Top 25 things to know when transitioning to become an elopement photographer!
Hooray you are ready to take the next steps to the job of your dreams! Welcome to the club, my friend. To take the plunge below are the 25 things you need to know to become an elopement photographer. Each one is a step that will take time to perfect, but it’ll be so freakin worth it!
1. Portfolio shift
Your group photos won’t help you here. You need to be selective about images and choose the ones that represent elopements well. The intimate shots, the majestics shots, the jaw-on-the-floor look at this couple and that background shot! When potential clients are scouting you out, the photos are what they go to first. They want to know if they can see themselves in the photos. Less is also more; many clients will not be digging through thirty photos of your work. Make sure you put the best 7-10 in their face, and then they can deep dive your insta if they like what they are seeing.
2. Know the problems of your new couples
The days of in laws and positioning twenty people in a photo are over! But there is a new set of concerns to be aware of. These couples are likely looking for someone who understands why they are eloping and the different challenges they are facing such as, where to do paperwork and what an elopement looks like for them. Learning the challenges of your couple will help connect you to them.
3. Set up that second bank account
We have referenced profit guru, Mike Michalowicz, in our blogs before. As he says in his book Principles of Profit First – put 1% of everything you make into an account set up just for profit. The reasoning is that you’ll never miss that 1%, but you will start proving the system to yourself and building up your confidence (and your coins!). You’re worth every penny you charge! The separate account ensures that the profit goes straight to you without even thinking about it. Pssst – for all of our book recommendations we encourage you to check them out at your local bookstore. Shop small, dream big!
4. website audit
Elope elope elope elope. What’s your website say? ELLLOOOOPPEEE! The number one thing you need to look for in your website is consistency. If clients are struggling to understand your brand, you will lose them. Go through your website and see what it says, make sure there is no lingering “best action photographer” unless you are ready to make that your niche!
5. Social media – show what you want to shoot!
Manifest that bitch. You need to post photos of the places you want to go, the couples you want to attract. Go through your Instagram feed and see what the message you are sending out to clients is. Do you like the message? You’ll want to shift the message from traditional weddings to those adventurous elopement days you’re seeking! Same audit you are doing with the website, keep things clear and consistent.
6. Styled shoots
Styled shoots are an investment. It takes time and coordination. You have to find people who understand the vision and can contribute. But having those styled shoots on your page – priceless! This also helps with #5 social media and showing what you want. Get out there, make some friends, and start putting out in your elopement photography what you want to attract back! Like bees to honey. Yum.
7. Be an expert for the locations
When couples are checking you out, they are not only looking at the photos but also the locations. If a couple sees that you have been at a location before, they already have a layer of trust that you can take the best photos at that location. Take photos of the area like you do for a styled shoot but also do research on that area. For example, how to elope in Arches National Park. Sounds easy, just show up? HAHA WE WISHHHH! It takes a fair amount of research on locations within a location, weather patterns, sunrise and sunset times, etc to make it happen. Ge be the expert Nigel Thornberry!
8. Elopements are smaller, not shorter
Common misconception is that elopements are quick and dirty. No siree bub. Elopements are smaller but not shorter. When you become an elopement photographer, you will not only need to communicate that to clients but to prepare for that yourself as well. The most common misconception about elopements is that they are three or four hours and then done. NOPE. Just because who is invited to the day is different (perhaps nobody but the couple) doesn’t mean they don’t deserve full day coverage. The best way to serve your couple is to remind them that they deserve a full day adventure and YOU are the one to dish it to them! You and your couple as BFFs for the day – sometimes two!
Read our full blog on 5 myths about elopements!
9. Pin down your WHY
People like a story, it’s human nature. Clients have plenty of choices for their photographer. Why should they choose you? Also, having your WHY will make your branding easier. It will make why you get up and hustle easier. If you don’t know why you are making the change, than it’s easy to get lost and people pick up on that. Take us – we LOVE adventure and we also eloped! We get it, and we can communicate that on our website, our social, across the dinner table to each other. If it’s not something you feel every day, find the thing that is!
10. evaluate how much you need to charge
OOOO that awkward money convo. Not here! We are open with our pricing because we have done the work on what it takes, what our expenses are, and we are confident in our value. You know what you charged for other photography but when you become an elopement photographer you need to reevaluate your skills and expenses. Bust out that pen and paper and write down your areas of confidence and your areas for growth. Being able to look at a list is the first step to building out price.
11. Put your travel costs into your pricing
Yep! A big part of elopement photography (and knowing how much to charge) is how much the travel is! Your pricing for an elopement within a few hours driving is much different than your Italy elopement pricing. The adventure sounds great! But the finances get a bit more complicated. Read our 6 tips for profit and how to price your photography where we round up a list of top elopement destinations and different costs you can expect.
12. Map out your client journey
You and your clients will get tight through this experience. While every couple is different, by getting a few elopements under your belt you will be able to help your couples envision what a full day elopement looks like and provide a sample elopement timeline for them. Getting to really know your clients will help you tailor their day to them. Do they care about star shots? Grand hikes? Brunch on the beach? Go to them with ideas to get them thinking about their dream elopement.
13. Set up an automated email system
You can’t do everything, and do it all well. Not gonna happen. So find the areas you like and the areas you are good at, and automate what you can! The easiest thing to automate are your emails. This can be such a black hole and time suck. The best way to really serve your couples is to create helpful emails with guides for them (cough cough map your client journey emails).
14. Calculate Expenses for Pricing
Okay folks, put on your math brain back on while we break down these numbers. You need to calculate all business related expenses you accumulate per year. Take that entire number over the average number of elopements you have a year and that will tell you how much to build into your photography package price. BOOM! Not so bad. Also, be mindful of allllll the business related expenses such as yearly website subscriptions, editing software, business insurance, continuing education budget, YOUR OWN SALARY, etc.
15. Add in profit
Another tip from Mike Michalowicz – instead of taking sales then subtracting expenses and using what’s left over as profit, take your sales then subtract your PROFIT and what you have remaining is money that can be utilized for expenses. We also encourage you not to sell yourself short with discounts that cut into your bottom line. It can be tempting when you are becoming an elopement photographer to take what you can get at any price, but it will do your brand more harm than good. You are not starting at ground zero, you have had other experiences that have shaped you! Don’t sell yourself short, we believe in you!
16. Communicate value of full day elopement
Back to the basics of elopements being smaller not shorter, we also need to communicate that to the client. A full day of elopement is truly the way to go to showcase a couple’s uniqueness and love story. For an adventure elopement we strongly recommend a two day elopement, but if a couple wants to stay local, it’s possible to get it all done in one day. Remember, weddings last more than a couple hours and elopements are more intimate versions of weddings! This is the day couples will look back on for the rest of their lives – let’s make some magic!
17. Plan for travel time in your workflow
The workflow differs from a traditional photographer. When you’re on planes, in different time zones, out on the top of a fricken mountain, it’s impossible to be as responsive as somebody without those challenges would be. Make sure your workflow is set up to account for these times and to communicate it to your clients. For us, we make a note on all of our email signatures the days that clients can expect a response from us. This way the client knows what the expectations are, and we are able to deliver without compromising being fully invested in an adventure elopement with a couple.
Setting up automations is also a game changer! Payment automations keep you paid, helpful tips and tricks delivered to your couples automatically makes sure they’re taken care of, and even a “schedule here” button with your availability makes it easy for people to get in touch with you when you get home.
18. Be prepared that it’s not all glamor
This is a big decision and it should be noted that it is not all glamorous. Traveling is exhausting and can take a toll on you. Truly no two elements are the same. Things get chaotic and frequently you are thinking on the fly- ever have a horse take a nibble out of the wedding dress? We recommend that you really love the story as to why a couple is eloping and have a passion for capturing it in all of its chaotic beauty.
19. Equipment is more than just the camera
We are talking about headlamps and backpacks! Trekking poles and a cooking set up. How are your shoes looking? This job is not for the faint of heart, we are badass warriors! Check out our ultimate adventure elopement gear guide with tips for both you as a photographer and for your amazing couple. No vendor meals hot and ready for you here.
20. Flexibility is a core value
When becoming an elopement photographer, flexibility needs to be a core value. As previously stated, things will happen out of your control and a good photographer knows how to create lemonade out of lemons. Don’t get your feathers ruffled when the waterfall that was supposed to serve as the ceremony site dried up due to a drought. Put on your thinking cap and don’t let the client see you sweat. Have confidence that anything that arises you can tackle. The silver lining you find will actually make the day BETTER than originally planned. A little flexibility goes a long way to make a couple’s wedding the best day ever!
21. Be their guide
You’ve done elopments before. Likely, the couple never has. So when it comes to becoming an elopement photographer, you have the important job of also being the guide. Think of yourself as the Geanire to their Aladdin. You are helping couples on their journey to their perfect elopement day with ideas and guides and as their sounding board. Make sure they feel taken care of and build trust!
22. You’ll be going to multiple locations in a day, be prepared
Once again, the not so glamorous part. You need the right shoes, possibly multiple shoes and outfits for different locations. You might take a couple to a rocky lake where you are getting wet and need river shoes, then over to a fancy rooftop firework show.Just as the couple may do a few outfit changes, so may you! Logistics of multiple locations also require planning for gas stops. Make sure you get a map. Like an old school map for the areas with limited cell service. This also takes a lot of forethought planning out when to go to each location to get the best photos. Make sure you are where you want to be for golden hour. Can you use the hazy morning fog? You have to prepare – a lot!
23. You have to navigate A LOT more than directions
Not only are there multiple locations, but especially if you are doing out-of-country elopements, there’s a lot more to navigate. Research the culture before you go. This can affect what you wear and how you present yourself. Make sure you have the right currency and identification. Learning common phrases can be a lifesaver! All of your research needs to be taken to your couple as (once again) you are their guide.
24. Get ready to be intimate
During a full day elopement, you really get to know your couple. You’ll be sharing meals with them and jokes with them. It’s more than photography, it truly is an experience. Photography requires professionalism but also fun! The more you can help the couple open up the more, the more that will show through in your photos.
25. Tap your network and then tell everyone about the transition to elopement photographer!
It is essential to get experience with elopements. You may start at close locations, and work your way up to further away locations. In order to build up your reputation, it helps to start with people who you know or you are only a few degrees of separation away from. These couples will already have a layer of trust with you and from there you can start building up your reviews. Once you get the ball rolling, let everyone know that you are the one!
You can do all this- go on more adventures, and be part of more love stories that’ll last a lifetime.Call us, and we will show you the ropes like George of the Jungle, just watch out for that tree!