Destination weddings can be downright amazing—new places, new sights and sounds. They can also be stressful. With the right preparation, you can make it an unforgettable experience. From my travels to Mexico, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Thailand and other countries, I have gathered these five tips I wish I’d known before I shot my first destination wedding.
In 2016, when my business started to struggle again, I was not going to let it die. I still had that hustle. I knew it was time to innovate, but I didn’t know why or how, and I needed to come up with something quick. Then a couple hired us to photograph their elopement in Yosemite. As I shot their ceremony at Cathedral Beach, with El Capitan looming over us, I knew how I was going to save my business.
I am a destination photographer. I photograph weddings, portraits and commercial gigs, and the one thing that is consistent across all genres is that I travel quite a long distance to most of my shoots. As a destination photographer, I’m constantly trying to simplify and protect my gear as I travel—it’s my goal to arrive at my destination (and back home again!) with all of my gear undamaged and my images intact.
Many photographers dream of working on location in incredible places where one might encounter the occasional giraffe or dolphin. A few years ago I was exposed to the dark side of destination shoots when I was invited by my good friend Brett to shoot inside a vast abandoned insane asylum in West Virginia erected before the Civil War. Since then, I’ve had the urge to visit destinations where I am more likely to get tetanus than to see a family of elk.
Do you like to travel? Do you like adventures? Do you love different cultures and cuisines? Do you want to see the world? Then maybe you, like me, will love destination wedding photography. Sure, you have to work and you are not going to spend your time tanning, but if you are going to work, why not have the world as your backdrop? That’s pretty much been my philosophy for the last seven years. Seeing the world is one of the single most enjoyable things I do in my life. I just love it—the culture, the food, the people. Knowing that I have made new friends all around the world is such an incredible feeling.
It’s one thing to be a portrait artist who uses modeling talent in your work regularly, but it’s very different when you take that show on the road. Shooting locally is complicated enough, but things become exponentially more complicated when you do the same thing out of state, and especially out of the country. Each new project in each new town presents new problems. But all model photography requires a lot of the same concerns and methods. In this article, I approach these from the artist side of things, which is how I’ve been approaching travel for about half a year now exclusively. I am going to focus on planning and executing amazing projects on the road, but not how to get paid model photography work on the road (something I don’t do anymore, but that’s another article).