A fellow photographer recently asked me how I manage to put together destination shoots and pull it all off with multiple bookings on the other side of the world. Let alone turn a profit! It’s the same thing I was asking myself (whilst googling “how to get clients”) at the beginning of my photography life – because all I wanted to do was travel and create income wherever I went, duh!
Here’s my step by step process from deciding where I want or need to be through to filling my calendar up with dream shoots…
Usually the seed of the idea is planted in one of these ways:
- I’ll get asked to come and shoot somewhere by one person, and if it’s far away, I put the feelers out to see if enough other people want love to shoot there too, making it more necessary to fly so far (because let’s face it, it’s not the most eco friendly mode of transportation and I actually can’t stand flying, who’d have guessed?!)
- My tank commander husband, Alec, is send to do army things abroad and I don’t want to be at home for long without him so I pick a place that i would love to go to that’s near him – making it a paid visit to see him!
- We decide where we want to go for fun and take any shoots that feel aligned to that plan! (The least pressure way to put together a destination trip because, hey, you’re going regardless!
SPREAD THE WORD
So now that the seed has been planted the key is to spread the word as much as you possibly can, so that the people who would love to shoot with you might see that you’re in the area. Here’s what I do:
- I talk about it on Instagram Stories. I’m totally honest here, saying that I’m THINKING about coming and want to know if anyone’s interested. Remember to add the location in text to your Story, not everyone watches with the sound on and suddenly seeing their city pop up when they thought you were only based on the other side of the world will be an amazing surprise worth taking action on!
- Then I post old photos of mine from that destination, (or the closest thing I have) to Instagram, announcing that I’ve released new destination dates and inviting people to DM me if they have questions.
- I add a button to my Link Tree (the Instagram bio segmenting app that gives people options on where to go once they click the link in your bio) I call it “Shoot With Me In Bali” for example, and I create a page that explains everything they might want to know, so that any leads understand my pricing and what I offer specifically for this trip. This style of page on your site is reusable for any destination shoot trip, so I change the names and keep fairly similar info on it, just changing up the photos to be relevant to the destination.
- I search my Google Sheet of all the people who have previously reached out to see if I’m in that area, and I personally message them to see if they’d like first priority. My friends, serious tip here – log everything that happens, ever, always!
- I ask connection and friends. Recommendations are the life blood of my business. If a friend knows a friend who is there and would benefit they’ll be happy to spread the love! In the past because one regular client has sourced me so much work though a retreat she was hosting, and never asked for anything in return so I insisted I gave her a full day shoot for free to say thank you. Incentivise the spreading of love 🙂
- Speaking of retreats, I also consider if anyone I know is going to be hosting a business retreat or mastermind in the area, so that I can schedule my trip around that and offer the host’s guest a special group price for mini content shoots.
- Lastly I sometimes boost an Instagram post to a “look-a-like audience” then to a “custom audience” in the destination, and have that lead to the info page that I talk about in step 3. This way people can see if it’ll best serve them, because at this point they most likely don’t know who I am if they’re coming from a cold audience.
So you’ve got the word out as best you can. But it’s never easy to decide when to commit because understandably not everyone is sure they’d like a shoot by the time you need to buy your flight! But at some point you just have to trust that it’ll be worth the adventure and connection to new amazing humans. Here are some things I always consider:
- I love to track numbers and I aim to make my target and final decision on earning 75% more than what it will cost me to take the trip in the first place. So for example, if I estimate that flights, transfers, food and a place to stay will cost me $1500, then I would times that by four and aim to earning a revenue of $6000. I love this method because it gives you a number to focus on and it means you can rest assured that you aren’t going to spend all your income on making that income! (This also motivates me to get my costs right now, I almost always will stay with a friend I’ve met online and take them out for dinner and buy them thank you gifts rather than paying for lonely accommodation!)
- This one is super important – I take a deposit. Always. When travelling across the globe to serve up your gifts, protect your time and money by taking a deposit upon booking, before you leave. It’s not that we don’t trust other people, it’s that it’s just bad business to invest in your business (flights) without a guaranteed return on investment (shoots).
- A mistake I’ve made in the past is to not commit soon enough. I’ve waited and waited, telling people I’m coming roughly around August and I’ll keep them posted (when I have more interest) but this is never going to make your client feel safe to invest. Commit as soon as you can.
- Another mistake I’ve made is to forget how fast time goes! So I’ve done all the above and I’ve got the balls rolling and then I sort of forget to keep talking about it and putting it out there. And in doing so I’ve missed so much more opportunity to spread the word!
You can do all the planning in the world, but you do just have to start somewhere.
I recommend beginning the destination photography journey be worrying less about percentages and marketing and just saying yes to working for the thrill of the travel and the flights alone. My first branding shoot abroad was Bali and I did it for the flights and accommodation alone! My second destination branding shoot was in Majorca, and yes I did that for the flights and accommodation only! And I loved every minute of it! It then gave me a portfolio to be able to show up as a destination branding photographer who is sometimes in Bali!
But it’s important to only do this for a few trips until you have a portfolio and social proof that you are fully capable of running this travelling photography show, serving up your best gifts on a global scale, and being paid what you’re worth!