Homecomings have such a special place in my heart. As a military wife myself, I truly understand every emotion that these families go through during homecoming day and it fills my heart.
If you are a photographer wanting to shoot homecomings, keep reading and I will share some of my tips and information you need to know to shoot homecomings properly!
This is probably the most important tip and piece of information you need to know. If you don't read anything else PLEASE READ THIS!
There are hundreds of Marines leaving and coming back at the same time and only a handful of photographers. And we book quick! Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOTTTT, book a homecoming if you don't have a wide open availability. You need to be able to move mountains to ensure you will be there. If you have another job and the homecoming lands on a day and time that you are working, you will cause sooo much stress to the family on a day that is so joyous. The chances of them finding another photographer is slim to NONE! Do not be THAT photographer who cancels. If you didn't know, homecomings are incredibly unpredictable. You could be waiting for 4-6 hours, the dates will change a hundred times, the flights can be cancelled the day of, and so much more. Just be sure you will make every effort to be there.
Tip #2 Opsec
Please remember OPSEC. Do not post or share dates, times, or locations of when the homecoming is taking place. This could jeopardize the safe return of these Marines and could also cause them to delay the homecoming.
Tip #3 Waiting
You could be waiting for HOURS! Don't be impatient. Interact with your client to help time go by faster. Share stories with each other, ask them about there plans when there significant other gets back, and just be a friend for them. The anticipation is rough and you should do whatever you can to make the time go by faster!
Tip #4 Capture a Story
When your client looks at there album you want them to relive that day. Tell a story from beginning to end. Capture the moments of her checking her phone for updates, there kids playing not knowing what is about to happen, the moment they see the buses, the look on there face when the first make eye contact with there loved one. Capture it ALL!
Tip #5 Prices and Packages
How much should you charge for a homecoming? Look, I get it. Homecomings are rough. You have to block off so much time and are unable to book other clients. You could be there ALL day too. I know how valuable time is. But I encourage you to keep your prices as low as possible. These families deserve to have someone there to take photos. Most, if not all of them, have no family around to be there with them to take photos of this moment.
What should be included in your packages? I include all digital images. I do not put a cap on the photos. I never hold back a great photo! I like to make it super simple for them. But of course, this is all up to you!
Tip #7 Lighting
The lighting can get crazy! Some homecomings can be at 2 AM and it is PITCH black and your camera has NOTHING to focus on. I can make a whole other blog post about lighting situations but just know that the lighting is unpredictable. Before booking your first homecoming I suggest shadowing another photographer to practice practice practice! Get to know your equipment and practice for all different lighting situations!
Tip #6 When to Leave
My last and final tip. Do not push the couple to take photos after there Marines arrival. They just traveled multiple days to see there family and haven't slept or seen their home in MONTHS! I always take the photos of them interacting for the first time and quickly ask them to turn for a family photo and then I leave. I will always stay if they want extra photos, but this is RARELY the case.
I hope this has helped you get an idea of what to expect when photographing homecomings and will help you with deciding whether or not to take this on!