People ask me all the time why I frequently travel for engagement shoots. Many photographers balk at driving more than 30 minutes to photograph an engagement session, since the actual shoot time for these sessions is usually a few hours at most. So why is it that I’m more than eager to hop on a plane and travel across the continent just for a shoot that will last a few hours?
Here’s just a few of the reasons why I love traveling for these engagement shoots:
1. It’s crucial to photograph people in places that are meaningful to them. When I’m traveling for an engagement shoot, I often travel to the place where the couple first met or where they currently live. About half the weddings that I photograph each year are outside of my state of Colorado, but for a good number of people getting married here in Colorado, they come here for a destination wedding. Traveling to a client’s home city or to a place that is meaningful to them not only allows them to have their pictures taken in a familiar backdrop and setting, but it also allows me a small glimpse into their world. When I have a true understanding of my subjects, I can most authentically photograph and document their relationship. The more that I share in my clients’ world, the more that they feel I understand them. Ultimately, this means that they’ll feel comfortable and have total trust in me on their wedding day.
2. Traveling allows me the freedom to experience shooting in new places. I’ve always found that I’m most creative when I enter a space that I’m seeing for the first time. Traveling allows me to step outside of my box and enter an unknown environment where I can see with fresh eyes and create something unique. Because I don’t have the option of falling back on my usual locations, I have the opportunity to be creative and fresh.
3. Traveling allows me to set myself apart. My willingness to travel for the engagement session lets the couple know that they matter to me. It sends them a message that I’m willing to take a break from my family and my busy schedule to come to photograph them in a place that’s meaningful to them. After the shoot, we go out to dinner to one of their favorite restaurants (my treat of course) and I get to share in yet another place that is meaningful for them. By the end of all that time together, I’ve been able to show my clients that I really care about them and am invested in getting to know them. Because it’s not often that their other vendors make these kinds of gestures, it’s a great opportunity for me to stand out before the wedding has even taken place. Traveling allows me to set myself apart because I get a unique opportunity to build a relationship with them on their home turf. And, as an added bonus, it’s common that they start sharing my name with their friends and family before I’ve even photographed their wedding.
4. Traveling for engagement shoots sends a message to future potential clients. When potential brides go to my website, they’ll see engagement shoots from many different cities (Boston, Santa Barbara, Mexico, Orange County, etc.) which demonstrates that I’m paid to travel all over the country. Having such diversity in the locations I feature shows prospective clients that other couples spend money to fly me to different locations and that even if a couple and I aren’t in the same city, it won’t be an issue. Highlighting these sessions on location simply helps me cast a wider net for prospective clients.
As great as traveling for engagement sessions is, there’s one important practical tip you should keep in mind: be sure that your clients understand from the very beginning that there’s an additional fee for you to travel. Make it simple for them and do the calculation of what the travel will cost so that you can charge them a flat amount upfront. Doing it this way is much simpler than asking the client to book hotels or airfare and it definitely is less tedious than asking to be reimbursed after the trip.
Here are a few images produced from engagement sessions where I traveled outside of my hometown to visit places that are deeply meaningful to my clients:
Anyone who has lived in New York City for any period of time knows that the city quickly becomes a part of you. When I have clients from New York, we very often end up shooting somewhere in the city.
Taken from the Brooklyn Bridge. This bride lived for a time in Brooklyn and would walk the bridge everyday to work:
Inside Central Park in Manhattan: Another couple who shared New York roots.
This couple embodied the very spirit of San Francisco. This image was taken taken in the hills just above the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco:
For this shoot, I traveled to Illinois to the park where the couple got engaged.
This couple met in an old historic city in central Mexico while she was living there one semester in college. Going to Mexico to do the shoot not only made sense, it was a fantastic background that was so different from what I was used to here in the states.
This couple had their first date at a major league baseball game so we arranged for them to have their shoot inside the ballpark at Coors Field.
And because he had even saved the ticket stubs from that game, we found the exact seats they sat in for that game!
In a business that depends on our ability to create meaningful relationships with our clients, being willing to travel for engagement shoots is a great opportunity to create a lot of added value for our clients. Don’t pass up an excellent opportunity to get out of your box, experience a new place, and turn a short photo session into a truly meaningful experience for your clients.
Written by Chris Humphreys