Whether the happy couple will be saying their I do’s in Iceland or getting hitched in Hawaii, they’re going to need a photographer. If you’re a photographer who loves to travel, this may be the perfect wedding photography job for you!
Just like the name implies, a destination wedding is a ceremony held at a location away from the couple’s hometown. Usually in an romantic or faraway place, destination weddings have a reputation for being lavish and expensive, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes couples opt for a destination wedding to save money, as it usually results in a smaller guest list. If you’re shooting your very first destination wedding, we’ve curated 21 tips of everything you need to know to prepare and embark on your trip.
Destination Wedding Photography Research
When you get an inquiry to shoot a wedding — even before you say yes — you should do some research to assess the costs and risks you may face.
1. Calculate Costs
Calculate your travel expenses based on peak season travel rates. You can always give your client a discount if their wedding is taking place during the off season.
2. Prepare a Work Visa (If Necessary)
If you’re shooting an international wedding, there’s a good possibility you’ll need a work visa. Many countries are becoming more strict about photographers working abroad. Avoid the risk of being detained in a foreign country and apply for a work visa or permit if required.
3. Check Venue Restrictions
If your couple has already chosen their venue, make sure it allows a photographer. While it’s rare, some venues charge a fee and others may not allow outside photographers at all. This is common with all-inclusive resort weddings that include staff photographers in their packages.
4. Ensure the Location is Safe
Make sure that entering a country with thousands of dollars’ worth of photography equipment isn’t going to make you a target or endanger you in any way. Be aware of who is handling your luggage and store equipment in a hotel safe when not in use. You may even want to consider shipping your supplies or renting equipment to minimize risk.
Once you’re booked to shoot a destination wedding, here are a few other things to look into:
5. Look For Once in a Lifetime Photo Spots
Is there a must-see location you can whisk your couple away to for some gorgeous photos? Ask the concierge at your hotel or any locals guides you can find online.
6. Research the Venue or City
If you’ve never been there before, look online for other wedding images to get a feel for the venue ahead of time and inspiration for spots to shoot your couple.
Destination Wedding Photography Prep
Preparation begins long before you start packing your gear bag. Follow these tips and use our destination wedding checklist to ensure you have everything you need before jetting off.
7. Check Your Insurance
Many liability and equipment insurance policies only cover you domestically, so call your agent and extend your coverage internationally.
8. Notify Your Bank
Otherwise, any charges you make overseas may look suspicious and your account could be suspended while you’re out of town.
9. Consider International Calling
It may be more cost effective to add an international plan to your current cell plan than to incur astronomical roaming charges.
10. Create an Itemized Equipment List
Before you head out, write down all the photography gear you’re bringing, including serial numbers, for insurance purposes. Register your gear online to increase the chances that, if it does go missing, it gets returned to you. Registering your gear also keeps it organized electronically and could be useful at customs.
11. Make Copies of Your ID and Passport
You should always make sure they’re kept safe, but in the event you lose your identification, it’s important to have a copy of your passport and all of your travel documents.
12. Make Health Preparations
This includes getting the necessary vaccinations for the region you’ll be traveling to. For example, if you’re traveling to the Caribbean you’ll want to protect yourself from mosquito-borne diseases. Also, remember to get all of your prescriptions filled ahead of your trip, and consider getting a doctor’s note in case medication gets stuck in TSA.
13. Have a Communication Plan With the Couple
Before you leave the country, discuss how you’ll get in touch with your clients internationally, if phone service is unavailable. Schedule a time to meet with them at the venue and exchange alternative contact information.
Destination Wedding Photography Travel
It’s almost time to leave! Use these tips to book your travel, decide what gear to pack, and ensure everything is squared away before you embark on your trip to shoot the lovely couple.
14. Arrive Early
If possible, arrive two or three days in advance and scope out the area to familiarize yourself with the venue, the light, and the space. That way, you won’t have any surprises on the day of the wedding.
15. Book Your Own Travel
Make the best arrangements for yourself and your gear. Consider early boarding to ensure your bag gets a spot in the overhead bin and won’t have to be checked at the gate. You also get the extra perk of points and miles when you book your own travel.
16. Stay at the Same Hotel as the Couple
This makes it easier for you to contact each other and you’ll be available for pre-ceremony photos.
17. Pre-Book Ground Transportation
Don’t forget to book your ride from the airport to the hotel. Depending on how remote your location is, you may have trouble finding a taxi, so book your ride in advance.
18. Use Your Resources
Use the helpful resources at your disposal, such as the wedding planner, travel agency or other photographers who may have been to the location. Do research online to prepare to shoot your destination wedding location.
19. Pack Your Gear and Shoot Outfit in a Carry-On
Never check your camera. Keep it with you at all times. Worst-case scenario, if the airline loses your checked luggage, you’ll still have something to wear while you work. Keep in mind overhead bin size and that standard carry-on luggage is 22″ x 14″ x 9″.
Destination Wedding Photography Gear
Consider bringing a travel camera bag, two camera bodies, a charger, and spare batteries for each body. You’ll also want extra memory cards, several lenses, and possibly a laptop. Pack light, but bring everything you need to shoot the wedding. Read more in How to Choose the Best Gear for Wedding Photography.
20. Pack Non-Essential Gear in Your Checked Bag
This could include external flashes, tripod, light modifiers, and extra cables. Note, however, that many airlines will not allow lithium batteries in checked luggage so you will need to keep those in your carry-on bag.
21. Don’t Forget Power Converters
You’ll need an adapter for everything from your laptop to your battery chargers if you’re traveling abroad.
Shooting a destination wedding is a bucket-list item for many wedding photographers! While traveling the world — and getting paid to do it — has many benefits, shooting a destination wedding can also be a lot of work. These tips for destination wedding photographers should get you started on your path to shooting weddings abroad.
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