The Don’ts of Destination Photo Shoots

The Don’ts of Destination Photo Shoots

The Don’ts of Destination Photo Shoots with Alissa Zimmerman

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.

Planning a destination photo shoot can be extremely stressful, whether it’s a bridal session, a portfolio shoot or wedding. The devil is always in the details, and those details are even more important when you factor in the out-of-town and out-of-comfort-zone elements that go into planning these shoots. You’ll find a great deal of information and tips on planning, but rarely will you find tips on what to avoid. Here are a few scenarios you may not have considered in your planning process.

Don’t #1: Create an unrealistic itinerary.

Remember, you’re supposed to actual enjoy doing this. Creating a 10-day itinerary with multiple shoots and moving parts crammed into each day is going to wear you down and make you wish you had just stayed home. The majority of people who do destination shoots travel with at least one other person; not giving yourselves enough down time during the trip will lead to tension and unnecessary fighting.

Traveling for photo shoots is all about being realistic with your time. I have been planning shoots and coordinating our travel for over five years, and still follow the same process, a process that has been refined more and more over the years. The five steps below will help you tremendously.

  1. Pick three to five “tours” you would like to go on during your trip. I like to keep these all within one region so that travel between each city is minimal and easy to do (drive, train, etc.—I avoid flying between cities because you end up losing an entire day). For our 2017 trip, we originally had a client who wanted to meet us in Amsterdam for a bridal session. This is how I pitched the trip to Sal to gauge his interest in each tour.
  1. Decide the amount of time you want to be gone. We do a 30-day trip overseas every year to build our portfolio. Sal and I sat down with this pitch and decided we didn’t want to waste any time traveling between cities this year. We decided to cut down the trip to two weeks and spend the whole time in Iceland exploring parts of the country we didn’t get to see last time we were there.
  2. Make a list of your must-see places and things. This is where you dream big. I’ll use our trip to Iceland as an example. Start by simply doing a Google search for anything along the lines of “iceland unique locations” or “most beautiful places in iceland” and go from there. Compile a list, regardless of how outrageous or extreme the things may be, of places you want to go and/or things you want to do. I also use a Pinterest board for this, and start pinning anything and everything that grabs my attention. It’s easy to narrow down a giant board of pins once you get to the next step.
  1. Start mapping out your wish list. The map will be the determining factor for what’s realistic and what’s not. Start plugging each item into your wish list to see where they all land on the map. Half of what we wanted to see conveniently landed within less than one hour of each place on the Western Peninsula of Iceland. The other half was all located in the South, each place within 45 minutes’ drive time.
  2. Based on your final location selection, determine where you want to stay. Once all your locations are mapped out, you can get an idea of where you should stay to cut down on drive time. It is important to understand that something requiring more than a two-hour drive is going to eat up half of your shooting day. It’s easy for people to forget the return trip is just as long as the way there.

Don’t #2: Let yourself get disorganized and overwhelmed.

I’m not a big math person, but when it comes to planning destination shoots, spreadsheets and Microsoft OneNote are two of my best friends. It’s the only way I can stay organized, and organization keeps me from getting overwhelmed.

Microsoft OneNote is great for organizing each shoot and incorporating inspiration images for a visual to present to Sal.

Once each shoot is finalized, I create a spreadsheet to track expenses, contacts (models and hair and makeup artists), and locations. I use a generic form for this; when a field is blank in the spreadsheet, it means I am forgetting something.

Don’t #3: Hire a model with limited looks.

Versatility is key when booking models. It’s easy to come across someone who is gorgeous or has the perfect look for that one shot you want for your portfolio, but you have to think about your time wisely. Typically, models are for hire for eight-hour windows. Imagine the number of unique shots you could get out of one model in that time. This is why it’s important to find someone who has a portfolio that shows his or her range as a model. Will this model be able to pose as a bride in one scene and do edgy high fashion in another? Find someone with multiple looks, or you’ll be stuck shooting the same person with the same face all eight hours.

Don’t #4: Go cheap on hotels and/or apartment rentals.

Here’s what many people seem to forget when booking travel: The hotel or apartment rental you select is your home for the next few weeks of your life. On top of that, you will more than likely be outside shooting from early morning to late evening, and will be exhausted when you get home. Book an AirBnB when traveling to a different country, which allows you to live like a local for a few days and get the most out of your experience. It also allows you to save some money because you can do your grocery shopping when you first get in, so you can cook decent, healthy meals at home and not have to dine out every meal.

If you want to cut costs, invite friends to join you on the trip to split the cost of housing. An added bonus: Travel with your photographer friends and split costs for models and hair and makeup artists.

Don’t #5: Keep your crew out of the loop.

Communication is crucial for destination shoots, both internally and with your hired crew (models, hair, makeup). Provide models and hair and makeup artists with mood boards, and keep them in the loop during the concept-planning portion of the process, which gets them excited about and invested in the shoot. This ensures a more reliable outcome on the day of the shoot because once a person is invested in a creative project, they are less likely to bail or flake out the morning of the shoot.

Once confirmed, get all forms of contact from each person you’re hiring: email address, phone number, backup phone number, etc. It’s better to have too many means of getting ahold of someone than not enough.

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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