1. it will not only undermine your work, but that of photographers in the area, if you aren’t compensated for travel
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but a sentence that took me a long time to care about consciously. Can you imagine if everyone just started shooting weddings for free in California, and what that would do to the California wedding photography market? Then imagine if every other Mary Jane flew into your town to shoot weddings for free. I’m not saying if you are asked to shoot a wedding in another state don’t take business from the local photographers there, but if a client really wants you,why shouldn’t they value your services for what you quote them, and then be willing to spend the extra fee on travel?
I like to think of it as going to buy a designer bag. If you’re going to sell something special, do you want it to be in the best, nicest store you have, or from the trunk of a car? Are you willing to sell your product from the trunk of a back alley, or do you AND your clients want you at your best, shining on display for your worth? If your clients want the designer bag, they will be happy to spend the extra money to cover your travel. If they pay less for the experience, they will get the trunk of our cars. I personally want to give them our best bag on display.
2. it will cause you 3x the amount of stress for 3x less the income if you shoot destination work for free
Hopefully their inquiry is filled with so much love for your work, they really do want you, out of all people!, to fly across the nation or world with them, and that is amazing! I’m rejoicing with you! But now if this is true, realize all the factors that will come into play : the amount of time planning this trip you can’t put towards planning other weddings, the amount of time on the trip outside of the shoot day, and the amount of money you will be spending on top of and around the shoot day. If you’re being asked to shoot a wedding for free, this is time, energy and actual money you are losing in order to pursue this opportunity (otherwise known as your “opportunity cost” of pursuing a wedding that would otherwise compensate you). As much as I adore photography with all my heart, and make traveling affordable for my couples and my self, I will not say it is a vacation. For me it is more of an altruistic purpose, which is service that takes work. If you continue to take “vacations” for work, you are going to forget what an actual vacation can feel like. Take it from someone who’s been there. You can get paid for your time and travel, and take an actual vacation one day, and it doesn’t have to be complicated :
3. it is not the only way or cheapest way to grow your destination portfolio
the gravest myth I have to bust for my clients, and now to photographers, is that pricing for traveling is complicated.
travel pricing for photography doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.
While it is about hustle and sacrifice and technically “starting from the bottom” in the beginning, you can still strategize to value your work and others in the area while making money & growing your portfolio. One way I’ve seen people do this is set up trips with photo friends to do styled sessions in new places, or creep hard core on hashtags to get couples who would love to pay for a couple session that already live in your dream places, and pay you for it. Give discounts if you want, split the wage with the photo friend; in the end, it’s your business! But after lining up a couple shoots, you are at least getting paid for your travel, your time, and your value.
Then when we get those clients who find us, versus us finding them, we can still keep pricing simple. I personally work on a fee basis, where I generally have two travel fees that can get me anywhere in the US, and as long as the client can afford that on top of their wedding or engagement package, I include that fee in the contract, and I take care of the rest. So their fee has pre-covered my ticket, stay, or other expenses, give or take. It’s respectfully acknowledging the cost of my travel, without being knit-picky or tedious. This tactic has gained me the most unique experiences with my local clients I could’ve ever hoped for, and I hope if you take nothing else from this blog, it’s to keep traveling simple and opportunistic for your clients. In the end, all of our dreams come true. It’s a win win.
that all being said : know your target market.
You don’t have to shoot for free, unless you’re making it very clear it is for a learning opportunity, a style shoot, or your own service project. But those things aside, you are worth something. I am not saying we are all 5k after year 2 or can’t be 2k in year 4, that’s up to your target market and who you’re choosing to service. But even if you’re valuing your weddings at $200 and a box of crispy creams, you deserve that payment, on top of your travel, if that’s requested of you.