A collection of our tips, tricks, and advice on breaking into the adventure wedding industry.
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HOW TO BREAK INTO ADVENTURE WEDDINGS AND ELOPEMENTS
Aside from capturing two of our friends’ weddings and one paid wedding hired from thumbtack in 2016, last year was our first year photographing weddings and elopements. In the course of that year we photographed adventurous couples all over the west coast, grew our photography business, and climbed to the top of the google search “adventure wedding photographer.” It was an incredible year for us and we learned SO MUCH about building a business, branding, marketing, and how to be an adventure wedding photographer.
With today’s lust for adventure and the great outdoors, adventure weddings and elopements are only growing in popularity and photographers all over the country want to meet that demand. One of our most asked questions from other photographers is “how did you get into elopements?” We had been photographing landscapes and lifestyle sports since 2014, so breaking into adventure weddings was a natural transition for us. Since this is such a popular topic amongst photographers right now, I wanted to share some of the things we’ve learned over the last year and share what helped us get to where we are today.
BE AN ACTUAL ADVENTURER
This one might seem obvious, but it’s important. If you aren’t already into hiking, camping, road tripping, exploring, or into adventure sports, get at it! You have to be active in the outdoor community before deciding that’s what you want your career to be in. Physically – photographing adventure elopements is hard work. Imagine lugging up all of your gear to the summit of mountains, trekking through knee deep powder in snow shoes, or hopping across talus fields while duel wielding cameras! More importantly, your heart has to be in it emotionally. Adventurous couples want to connect with their photographers on a deeper level. Often times they’re spending their entire wedding day with just their photographer. It only makes sense that they’d want to be enjoying their time with someone that shares their passion for the outdoors.
BE THE EXPERT
When couples hire you to photograph their elopement, they’re expecting you to have suggestions on locations, be comfortable exploring the area, and to be knowledgable about hidden gems and secret spots away from crowds. Before we started shooting adventure elopements, we had been road tripping around the country for three years. We had a huge stockpile of epic locations from all kinds of landscapes that we had hiked to and knew would be perfect for an elopement. Almost every day we aren’t photographing or editing, we’re outside exploring and adding to our logbook of spots. And if we can’t get outside, we’re scouring the internet for little breadcrumbs to lead us to the next location we want to explore. It’s part of the “job” but it’s also something that we truly enjoy doing and would be doing even if photographing elopements wasn’t our job.
PRACTICE AND TEACH LNT
If you’re wondering what LNT (leave no trace) means, I demand that you read Megan Kantor’s article “Leave No Trace | A Guide for Photographers” RIGHT NOW. And then come back to finish this one up 😉
Not every couple that elopes is outdoorsy or knows leave no trace ethics. Heck, I grew up in Boston and was a full blown city girl until I was 21. I didn’t learn about LNT until I started climbing and was educated by the greatest climber in the world (AKA my husband AKA Brandon Fox AKA the most amazing adventurer in the world because he was actually able to get me to fall in love with the mountains). As an adventure elopement photographer, it’s your duty to guide couples through the location that they’re eloping in and educate them on LNT. Make sure to research all the rules and restrictions on your area, apply for the proper permits, lead by example, and teach your couples how to respect the space they’re getting married in. They might not know any better and are looking to you to help them!
PRACTICE LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY TECHNIQUES
Elopement photography is a perfect balance between couples and the landscape. Almost every single couple that emails us mentions how much they love our ability to capture the landscape our couples are getting married in, along with the actual couples themselves. It’s easy to see all the tighter, emotional photos of couples on Instagram performing so well and think that that’s all you need to walk away with. But if your couple is getting married in the great outdoors, make sure you capture that as well! Not every photo needs to have your couple in it, and the ones that do don’t all have to be tight and personal. There are different landscape photography techniques that achieve different emotion or feelings, I’d recommend learning all about those techniques and implement them into your couples photography.
NatGeo wrote a great introductory article for Techniques on Capturing Emotion in Landscape Photography.
FINDING COUPLES AND BUILDING YOUR ADVENTURE WEDDING PORTFOLIO
If you’re just starting out, you’ll need to find couples that are up for going outside! When we started we asked our friends to model for us for adventure sessions. We live on the road at climbing destinations so finding people that were up for adventure hikes and professional photos of themselves for free was pretty easy! But if it’s harder for you to find folks to model, try joining local Facebook groups for outdoor enthusiasts, or offering free adventure sessions to the couples you currently have booked for traditional weddings.
Do a mock elopement (not a styled shoot)! When couples are eloping, they tend to care less about table cloth colors and more about the emotion of the day. Think about how the flow of a real elopement would go and try to capture all those moments of a day. Use this as an opportunity to iron out all the details you’d like to have covered for your future elopements, like how long the first look should last and things like that. Have a real couple model for you in a beautiful location and only bring on a hair and makeup artist and florist. Don’t do the shoot to be published online, do it for your own portfolio and learning experience. Here’s an example of a mock elopement we shot last year. You wouldn’t be able to tell it was styled and we wanted to create images that would show true emotion. These types of mock elopements are great for your portfolio and will help show couples the kind of work you are capable of!
Once we had enough content to build a website, we created targeted ads on Facebook. We were open about our love for adventure and honest about our minimal experience. The couples that ended up booking us did so because they saw talent in our landscape photography, potential in our couples photography, and loved that they felt like old friends when talking to us. Almost all of our summer 2017 weddings were from Facebook ads and were all outdoorsy weddings with adventure loving couples.
PORTRAYING AN ADVENTURE PHOTOGRAPHY BRAND
Show your followers how much you love the outdoors! You’d be surprised at how much couples love following your adventures and travels, but they do. Through Instagram stories, Instagram posts, Facebook posts, blog posts, and constant updates on our website, we’re always sharing what we’re up to. Current and future clients always mention something related to a recent adventure when they email us, which is a great reminder that they love following along 🙂
Only share content that says “adventure weddings.” It’s okay to continue to shoot traditional weddings, we have a handful ourselves this year, but don’t blog them and don’t post pictures of them on your social media. It sounds obvious, but adventurous couples want to hire photographers that specialize in adventure elopements! If future couples see a mix of stuff on your website or social media, they might be confused or turned off by it. That being said, make sure you’re financially prepared to take on only adventure weddings because traditional couples will feel the same way about your work. As you start posting more adventure elopements, you’ll notice a decline in traditional wedding inquiries. Most of what we shot last year were full weddings but this year almost 75% of our inquiries are for elopements. For us, we’re able to shoot more since the weekdays are open for elopements so taking on only elopements is perfect.
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME.
Yes, I did just include a Field of Dreams quote in this article. Sorry, not sorry. And if you’ve never seen Field of Dreams, it’s a great inspirational and heart-warming movie about movie about motivation and determination. It’s on Netflix, go watch it now. But seriously, this is a great way to approach breaking into adventure weddings! As long has you’re putting out genuine adventurous content, adventure couples will want to work with you.
And of course, our community of adventure wedding professionals are all here to help and inspire each other. If you have questions, want help, are looking for advice, or just want to make friends – come say hi 🙂
We are Gabi and Brandon Fox, an adventurous husband and wife elopement photography team traveling in our DIY renovated 1972 Airstream. We are loosely based in the Pacific Northwest, but travel for work and play throughout the western states. We are by no means photography “experts” and are constantly learning new things ourselves. But we are firm believers in sharing what we’ve learned from our own experience to help others photographers grow.
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