For Photographers –Shooting Destination Weddings

I have been meaning to write this blog for so long. I actually had intentions on doing a video blog for you instead. But turns out planning for a baby is a bit more time consuming than I though. So written will have to do.

Every time I go and shoot a Destination Wedding I come back to a ton of emails from photographers asking all kinds of questions. So I hope this blog helps you all. If you have more questions than what I touch on here, please feel free to ask.

How do you book Destination Weddings?

Before I had ever shot a Destination Wedding, I knew it was something I wanted to do. I wanted the experience and let’s face it; I want all the beauty that surrounds them. But in order to get them you have to show them. The first one I did was for my trip accommodations only. Yes this still costs the couple money but I didn’t make money out of doing it. Always think long run in anything you do. No this one particular wedding didn’t make me money that day, but it did help me book other Destination Weddings in the future. You can’t book what you don’t show or people won’t know you offer it or what to expect. So my advice would be to put yourself out there that Destination Weddings are something you would like to do and see if you can work something out with a fabulous lucky couple.

How do you price Destination Weddings?

Every photographer is different when it comes to this, much like any sort of photography pricing. Destination Weddings can be portrayed as a “vacation”. I will tell you they are far from that. Yes, you get time to relax on the beach between shooting. But your mind races a mile a minute, you stress about your gear the whole time and it is very hectic. I LOVE Destination Weddings absolutely do, but people have mistaken then for a walk in the park. We are not used to shooting in scolding heat, squishy uneven sand and sun so high in the sky you have no idea where to shoot. Price yourself for what you are worth. I have 2 options.

1: Trip for 2-no photography fee

2: Trip for 1-$2500 photography fee

However, with that being said, a Destination Wedding has to fit my style and the couple has to be a perfect fit for me. On a regular wedding day you spend 8-12 hours with the couple. With a Destination you will spend an entire week with them. It is really important to have that connection.

Aside from the fees I also charge for insurance, parking fees and any additional gear fees (airport fees).

What airport information can you give me when it comes to gear?

This one is tricky because all airlines are different. Make sure to look at their sizes AND WEIGHT restrictions on their carry on bags. I will tell you that Sunwing has a weight restriction that I am pretty sure it covers one of my lenses. We have a hassle with them every time. I have learned to take charge, tell them it is gear, show them and pretty much say it is not optional. Hasn’t had a problem since. EVERYTHING that is important to you needs to go in your carry on bag. This means even the little things (your cards and your batteries). Things you could not possibly buy from the resort if they happen to go missing. One thing you may not be able to put in your carry on is an excessive amount of regular batteries (for your flash ect). We put the ones we need in our flash and then the rest go below. We have had them make us leave some behind before. Sucks but you can buy more when you get to your destination. Everything is valuable and needs to be with you. We have a lowepro roller bag and it is amazing. It fits 2 bodies, 8 lenses, 2 flashes and all of our batteries and cards. It has been a lifesaver and couldn’t imagine travelling without it. We actually even use it for local weddings as well. Airport travel sucks so make sure to be comfortable.

Do you have insurance for your gear?

Not optional. If you follow my blogs you will know that we recently had some fun in Mexico with some rain and it destroyed our brand new Mark 3. Our insurance covered it and replaced the entire camera.

State farm-Elizabeth (I can give you her contact if you need)

They are super reliable, very great with customer service, and completely affordable.

The insurance I have covers weather and dropping of your gear and this is covered in the entire world. I also have liability coverage through them as well.

They are absolutely amazing and you need to have insurance.

Do you prepare your gear a certain way?

If you are from Alberta humidity is not an issue. Nor is sand. Yes, it is completely different shooting in a tropical location. Make sure to set your gear out (in the same setting you will be shooting in) early in the day. We make sure to have a sit on our patio before heading out for a while to let everything equalise. We haven’t had too many issues with humidity when travelling. The only time we found it was an issue was when we got caught in the rain and when we shoot in closed in places outside, like greenery or something like that. Make sure to clean all of your gear inside to prevent other things getting in places we don’t want them. And sand…oh that dreaded sand. It literally gets everywhere. Change lenses as little as possible. When changing make sure to point your camera down so nothing is falling into your body. Buy one of those feather brushes instead of a cloth to brush things away instead of wiping them in. Clean everything thoroughly when you get home.

Resort Restrictions

I cannot speak for every resort so what I will say is whatever is agreed upon with your bride and the resort, have it in writing and have it with them on the trip. Most resorts go by the same rules. As long as the photographer is staying at the resort for more than 4/5 days they can shoot the wedding. If they are not there can be fees (heavy fees) or not allowed period. The resorts will most likely push the resort photographer on the couple so it is very important to have the agreement in writing.

What is all this huff about not telling the boarder you are working on your trip?

I am only going to talk slightly on this topic because it is a touchy one. How you choose to go about your travels is your business. Because of my pricing, most couples do not pay for any service. They are paying for travel and accommodations so I am NOT being paid. Therefore I am not working in that country.  It has been discussed and apparently it is absolutely fine to work there but there are restrictions. I can only recommend that if you want to know fully call the consulate of that country yourself. A photographer friend of mine did and this is the response she got.

Destination Weddings In Mexico:
Hey everyone! Every year I shoot 1 or 2 per year. This year I have more than 4 and was very concerned about being flagged at customs.
I did some research and read some horror stories of photographers having their equipment confiscated, etc. I know when I have arrived in Mexico and am entering the country my heart is in my throat……feeling nervous that my equipment is going to get checked and I am going to get caught. Not a good feeling!
I have contacted and spoke with Jeoffrey Wortman at the Consulate of Mexico In Calgary. This is what I was told and had put in writing:
For the porpoise of the travel in business, you do not need any kind of visa if:
1. Your travel is shorter than 180 days.
2. You are not being paid in Mexico.
I also confirmed that I do not need to fill out a form disclosing the equipment that I am bringing. That being said I disclose the equipment to my insurance company to make sure that I am FULLY covered if something were to happen while I am down there. I do not trust insurance companies. You are also going to want to make sure that you are allowed to shoot at the resort. Some resorts charge an additional fee. In most cases you are fine as long as you are staying at that that particular resort.
I also plan to bring each contracted signed and showing that it is paid in full.
For those of you who do destinations weddings in Mexico I hope this helps put your mind at ease. I know I will feel a bit better white waiting in the line-up.
Have a lovely day!

 

How do you shoot in direct sun?

Yuck! I DON’T. Simple as that. I have two shooting styles. Shade or open shade. Those are really the only options for me. If you look through my portfolio that light is very consistent as this is the light I like…and am comfortable in. I do shoot backlit (sun is behind the subject) as well but not unless it is low glowy light. The recent wedding I shot in Mexico, everyone keeps asking how I got that beautiful sky in the photos while still having the bridal party properly exposed. It was open shade. We had a building behind us that was blocking the direct sun allowing me to expose for the subjects and leaving the light hitting he sky behind them. If you want a sky you need to have the sun facing the sky. This is terrible light unless it is softened somehow.Also keep in mind that the beautiful sand below your feet is a great reflector, but can be a bit harsh. Try and use it to your advantage.

Do you worry about colour casts?

I honestly didn’t know what this question meant when asked it. But I get it. In November we shot a wedding in Dominican that was bright pink. They were surrounded by pink everywhere. Because everything is so bright, you won’t get a colour cast. If it was darker and you had to try to bump up your exposure, yes you would see some colour casts. It is easy to process if this happens but at all times, shoot the best you can in camera.

Plan

Because Destinations are so different than local, as in your setting, it is really important you are planned for the day. Light is very different there. Scout out locations for your photos at the same time you will be shooting them. Go to the ceremony site and see where the light will be hitting the subjects, again at the same time as the ceremony will be held. Yes the light can change but I have found it to be pretty consistent at certain times of the day. We always help our couples with timelines for their day because of this. Their ceremony should not be any later than 3. The earliest I would say is 2 and that is still pretty bright. If you are shooting between November-April the light generally goes down really quickly. By 6 there is usually nothing left to use so you need to move fast.

Any tips for “trash the dress”

YES-DO IT-BE SAFE

Safety is always my number one priority but when it comes to trash the dress it needs to be even higher. Photographers sometimes get in a grove and just want those amazing shots. Great! But not if it is at the expensive of someones lives. We have all heard of the horrible things that have happened around the world with these sessions. Be Careful.

Other than that, again you need to plan. Plan for light. We do our sessions either at 6am or 6pm when the light is going up or going down. We need to move fast because it is a very short window to use but absolutely worth it. Find out what your clients want and are comfortable with.

(this shot was taken at about 645 pm)

  1. Luke Brown says:

    Hello there,
    Thank you so much for the blog post. I am traveling to Mexico City to film a wedding. So you would recommend that I don’t need to contact the consulate and fill out any paperwork. would you recommend instead I travel with minimal gear and just be low key at the boarder? I do have a friend in Mexico and I thought about mailing my Tripods, Monopods and sliders to him ahead of time. Would this be a good idea? Lastly I don’t have any insurance, I’m not worried about breaking any gear. Mostly worried about a large amount of it getting stolen. Should I get insurance?

    Thank you so much for all your advice!
    Luke Brown

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