There seems to be a mystery around a travel and destination wedding photographer. How do you break into that market and how do you afford it? While at WPPI this year, I attended a class with Laura Grier who shed some light on her business and lifestyle.
Laura has a fascinating and adventurous career in photography. She grew up in Indonesia and the US, as a child of parents who worked for the CIA. This lifestyle planted roots for her quest to travel and document stories. She has been to six continents and spoke for WPPI, WIPA, Catersource, Step Up Women’s Network, and the Wedding MBA Conference. Along with photographing 40-50 weddings a year, she works and travels for Novica/National Geographic Catalog. I had a chance to speak with Laura in which she explained four important factors that have lead to her success as a travel and destination wedding photographer.
Branding: Laura emphasizes the importance of branding in her business. She has branded her business around the lifestyle she wants she wants to lead. She has become an expert in destination and adventure photography. How does she convince clients to pay more to fly her to these destinations? She provides them an experience that they wouldn't receive from a resort photographer. She offers her clients unlimited time and coverage during the designated days she is at their wedding. This allows her time to document other experiences and photograph fun and unique shoots that are also great portfolio builders. Laura promotes the fact that she has extensive travel experience, thus a major selling point for her clients.
Her style has remained consistent throughout the trends of the photography industry. Her look is bright and colorful which she believes attracts adventurous and spontaneous people. When the vintage trend became popular a few years ago, she did not conform. She instead styled a retro shoot to show her take on the new vintage trend. Keeping her style consistent allows her clients to better understand what they will be receiving when hiring her to document their day.
Networking: Laura’s marketing plan is simply based off of networking. Her marketing plan consists of creating business alliances and collaborating with others. She has created strong relationships with a chosen few wedding coordinators which provide a great source of leads. She targets locations where she wants to shoot. When she selects a venue, she will set up a meeting with the catering manager or ask the hotel if she can be on their vendor list. She makes a point to visit in person. This face to face marketing plan allows her to build relationships with those who will help her business grow.
What does she do with the budget set aside for marketing? She spends that money building relationships. Instead of paying for an online or print ad, she invites vendors out to lunch/dinner, sets up a styled with a couple vendors, or travels to new locations to make new connections. Creating strong business alliances and collaborating with others has proved extremely effective for keeping her schedule booked year round.
Travel: If you want to be a destination photographer you have to get out and travel! Photograph new locations, thus further branding yourself as a traveler. Laura also recommends targeting specific locations and planning a trip to visit and photograph around the area. Even if you are traveling for leisure or pleasure, pack your camera gear and be sure to blog those beautiful scenic images. The more people see you traveling; they will think of you as an expert.
If Laura knows she will be traveling somewhere, she does her best to set-up a styled shoot. She travels to every destination with her photography gear in tow. She makes it a personal challenge to find inspiration where ever she travels that will further add to her portfolio. Her passion for traveling recently made her start up her travel blog, Wanderlust by Laura Grier. At this blog, she shows clients the many destinations she has documented while traveling and her experiences.
Video: Laura uses video to brand herself as a destination photographer. Her branding is built around providing an experience; video is a growing and extremely effective marketing tool for reaching her clients. Since most professional SLR cameras are equipped with video, she decided to use a tool which was already available to her. Creating videos with a behind the scenes looks has dramatically increased her bottom line. In fact, she started creating videos on her adventures a couple years ago in efforts to capture her and her clients experiences.
Laura's website was allowing clients to see what the final product would look like, but they had no idea what it took to get these shots. Her videos show her personality, how she works, and the overall experience of having her as a photographer. The behind the scenes video shows her fearless drive to get the shot. These videos are a great way to show the experience she offers clients and the amazing locations she has traveled to. Laura now has a YouTube channel dedicated to her travel adventures and photo-shoots which can be seen here.
To view more of Laura’s travel and destination photography click here. To view other videos of her behind the scenes travel work with NOVICA click here. She will also be launching destination workshops this summer to help photographers build their travel portfolios. For more information click here. I will leave you with an inspirational quote from Laura about how she built the foundation of her business:
“It’s not about who is the busiest, who makes the most money, or who has the most twitter followers. If you are doing exactly what you love, doing these things today like figuring out who you are and what your plan is, collaborating with others and creating business alliances, constantly putting yourself out there, you will live the lifestyle that you want to lead and your life will work for you. It’s all about positioning yourself to be in front of the right door when it opens.” –Laura Grier