This post is kind of out of my ordinary subject rotation, but I think it’s important and it’s something that I think about way too much — so we’re gonna talk about it. Usually, when I decide to open my mouth, there is some resistance, and that’s fine. You don’t have to agree with me on all of this, but I want to start a bigger discussion around it, because I believe it’s worth our time and should be talked about.
YEP. I’m sayin’ it. Every single day, I see a post from someone wanting to know how to become an elopement photographer, or an instagram bio that says “for adventurous couples” or a combo of the two. Adventure, and elopements, are more than an opportunity to get good photos for instagram, and they’re more than just a trend.
There is this continual expectation that elopements lead to happiness as a photographer. The industry idolizes it in this weird way, and people obsess over wanting to take people to beautiful spots and become an elopement photographer so they can “see the world” or so they can enjoy their job as a photographer more…but the thing that people miss in this equation, is that its not about the travel, or the mountains, or the views, or the likes on instagram. If you don’t care about the relationships you are building with your couples, elopements aren’t going to magically make you happier or get you more clients.
Elopements are not this magic pill to achieve fame within the industry, or recognition, or “making it” and it’s time we stop treating them as such. I mean, this is someone’s wedding day for crying out loud. There is nothing wrong with wanting to niche down and focus on something that speaks to you, but for the love of everything good in this world…stop looking at elopements as a solution to finding fame, success, or money – and start looking at them as an opportunity to truly, deeply, intentionally connect with your couples.
Elopements are an opportunity to build a relationship that leaves a lasting impression on couples who invest in you. Elopements are an opportunity to support someone in their (sometimes difficult) decision to elope. Elopements are an opportunity to show your expertise, client experience, and overall humanity to people who likely just want a really good friend to tag along with them on their day.
Elopements are rad and not a day goes by that I don’t have gratitude for the business I am able to run because of them. But believe me when I say, it’s only half of the puzzle. The other half is you.
Now — I don’t want you to think that you can’t still take pretty photos and focus on that. After all, we are artists. However, unlike a traditional wedding day, your couple will likely talk to you more than anyone else. Wedding photographers are always a key vendor, but when planning a large wedding, many couples’ attention is so split and diverted amongst their vendors, that it can be difficult to really get deep with them in planning mode. To the wedding photographers who are deeply intentional here and “get” that this is important, no matter the wedding, you are amazing. Keep doing what you’re doing, and providing an experience that speaks to you and your couples.
If you already know that elopements will provide an opportunity to connect more, that’s amazing. But don’t expect it to just happen. Intentionality will take you far, no matter where you are in your market or which market you are in. Niching down is a big part of success, but being authentic in the relationships you create is more important than anything else. People want to feel known.
The relationships you build are more important than locations. More important than looks. More important than instagram followers. More important than a feature. More important than your photos. GASP. Did I just say that?!!
You can take great photos, but if your couples leave not really knowing you, or feeling known by you after spending their wedding day with you, or feeling like they weren’t very invested in, they won’t truly resonate with the photos you deliver. They won’t gush about you unprompted in conversation with their friends. They won’t think of you when they hear a friend is thinking about eloping. They won’t trust you enough to share the experience you gave them, with someone else. And that is a problem.
Usually, I’m of the opinion that the opinions of others don’t matter, but in the case of your clients: I retract that statement. Why?
Because trust is built by consistency, authenticity, and vulnerability. And if the internet died tomorrow and instagram stopped feeding your inbox with inquiries, what amount of bookings and business would your customer experience send you? If we as a society had to retreat back to the good old days of asking your friends for suggestions before reading 15 reviews on Google, would you be able to survive off of Instagram fame, because you take pretty photos of people on top of mountains? Maybe. But not as well as you’d survive if you invested in your couples from start to finish, and gave them the gift of authentic friendship instead of using them to get more likes.
Clients first, content second, period.