Hey hey, welcome back to the Ready to Wander Podcast; I am your host, Sydney Breann. I am SO pumped for today’s episode, because I am joined by an amazing guest. Today’s episode is all about how to book elopements and destination weddings as a photographer. People are always asking me how I started receiving bookings, or what steps they need to take to start shooting in dream destinations. I figured instead of just sharing what I did, I would also share what a fellow photographer did to get started traveling and living her dream life.
Okay, I’m done keeping you on your toes… Today our guest is Samantha with Samantha Kleven Photography! Samantha is a wedding photographer based in Minneapolis, but travels worldwide regularly to capture love. I am so glad that she is on the podcast today chatting about the destination and travel side of photography!
It is so fun to make connections in the industry and I love seeing all of the amazing things that she has accomplished as a young entrepreneur. Samantha’s story was a fun one to hear because it began similarly to my own; she began photographing in high school, too! She mentioned that her dog became famous through her pictures, and that still brings her so much joy to this day.
When it came to the nitty gritty of her journey, she first began photographing everything. Through tons of trial and error, she new what she loved (and what she didn’t). Living in Minnesota, she has always been drawn to traveling. Documenting love stories in places that are valuable to her couples has been a dream come true. Samantha recognized quickly that not every couple’s love story will remain in Minnesota. By marketing herself as a traveling photographer, she’s been able to have the majority of her income from destination weddings/elopements alone. What blew my mind during our chat is that she only takes 1-2 local weddings!
As a full-time elopement and intimate wedding photographer, I have always loved to travel. As my photography business continued to grow, I was like “wait, I could do both.” So, I started traveling and setting up styled shoots while on vacation. What really set it off though, was having the opportunity to photograph a friend’s destination wedding. I ‘capitalized’ on the growth I was seeing by pushing out blogs and targeting certain areas on social media.
Personally, what drew me to this particular niche was the intimacy and beauty of elopements and weddings in an epic destination. It seems like the activities and views are endless, and the couple is joined by only their favorite people. It was truly magical to witness for the first time, and I was instantly hooked. I also love that I can combine my two passions to create a pretty freaking fun career.
When I first delved into traveling as part of my job, I dedicated a lot of time to nailing down solid marketing strategies. I first utilized social media, styled shoots, frequent travel, and Google Ads to really help get me off and running. Today, I primarily use Google Ads and my website to continue to get my name out there. I honestly am not a big social media gal and I don’t find much joy in it. Now, people find me through my blogs, website, and the pages my Google Ads are linked to. Which literally is a win since I don’t have to rely on Instagram for my growth.
For photographers just starting to dip their toes into destination weddings and elopements, I find it to be really important to have travel content to post. Your potential clients want to see recent work and be able to picture themselves in that destination with you.
Most of the clients I work with are not local to the area they are eloping in (which is kinda the point). When this is the case, there are obviously more logistics for your clients to plan and worry about.
As important as the resources and questionnaires that I create are, I really focus on keeping the lines of communication open. My clients know from the get-go that I am there for them whether they want to shoot me an email, FaceTime me, or if they need help with any recommendations. Recently, I actually added a planning option to my photography services. Being my clients’ right-hand-woman is something I place a ton of value in. Elopement and destination wedding photographers really have to be on the ball to ensure that their clients have the best possible experience.
Similarly to my own practices as an elopement photographer, Samantha does everything she can to get to know her couples before they say “I do”. Because the majority of her clients aren’t local to her area, she sends questionnaires, schedules Zoom calls, or even meets up for a coffee date prior to an elopement. Establishing such a solid communication method sets not only the couple up for success, but also the photographer.
One of the biggest roles as an elopement + destination wedding is being a resource for couples. As a photographer, we are are responsible for keeping things on schedule, understanding where locations are, and having knowledge of vendors in the area. From location guides and permit information to vendor recommendations, I know that my couples value that I am their person to turn to.
Getting to know my couples, their story, and their vision for their day is probably the number one thing I do though to make them comfortable and excited to be getting married in a destination that is maybe new to them, but they know that I will be there as a friend and a photographer.
Let’s be honest, if you’re listening (or reading), you probably anticipated this tea. One of the top questions that I get asked as an elopement photographer is how I price myself. Listen, pricing can be a make or break for couples searching for their photographer. In fact, it’s a major deterrent for potential couples when they see how much a package costs and then there are additional travel fees.
Personally, I price all of my packages the same, and the only difference is if it is local or destination. I don’t price each elopement individually and I don’t charge travel fees, because I have everything built into my packages. When pricing my packages, I also make sure to approach pricing with an “all-inclusive” mindset. Clients are paying you to be at their big day, and you need to provide a valuable, amazing experience on top of the stunning photos. This is communicated in my pricing guide before they even see the numbers.
Something that Samantha mentioned that really stood out during our chat was how she learned to price her services. Early on, she had learned from another photographer how detrimental it can be to price weddings differently than elopements. By pricing a wedding higher than an elopement, you are establishing that one is more “valuable” than the other – which isn’t true.
Like I mentioned in the beginning, I recommend to just start traveling and shooting! Attend styled shoots or set up your own, utilize social media and SEO to target specific locations, offer zero travel-fees, or even ask a photographer you know to second shoot for a destination wedding or elopement. I think an important thing to mention is this doesn’t happen overnight, and you absolutely have to put some effort in to start marketing to destinations. But if we can do it, you can do it! We both have had amazing experiences while shooting destination weddings and I think it is something everyone should experience if they want to, and it definitely is an attainable dream!
I asked Samantha to share a memorable experience that has remained with her throughout her years of being an elopement photographer. Samantha shared that when she arrived back from a roadtrip to Utah, she shared her photos when she got back home. While she was traveling, she photographed couples along the way. Not too long after she arrived back home did a couple reach out to gush about her work. They asked her if she would travel with them to Alaska to document their love story. It was in that moment that she realized people loved her work. The rest is history.
Not only are you serving couples on the best day of their lives, but you are also witnessing and capturing a story unfold in a place that is not your home. You are making connections, traveling, and seeing places that you otherwise might not visit. These experiences are so unique and honestly great for the soul. It’s also important to note that it is not without stress.
I choose not to shoot more than 4-5 destination weddings a year, because travel can be stressful! Now that I have done the hustling and continuous traveling, I know that I am not about that life. On the other hand, if people want to start shooting destination weddings, they should dive in. Do it for the opportunity to shoot stunning, unique weddings, and do it for yourself. For your soul and the opportunities to travel and be paid to go to amazing places. Do it for the memories and for the fulfillment they bring in your business. Just don’t burn yourself out!
If you’re looking for more from Samantha Kleven Photography, you can find her on Instagram! And that wraps up this episode where we chatted about how to book elopements + destination weddings. Get out there, get shooting in those dream destinations, and keep up the amazing work. So what do ya say? Are you ready to wander?