If your dream is to become a destination wedding photographer, in this blog post, we’ll cover all the necessary steps to get you ready!
Traveling the world for work is no joke, and it requires not only an extreme love for travels and different cultures, but also preparation, and discipline. Loving our couples so much to be willing to pack our bags and go on an adventure is not enough, and it is also an extreme disservice that can turn into a complete disaster.
The first, and most important thing, you need to do before becoming a photographer for destination weddings is offer a great client experience. Being of the best service for our couples is the most valuable of our assets and, in consideration of that, you need to make sure, you have all that this job requires before advertising your availability to travel.
First things first: it is important to start with destinations closer to home and test your skills, organization, and the factuality of it all. Most of my mentees find out that despite their love for travel, traveling for work is very taxing on their mental and physical health, so they end up burned out and not truly gifting their clients with the experience and service they deserve.
This may have not occurred to you yet, but between booking a destination wedding, preparing to photograph in another location, getting on a plane, and photographing your couple’s wedding, there’s ultimately a lot of planning that goes behind the scenes.
Being a strong budgeter and being confident in managing your business expenses needs to be second nature. Although your couple will most likely pay for your travel and accommodation, knowing the extra expenses that you may need to face (rental car, tips for valet, extra luggage, hotel taxes, etc..), is necessary to create your pricing proposal. Also, consider whether it’s peak or off-season for weddings in the chosen destination and whether the out-of-office time is going to prevent you from booking another event and losing profit.
Something that is often overlooked as well, but dramatically important, is your insurance. You might have liability or equipment insurance at home, but many such policies only protect you in your own country and if that’s the case you need to require an extension to cover your photography for destination weddings.
To become a great photographer for destination weddings, keeping in mind our clients’ experience, is vital and you can’t burden them with travel questions and bookings. Your clients may not be aware of the arrangements you’d need for your equipment, so I strongly advise you to discuss the possibility of making your own travel arrangements. Additionally, while it may take up more of your time, arranging your travel will also allow you to gain more knowledge on the territory and is essential too.
Read as much as you can about the destination of your couple’s wedding. Nowadays thanks to social media and so many photography groups, you can ask other professionals that are local or who have already been in that location, for ideas, info, and insights. Look for images online but most importantly plan to reach the destination a few days before the wedding, to eliminate chances of flight delays or hiccups on the way, while also gaining the time to scope out the territory and wedding location.
Speaking of travel hiccups. There was a time when packing your gear and flight internationally wasn’t so much of a hustle, but in the current days, especially after 9/11 and the most recent pandemic, airlines have implemented lots of restrictions and before you make any decision as to which company flying with, I’d recommend you check ahead all of their requirements and conditions.
Just as a set of general common-sense rules, it is good practice for a photographer for destination weddings to never pack your most important photography gear in your check-in luggage, instead pack your main equipment in a carry-on, and leave secondary items (tripods, light modifiers, extra cables, and such), in your checked luggage. If it gets lost during transit or there’s a delay, you at least won’t miss documenting your destination wedding.
Also, make a list of all the photography equipment that you’re packing. Especially for insurance’s purposes, write down all the serial numbers of each item and better yet take a picture of it, and register all of your gear whenever you can. In doing so, if you unluckily lose your precious cargo, are increasing the chances for yourself to see it returned at custom.
Moreover, check for travel bans, restrictions in place from country to country, and requirements for vaccination and covid testing. Many countries require one or both and some even quarantining. Also, some venues don’t allow photographers that are not on their preferred list so it is always a good idea to verify ahead of time and not add a headache to your couple should they find out too late. Remember is not their job to help you, it is your job to be of service to them.
Destination wedding clients have already enough on their plate.
Speaking of a lot on the plate. If all this isn’t enough, you also should make sure to work legally in each of the countries you’re visiting with your clients. Many countries demand work visas, so if you have booked an international wedding photography job, apply for a work visa or any other permit you may require well on time. You never know how long it can take for the visa to get approved, so it’s best if you don’t take any risks.
It kind of goes along with what you just read, but also make sure your passport is current and with a far enough expiration date so that you don’t get stuck while outside of your country of residence. Make copies of your passport and general IDs, they won’t have legal value, but if anything happens at least you can help yourself. Leave a digital copy in your email or in a cloud, so you can easily access it should you need to, anywhere you are.
Ultimately, and this is something that may sound silly but so important instead, for a photographer for destination weddings it is important to enabling international calls on your phone. It will help you contain costs and will ensure you smooth communication with anyone, everywhere you go. A poor network can be problematic for communication in a foreign country and might create unnecessary hurdles in executing your photography plans.
Finally, as we said in the beginning, keep in the foreground of your mind the experience of your clients, as they spend a lot of time (and in most cases, money) planning their destination wedding. So it’s your job to ensure that you get stunning photographs of the wedding and the location and make sure that everything goes according to plan.