. offering a trade. This way, you don’t undervalue their work. (I know us photographers don’t like seeing an inquiry come in that offers payment in the form of “exposure.”)

Searching on Facebook

Another way to find models for destination elopement photos is to look for Facebook groups. There are lots of groups dedicated to photographers and models working together! Make a post and ask if anyone will be in the area you’re visiting.

You can also do a model call on your business Instagram or Facebook page. Be careful with this one though… if you’re always posting model calls, this can backfire! People will start to recognize that you often do free photoshoots and couples who may have been interested in booking with you might decide to wait for the next model call. Because of that, it’s best to keep public model calls to a minimum, and to reach out to people privately instead.

If both Instagram and Facebook fail you, you can always try asking couples you see in the area if you can take a few photos for them too!

Regular couple photos are great, but since you’re working on your destination wedding and elopement portfolio, it’s a big bonus if your models can wear wedding attire. If your models are married, you can ask them if they still have their dress or suit – a lot of people love being able to wear it again! 

Alternatively, you can also invest in a dress to use for photoshoots. Don’t worry, you don’t need to drop hundreds on a bridal gown! You can get a convertible white dress for pretty cheap. This makes a great casual elopement dress and as a bonus doesn’t take up much room in your suitcase. It will also fit a range of body types, so you can reuse it and get a different look for all of your photoshoots! 

How to Book Destination Weddings & Elopements by Working on SEO & Blogging

Sharing the photos you take on your travels to social media is a great strategy and you should definitely do that! The downfall is that Instagram posts tend to only get traction for a few days before they stop showing up in the feed. That’s why blogging and SEO are so important! 

You can write a helpful, informative blog post about eloping at that location (like this one for Olympic National Park or this one for Iceland) and use the photos you’ve taken. A post like this provides a lot of value for potential clients. Including tips and information about the location, instead of just posting photos, lets them know that you can help them plan their destination elopement! Make sure to learn about SEO (search engine optimization) and start working on this. Getting your post to the first page of Google is an incredible long term strategy to get bookings.

How to Book Destination Weddings & Elopements by Including Travel in Your Pricing

Have you ever gone to buy something, but realized once it was in your cart that there was an extra fee for shipping? …And then decided that you don’t want it after all?

It’s an interesting piece of human psychology, but the truth is that most of us are willing to pay the same price when shipping is included in the total cost, but not as willing to pay it when it’s added as a separate fee! This means that rolling travel costs into your pricing is the best way to ensure that inquiries turn into bookings. You can make a few different price guides – one for local couples and one with higher prices for destination elopements. You’ll decide which guide to send based on the couple’s inquiry.

Make sure to calculate and average out the cost of travel – flights, lodging, and rental cars, if needed. Then add this into your package total. Rolling everything into one price usually has better results, with more bookings. This also can help give a better client experience because the couple gets to see the total price up front, instead of being surprised with travel fees later.  

How to Book Destination Weddings & Elopements by Photograph Elopements!

If you’re new to elopement photography, use these tips to build your destination portfolio and to practice shooting elopements! You’ll gain more confidence, grow as a photographer, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a destination wedding photographer who gets paid to travel all over. 

Check out these tips for photographing your first elopement for more advice, and remember – building a business takes time. Don’t stress if it doesn’t happen overnight (because it won’t) and keep working hard! 

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