The story of professional photographers often starts with their fascination with what the camera can do and then with what they can do with the camera. This fascination turns into love. The photographers who are gifted with an artistic vision turn their hobby into a career. For the talented and committed few, it becomes the ideal marriage between doing what they love and making a living. It's a career lifestyle envied by office workers who feel trapped in their cubicles and artists who are struggling to make ends meet. Usually, it stops there, with the photographer living the dream of doing what he/she loves to do.
For the wedding photographer, there is another side to this dream. It is called destination wedding photography. White sand dunes, soaring mountains, fresh clean air, and soft, golden sun is that other side, coloring the dream in vibrant new shades. Traveling to exotic locales, setting their eyes upon new sights, and jumpstarting their creativity are some of the glorious advantages wedding photographers have over most other devotees to the camera. It is the opportunity to enjoy paid vacations, travel the world, build a portfolio of colorful locations, and inspire your imagination. Few other professions exist in which vacation and work come together so harmoniously.
Destination wedding photography is a niche that does not require the photographer to have specialized training. Yet it does require a sense of adventure and a willingness to jump into every new situation with aplomb. This should come naturally to most photographers, as a spirit of exploration goes hand-in-hand with the camera. An amazing tool, the camera acts as a guide through which the world is viewed and brought into perspective. It leads photographers from one subject to the next, as they seek to capture the ideal picture, in which the lighting, composition, and subject could not be improved upon. It is in this spirit of exploration that wedding photographers turn their sights on destination weddings.
There may be no better time to embark on destination weddings than right now. Couples are waiting longer to get married. Many are opting for something different than the traditional, local wedding ceremony and reception. Some want to limit the number of guests. Others like the idea of combining their honeymoon and their weddings together. And many simply want a breathtaking backdrop, such as a remote beach, a North European villa, or a mountain-top resort for their ceremonious event. Destination weddings have definitely gone from a delight that was exclusively enjoyed by the non-traditional bride and groom to the mainstream. Subsequently, and not surprisingly, the need has arisen for destination wedding photographers to accompany the wedding parties to these fabulous locations. This brings up the question: So, why aren't you photographing destination weddings?
Matt Adcock, Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA) member and WPJA award winner, works full-time with his fiancée, Sol Tamargo, also a WPJA member, as a destination wedding photographer. Together, they travel to weddings on the islands bordering South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and throughout the coast of Florida, as well as the Appalachian Mountains, the Bahamas, Riviera Maya, and Cancun. Matt and Sol's clients are those who want the very best from their wedding photographs. Because their destination wedding packages are priced at a premium rate, with the clients paying for travel expenses, Matt and Sol photograph fewer events. This allows for a less frenzied schedule, not to mention what effect multiple paid vacations throughout the year has upon stress levels. Matt's enthusiasm for what he does can only be summed up in his own words, "I love life. I love my career. I love my clients, and I LOVE MY FIANCÉE!"
Not everyone has the wherewithal to work as a full-time destination wedding photographer, but taking on a few destination weddings can be beneficial professionally and personally. A handful of location pictures in your portfolio greatly adds to your cache. Photos of stunning places can dazzle and impress, not only a potential client, looking through your work for the first time, but also, anyone. As you know, your portfolio should show the diversity of your work, and that should extend beyond color, black-and-whites, lighting, and style.
Traveling to a new location can improve your portfolio in another way, as well. Photographing someplace you've never been before is one of the surest ways to jumpstart your creativity. Seeing and experiencing a new location for the first time is a sure means of becoming inspired. It refreshes your perspective, adding an element of newness and excitement to your craft, which also extends to your work when you return home. Destination wedding photography allows you to step outside of your comfortable environment to see the world, and weddings, in a new light.
Another benefit of destination wedding photography is that the clients who choose this option are likely to be more adventurous than your typical bride and groom. It is the nature of the event. Many have never been to the location before they arrive with dress and tux in hand. Most of the arrangements have been done over the telephone and the Internet. Because the pictures online may not be 100% accurate representations of the resort, this sort of wedding planning takes not only a thirst for adventure but also an easygoing attitude. These are two things that make photographing the event infinitely smoother for the photographer.
Oftentimes, a destination wedding is accompanied by a more festive mood than the traditional local affair. The location may be new to not only the photographer but the guests as well, creating a sense of adventure and vacation-inspired hedonism by everyone present.
Julie Gelfand, award winner, enjoys socializing with the family and the guests on her destination wedding assignments. She exclaims, "We are usually welcomed enthusiastically and treated royally." Her recent assignments have spanned three days, in which she photographs the guests arriving a day before the wedding and leaving the day after. So much time to capture the pictures adds to an altogether more lax experience. Since Gelfand stays in the same lodging as everyone else, she says, "We get to know the guests and family members, and leave feeling a closer bond with them than at a typical local wedding."
Traveling to a foreign locale, finding inspiration in wonderful new sights, strengthening your portfolio, receiving rest and relaxation-it all sounds a little dreamlike. Yet, for destination wedding photographers, it is their living, breathing, working lives. The proof is in their photographs of colorful, exotic settings that are the backdrops of the entire wedding experience.
To look at the work of destination wedding photographers across the world and in your area, visit the WPJA homepage, and click on the drop-down menu labeled, "Planning a Destination Wedding?" or select a state/country under "Need a Wedding Photographer?" and click on the drop-down menu labeled, "Traveling Photographers."
— by Lauren Ragland for The Wedding Photojournalist Association