Maximize Your Travel: The Art of Fitting Six Trips into One

Maximize Your Travel: The Art of Fitting Six Trips into One

Maximize Your Travel: The Art of Fitting Six Trips into One with Phillip Blume

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the April issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Has the travel bug ever bitten you? If you’re reading this issue of Shutter Magazine, I bet the answer is yes. Symptoms include feelings of discontent when standing still, reverse homesickness and increasing levels of poverty.

Although my local market boasts one of America’s highest poverty rates, my wife, Eileen, and I have turned our studio into a successful brand that serves high-end clients worldwide—all while balancing life with our three young kids. We teach fellow photographers at every level of the game to do the same. Within our exclusive online community, we’ve been sharing some of our best travel secrets from our recent photo trips to the Grand Canyon, London and glorious Asturias, Spain. Check it out at

In the meantime, I’m excited to share some of our foundational travel hacks with you.

As a high-school teacher turned aspiring photographer in 2010, I thought my travel days were over, especially once kids arrived. I never imagined exploring the globe would become my life just a year after we took our struggling studio full-time.

With these simple strategies, you can maximize your travel and enjoy the trip. I’m talking about maximizing your experiences, time and money, and maybe even turning a profit. If you’re the type of person whose camera follows you wherever you go, you already have a giant head start on making your next trip a life-changing one. Let’s talk about how.

Identify an “Anchor Event”

I began traveling the world at just 12 years old. Every trip had a single purpose: a mission trip focused on rebuilding or feeding the hungry, study abroad or a vacation to visit family. Today, I expect much more out of my travel plans.

Take my trip to the Grand Canyon in November. I planned this trip, as we do all our travel, around an “anchor event.” You can do this yourself. Early in the year, I start by filling my calendar with all the events and dream vacations I’d like to take. In my iCal, I label these events “yellow”—as in “Slow down, Phillip. You’re dreaming. This probably will never happen.” (I know. I’m such a pessimist, right?) True, most won’t happen. But at least they’re visible on the schedule. So now I’m opening my mind and the door to opportunities.

An anchor event isn’t a random pipe dream. It’s a real event that has value. For instance, you’ll find every imaginable photo convention listed on my yellow anchor calendar. That’s what led me to the Grand Canyon. I wanted to attend the Showit United conference in Arizona, where we spoke to and fell in love with the community the prior year. But it wasn’t in our budget, and I couldn’t be away from the studio an entire week for just one event. But wait. What if I could turn one event in Arizona into many simultaneous opportunities?

Create a Model Call

As a photographer and business owner, you have to be a brand expert. And remember, when it comes to selling your brand to attract potential clients, perception isn’t just reality—it’s the only reality. To book clients, you must exude credibility. To create credibility, you must demonstrate experience. So it’s time to build your portfolio more intentionally, my friend.

I’m a wedding photographer. So I put out the call first to our “Blume brides,” past and present: Who would like to meet us in Arizona for a Grand Canyon photo shoot? Fortunately, one of our already-engaged couples had ties to the state, and they were ecstatic at the prospect of visiting old stomping grounds and friends near the Grand Canyon. I had my models for a destination engagement shoot. That’s now two good reasons to go to Arizona in November, if anyone is counting.

If you don’t have a current list of brides or potential models (or if your list simply doesn’t deliver a good prospect), put the call out on Facebook. It’s astonishing how you can target a model call to a specific demographic and place. Ask for models to “apply,” not to “book,” your services. Get their headshots, be professional, and choose those that fit your brand. You’re not likely to find paying clients for a specific date and in someone else’s market that easily, but you will find aspiring models who will bite at the chance to build their portfolios.

Join a New Family

When is the last time you got to visit a friend who moved away? Most of us lose touch with people who matter to us, instead saving our limited vacation days for generic trips to the beach.

Aside from writing events on my anchor calendar, I’ve marked open dates and slow off-seasons with the addresses of far-off friends we’d like to see. In the case of Arizona, I learned from my dad that I had a long lost cousin who lived just minutes from the Showit United conference. He and his sweet wife were more than happy to let us stay with them. Yes, that’s a free room. But it’s so much more.

I had so much in common with my cousin. And as it turned out, he had a daughter in high school who was getting into photography. What an awesome connection. Now I’m cheering her on when she posts work to Facebook. I often think about how sad it would be if I’d never left an opening in my life for these new relationships.

Explore the Local Flavor

People are more transient than ever in the digital age, and we’ve been amazed to find family and friends living in almost every part of the world where we want to travel. But if you can’t find a welcoming place to make your trip more worthwhile, have you considered building a relationship with your hotel or other local businesses?

Don’t feel intimidated. Think like an entrepreneur, and remember that every business owner out there is just like you—they’re working hard to succeed and will be so happy if you can offer them something valuable. You’re a photographer. You have so much to offer.

This is the same way we share with fellow wedding vendors, isn’t it? Stay at an iconic location, shoot the venue and share the images. Or instead of a big hotel chain with major ad contracts already in place, choose a local hotel or AirB&B to make beautiful through your photographs. Share the images with the owners as a gift, create a relationship, and you can usually expect kind reciprocation—if not now, then on your next trip back.

Do the same at restaurants and more. Photograph your own plate. Do it well. Now you’re creating a portfolio within a new genre that you can use to impress prospective clients back home, who are likely to be impressed: “He created these great food shots at a five-star restaurant in Tokyo. Well, we definitely feel confident hiring him to photograph our menu then.”

Find a Personal Project

When time allows, I make sure to return home from every trip with something personal—either an experience or something I’ve created for myself as an artist. Call it a souvenir. Sure, photographing food and people pays the bills. But creating landscape and wildlife photography feels as therapeutic now as it did 20 years ago, when I tried my hand at it for the first time in Alaska.

For my Grand Canyon adventure, my personal project was twofold. First, I invited my dad to go with me. It would be a priceless experience. He and I talked for years about hiking the Appalachian Trail together, but it never happened. You know how life gets away from us all.

I don’t want that to happen to me. Eileen and I seek a life that is rich with meaning, not just money or other distractions. So by scheduling a few days between Showit United and my engagement shoot, my dad and I got to take the father-son trip we had dreamed of. Let me tell you, camping and hiking in the Grand Canyon was breathtaking.

Secondly, while hiking, I relied on my Spider Holster camera belt to help me easily pack in heavy DSLRs deep into the Canyon. I was able to capture wildlife and landscape images using the equipment I wanted. The result was a self-made nature photography calendar that we printed and sold online. Some of you may have purchased our last year’s calendar, whose proceeds went to fund the adoption of our son. Our sweet three-year-old boy has been with us for 10 months now, and we can’t imagine life without him. See how meaningful a personal project can be when you travel, and the community it can help create.

Connect With Sponsors

I mentioned Spider Holster and Showit United above. Eileen and I actually refuse to recommend companies in our industry unless we actually use them and love the way they serve photographers. I like to review gear on the road, where we really use it. In the Grand Canyon, I recorded video to show my Spider Holster’s features that could serve as useful information to our ComeUnity Unifiers and, since it was a positive review, was also of value to Spider Holster.

Brands appreciate that, and if you’re good enough or prolific enough, you may build a good relationship that way. Securing a sponsorship may seem like a career apex for many photographers. If that’s you, fine. Even paid sponsorships are not the golden egg they’re cracked up to be, but they can help you build credibility.


We have lot more favorite tips. I mention one in the video below. For the rest, we invite you to join our ComeUnity group to learn more over the coming weeks, at See you inside.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the April issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

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