Destination Wedding Photography Tips: St. Lucia

by Jessica Gordon

September 18, 2013

Jimmy Bishop, owner of Gideon Photography, spends nearly 50 percent of his time away from his busy St. George, Utah, studio (and wife and four kids) shooting destination weddings in some of the most beautiful locations on the planet. As often happens after nine years of practicing a specific skill, the photographer has far-flung nuptials down to a science—how to pack efficiently, pre-scout locations and handle weather obstacles. For a recent St. Lucia wedding (which was also featured on Style Me Pretty in August), Bishop took us through his weekend on the Caribbean island, sharing the tips he’s picked up along the way.   

All images © Jimmy Bishop/Gideon Photography

The Weekend At A Glance

* Arrival
There is no quick way to St. Lucia from Utah and once you arrive, there’s no easy way from one side of the island to the other. Roads are small and congested, and the rental car was about half the size of the “standard” I thought I had rented. Videographer Nathan Pickett of NP Films was traveling with me, as well as both of our wives. All of us and our gear fit snugly into the go-kart-sized car and we drove three hours across the small island. With a lot of luck, we found our hotel close to midnight.

* Morning Prep
The wedding didn’t start until the afternoon, but I always like to arrive at an unfamiliar site early. I had a three-egg omelet, some toast and lots of water, and hit the road that morning for the venue, which was about two hours away from our hotel. Lenses take a good hour to acclimate to the humidity, another reason to get them out of the air-conditioned hotel room early. I have always shot weddings solo—I prefer it. I know what shots I need in order to best tell the story of the day and how to get them.

* Wedding Day
Having lived in Venezuela in the past and currently in the desert of Utah, I thought I was used to the heat, but the humidity of a very hot Caribbean day was staggering for this shoot. I think I went through three or four liters of water. Luckily, the wedding was beautiful, the guests and couple amazing and the backdrop to die for. I shot late into the night and despite the heat I had an amazing time.

A word to the wise—always fill your gas tank prior to a late night of shooting. Unlike the U..S., gas stations in St. Lucia have an early closing time and cell phones rarely work. This can be worrisome when you leave the wedding with less than a quarter of a tank and have two hours of winding mountains to drive up. We drove past many closed stations with the gas light on empty, coasting down hills for what seemed like forever. We also drove through towns with our heads down, as people walked the streets with shot guns. Eventually, close to the largest city on the island, we came across an open gas station. We celebrated and wound down with a cold Malta and a bag of cookies from the gas station.

* Day After Shoot
Eighteenth-century ruins from an old French fort and barracks on a hill overlooking the ocean made for the perfect day-after location. We had to pay off a not-so-reputable guard, but after an hour of shooting and another beautiful sunset, it was well worth it. The following day we said goodbye to the lush green Pitons of St. Lucia for the cold winter in Utah.

Some photographers get so excited at the prospect of a destination wedding that they lose sight of their business. Giving away or under-charging for a wedding in a cool destination—as fun as it sounds—will end up costing you more money. For every destination wedding you book, you potentially loose one or two weddings in your market that weekend, as well as future word-of-mouth business. Make sure the trade-off is financially worth it.  

Jimmy Bishop’s Travel Wedding Tips

Packing on Point
I travel light when shooting destination weddings and try not to bring more than I’m actually going to use.
For this shoot, I had a couple of Canon 5D Mark IIIs, four or five L series prime lenses, a 70-200mm, a bunch of extra batteries, memory cards and an Apple laptop. For packing, a camera backpack full of my lenses and gear is sufficient. I bring one other backpack or roller bag with my cloths and essentials. I don’t ever check my gear; if my bag doesn’t show up at my destination, it’s not an inconvenience, it’s a disaster.

Weather Back-Up Plans
The weather-sealing of the gear I use is pretty good, so light rain doesn’t usually concern me. A good trick when on the road is to grab a shower cap from the hotel to protect your camera if it’s really dumping.

We lucked out with weather on this particular shoot; it rained that morning but we scored a beautiful day, and the rain clouds made for an amazing sunset. Because it was such a laid-back group, my guess is we would have shot in the middle of the rain if it had come to that. (The wedding party ended up in the pool fully dressed anyway.)  

Pricing Right

My pricing structure is pretty simple; I have packages specific to areas like Northern or Southern California where I frequently shoot, so the travel cost is built in. For destination weddings like this, I have standard packages, and travel costs are added on top of those; the hotel, flight, car rental and other fees are always covered by the couple.
Know What You’re in For
Destination weddings can be lot of fun, but are not for everyone. You never know what can happen with weather, venue, country, travel, the locals, etc., so if you don’t deal well with stress and change—don’t book one.

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