Traveling for a living is not for the faint of heart. Our work as traveling photographers can be a hard and lonely road sometimes. But, the more you gain experience, prepare well in advance, and learn how to navigate the ups and downs, the work of a travel photographer can be an amazing career! If traveling for wedding photography is your job–you aren’t alone! I’m sharing my best tips and tricks to prevent you from making the same mistakes I have through my own stories as a destination wedding photographer.
For starters, always check your calendar and ensure that you never double book yourself. Also, give yourself room between weddings in different locations just in case something goes wrong. Always leave a buffer in your schedule for extra travel if needed!
I generally fly out two days prior to the first day of shooting, including the rehearsal dinner. For example, if the rehearsal dinner is Friday, and the wedding is Saturday that means I am on a flight on Wednesday. This ensures that any mishaps or travel issues won’t prevent me from arriving on time. Doing so gives your clients peace of mind and allows you to feel prepared and rested.
You can use the extra day to location scout, relax, and enjoy your destination! Text or email the wedding couple upon arrival so they know you’ve made it to ease their minds!
Keep in mind that you don’t have to plan everything before you get there! The main tasks that are necessary to do in advance is booking your flight, accommodations, and a rental car. Often on the plane, I research and create a list of fun activities to do and places to eat at during my downtime in these dreamy locations.
Take a look at how I prepare and pack differently for international and domestic weddings!
Before you step foot on a plane, set yourself up for success by using a contract that protects you against anything that could possibly happen in your work as a destination wedding photographer. These protections can include permits, travel, traveling with film, inclement weather, and so forth. I use the Legal Paige for all of my contracts and I even helped write the film wedding photography contract she uses!
I woke up the day of an elopement in Lake Como, Italy throwing up repeatedly from food poisoning! Had I not felt better immediately, I would have canceled under the protection of my contract. Believe me, you think it won’t happen until it happens to you. Make sure your contracts are solid!
Always request a hand check for film. Try to finish up the current roll so your camera is empty because they sometimes won’t allow a hand check of a full camera. In this instance, I step out of line, take random photos of the floor to finish the roll, take the film out, and then pack away my camera. I then go back into line and hand a ziplock bag of film rolls to the attendant at TSA.
In several countries, they won’t allow a hand check even if you ask politely several times. Expect this to happen, and prepare yourself to send your film through the machine with the rest of your luggage.
Technically, according to the producers of the machines, film under 800 ISO should be fine. Even so, I try to allow the film to go through no more than twice. The more times it is sent through, the higher risk for issues to occur. If this happens on the way to my destination, once I have finished several rolls, I will try to find a local film shop to get the processed and scanned or shipped back to me so the film doesn’t risk going through the machine too many times.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times! Look over your shoulder, lock your car while pumping gas, stay off your phone when walking, and have someone on speed dial just in case you need assistance. Try to avoid being out alone at night, and as a woman, feel free to wear a fake wedding ring when flying alone.
Never place your photography gear in checked luggage or let it out of your sight. If your gear is in your carry-on and you’re one of the last to board, request boarding earlier to avoid having your carry-on checked at the gate. No matter the situation, even if it’s quickly running in to use the restroom, never leave your gear in the car. I have trekked up mountains for fun with 50+ pounds of gear just because I wanted to explore but couldn’t check into my Airbnb yet!
Make sure you also have your gear covered through insurance just in case it gets stolen or damaged along the way.
Traveling is the adventure of a lifetime, but at the same time it can mean missing out on important events back home. I’ve missed serving in my local church, friend’s birthdays, and other times with loved ones. But, it is so rewarding!
I am often traveling on back to back trips across the country or world so I treasure the time at home even more. Try to be as present as you can when you are home! Set work boundaries by shutting your phone off so that you can fully invest in those that you love! I opt for spontaneity these days to allow myself room to breathe in between trips instead of just focusing on planning the next trip. These steps will refuel you and prepare you for your next leg of travel, enabling you to still love it!
Are you ready to take your next step towards becoming a destination wedding photographer? I would love to come alongside you by booking a coaching call with me!