At the beginning of the year, I ran across a website that made me say WOW. I’ve been a destination wedding photographer since the mid 90’s. And I’ve written and promoted ideas to help you understand destination a little bit more, and how you can apply it to your business AND make a healthy living at it to.
That’s why I loved it when I found someone who is actually doing it.
Meet Karma Hill
Karma runs Good Karma Photography Inc in Maui, Hawaii, and fills her days with portraits and weddings. But she doesn’t promote herself as a photographer to local clientele – look at her website and you’ll see she focuses on the tourists, and markets her business as a vacation photographer.
So if you are spending thousands of dollars to leave your snowy home in January, and head to Hawaii to take in some sun and fun, you probably have spending money in your pocket. Why not get a family portrait on the beach?
The more I researched, the more excited I became. Not only is Karma having such success with her portrait business, she started a sister site to cover the full spectrum of portrait clients. A client can come to her for a memorable beach vacation portrait and spend whatever is in their budget.
Not only is she having a ton of success with her photography business, she’s also started off into a new direction – helping photographers understand how to become destination photographers too. Her newest release is an ebook, Destination Photography Business: How To Tap In To The Multi-Billion Dollar Travel Industry.
Every state in the U.S. has millions of visitors annually, and has billions of dollars in spending. And this isn’t unique to the U.S. People love to travel; that isn’t going to change. So why not combine what you love – photography – with what people love to do – travel – and create a business that easily brings in Six Figures per year.
I’ve been chatting with Karma quite a bit since I found her site, and asked her a few questions.
Lori: I know you started your business in 2006. How long did it take you to have a full time income from this concept?
Karma: I quit my day job 6 months after I started my business. I made around $30,000 the first year and the business has grown leaps and bounds each year in annual income. In 2009, gross income grew into six figures!
Lori: With two different photography businesses, you must be pretty busy. How many hours per week do you work at this?
Karma: I am very busy! It is hard to estimate as I work from home and I am always sneaking in 15 or 20 minutes here or there but I would say I work about 40-45 hours per week. I try to keep my hours to a minimum so I can enjoy life more and more time with my Family! I usually have weekends off which is a perk of working with people on vacation, they can shoot anytime during the week!
Lori: Do you have employees at this point? How many and what do they do for you?
Karma: I don’t have “employees” but I do use subcontractors. I find the paperwork much easier and it is more cost effective for me on taxes and insurance than having employees. I have one person who has their own business that I hire to do my photo editing, I have another business owner that I hire to do the shooting and editing for my second brand and I have my husband and business partner who picks up all my slack with the Marketing and Accounting. So technically I have no employees, but I have lots of help!
Lori: What do your clients love most about your service?
Karma: Besides the images themselves, the number one thing my clients comment about is the ease of use of my website in the planning and booking process. They love the locations page so they can see where their portraits will be made even though they are thousands of miles away and they love that they could easily reserve their date and book their portrait session online. They also love the fact that they get a proofing website and disc of digital images, in fact many of my clients have told me that the fact that I offer a disc is the reason why they chose me over other photographers in my area.
Lori: Anything else you would like to share?
Karma: Yes! This is a totally new type of destination photography. I am marketing my destination for photography and my clients are coming to me! My business model is 100% targeted towards visitors to my area, it is not a traditional studio model that tries to get every kind of photography business out there. I worked with 2 local families last year in the hundreds of shoots I completed. I only do portrait and wedding photography, no real estate, food or events and I stay busy enough to support my whole family. This is because of the niche marketing I have done, when you go to my web site, you know exactly who I am targeting. The other thing I would like to point out is that you do not need to live in a place like Hawaii for this business model to work, every state has a tourism draw that you can tap into. The concept of getting your family portraits made while on vacation is relatively new, I was the first person in my market to really focus on this and now you can find lots of other photographers attempting to do this as well. The more the word gets out about this the more this kind of photography will grow. I see it as a whole new market segment that the photography industry has not even come close to realizing the full potential of.
Thanks Karma, and congrats on a very successful business model.