There’s an ever growing wanderlust trend in the world of wedding photography.  One of the perks of running your own business means that if you want to schedule a working vacation at any time, you can!  But at what lengths should a photographer go to get awesome destination wedding photos and satisfy that urge to travel?  How badly do you want to shoot in some of the most kick butt locations in the world?  Do you charge a client for your services when you’re a destination wedding photographer?  Should a wedding photographer work for free in exchange for travel?  What’s a photographer with the travel bug to do?

Before I continue, I want to make mention of the fact that photographers (myself included) have at times volunteered their services.  Whether you’re providing a portrait session gift certificate to a raffle, photographing a wedding of a couple in need who you’ve been touched by or trying to bring joy to a person who needs a little pick-me-up; photographers are very generous, kind and loving people.  We capture emotion and we are moved by it.  Donating your services for a one-time event is not the topic of this blog; rather, this blog will examine whether or not consistent and large sum discounts (as well as offering free services in exchange for travel fees) should be provided when offering destination wedding services.

The issue with consistent lowering of prices is that eventually, rumour gets out in the wedding industry that this is the norm.  The rational behind posting this article now isn’t due to some enlightening moment or deep shower-thought and revelation.  I’m writing this article today because once again, an email landed in my inbox that went something along the lines of “We’re getting married in [awesome destination] and were hoping that we could have you there to capture the day.  We were also hoping that in exchange for us paying your travel, you could provide your services at no additional cost.”

I’ve received several of these emails in the last few months alone.

Is this a growing trend?

Is it normal for couples to blatantly ask a photographer for discounts, or even free services, when choosing to have a destination wedding?

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My gut instinct (which after nearly a decade in business has grown fairly strong) is that it is becoming increasingly more well known amongst the newly engaged community that photographers may offer significant discounts in order to shoot in lucrative destination locations.  Alternately, some photographers may even offer to shoot for free in exchange for having their travel fees paid for by the couple.  At the time of writing this article; several other colleagues have discussed receiving similar types of email requests regarding ultra-low cost services and destination weddings.

As a photographer and small business owner, it’s so crucially important to know how to price your photography packages.  You need to understand what your cost of living is as well as your cost of doing business and do a heck of a lot of math in order to crunch those numbers.  We all have a certain hourly wage that we must make in order to keep the lights on, keep a roof over our heads and keep food on our tables.  In addition to this, for destination weddings it is common that in the client pays for your services as well as covers your cost of travel, regardless of whether it’s a destination you’re dying to go to or not.

To all those photographers who are in the practice of offering considerable, large sum discounts for destination work, please remember this: you HAVE worth.

You deserve to charge a rate that ensures that your cost of living as well as cost of doing business are met and that you can still put away a wee bit for a rainy day.  If you feel like perhaps you, yourself, are not worth that rate – I assure you that you are indeed!  You are talented, hardworking and passionate and you deserve adequate compensation for your services no matter where in the world they occur.

To all those same photographers, if I still haven’t convinced you that you have worth, please understand that your industry also has worth.

Your industry is filled with people who have at times inspired you, supported you and guided you along your journey.  They too have to charge an appropriate amount for their services as they too, deserve to profit from their career (as anyone does, regardless of vocation).  If you don’t want to charge an appropriate amount for yourself, charge an appropriate amount with the understanding that it will help ensure that the bar for expected costs of services does not get lowered in our industry.  Do it to show your industry that you acknowledge the worth of a photographer and the job that we do.

Offering consistent and large sum discounts on wedding photography simply for a chance to travel around the world can be a dangerous practice; not only will you find your own bank account quickly running into the red but you’re contributing to the growing notion amongst couples that photographers are willing to work for considerably less.

You are talented.  You are an inquisitive traveler.  You are eager for an adventure.

But most importantly; you also have worth.

Always keep this in mind.