Mixing Business With Pleasure: Make the Most of Your Travel by Creating Epic Imagery

Mixing Business With Pleasure: Make the Most of Your Travel by Creating Epic Imagery

Mixing Business With Pleasure: Make the Most of Your Travel by Creating Epic Imagery with Sal Cincotta

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the April issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

I have been a full-time photographer for about 10 years now. I love every single minute of it. One of the things I love most about my job—or maybe better stated, life—is traveling the world and eating incredible food. My waistline is proof of that. Many of us started in this business out of passion. There is nothing wrong with that, but what else do you want out of your life and career? I would be perfectly content traveling the world, enjoying incredible food and cultures, and making epic imagery. That’s my list of priorities at the moment. If this is something that is of interest to you, keep reading.

Where Do You Want to Go?

Map it out. Every year, we put together a list of destinations we want to travel to. It’s basically a wish list. That’s right, dream big, my friends. I have been to China, Iceland, France, England, Scotland, Japan, Ireland, India, Brazil, Germany, Amsterdam, Portugal and all throughout the United States. All on business. And it’s all tax-deductible.

This is where it starts. Where do you want to go? You have to set a flag out there that you are marching to. Until you do that, nothing will ever happen. Dream big and don’t be afraid to start planning today.

Passports and Visas

I learned about this the hard way. Depending on where you are going, you may need travel visas. And do yourself a favor: When you hit customs in a foreign country, do not say you are there for work. That will trigger an entire sequence of events that you will not be ready for. Foreign countries are very protective when you say you are there for work. Granted, we are there building our portfolios, but we look like glorified tourists. Embrace that.

Certain countries, like China and Brazil, require visas. The process can be simple if you plan accordingly and have all your paperwork in ahead of time. Of course, if you plan on being a world traveler, get your passport now. There’s no sense waiting for this. These are all simple things, but all take time to process.

It reminds me of a recent trip to China where the process can take two to three months. We had to find a broker and pay them a rush fee to get our visas expedited. Now we have a five-year visa, but this took time and planning. Do your research. Every country is different. As of this writing, you don’t need visas in Europe or the UK.

Make the Most of Every Day

When I travel, I want to shoot every single day. Something has to happen, or I start to twitch. On a recent trip to Iceland, I was shooting 15 to 18 hours a day. It was amazing. Just start doing your research. Look for incredible locations at your destination. They are everywhere.

You have a decision to make. Are you going to be a tourist or a photographer? I lean more to the photographer side of things. Of course, we are all tourists in a sense, but I don’t want to spend my days walking around every single tourist trap in the land. I want to have maximum exposure to the locale. I want to operate like a local where I can. This means using public transportation and not eating at McDonald’s. Maximize your days. Sleep is overrated, and that’s not why you are here. Sleep on the plane ride home.

Here’s something else I like to do. In almost every country I visit, I look for a national gallery. There is nothing I find more influential than looking at the great painters of the past. Talk about talent. It’s one of the most inspiring things I do for my own growth.


Good luck with this. It’s more than likely not going to happen, especially when you are working internationally. Again, do your research. Shooting in each country brings its own set of challenges. Shooting in China in front of a government building could end with you behind bars. In a country like Iceland, no one cares—about anything. You can shoot wherever you like for the most part. When we were photographing over there, we had no resistance. However, in Japan, we were stopped literally every place we shot. Even when we tried to get permits or permission, it ended with either a no or just no response. So tread lightly here.

In Japan, I created this incredible image of a bride walking up a set of stairs. Believe it or not, this was a train station. We were being very low-key and respectful of other travelers, but within five minutes, we were asked to leave. We begged for forgiveness and just another five minutes, and the security guard smiled and said ok. So you see, if you are respectful and courteous, you will get a lot farther.

Now, this doesn’t always work. On a recent trip to Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, I was immediately asked to leave. I tried the same thing, asked for five minutes, and I was told no, absolutely not. The frustrating part was that I had gotten a permit, but that permit was only good for a certain area that was 100 yards away from where I was trying to shoot. Locations and permission and frustration are all interrelated. Get ready to adjust as needed.

Location Scouting

We have learned about this the hard way over the years. If you want to maximize your results, plan ahead. Do your research and location scouting. This extends well beyond your location. Check weather, time of day, sunrise and sunset times, etc. All this matters if you want to create something epic. We use Google to find great locations and then Google Earth to check the actual surrounding areas. This is incredibly useful in checking sight lines and obstructions well before you show up to the location.

There is a ton of apps to help you predict sunrise and sunset, and also to help you determine where the path of the sun will be. This is important. Think about it. If you want to create a silhouette shot, it’s going to be almost impossible if the sun is in a location where it’s front-lighting your subject and the background you chose. Why leave something like this to chance? Instead, we have a Word document we refer to as “the football” that has all our travel details, pictures, concepts, dresses, models, etc.

While we try to be very organized before the shoot, I would be lying if I implied that everything always goes smoothly and according to plan. That’s laughable to even think about. Almost every shoot I go on has some level of adjustment, something we didn’t plan for. #pivot.

Creating Something Unique

The formula for success is more than just showing up to a gorgeous location to take images. When I am traveling, I work with real clients: brides and grooms, seniors, commercial, etc. But I can’t do 14 shoots all with clients. As much as I would love that, it’s just not possible. Instead, I maximize my time at any location by booking models looking to collaborate and build their portfolio.

I take it a step further. I bring my own wardrobe. I use the site EnceptionRentals.com, created for photographers, to do just this. Build your damn portfolio. Stop talking about it. Go do it. Bring a wedding dress, bring a fashion gown, do something unique. I do this for my portfolio and for my actual clients. We create something they can’t live without. We give them a unique, stylized shoot, something they are going to gladly spend money on. And think about the referrals. They will gladly spread the word to their friends and family. Best of all, they won’t have to do too much bragging. When their friends and family see these exotic images, they will immediately want to know more.

Get out there and make your dreams come true. And if you don’t gain at least 5 pounds on your next trip, you are not doing it right.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the April issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Karla Waterhouse

    tax deductible? how do you do that? Do you need to be hired by a client to claim the trip?

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