Ok, please forgive the clickbait style title. I wasn’t really sure how else to convey the context of this article. This post discusses some of the things we learned about shooting a destination wedding. So if you like “the truth about destination weddings” and the reality of the things you need to consider.
For many photographers, videographers and other wedding suppliers, being booked to cover a destination wedding is the ultimate goal. Many see it as the pinnacle of success and because of this, it’s something many professionals aspire to.
A couple of years ago we were asked to photograph a wedding in Italy for our good friends. Of course we had no hesitation in accepting and we had the most amazing day. It was definitely a learning curve however. It made us realise that there are so many obstacles and things to consider that you may not have to think about when photographing a wedding in the UK.
As such, we thought we would put together a little post about shooting a destination wedding and what we learned.
1. Unless you shoot light, you may have trouble transporting your kit. Ideally you don’t want to be placing your expensive, delicate equipment into the hold. Not least because you don’t want it being lost or damaged. Fitting an entire weddings worth of kit into hand luggage can be a struggle though, especially if you’re flying on an airline with a weight limit on hand luggage too. Our hand luggage was HEAVY. Luckily we got through without being checked but this is something you mustn’t rely on.
2. Some countries will require you to have a work permit/visa or otherwise to shoot over there. I’ve seen lots of photographers advise that you lie and say you’ll be shooting for a friend, as opposed to being a hired professional. Ultimately it’s completely up to you what you want to do, but be aware that it’s a potential hurdle and something you may be stopped and questioned about.
3. Having a language barrier can be a problem, especially if you encounter any issues. When we arrived we were travelling with 3 other suppliers and there was a problem with our hire car. There was a dispute over the conditions of the T&Cs for the car, which had been booked by someone else. It could have been much more quickly and easily resolved with no panic necessary, had we all spoken the same language.
4. Make all of the arrangements for travel yourself or go via the bride and groom. I’d advise that you do not arrange anything amongst other suppliers unless you’re good friends with them. As mentioned above, we were travelling with 3 other suppliers. Things such as the hire car for example were sorted by someone else. This meant we had little idea what was going on or which company the hire was with. We didn’t know which T&Cs we were supposed to be abiding by etc. As such we weren’t really able to help much when there was an issue. It also meant responsibilities weren’t clear. Who should be carrying cash for the toll? Do we all need to go and park the car in the out of town carpark or just the driver? In retrospect, if we were doing it all again, we’d insist on arranging our own travel so that we were personally responsible for every aspect of the journey and also so we had some control over when we travelled etc. OR we’d ensure there was an arrangement with the bride and groom directly.
5. Allow plenty of extra time! Although we didn’t find ourselves subject to any delays, it often happens. Personally, I feel it’s irresponsible to plan to travel overseas on the day of a wedding as there are so many factors you have zero control over. Not to mention the stress. Aim to arrive at least the day before the wedding. At least! Ideally i’d advise arriving 2 days before. Day one arrive, catch up on any Zzzz’s if you need to. Day two scope out the location, capture anything in advance that can be captured (drone shots etc), get charged, checked and up to speed on arrangements. On the third day, shoot the wedding. Many photographers are reluctant to do this as they do not want to have to pass additional cost onto the couple and potentially lose the job, but it’s the responsible thing to do.
6. Be prepared for the change of scenery. Perhaps obvious, but if it’s likely to be warm, take suncream and suitable clothes. Cold or wet, waterproofs and warm stuff to wear. Additional bits like insect repellant or bite cream may also be a godsend, so really do have a think about things you might need. I got bitten to death next to that lake and still have the scars to prove it 2 years later!
7. Give it that bit extra. It’s a unique opportunity and a big ask to have a couple fly you out to a destination and put you up. Use it as a chance to push beyond what you’re used to. If you usually deliver 8 hours for example, stay later. Arrive earlier. Get everything you’d usually get, but try some new stuff in between too. It’s exhausting, but you’ll thank yourself afterwards.
8. Go with an open mind and no expectations. Things don’t always happen the same overseas, even if you’re shooting for an English couple. The ceremony proceedings may be different for example. Shoot as if it was your first wedding in the sense of not knowing what to expect, when. Be prepared for anything and everything at any time!
9. Have a clear conversation in advance with the couple about what they need to provide and pay for. Some suppliers expect to have their food and expenses covered in addition to their fee. Others have a fully inclusive fee. Make sure you are clear about what you need and expect.
10. Whilst a good and unique opportunity, do not underestimate how much additional time you will invest in an overseas wedding. You may need to dedicate several days before or afterwards to it. You will not be able to take on additional weddings either side of the destination wedding. This is a huge time commitment and potentially a big financial one too if you have to turn away other work.
11. In relation to the above: You need to charge for your services!!! So many people are desperate to shoot overseas that they literally throw themselves at couples just for the opportunity to do so. Shooting free or for minimal expenses only. If you want to shoot overseas more often and want to be paid for it, don’t start out by shooting for free! So many photographers have done this over such a period of time that this is now what many couples are expecting. You may think that you’re “expanding your portfolio” by shooting on the cheap, but you’re actually just chipping away at something that is already fragile. Long term this is damaging your own chances of actually getting paid overseas work again.
So would we shoot a destination wedding again? We would consider it. Whilst we absolutely loved shooting the amazing and unique wedding of our friends and whilst we truly appreciate and value the opportunity they gave us to do so, for us, it would have to be the exact right set of circumstances for us to consider another wedding overseas. Destination weddings are something we do not push or put any effort into obtaining, but should one come along that we felt we were the right photographers for, we would gladly accept the commission.
Has the above been the truth about destination weddings for you too?
Have you shot a destination wedding? Have you shot a few? Do you think they are all they are cracked up to be? Do you have any additional tips or advice to add? We would love to hear your thoughts.