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For Photogs: Tips for Your First Destination Wedding

Last month I hit a huge first for my business…my first international wedding! While I’m no stranger to traveling for weddings (we photograph all over the East Coast!!), going to Mexico for Caroline and Josh’s wedding was an entirely new experience! And although I will definitely say I’m for sure no expert on destination weddings, I thought I’d share some things that I learned that may come in handy for someone else in the future!

Here are a few tips:

  1. Head to the location early. I would suggest giving yourself a couple days ahead of the wedding. This will account for any flight delays or disruptions and allow for any missing baggage to arrive. And it will give you some time to adjust to the time change (if there is one) as well as give you a chance to location scout.  For a typical wedding, I don’t do much scouting before the big day because I’m used to shooting on the fly based on the light, but for a destination wedding it helps to go early to get the lay of the land! Giving yourself extra time will keep it less stressful!
  2. ONLY carry on your gear. I can’t imagine checking my camera equipment at all, much less to a destination wedding! I keep my things in an inconspicuous backpack wrapped in items of clothing and I wear my backpack and then keep it under the seat while I’m flying. Never check your gear and keep it within your eyesight as much as you can!
  3. Board as early as you can when flying. Speaking of which…I know that it may not be fun to get on the plane early and sit there even longer in those super comfy seats, BUT I think it’s important to board early to ensure that you’ve got overhead space within your eyesight when you’re traveling with thousands of dollars of equipment and heading to a once in a lifetime event. If your airline offers priority boarding, consider upgrading. The additional cost is a small price to pay for peace of mind!!! I’m lucky that I have priority boarding through American Airlines, so this is something I didn’t have to worry about, however, I wouldn’t think twice about adding it if I didn’t, because I’d hate to board late and have to stow my gear way far away from me!
  4. Consider bringing a business credit card. Credit cards are better than debit cards when it comes to traveling, especially international travel. They’re safer and more secure and many of them offer incentives like no exchange fees or foreign transaction fees when traveling abroad. I chose to use my credit card rather than exchanging money because it was one less thing to worry about.
  5. Double check the types of electric outlets where you’ll be staying.
    Can you imagine anything worse than getting to a wedding and realizing that you CAN’T recharge your batteries??!? If you’re not used to traveling internationally, you might not realize that some countries have different types of outlets with different voltages and you may need adapters to make your equipment compatible.
  6. Research the WIFI situation and consider renting a MiFi device if necessary. If you’re shooting a wedding at a resort, chances are there will be WIFI available. If you’re traveling abroad and there’s no wifi, or it’s inconsistent (read Trip Advisor to see what others say about the WIFI…) or if you’ll be at multiple locations, consider renting a mifi device for internet/phone access while you’re away. I rented this one when I went to Italy a few years ago and it was great!
  7. Charge what you feel your time and effort are worth. I know there are a lot of people who are dying to shoot destination weddings who might do them for little or nothing at all, however, destination weddings are not only a lot of work, they’re also a huge time commitment. In addition to the wedding day, you’ll  also spend time traveling to and from the wedding…that’s time that you don’t have to grow your business, but are technically working. Don’t do yourself the disservice of doing it for free or super cheap because it is a LOT of work despite how amazing it looks on insta-stories. With anything in business, you have to make sure it is worth it!!
  8. If you’re shooting in a humid climate, be sure to take the time to allow your gear to de-fog. This one is mainly for weddings in tropical locales. I thought it was humid here in Virginia, but the humidity here is nothing compared to the humidity in Mexico! I was in for quite the surprise one morning when I woke up to take my camera out around the resort for a few photos of details and landscapes. The lens and body fogged up after being taken out of our cold hotel room and into the sweltering heat and humidity and I was forced to wait about 20 minutes for it to acclimate before I could begin to photograph. Luckily I discovered this before the wedding day and we were able to account for it in the timeline! About 20 minutes before I was to make the transition from shooting getting ready indoors to shooting the first look outside I set my camera in my bag out on a balcony so it would be ready for me!

Those are my super simple tips for photographing your first destination wedding! I had a blast shooting in Mexico and that was also largely because our couple, Caroline and Josh, were so wonderful to work with! I’d be doing you guys a disservice if I didn’t also mention how important it is to ensure you and the couple are a good fit for one another…traveling can be stressful enough without adding any tension or awkwardness. We’ve all worked an event or two where ahead of time we may have seen a red flag or two…but a destination wedding is not the time for that!! Not only will you want to be at ease with the people you’re photographing to make your experience go great, you’ll also want the couple to have someone they vibe well with so that their wedding day and travel memories are the absolute best they can be!

Want to see photos from our destination wedding?? See them here

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