Being a destination wedding photographer is on the bucket list for many budding and professional photographers alike. The industry is all about connections and referrals; once you have impressed several couples and their wedding parties, chances to be hired outside your region will have grown exponentially. If you’ve proven yourself in terms of having a unique perspective and polished craft, couples who are planning destination weddings often bring their preferred vendors along with them. The best method for success in this, and all facets of business, is preparation. Here are a few tips to help you along the way if you are newly experiencing this avenue of photography.
When traveling via plane to shoot a wedding, the challenge is to pack as lightly as possible. Depending on what you normally rely on, this can be a true feat of ingenuity! Not only must you consider weight restrictions, you also must take into account the terrain in which you’ll be working within. Will you be shooting on a beach and trying to drag your camera bag suited with wheels through sand? Will you be on a boat with limited places to secure your gear or need some type of water protection?
Will you be shooting in colder temps that drain your battery faster than you are used to? Will you need power converters for outlets with different voltages? These and many more questions must be considered beforehand and having a clear “essentials” list while packing is a must! Here is a handy outline we created to help you pack! Of course the gear you pack will vary dependent on your kit, however we have included suggested gear checklist that is good for shooting on the go.
Choosing the right bag for your needs is an essential. The safe maximum size for international carry-on luggage is 45″, in the form of a 22″ x 14″ x 9″ bag. Here are a few TSA carry-on compliant travel bags available to rent at BorrowLenses.com:
- Think Tank Airport International V2.0 Rolling Camera Bag: offers the greatest interior capacity while maintaining the proper exterior dimensions for carry on restrictions for most airlines.
- Pelican Carry On 1510 Rolling Camera Case: an unbreakable, watertight, airtight, dust-proof, chemical resistant and corrosion-proof hard case used to carry any kind of equipment that needs to be protected from the elements.
- ILE Ultimate Photographer’s Bag: for photographers on the go and fully water/weather proof.
Anything of value, is fragile, or important (including batteries and chargers) should be packed in your carry on bag. Also carry a compact outfit that can be worn at the wedding in case your luggage goes missing or doesn’t make a connecting flight. Print out your itinerary, important addresses, maps, and contact info for your couple and the accommodations in case of spotty wifi and internet availability.
Once your bag is packed, make sure you weigh your carry on before getting to the airport. If you are using a carry on designed to transport your camera equipment, they can weigh roughly 12 pounds before anything is loaded in. It is extremely costly to go over the limit and the last thing you want to do is have to check your photo gear – a bad lesson is in there that I am sure you won’t want to learn it. If you can predict that the gear will be over the limit or have run into this problem before, make sure you have the extra cost covered as a part of your package.
If you carry more than one body, international airports may consider it professional work and can charge you taxes and fees. Make sure to you read the airline luggage policy before packing and print one out and take it with you to the airport. This will help you be prepared with an excuse (i.e carrying gear for an assistant) if you want to avoid any surprise hidden costs. Lastly, the more obvious the task the easier it is to overlook. I won’t go into detail on this – just check your passport’s expiration date!
Rules and Regulations
If you are visiting a new city or country, it’s important to take a look into the shooting regulations in public spaces if you are planning on using a multi-light setup or working with a large group of people. You may want to consider getting a permit, however just being aware of what the laws of your surroundings are can help you gauge how much time to spend at a location or how important it is to shoot there. Every minute spent with your couples and their entourage needs to be taken advantage of since time is ticking before the ceremony and reception. It would be a waste of time to get to a place only to find out that you can’t snap off a couple shots, or not have a back-up plan of someplace nearby to sneak off to.
Credit Cards and Phone Plans
If you have a business credit card make sure you are using that to later claim costs as business expenses. Also, before you take off remember to call your credit card or bank to inform them you are traveling outside the country, otherwise there is a great likelihood your account will be frozen in attempt to protect you from fraudulent charges. ATM withdrawals and credit card transactions have normally 1%-3% transaction fees before the conversion fees. Check the exchange rates and order some foreign currency before you take off to avoid unnecessary spending. You’ll need cash immediately for food, travel, tipping, etc.
If you’re the type who likes to immediately respond to email inquiries or post sneak peeks, make sure that you buy an international data plan before hand. I am less $200 for data roaming charges, which was a bit of a reality check once returning from a trip abroad.
If you do not already have a good business or liability insurance, get it! Before you take off, speak with your insurance agent to add travel insurance for the duration of your trip. It will not break the bank to do so, especially compared to the cost of replacing your gear if something goes wrong. If all goes well, the peace of mind provided will surely prove the investment worthy.
There are many pieces to the puzzle, that if addressed in good time will surely allow you a seamless shooting experience. A few points to remember would be to have a clear checklist for what gear you will be packing to and from your destination. Choose a good TSA-approved carry-on bag to store your most important and valuable pieces of gear. Once your gear is packed up, weigh the bag to make sure it is within the weight-limit. Be aware and prepared of any issues regarding airline luggage policies. Research where you will be shooting and whether there are any shooting permits necessary, prepare a shooting itinerary with multiple backup locations, and print maps with visual landmarks to enable swift travel. Lastly, contact your bank/credit card, phone provider, and insurance rep to update them on your plans to work outside of town. This will help you avoid any unforeseen additional costs while traveling.
Please share below if you have any more recommendations for those embarking on destination wedding photography!