I’m an Adventure Elopement Photographer — Here’s How I Grew Using SEO

Sam Starns is a self-taught photographer who focuses on journey elopements everywhere in the US.
She constructed her enterprise strategically by focusing on SEO phrases and giving welcome items to purchasers.
Here’s her story, as instructed to author Perri Ormont Blumberg.
This as-told-to essay relies on a dialog with Sam Starns, a 31-year-old journey elopement photographer based mostly in Roseburg, Oregon, about her job. It has been edited for size and readability.I’m based mostly in Southern Oregon, however I journey worldwide for my job as an journey elopement photographer. I’m additionally ordained via Universal Life Church, and I officiate a extra simplified model of a standard ceremony whereas photographing in real-time for roughly half my {couples}.So far, I’ve been to 10 states and 4 nations for my work, and it is ever-expanding. My path to changing into a self-taught photographer began with my expertise competing in equestrian occasions. I beloved the motion of the horses (their mane, tail, traces when a horse goes over a bounce) and my father had a Minolta that he’d use to {photograph}. I would borrow it and thru trial and error — and after experimenting with totally different niches like macrophotography, panorama, weddings, and households — I homed in on weddings after which extra particularly elopements. I took a extra ballsy route and did not second shoot or help at weddings, which many photographers do once they’re first beginning out.Instead, I soaked up info from free on-line sources and some small programs and workshops and offered discounted marriage ceremony images for my first a number of weddings. While I do not suggest not second taking pictures to start out, I knew my capability and was ready with twin slot cameras (so your photos are on two SD playing cards as an alternative of 1) and backup techniques so I would not lose any shopper photos.I began my journey elopement images enterprise in 2017 after photographing weddings part-time for a number of years Before that, I labored in varied fields, together with as an environmental schooling intern and park ranger on the Oregon Coast with the Bureau of Land Management.

Jacintha and Kevin.

Courtesy of Sam Starns

Now, utilizing my information as a park ranger and thru my minor focus in geological sciences in college, I educate my {couples} on the out of doors areas we discover whereas capturing their “finest day but.” I present a planning portal with location info, vendor referrals, and “go away no hint” info, amongst different sources for my purchasers earlier than we shoot. Via e mail, textual content, and Zoom calls, the couple and I manage what I inform them to think about as “an journey first, and a marriage second.” That method, they don’t seem to be slowed down with the traditional concepts of how a marriage ought to go, and we will concentrate on what resonates with them as an alternative.My least costly assortment is 4 hours and begins at $6,000, however {couples} can e-book as much as two full days of adventuring and past, which may be upwards of $15,000. The overwhelming majority of {couples} decide to e-book a full eight-hour day or one-and-a-half days. I usually {photograph} round 4 to 5 elopements a month on common throughout peak season from May to October. I restrict the variety of {couples} I {photograph} throughout peak season in an effort to dedicate my focus to them.Since 2017, I’ve photographed greater than 100 journey elopements and adventure-intimate weddings of as much as 20 company

Lindsey and Kevin.

Courtesy of Sam Starns

Adventure elopements are sometimes me, the couple, and perhaps a couple of different individuals. When it will get to 15-20 company, I contemplate it extra of an intimate marriage ceremony. I additionally do separate “journey periods” for engagements, “only for enjoyable,” or anniversaries.After regretting my very own marriage ceremony and desirous to elope throughout the planning course of, I realized that I wasn’t alone in feeling like a standard marriage ceremony wasn’t consultant of the connection I had with my partner. I now try this very factor I want I had when I was engaged: I empower {couples} to have a marriage day that represents their relationship.I was in a position to develop my enterprise by homing in on SEO and offering invaluable sources on my web site, together with focused Google Ads While I have a strong social-media presence of round 7,500 followers, I’m not what it’s possible you’ll name “Instagram well-known.” Instead of counting on my followers or word-of-mouth referrals, I goal location-based key phrases like “Oregon elopement photographer” and “Alaska elopement photographer.” I additionally key phrase goal helpful search phrases that engaged of us are looking for, like “the best way to elope in [location]” or “the best way to cancel your marriage ceremony and elope” by writing articles and weblog posts optimized with helpful information, with the intent of serving the customer.I’ve additionally written a e-book, “Elope Your Life,” which I self-published by way of IngramSpark, and I gave a TEDx Talk in April 2021 concerning the pressures of the modern-day marriage ceremony trade and the best way to have the most effective elopement ever.There has been an improve in bookings — my bookings for 2023 are practically twice what they usually are right now of yr. My expertise and the e-book and TEDx Talk have allowed me to boost costs and be extra selective with whom I work with, so I may’ve missed out on some inquiries who heard about me via these avenues as a result of I was out of finances. Ultimately, these two tasks have been about persevering with to unfold consciousness about eloping and giving sources to {couples} contemplating it.

Starns giving her TEDx discuss.

Ray Hull

The fantastic thing about journey elopements and serving to {couples} see what’s potential is that every single day is differentA typical day can begin earlier than dawn with preparing photos and catching the dawn at a beautiful viewpoint. It can finish at sundown with a glass of champagne, or staying up late to seize astrophotography portraits. In between, there are sometimes preparing photos that transition into a primary look (if a pair decides to prepare individually), mountaineering, occurring a tour/expertise like a helicopter journey, sea kayaking, or horseback using, having a picnic lunch or stopping by a pub to seize a pint, and carving out intentional time for his or her ceremony.When I’m not within the subject (which regularly requires me to be gone for days or even weeks at a time), each work day at my workplace is totally different as effectively. Numerous it’s spent on the pc. I could also be enhancing photos or chatting with my {couples} from throughout the nation on Zoom, attending to know one another, and brainstorming about their day. I is perhaps enhancing marriage ceremony albums that my {couples} obtain as a part of their elopement assortment.I additionally give every of my {couples} who e-book a full day or extra with me a welcome field. They’re custom-made to some degree based mostly on the couple, and I create them after the couple fills out a “Getting to Know You” questionnaire. The field usually consists of merchandise from native companies close to the place they’re eloping, like glacier cleaning soap from Denali Dreams in the event that they’re eloping in Alaska.While I’ve had individuals remark that elopements have to be booming, for me, that is not fairly correctElopements have jumped in reputation as a result of pandemic, however I’ve discovered there are typically two varieties of people that elope: There are those that have embraced the thought of journey, making their day as intentional as potential with all of the sights and experiences they love.Then there are these whom I name “Plan B Elopers,” which is the extra frequent state of affairs. Those are the people who find themselves shifting their marriage ceremony plans throughout an extremely tough time and both do not need to have a giant, in-depth elopement expertise, or who do not realize it is an choice. Either method, they don’t seem to be as invested within the concept of an elopement.My profession has taken me to some superb locations and allowed me to share my out of doors information with a number of the most unbelievable individuals

Shelby and Jeff.

Courtesy of Sam Starns

A high elopement reminiscence was Shelby and Jeff. We took a helicopter to a glacier in Alaska then zoomed up a mountaintop, the place they’d their ceremony. Their households, a complete of round 5 company, have been helicoptered up individually. Their second day of protection was horseback using, and their third day was again up in a helicopter to a glacier the place they went canine sledding. We have been in a position to experience our environment with no different guests round and seek for moose from the air, and I was in a position to share geological information of glaciers and the way they rework the topography.Incorporating distinctive and epic actions and locations stimulates my inventive aspect. I’m in a position to get extra epic photos than if we have been merely driving to and mountaineering a preferred path that was crowded with different guests.Another stunning reminiscence was Gabby and Lydia saying their vows among the many Redwoods, earlier than using horses among the many old-growth bushes.

Gabby and Lydia.

Courtesy of Sam Starns

My finest recommendation that goes past the final recommendation that may apply to most photographers is to verify your area of interest is one thing you are keen about While journey elopements aren’t all mountaineering 10 miles up a mountain, in case you don’t love being outdoor lots, this area of interest seemingly will not fulfill you long run. Find features of your area of interest that resonate with who you’re as an individual. If you like astronomy, permit that to be a sub-specialty you could share along with your topics. Be an knowledgeable at taking nighttime portraits. If you are obsessive about a specific nationwide park, share that love.You generally is a specialist, however being genuine to who you’re will convey you way more success and happiness than doing one thing as a result of it is what others are doing.


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