Getting the Most out of Destination Weddings with Leonardo Volturo


Getting the Most out of Destination Weddings with Leonardo Volturo

The destination wedding is one of the most sought-after gigs in our industry. Why do we love them so much? Is it for the free vacation? Is it the opportunity to photograph new, exotic, exciting locations? Maybe you want them for the notoriety and ability to showcase the images in your portfolio.

If you answered yes to the free-vacation question, you need to reevaluate your zeal for destination weddings. I see way too many photographers who look at destination weddings the wrong way. They take them on and essentially work for free, with the client paying only for travel. They give a substantial discount right away. I’ve actually seen photographers pay their own way and take a big loss just to get the job.

They justify booking the weddings this way by looking at it as a vacation. Or they think they’ll capture such great images that the destination gigs will start rolling in. This is not the way to build a destination-wedding business. In fact, it could be an easy way to fail if you don’t take them seriously.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about how you can get the most out of your destination weddings, financially and artistically.


The number-one thing you need to keep in mind is that when you take on a destination wedding, you’re going to most likely be away for a minimum of three days. That’s three days away from your business. That’s three days during which you could have booked multiple weddings.

Let’s say your average wedding is $5,000. You have a potential loss of up to $10,000 if you were daring enough to shoot three weddings in a row. (We did that once, never again.) But call it two weddings. That’s still $5,000 you’re potentially losing. The great thing about shooting weddings is that we get booked up months in advance. We know what our peak times are, so we’re able to project out far enough to weigh our options when considering taking on a destination wedding. That’s a solid step one.

Obviously there’s no guarantee you’re going to book two weddings that weekend, or even one, which takes us to the next part of the decision tree. Turning that wedding down could leave you with zero. Let’s presume, then, that you want to book the wedding. Being confident in your pitch and pricing and knowing your numbers is the best way to position yourself to land the gig.

There are two ways to price a destination wedding:

  • Use your standard pricing. The client covers all travel expenses, including flight, hotel, and airport transfers or a rental car. This can be tweaked by adding a daily per diem to cover meals if you’re forced into a situation where only more expensive meal options are available. A second tweak would be to only accept destination weddings if they’re booking your top collection, which, if you’re priced correctly, should provide a good enough payday to take the wedding without worrying too much about being away from your business.
  • Add up all your travel costs for the event and give the client an all-inclusive set price. On top of that, you can charge extra for your time away. This model is preferred by many clients because it’s a single figure.

Whatever method you choose, ensure you have done your homework and are pricing yourself for profit.

For more information, including travel tips and challenges we’ve faced, check out my article from June 2015.


This is your time to shine, go nuts, experiment and build your portfolio. This is what it’s all about, right? Wrong.

Our couples hire us to provide a complete wedding experience and to document their day. You have to make sure you’re telling their story and capturing images just like you were back at home. I know the allure of all those new portfolio images is really calling you. Take a breath, get your timeline on point, and you’ll be able to work it all in.

Do your walkthrough the day before. The first thing we do when we arrive on property after checking in is to identify all the key locations and map everything out. Where is everyone getting ready? Where is the ceremony, cocktails and reception? Do you need a first-look location? Offer to photograph the rehearsal as part of your package. You’re there anyway, and it’s a great way to meet the families and get some candid images to add to the story. We include as much time as we need to document the day.

On the wedding day, do your best to stick to your normal routine. After you’ve got the images your clients expect, you can experiment. But what if you don’t have enough time to experiment on the day of? Great question. This is where your scouting and planning are crucial. Come up with a plan for where you want to go and what you want to do after you’ve got what you need for your clients.

The final thing we throw in for all of our destination weddings (and you should definitely do this) is a free day-after session. Our clients have no issue keeping us another night to gain another day for creative images.

This is your time to shine. If you did get all your safe shots on day one, now you can take all the time you need creating more dramatic images to add to your portfolio—and, hopefully, to your bottom line. Come up with a plan for that day. Your clients will most likely be getting hair and makeup done again and putting their wedding clothes back on. So get what you need, but be efficient. Don’t keep them out all day just so you can pad your portfolio.

Don’t rely on your day-after session to get the images you should be getting on day one. What if it rains, or the bride and groom are hungover? This day is the quiet reason we take these weddings, which is to get more ammo for our sales sessions and build our portfolio to bring in new clients.

Now that you’ve got your shooting plan and a solid pricing strategy, you are on your way to building a solid foundation for adding destination weddings to your repertoire.

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