Alright, guys. I know a lot of you have just seen me traveling through Europe - hitting up the sauna in Finland, frolicking through the streets of Denmark, hiking the woods of Germany, boating around the coast of Italy… but I had to give you the real life picture today.
In today’s world, where social media completely runs our perception of reality, I always want to be transparent, real, and honest.
I love my job. I love it more than words. I wouldn’t trade this for the WORLD right now. Seriously, not for anything. But it’s not easy. Period. Today, I wanted to give you an unfiltered picture of what it’s like to be a destination photographer. Because in reality, I don’t do this because it’s one big beautiful vacation. And I don’t want you believing that my life is so much better than yours. So let’s get down to the dirt on this crazy life I live.
Lemme just start with this:
It’s stressful as heck
(Holy CRAP it’s stressful.) If you think that being a wedding photographer — where you’re documenting the biggest day of someone’s life… a once in a lifetime celebration + event — is stressful… imagine suddenly diving into a completely new environment, location, situation, time zone, language, and culture. Being a photographer in general can be a lot of pressure. People are paying their hard-earned money to have us document their love story. I never take that lightly. That’s a huge honor to me. But if we feel responsibility and pressure handling a wedding or a shoot in our stomping grounds, it gets amplified by about 500 when you travel to an outside location. The variables multiply by about 50, and the opportunity to reschedule typically vanishes entirely. If that doesn’t scare the heck out of you, then your parents really screwed you over when they let you watch that scary movie at 4 years old.
It’s NOT a vacation
My clients aren’t paying me good money to frolic around the world without a care. I’m working. My mental zone is 100% locked in to ‘work mode.” I’ll shut it off for a few hours when I’m traveling and take in and enjoy the location or moment… if it’s a long trip, sometimes I block out a full day (on my own time + money, of course.) But most of the time? I’m not only focused and working on my job in front of me - but I’m also still running an entire business while I’m also on the road. It’s sunrise to sunset. I work from the minute I wake up to the minute my eyes refuse to stay open any longer. Case in point? I’m currently writing this section from the front passenger seat of a car, cruising down the German Autobaun. I’m about 5 hours into a 6 hour drive from Berlin to Cologne; I’ve been traveling for about 14 hours today; I’m 5 days into a 16 day trip through Europe. Four countries, six shoots. I’m tired. I’m just ready to be out of the car, off a plane, fresh out of a hot shower, FaceTiming my best friend back home, and sleeping for a solid 20 hours straight. Instead? I’m working. Writing blog posts, typing up draft emails to my assistant + clients, figuring out meeting locations for my shoots this week, editing sneak peeks from my shoots over the weekend, and setting out to-do lists for the 4 days I’m home between this trip and my next one.
Here’s the truth: you don’t stop. It’s work. There have been quite a few moments on this trip that I’ve wished I was just on a vacation - able to let go of all responsibility, duties, and just frolic around Europe for 2 weeks. But that’s not why I’m here. And that’s beyond okay. I LOVE WHAT I DO. But I know sometimes it can seem like one big, massive, stress-free vacation. And that’s just not true.
It’s not about me
I wanna get super blunt with y’all for a minute. (Please still love me after this comment.)
If you’re longing to be a destination photographer because it looks exotic, adventurous, exciting, or fun for you… you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Stop. Analyze your heart. Why do you want to travel around the world? For you and you alone? Or for your clients? To serve, love, bless, and be there for them?
I’m not saying you can’t think of yourself at all in this equation. Obviously, you play a big part in all of this. You’re sacrificing your time, energy, sanity, time with family and friends, and sometimes your health to travel to your clients. (As I just said above: it’s not easy! You have to be 100% in before you start this journey.)
But if you’re thinking you want to become a destination photographer for the thrills or fame or fun of it… please think again. You’ll burn out faster than Taylor Swift’s romances.
It’s not about you. That’s the bottom line. This is about offering a beautiful, unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience for your clients. This is about telling a unique, powerful, tear-worthy love story in even a single image. The image great grandkids will pull out of the (extremely outdated, unused, and laughably old-fashioned) Instagram archives one day; the image that sparks grandma to tell the story of the day her best friend and future husband (oh, but she didn’t know it then, trust her) walked into that old high school cafeteria.
That story, my friends. That is what you’re doing here. You’re freezing that story into beautiful, breathtaking photos. You’re capturing memories and putting them into their own little jars. That’s your job. That’s what your couples are paying and trusting you to do. You are fully invested in them. Those incredible, wild, carefree, amazing, precious humans you would do almost anything to serve, to bless, to love.
Are you waking up at 3am for that sunrise session for you? For likes on Instagram? For a feature on Dirty Boots and Messy Hair? Or to tell their story? To capture their reckless, wild, adventurous love, in their favorite camping spot, or their dream destination?
Because that’s the real game changer here. When you realize what this truly is: a service, an experience, a way to love someone else with your skills, your artistry, your time, your energy, and your passion… it becomes even more worth it. Those long, long, long hours, the late nights, the early mornings, the sick, exhausted, stressful moments become that much more incredible.
It’s not about you. It’s about them, and their story.
It requires big-time sacrifices
I’ve hopefully already hinted at this one. Hopefully. But ooohhhh yes. You’ll make sacrifices, trust me. Big ones.
It’s not always easy. It’s a job, just like any other, where there are days you can’t wait to work and days where you’re sick as a dog in a foreign country and have no choice but to shoot your wedding or session (because you absolutely can’t reschedule) and hop on a plane the next day with a completely stuffed nose and an ear infection to boot. (Yep. Been there. That HURT, dude.)
Just ask yourself, right here, right now: are you willing to sacrifice some relationships right now? (Leaving your husband/wife for long stretches of time if they can’t come on a trip, not dating anyone because it just isn’t reasonable when you’re always on the road [hand raised over here], or maybe being a part of a friend or sibling’s new relationship, job, or pregnancy.) Are you willing to see an airplane more often than you see your family? Are you ready to face the stresses of working in a strange place, across the world from home, modern medicine, your own language, etc, when rescheduling isn’t an option? Are you okay with missing birthdays, anniversaries, births, weddings, and holidays? Because you will. You’ll sacrifice a lot of these things, if not all. I’m speaking from experience here.
You’ll learn lessons the hard way, and find your limits by flying by them and crashing hard.
But ohhh it’s still so, so worth it. I just want to be honest about what you’ll be asked to give up on in this job. It’s not a walk in the park. It’s a hard, demanding hike. But trust me, the views are killer.
I hope I haven’t crushed dreams or shattered hopes. But I do hope I’ve knocked some rose-colored glasses off your nose just a little bit. It’s not always easy. But if you go in with your eyes wide open, set your boundaries firmly for your own life, and know your why, it’s the greatest job on planet earth, I swear.