How to Move Your Wedding Photography Business to Hawaii
It sounds like a total dream. Pack up everything you own and hop on a one way ticket to paradise with your new husband. You can do your job anywhere, so this will be cake, right!? Yes, it’s a total dream. But the good things in life rarely come easy.
After my husband and I got engaged and he got orders to Oahu I proclaimed, “I FREAKIN GOT THIS!” I’d been running a business and shooting weddings for 6 years. I was 100% confident in my skill-set and was ready to walk out of the airport straight into my booming business on Oahu.
While I’m all for believing in yourself, I know now I was completely naive to the challenges of starting over in a new market all by myself. If you are considering moving your wedding photography business to Oahu, it’s a FANTASTIC market for photographers. Read on for my advice!
Here is what I learned after one year of shooting weddings and portraits on Oahu:
You need time to adjust, personally, before your business can thrive
I was not prepared for the adjustment to moving across the ocean. We were newly married, had just bought our first home, and were on the tails of all our wedding celebrations. I went from a time in life that came with a lot of attention to being without my support system in a strange new place. It was hard. And I found myself feeling guilty, after only being here a couple of months, that I hadn’t done more to grow the business already. Have grace for yourself and know that sometimes you have to put yourself and your marriage before your workaholic tendencies. The business will be there when you’re ready!
Being a newbie again is humbling AND inspiring
I went from having all the support of a 6 year old business to having not even a single portfolio image from a wedding in Hawaii. Man, that was humbling. I realized quickly how wonderful it had been to have so many connections when I lived in San Diego. I was back at square one. But thankfully I still had all those years of experience in my back pocket. As soon as I started shooting I was SO INSPIRED by the beauty of the island. I felt more creative than ever, because as we all know, Oahu is pretty freakin’ incredible!
Make one good photographer friend
As an introvert who has social anxiety, the making friends part of moving was what I dreaded the most. I was connected to my friend Rae through a mutual friend from the mainland and I’m so grateful I met her. YOU NEED A PHOTOGRAPHER FRIEND who is kind and generous with insights about the market on Oahu. She has helped me figure out shooting locations and referred clients to me when she’s not available. Find one solid gold friend like Rae and more will follow!
Put yourself out there to vendors and other photographers
After living here for about 6 months I said “to hell with it!” and went on an email rampage. I reached out to about 20 photographers who I had never met about second shooting for them. I also set up meetings with about 10 venues and coordinators on the island. The responses from my meetings and relationships with all of these people has been wonderful! I feel so much more connected to the community here. I would say I wish I had done it sooner, but remember my first point? You have to figure yourself out a little bit first.
Figure out your go-to shooting locations
On Oahu there are some interesting rules and regulations about where you can and cannot shoot. Because big budget Hollywood movies are shot here often, some beaches require a permit to shoot on them. Other beaches can also be private property of the hotel it is in front of. So my advice is to figure out your 3-5 go-to shooting locations that you feel comfortable with and stick to shooting at those. Most of your clients will be from out of town, so hold their hands through the process of planning their session and be honest with them about what is realistic. They will appreciate you for that!
Travel fees, Traffic, & Rain
I have a small travel fee built into my overhead for every single shoot here. That’s because Oahu has worse traffic than Downtown LA (literally). Remember my 3-5 go-to locations? Well they all happen to be 45-60 minutes away from my house depending on said traffic. My advice is to increase your pricing a touch to account for your time traveling to and from your sessions. Also, the weather here is very unreliable. You can leave for your session and have it go from sunshine to pouring rain by the time you get there. Make sure you address situations like that in your client contracts.
So how do I feel after shooting on Oahu for an entire year?
Personally, I feel like I have adjusted to the distance from friends and to quirks of the island. Business-wise I am SO EXCITED for YEAR 2! I have made it through my growing pains of being here without my team, made some great connections, and I now have the portfolio I need to book up the rest of 2019. Oahu is an amazing market for experienced photographers. My husband and I have even talked about choosing to live here longer than we planned so my career can keep thriving. I love Oahu (I still can’t believe I live in HAWAII) and I’m so happy we ended up in such an amazing place.
If you are considering a big move to Hawaii, it comes with its own set of challenges, but Hawaii is a photographers DREAM!