We’re always excited to get ready for a destination wedding, especially since we tend to limit ourselves to shooting one or two a year. Limit destination weddings? Absolutely. Even though we love adventures, we really enjoy working as close to home as possible so we can hang with our crew (a.k.a. our five children).
Nevertheless, we’re in the midst of preparing for a rad New Year’s Eve wedding in Italy that came about after a conversation with the bride-to-be, Amy Mellow of A Creative Focus Photography. After quickly figuring out that we were a great fit for one another, we knew we didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to photograph Amy and her fiancé’s amazing love in a beautiful location like Italy. And that got us thinking about some of the questions that people have asked us, some that we’ve also seen floating about in cyberspace, on prepping for a destination wedding.
So, whether you have dozens of them to your credit or you’re about to rock out your first, here are a few recommendations.
It’s industry standard for clients to pay a travel fee in addition to the photographer’s standard rate: airfare, car rental and lodging. Your contract should have the agreed upon travel fee noted in its own clause, and what it covers should be detailed—the specific number of days of accommodations being provided, or the coverage of a rental vehicle, for example. And because we all know that contracts can get a bit bogged down with legalese, it’s best to specify the travel fee in the invoice as well. List each agreed upon amenity as a line item.
You may have an inquiry to an amazing location, but the couple has a budget that doesn’t allow for your rate plus your travel costs. That’s typically a pass. That said, if you feel you absolutely have to photograph in a specific location, somewhere that’s on your bucket list, it’s fine to eat some of your travel costs to add an epic location to your portfolio. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but if you do, that needs to be 100 percent your decision, and you have to feel great about making that choice. After all, you owe your clients your best, regardless of your rate and what you agree on.
Check With the Locals
The reality is that no matter how many times a colleague has photographed in the exact destination you’re heading to, secondhand information on access and permits is what it is: it’s secondhand, and it could be a big risk to rely on what others say about what you can and cannot do or bring without checking yourself. You do not want your entry to be denied at the destination.
We really got interested in this topic when researching for a wedding in Mexico a few years ago. We found countless horror stories about arrests and equipment seizures, and we chalked a lot of it up to urban legend. After checking on the permitted camera equipment ourselves (you’re allowed two cameras per person, a restriction to prevent illegal resale of electronics), we figured it would be a good idea to check with the resort manager because they sometimes have in-house photographers that want to get paid even though the couple hired you. It turns out, a nominal fee might get passed to the couple getting married, and paying it is a good way to avoid a complaint to local law enforcement. If you contact a Mexican consulate, they’ll likely advise the same.
Due diligence on your part is absolutely necessary to avoid problems. To determine if you can legally photograph in a location that is not your country of citizenship, go straight to the source: Contact the legal consul of the country to which you are traveling. You’ll certainly need a passport, but do you need a visa or a temporary work permit of some sort? They can answer these kinds of questions for you and more, since the answers can vary by country.
After that, get in touch with the coordinator or manager at the location of your couple’s destination, because they may not care what the consulate office says in the end. And from a practical standpoint, the locals are a good source of information for questions about whether it’s best to rent a car, hire a transportation service, if there is a place to get your wedding attire pressed and so on. Print out any email correspondences you have with regard to your inquiries.
Investigating the Location
Technology can be the bane of our existence every once in a while, but you can always find a way to use it to your advantage. Have you heard of Google Cardboard? It’s 3D virtual reality on the cheap, and it’s how we explore the world before actually exploring the world.
We’re big fans of this tech and the company’s D-scope Pro viewer, and there are constant upgrades to the Google Cardboard suite of apps. It’s kind of crazy, but with Google Cardboard you can, for all intents and purposes, “walk” down any street in the world. You’ll need to get a bit of practice in to target and explore specific locations efficiently, but it becomes as easy as searching for a location on Google Maps and zooming in until you get a street view. Of course, you’ll want to keep detailed notes in your studio management software with regard to favorite spots so you have reference points as you communicate with your clients.
If you don’t already have a sunrise and sunset app, get one; you’ll need to, as best you can, figure out what the lighting conditions will be like at the time you and your couple will hit the spots you’ve written down. This will put you well ahead of the game, and you’ll save a bunch of time knowing where to scout in person upon your arrival.
What to Pack
Definitely go light when you’re packing gear, but at the same time, make certain you take the gear you need to produce the photographs that brought you to the attention of your clients. You may not be able to pack your trusty strobes, but some basic modifiers (MagMod is a great option due to their compact, modular product line) and two speed lights should be enough.
Make sure you have a backup camera, backup cards, plenty of batteries (stored per your airline’s requirements) and a secure place to keep your cards and film, if you shoot it. Always take your camera equipment on the plane in a protective case that stows in the overhead compartment. If you absolutely have to check a bag, let it be your clothing—and make sure you have at least one wedding-ready outfit in your carry-on, just in case your luggage gets misplaced and there’s a delay getting it back.
Barring that, and with all your prep boxes checked, it will be as simple as sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the plane ride. Order yourself your favorite beverage while you’re at it. You’ve earned it!
Getting Set Up With Google Cardboard
• Download the Google Cardboard app (it’s free).
• Buy a set of Google Cardboard “glasses” (they’re $10 online).
• Get the Google Street View app (it’s also free).
• Boom! You just set up your personal VR tour guide
Amii and Andy Kauth are the Arizona wedding and portrait photographers behind Sunshine & Reign Photography. The wife and husband duo are all about documenting the stories and love of those they are honored to photograph.
Read this article in Rangefinder's digital edition.