Why shooting destination wedding for travel cost or low budget is a bad idea

Why shooting destinations wedding for travel cost or low budget is a bad idea?

Okay to back up that claim: we’re a destination wedding photographer and videographer duo based in Germany and shoot weddings around Europe. Last year 90% of our bookings was destination wedding. It would be around 95% for 2018. In order to not only talk the talk and really walk the walk, we’ve never shot a wedding for free or travel cost only or even gave some heavy discount.
Sure, there were small discounts here and there in the beginning (actually it was more of adding more extras and production value on top of the same price than lowering the price for the same service) but something like 50% or 30% off for destination weddings - we’ve never done it.

We want to talk about how we decided to get on the destination wedding bandwagon. The wedding market in Germany is different to the market in the US. €2-2.5k is pretty standard and €3k is already in the higher end spectrum. It's way lower pay day than in the US - a fellow photographer I know said the standard in NYC is €10k for a full day coverage - is that true? Anyways, even when we were just starting out, we knew that we didn’t want to shoot 40-50 weddings per year for €2k each. We’d rather shoot way less, charge more and have time to hone our craft, have time to enjoy life and see more of the world. We shoot destination weddings not because of the trend or the false “glamorous” life style that destination weddings promise. Let's face it - it's far from glamorous but for wanderlust people like us, it's great. We shoot destination wedding simply because local brides can’t afford us and we’re still raising prices every year. It's impossible to run a sustainable business shooting local weddings here when €2k is standard and we charge somewhere from €4-8k for a wedding. 

Now, we’re assuming that other wedding photographers that can charge $5-6k or more for a wedding wouldn’t do destination weddings for travel cost only or low budget, or even 50% of their usual prices? Please let it be a no, please? Yeah maybe there is an exception, like a wedding in antarctica (j/k lol!) because an expedition to antarctica alone costs $15k already so I don't think you have to give the couple a discount, to be honest. So it seems like a far-fetched scenario. But that's it, because if you're confident enough to charge more than $6k a wedding then you should have plenty of bookings to choose from - why are you giving it away? That being said, we have had so many inquiries from american couples who want to get married in Europe that in the end they went with the photographer X or Y from the US because they offered them a wedding coverage for travel cost only. We’re not going to give names here but some of them are not starting out but pretty established wedding photographers.
The bigger problem here is that: those couples can afford us. Sure when the venue alone (without catering or decoration...) costs $15-20k already, they surely can afford us! But people nowadays they always try to cut corner as much as they can, sometimes at the wrong corner. We were shocked at first, got pissed off, but now we finally come to terms with it and get over it.

We also saw some other photographers mentioned this matter a few times in some referral groups and it’s amusing to see some comments popping up, “Why are you being a dick? What about wedding photographers who’re building a destination portfolio? I don’t give a fuck about you or the industry. I do whatever I want however I want to help my business.”

Now that's interesting. Not about the "I don't give a fuck about you" attitude, but about the alternative fact that it will benefit your business. Is it really benefitting your business? So we’re going to to tackle this issue a bit different with this blog post. Instead of ranting about how are they damaging the industry and fellow photographers, we’re going to talk about how are they damaging their businesses. Because no matter cynical we may sound, we all will only start listening if it's about ourselves and affecting us right??

Okay, let’s say the photographer X is based in the US and charge $2k for a wedding. He now agrees to shoot a wedding in South of France for travel cost only because he only have weddings in the state and want a wedding in Europe to build up his destination wedding portfolio.

Let’s do a quick math here: he needs one day for flying in, transfer etc. One day for rest and scouting the location. One day for the wedding. And since people keep saying, “Just get the shit out of the destination wedding.”, he decides to throw in an after wedding session for free on day four. One more day for himself going around and relax, enjoy South of France. One day for transfer and flying out. So all in all he’s going to need six days for that wedding in south of France. Agree?

For six days, he can shoot at least two local weddings (two weekends), agree? Well if he can't not book up his calendar during the peak season, I guess he has a bigger problem to worry about than trying to have his first destination wedding. That’s about $4k. Instead of $0. There is no such thing as shooting for free right? He then may argue over the benefit of having a destination wedding in portfolio?

But will one single destination wedding in a full gallery of local weddings bring him other destination weddings? We doubt it.
Is this couple going to bring him other quality leads, knowing that he needs destination wedding to build portfolio and he’s doing their wedding for free? We doubt it.

In the other hand, what can he do with $4k?
Now, we have been living in Europe and traveling intensively around for over a decade and we know this continent so well in terms of traveling and budgeting. With a well ahead planned itinerary, he can tour three weeks around Europe with $4k. Sure it’s not a luxury trip with five star hotel and Michelin-Star restaurants for dinner but we’re not taking about budget, backpacking kind of trip either.
Fact is, we just booked a round trip flight from Brussels (Belgium) to New York City for €400 per person with the five star Singapore Airlines. Non-stop flight, with meals and luggages. In July, the peak season. Intercontinental flights are now incredibly cheap.
Flights within Europe are already well known super cheap thanks to Ryanair, Eurowings, Easyjet and other dozen low-budget airlines.
Airbnb is also super cheap here.
Ages ago, when we were students, young and broke, we used to travel on budget like 10 days trip to Spain for only €450 or 8 days trip to Italy for €500. And that was before the time of crazily cheap airliners within Europe. Comparing to these, $4k is a piece of cake.

The next question: What can he do with three weeks in Europe?
Firstly, well he can actually have a real vacation in Europe, and not just stressing and rushing one day after the long haul flight in and one day before the long haul flight out and call it “I’m having holiday there anyways!”

Secondly, put that three weeks travel dates on his website and advertise the hell out of it to look for booking in France, Italy, Greece... Facebook ads, Instagram ads, Google Adwords.... Wedding, Elopement, Couple Session... The possibilities are endless.

Thirdly, worst case scenario, he’s getting no booking from the advertising. So what? He can announce model calls on social medias to find real couple to shoot everywhere he goes. Everyone likes a free session! So instead of having one wedding for portfolio, he will have a handful sessions around Europe. As many as he can take. And because it's free, it's up to him to style and shoot how he wants!

And finally, the opportunity to meet up wedding planners in Europe. Wedding Planner is one of our main sources of booking destination weddings. Getting know them personally, making genuine connection with people you can relate, doing style shoots that reflect your vision so they know how you work and they can trust you as a professional. Wedding planners will bring you more destination weddings than one free wedding for portfolio! Ever. Period. No discussion.

Long story short, there is so much we can do with $4k to help growing our destination wedding business.
So, why are you doing this to yourself?

Head over below to check out our elopements guide too!

© Tu Nguyen Wedding Photography in Greece, Italy, Spain, France & Germany // info@tunguyenwedding.com

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