Travelling Rates

Mountains in upstate Vermont, obscured by smoke from fires in Quebec. It's something I took on an actual vacation.When I first start this business I decided that I wanted to work throughout New England, in part to cast a net as widely as possible to jump start my business. It's worked, but one question that keeps coming up is the travel rate. It's a factor that should be considered when planning any wedding, especially a destination event.

If a wedding could be in Provincetown or Pittsfield things can start to add up that need to be accounted for like time, fuel and wear and tear on the vehicle. That is straightforward enough when staying in a tight circle around my home base in Southeastern Massachusetts. When it's a destination wedding or unusual location, things can get a little more complicated.

I bring this up because I recently received and inquiry about shooting a wedding this fall on Nantucket. A lovely little island just off Cape Cod, Nantucket isn't some foreign destination far from the beaten path, so why did my travel rate jump from $23 ($.50 a mile after the first 100 miles round trip) to $475?

In a word, logistics. When planning a special destination wedding a bride and groom can engouter many stumbling blocks that can turn what would be a modestly budgeted wedding near home into something more expensive. People and parts have to be brought in from elsewhere; there needs to be a place to put them all before and after the wedding; and what will you and your guests eat and do while they're waiting on your wedding?

For a photographer the problems are naturally on a much smaller scale, and generally only concern himself and any of his entourage. There's parking, tickets, rentals, food, lodging and taxes to consider (and in some cases permits and other legal documentation). All of this has costs above and beyond the package price.

In my FAQ, I've laid out what it takes to cover a destination wedding. This is a practical example.

Let's say for example the wedding runs from 3 to 8 pm (with the advanced package that's only $1,500) on Nantucket. That morning I'll park at the Steamship Authority ($20/day, a total of $40) and put myself and my associate photographer on a ferry for a two-hour ride ($66 round-trip). Now bringing a car along would be an additional $380 round trip, so it's cheaper to rent a car on the island which is about $80 all things considered (Nantucket has a fun array of Kias to choose from). The last fast ferry leaves around 8:30 (tickets out on that would be $64), so we would have to be done with coverage at 7 to leave enough time to return the car and get the tickets (and weddings hardly ever run on time).

Barring that it's a hotel room for the evening (price here varies with the season, in the case of this late-September wedding it's around $175). Then there are some meals and putting gas back into the rental, another $75 or so. Finally you have the taxes and fees that get lumped on top of everything. So you wind up in the ballpark of $475.

For a professional photographer each of these expenses goes against the cost of the package, and failing to keep account of them hurts a business in the long run. So the travel fee is born to offset the costs of a shoot that go beyond what was built into the package.