I will doing an ongoing Q&A with photographers around the world, who make travel a part of their every day life and businesses. I aim to bring unique perspectives, inspirational stories and hoping anecdotes that will make you go “hmmm, maybe I can achieve this!” If you would like to be interviewed, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
This blog is all about Ron, of Ron Delhaye Studios. Can I just say he has some stellar work?! Anyway, he travels all over, literally, to do styled shoots and weddings. I’m friends with him on Facebook and this dude keeps busy! Lucky for you, he’s sharing the deets on how he’s become so successful! You can follow him on Facebook, as well as his Twitter and Instagram: @rondelhayephoto.
1. How long have you been photographing?
I have been photographing for going on 5 years now; 3 professionally and 2 full time.
2. What do you love most about being a destination wedding photographer?
I think this question is best answered in two parts. The first is, “what do I love most about being a wedding photographer?” I love being a wedding photographer for two main reasons: being included as a part of my client’s families on one of the most special days of their lives, and creating photographs specifically crafted to remind my clients of their closest friends, families, and life partner to cherish and celebrate for a lifetime, and beyond.
The second part is, “what do I love most about being a destination wedding photographer?” Well, I am an adventurous soul. I love to travel and explore places that are foreign to me. Personally, there’s nothing more fulfilling than creating memories and experiences around the country, and eventually the world. I find myself creating connections and expanding my network every time I set foot out my door. This industry is not about what you know, but who you know. Being able to say I have a network of not just professional acquaintances and connections, but friends is something that is unimaginably awesome to me. It’s amazing that I can go to any part of the country and collaborate with such talented people in the photography and wedding industries and create something beautiful and unique. It’s also a huge benefactor to me in my personal and professional life. I have so many experiences and stories to draw on because I have been blessed with the opportunity to continually culture myself, and it helps me to relate with my clients and colleagues and make friends extremely easily. Seeing how the wedding industry is similar yet completely different from coast to coast is a common ground that will always motivate me to improve and strive to be better than I was yesterday.
3. What are some unique challenges you think people should consider before chasing the travel dream for their business?
It’s certainly not for those who can’t take risks or deal with circumstances out of their control. The wedding industry alone is one big mass of organized chaos. Throw airports, thousands of miles, sleep deprivation, painfully slow WiFi networks and completely uncharted territory in the mix and, if you don’t have the right personality, you have a recipe for disaster.
I’ve been positioning and marketing myself for the destination wedding market since I started in this industry. It’s taken 3 constant, solid years of hard work and dedication, but it is finally starting to take off. Since I have started traveling so frequently, the majority of my friends and people I meet only see the success and glorification of my job. I hear “you have the dream job” or, “I want your life” on a daily basis. I know they mean well, but I can’t help but be quick to explain to them how much I have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice to be able to be where I’m at. They see success and one “vacation” after another. I try to explain to them the reality that is never being off the clock, the 4-5am late working nights, and constant pressure of deadlines and keeping my clients happy.
I would say the overall biggest challenge is not a preventable or serviceable circumstance such as lost luggage, broken or stolen gear or anything of that like, but instead being entirely a game of determination and perseverance. Either you are hungry for it and will do whatever it takes to get there, or you will make excuses or cave under the pressure. I also believe that you should hold yourself to a higher standard and quality of work before you accept a destination wedding. It’s becoming a common trend to agree to shoot a wedding for free or cheap just because it’s in Cancun or the Bahamas, or equivalent. I’m not saying that this is necessarily something to be shamed, I’m trying to say that destination weddings are the “black diamonds” (ski term) of the wedding industry and should be reserved for experienced and seasoned professionals only. Reason being is that you are in unfamiliar territory oftentimes with limited gear and no assistant, backup gear, or second chances. This is your clients’ dream wedding, you can’t forget that.
4. You sometimes approach strangers on the beach and take their photos. How do you pick the couple and has anyone been weirded out?
Haha, I’m not a creeper in the bushes, I swear. I took [Kenny Kim’s] **(not sure if I can use his name here or not)** class on marketing for destination weddings at WPPI a few years back when I was just starting out in the industry. Since then, I’ve been honored and blessed to second shoot for him on multiple occasions. My takeaway from his class was something I put into practice right away, which is to never leave home without a camera. You can’t market yourself or claim to be a destination wedding photographer if you A) don’t travel, or B) Don’t take photographs to show while traveling.
I didn’t have the connections to start setting up styled shoots when I first started off, so I would go to a popular park or tourist area, usually the scenic landmark in town, and just people watch. I scouted for those cute couples who are just genuinely in love and always laughing and smiling and just enjoying their day together. My normal approach was to ask if they were from out of town and, regardless if they were or weren’t, offer to take their photograph for free and send it to them to commemorate their vacation or their day together. With social media as prevalent as it is today, no one refuses a new profile picture.
The awesome technique at work here is A) You now have a marketing photo to use for the area you just took that photo in B) You have a potential client pool from the people you just photographed once they put that photo on social media. For example: you don’t know if they’re from Chicago or from Italy – wherever they’re from, their friends will see it and then check you out just out of curiosity. It’s free marketing, and it’s genius.
I had one couple get weirded out one time, but I’m pretty sure they were from France and didn’t understand English or why I wanted to photograph them. So, naturally, I did hide in a bush and take their photo anyway…
5. Has taking photos of strangers ever led to further bookings?
It has! I had a potential bride reach out to me from Aspen, CO and another from Savannah, GA. Neither of them booked, but they did contact me, and I gained several Facebook “likes” and website hits from those areas. I did; however, have a bride from Seattle contact me after I took her and her fiance’s photo in Kerry Park overlooking the Seattle Skyline and they booked me as their wedding photographer! Even if it doesn’t turn into a booking or a monetary profit, free exposure from somewhere across the country doesn’t hurt, right?
6. Do you think there are certain professional expectations of a Destination Wedding Photographer?
Absolutely. I think that a couple who decides to do a destination wedding is more concerned about having their perfect wedding than their family’s perfect wedding. Professional expectations would include accommodating them and making them feel confident in you. This would come from experience. They’re also putting their full faith and credit in you that you can create beautiful photographs in unfamiliar territory with the restrictions I mentioned above. It should go without saying, but they are also trusting you not to take advantage of the 24/7 open bar and perform a professional service and not just see a destination wedding as a free ticket to paradise…
7. What do you think is an important trait someone should have when they pursue destination weddings?
Time management. Can I say that same answer 10 times?
8. Any pieces of advice you would want to share?
If you have a desire to start marketing for destination weddings, I would highly recommend taking as many vacations and traveling as often as you can. If you’re the type that gets irritated with travel easily or spending a lot of time away from home and the office, this job isn’t for you. If you truly want to succeed; however, then determination and hard work will certainly pay off for you. Success will come. You just have to be hungry enough for it. Invest in yourself.