Wedding + Portrait
Insider’s Guide to 5 Travel Hot Spots for Photographers
May 13, 2021
“Banff is extraordinary and unparalleled as a mountainous destination because once you get away from the crowds, you find yourself in real wilderness," say Erika and Lanny of Two Mann Studios.
Adventure wedding and elopement photographer Christin Eide travels all over the Arctic Circle. Here she gives us her take on the many breathtaking backdrops in Norway.
Longtime Cancun, Mexico, resident and wedding photographer Citlalli Rico lets us in on her best tips for traveling to this popular wedding destination. "The white sand beaches and gorgeous blue gradient of the ocean make for epic photo backgrounds." Need she say more?!
Photographer Gareth Lima-Conlon makes his home in Dublin and travels all over the country capturing its beauty and charm. The most breathtaking spots, he says, include Killarney National Park, the Ring of Kerry and The Dingle Peninsula, as well as County Donegal, most notably from Slieve League to the Inishowen Peninsula.
Los Angeles photographers Brian and Allison Callaway of Callaway Gable name Bora Bora as one of their favorite places to shoot and they’ve made it their business to know the ins and outs of the island.
Updated on 6/6/2022
As the world continues to open up, intrepid couples are chomping at the bit, so to speak, to have their weddings and elopements abroad again. If you’re looking forward to getting back to work as a destination photographer, it can help to know the lay of the land in some of the world’s most photogenic places. To help you along, I’ve put together an insider’s look at five travel hot spots for photographers and what to do when you get there. Read on to find out everything you need to know to take your clients on a stress-free and breathtaking adventure in the near future.
Destination: Banff, Canada
If you’ve never been to Banff, it’s time to start planning your itinerary. There’s simply nothing quite like it for photographers who love mountain lakes and towering peaks that play with the light from early morning until the stars come out. Destination photographers Erika and Lanny Mann of Two Mann Studios have a home there and know the place like the back of their hands—we asked them what makes it so special.
[Read: Destination Wedding Trends: Personalizing a Couple’s Day]
“Banff is extraordinary and unparalleled as a mountainous destination because once you get away from the crowds, you find yourself in real wilderness,” they told us.
Best Time to Travel
July and August, September and October, and January and February when the skiing is fabulous and the snow and ice create glittering backdrops.
Best Photo Spots
Anywhere away from the Insta-famous locations where 99 percent of people spend 99 percent of their time crowding into less than 1 percent of Banff National Park. If you’re willing to spend 5 minutes getting off the beaten path, you can get to all kinds of “secret locations,” and you’ll be rewarded with quiet solitude, incredible photos and an experience you’ll never forget.
[Read: How to Price Elopement Photography and Determine Your Value (No Undercutting!)]
What to Pack
Photographers should pack multiple layers to deal with unpredictable weather, hot chocolate and snacks in the winter, and both bear and bug spray during the summer months. The likelihood of being hurt by a bear is minimal but traveling in a group and having bear spray at the ready is advised. Your couples should prepare by packing layers, rain gear, good footwear for rocky surfaces, and bright colorful clothing to stand out against the earthy tones.
Permits are required for Canada’s National Parks and permission is needed to shoot on privately owned properties. Be sure your passport is current and that your business license is up to date. In addition, the Canadian government will require any photographer who declares they are photographing professionally in the Banff Area to have a special business license for the area, which can create a real barrier for photographers traveling from outside its borders.
Destination: Aurland, Norway
Over the last few years, the views of Norway’s famous fjords, scenic mountains, and charming villages have popped up in the portfolios of the world’s most popular elopement photographers. We asked native Norwegian, Christin Eide—who is an adventure wedding and elopement photographer traveling all over the Arctic Circle—to give us her take on the many breathtaking backdrops in Norway.
[Read: How to Become One of Rangefinder’s 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography]
Most Beautiful Landscapes
These are located in the Aurland area about 5 hours by car from the Oslo airport. Here you’ll find the idyllic village of Flåm, the jaw-dropping Norweigian fjords of Aurlandsfjord, Sognefjord, and The Nærøyfjorden, along with the stunning vista at Stegastein, which is located 650 meters above the sparkling water. To get away from tourists, all you have to do is find a hike and walk away from them.
Fly into Oslo and rent a car (so you’re free to wander), or take a train from Oslo to Bergen and get your car there. Consider staying in romantic Flåm, where you’ll be right in the action. If you want a wonderful day trip, take a short and steep ride on The Flåm Railway, or Flåmsbana, where you will be treated to some of the most scenic and beautiful landscapes in the world.
Best Time to Travel
Between May and September. Days are long and seem never-ending near the solstice, which expands your options for photography. While some people come to Norway to see the Northern Lights, it is very unusual to get a glimpse unless you are in the far north during the height of winter.
What to Pack
Lots of layers and at least one warm rain coat. Weather that ranges from 57 °F to 78 °F (or 13 °C to 25 °C) can change rapidly, and you’ll want to be prepared. Bring an extra blanket for the couple you are photographing and a bottle of Champagne if you want to go the extra mile.
The best wedding professionals here, including makeup artists and florists, may not be found online. You’ll want to reach out to locals to get their opinion if you’re helping a couple plan those aspects of their wedding, too.
Destination: Cancun, Mexico
Who doesn’t want to board a plane for Cancun where you can bask in the sun through every season, dive along the world’s second largest coral reef, and dine and dance the night away? Citlalli Rico, longtime resident and wedding photographer was kind enough to let us in on her best tips for traveling to this popular wedding destination.
The Allure of Cancun
The white sand beaches and gorgeous blue gradient of the ocean make for epic photo backgrounds, along with dozens of options for wonderful accommodations that fit every budget. Well connected to major airports and well known for it’s upbeat festive atmosphere, Cancun stays in your heart because the people make you feel at home wherever you stay.
Best Time to Go (and Not Go)
The end of winter and beginning of spring are ideal because they lie outside of hurricane season. Avoid September and October when the rain can wreak havoc with your plans.
Best Photo Spots
Shooting at the beach in the evening at any one of the gorgeous spots right in Cancun is always failproof. Start at least 1.5 hours before sunset. While the sunsets are generally spectacular, they happen quickly in the area, so try to start early and take advantage of the natural light. Day trips for the more adventurous include the ancient ruins of Chichén Itzá and Tulum, and the magical getaway, Isla Mujeres.
It’s pretty easy, with nonstop flights from one of dozens of airports in the U.S., Europe, Mexico and South America. You can go without a car unless you are planning to visit any of the famous nearby attractions mentioned above.
Be aware that it takes a long time to get a working permit as an immigrant in Mexico, so if you’re planning on shooting a wedding in the area, it is a good idea to contact a local photographer to cover your back just in case your paperwork does not go through.
What to Pack
Your couples should pack clothes that are comfortable and make them feel confident. Rather than choosing matching outfits, choose solid fabrics and colors that complement each other. Avoid white or striped fabrics, and bring a hairbrush.
A place with windy cliffs that jut out over the Atlantic, with ancient forests, mountain lakes and castles that dot the countryside, Ireland is a place of rich heritage with extraordinary and diverse backgrounds. Photographer Gareth Lima-Conlon makes his home in Dublin and travels all over the country capturing its beauty and charm. We reached out to him for expert advice on making the most of your location shoot in the Emerald Isle.
Itineraries to Consider
County Kerry includes Killarney National Park, the Ring of Kerry and The Dingle Peninsula, as well as County Donegal, most notably from Slieve League to the Inishowen Peninsula. They are all breathtaking!
Timing It Out
Photographers should start their shoots 2 to 3 hours before sunset, and during the summer that means between 6 and 7 p.m. Choose a couple of scenic locations on the way leading to a spot that’s amazing for sun sets, (if you should be lucky enough to see one). After your shoot there is nothing better than going to a local pub for a pint of Guinness and some fish and chips or other traditional pub grub!
Best Months to Go
May, June and September, when the days are still long and warm without all the tourist traffic. March and April are also good options as it’s the springtime with new flowers, green grass and baby sheep. And if you’re lucky, you can coincide your trip with the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations on March 17!
Start by flying to the airport closest to your shoot and renting a car, because you will need one. Dublin is the airport to land at if you want to start on the east coast. You can also fly into Belfast if you want to start in the northeast and explore some of the amazing coastline there and then work your way down. Shannon Airport in the southwest is very popular if you’ll be exploring Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500 km trail that stretches from the Inishowen Peninsula in Northern Donegal right down the coast line to the southern town of Kinsale in County Cork. You can rent a car easily from the main airports and even choose a different location to pick up and drop off.
What to Pack
The weather is unpredictable; it’s possible to experience all four seasons in one day. A pair of Wellies or hiking boots would be ideal for the rough terrain. Your couples should pack soft layers and rain gear. Although the Irish weather can be very changeable, it’s rarely extreme, especially during the milder months of April through October. Bring a warm coat, a light sweater and some flat comfortable shoes or boots, which will make life a whole lot easier when exploring the landscape. Also, be sure you have plenty of memory cards and external hard drives as well as good voltage convertors. Ireland’s plug type is G.
Destination: Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Bora Bora is on everybody’s bucket list, conjuring visions of exotic flowers, luxury huts built over the water and an ocean full of glimmering fish. Los Angeles photographers Brian and Allison Callaway of Callaway Gable name it as one of their favorite places to shoot and they’ve made it their business to know the ins and outs of the island. We asked them to give you a look at how to maximize your Polynesian experience.
The Beauty of Bora Bora
Frankly, it is the most beautiful place on earth. A unbelievably picturesque and remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it is completely surrounded by a barrier coral reef where couples stay in overwater bungalows that look out at a towering volcano and the crystal, calm waters of the lagoon.
Need to Know
The prices are higher than places like Hawaii or the Caribbean, and couples are expected (but not required) to incorporate traditional Tahitian elements into their ceremonies. Brides arrive in a canoe paddled by a Tahitian priest who blows a horn made from a conch shell to start the ceremony. Dancers and musicians dressed in colorful robes and gowns entertain the couple and take them away by sea. All of this provides great photo ops.
Best Weather Times
May through October during the dry season is the best time to go, however that is also the high season when it comes to pricing. Consider going from November to April, when there are fewer tourists and the weather averages 70 to 80 °F. Just be prepared for the possibility of strong winds and tropical rain.
Give yourselves 1 to 2 days to scout and find something unexpected, even if you have to talk your way into an area like we did on one of your favorite shoots. Of course, we want to photograph during the golden hour, and we highly encourage our clients to play and take photos in the ocean! If they say they’re ready to dive in, we’ll go a few hours early so they have time to come back, change and freshen up.
What to Pack
There are size limits on all of the flights here, so be prepared for extra fees as limits may be smaller when making international connections. Bring a case with four wheels to get quickly through the airport, and be sure you have a built-in security cable to save yourself from an unnecessary nightmare. Don’t forget, all batteries from all of your gear must be in your carryon luggage and be sure your phone is ready to roam. Your couples should bring fashionable beachwear, from bathing suits for fun beach portraits to light linen and lace for their ceremonies and receptions. We highly encourage couples to ask about being dressed in traditional Tahitian wedding wear. The locals love to shower lovers with TLC, and that results in an experience and photos of a lifetime.
How to Scout Travel Hot Spots Before You Go
Go to earth.google.com/web and search for your destination. Choose the icon that looks like a person and choose Street View. Drag the location to the map and you’ll have a 360-degree view with the ability to explore as if you were on foot. No matter where you go, your clients will be impressed by your knowledge of the area even if you’ve never been there before!
With 20 years of experience in the online publishing, photography, and wedding industries, Blair deLaubenfels, editor-in-chief at World’s Best Wedding Photos, is a sought-after business and marketing consultant, writer, and public speaker.