Destination wedding photographer Kenny Kim travels up to 100,000 miles a year capturing weddings around the world—including the Caribbean, France and Italy—yet he's never shot one in Greece...until now. When he told us he was headed to Greece to photograph the nuptials of Los Angeles-based couple Svetlana and Ben, we were eager to learn how this seasoned jet-setter prepped for shooting in a country he's never been to before.
Rangefinder: Can you describe the preparation process for this wedding?
Kenny Kim: The process was quite short. Their wedding was in July and they reached out to me in the beginning of March, so we had to plan things swiftly. Once the contract was signed, I immediately started figuring out the best flight route to get to Mykonos from Chicago. Because this was a new location for me, my clients and I decided that it would be a good idea for me to arrive a few days prior to the wedding day to acclimate to the time zone difference, get myself familiarized with the locations where the festivities were to take place and also attend and photograph other events—rehearsal, sunset cruise, welcome dinner—leading up to the big day.
I also stayed a couple of days after the wedding to cover their post-wedding brunch, as well as an additional photo session of them in their wedding attire two days after the wedding. We decided to add this extra photo session to allow them to enjoy the wedding day more by spending that time with the guests that came from all parts of the world to celebrate with them. This is a popular option I offer that also allowed us to spend more time getting some creative portraits taking advantage of the beautiful surroundings Mykonos had to offer. All in all, I spent eight nights and nine days in the beautiful Greek Isles.
Rf: What gear did you pack? Did you check a bag or do carry-on only?
KK: For most of my destination weddings, I travel with three bags: one small shoulder bag (the ThinkTank Urban Disguise 60 Classic), one rolling case with the essential Canon camera bodies—one Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and two Mark III’s—and lenses, and a few Speedlites as my carry-on (in the ThinkTank Airport Advantage), and the third bag is the one that I check in with my personal items and a few light stands to use for off-camera lighting. The carry-ons are my essential items that I absolutely need to photograph a wedding, so they will never leave my side during my travel.
Rf: Were there any challenges you encountered with language?
KK: I do not speak a word of Greek! Fortunately, almost everyone in Greece speaks English, so I had no problem communicating with the locals. The majority of the guests were from the U.S. so a language barrier was not an issue at all. I have photographed numerous Greek weddings back in the States, so I was familiar with the Greek traditions and customs that occur at their weddings, which helped me to capture the key moments throughout the day.
Rf: How did you scout locations for the shoots and what was the hardest part about that process?
KK: I started the location-scouting research prior to getting to the island. I got myself a travel guidebook (DK Eyewitness Guide) to read about the location and also looked online for inspiration. I searched hashtags on social media (particularly Instagram, using keywords like #Mykonos #Greekislands #Cyclades_Islands #GreekWedding, etc.) to look for unique sites and locations.
Upon arrival, I spent the first day walking around the town of Mykonos in order to fight off my jet lag. I also visited the ceremony location to check out what position the sunlight would be during the time of the ceremony and mapped out some potential locations around that area for photos. The hardest part about this whole process is just trying to quickly adjust to everything while getting myself familiarized with the surroundings. To be a well-seasoned traveler, it's important to have discipline so that you do not get sick or fatigued from long hours of travel.
Rf: What are some unique attributes about traveling to Greece? Is there anything completely unexpected or different from other countries you’ve traveled to?
KK: The Greek Islands (also known as the Cyclades Islands) are a visual playground for photographers. Every turn and corner is filled with picturesque backdrops. The contrasts of primary colors against the bright white architecture makes subjects pop visually.
One factor I did not consider was how windy it was on the island. There is a constant breeze, so I had to adjust to the bride’s hair and her long veil always blowing. Another factor was finding secluded spots to do the shoot. July is peak season for tourism in Mykonos, so the whole town was filled with tourists. Scouting these hidden, picturesque spots was important for our photo shoot.
Rf: Did you bring a second shooter?
KK: I usually bring a second shooter with me for destination weddings. However, for this particular occasion, I knew that there were going to be less than 30 guests, so I decided to shoot it alone. I captured all the wedding details the day before the ceremony so that I could go back and forth and photograph the getting-ready moments instead. We also made sure that the bride and groom got ready near each other so that I could go back and forth between them easily.
The couple also opted to not do a first look, as it is common in Greek Orthodox wedding to not see each other until the altar. Because it was a small ceremony, I was able to run around quickly to capture various angles. I also had a three-Canon-camera setup using a MoneyMaker Strap by Holdfast Gear. This system allows me to carry three cameras with different lens focal lengths (Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L, 24-70mm f/2.8 L and a 70-200mm f/2.8 L) so that I do not miss any moments while trying to switch lenses.
Rf: What is the biggest obstacle you faced with this wedding and how did you overcome it?
KK: I think with any destination weddings, you have to be flexible and open to things changing last minute. We can take our time carefully planning all the details for the wedding only to have them go out the door. Many factors surprised us throughout the week for the couple and for myself—but that’s what makes these destination weddings so memorable and enjoyable! It’s a good reminder on how life is going to be, and we should welcome the challenge.
Rf: What was your favorite part of the experience? Would you be open to shooting more weddings in Greece?
KK: Absolutely! Greece was paradise. From the people, food, culture and their gorgeous backdrops, it is a perfect destination for couples wanting to vacation or to have their wedding. Aside from the obvious reasons, the most rewarding thing about this kind of wedding experience is spending time and getting to know everyone. You build relationships that go beyond the time you are there. I have already established some connections and made friends with the locals in Mykonos and I look forward to visiting them again. This was an experience that I will not forget. I have another wedding in Greece next year, in Corfu, and hopefully more weddings will follow. I’m so thankful to each of my clients that trust me to join them on their adventure and allow me to capture who they are at their favorite destination.
The following series of images were captured during the post-wedding shoot.
Learn more about travel and destination weddings in Rangefinder's Travel Issue.
WATCH: Destination Wedding Photography Travel Advice from Kenny Kim