10 Practical Tips for Photographing Your First Destination Wedding

Building a Six-Figure Wedding Photography Dream Job || Destination Wedding Photography Foundations 101

Here are a few things I wish I knew when I started shooting destination weddings and elopements. Please note that there are referral/affiliate links in this blog post that I make a small commission on!: 


There are so many good reasons for this overall this alleviates a lot of unknowns and liability issues. If you’re taking care of your own travel, it’s one less thing for your couple’s to have to plan. If any issues come up with your reservation, or any changes you need to make, you can do it yourself. You also don’t have to be worried about being put in a shady or uncomfortable situation; you don’t want to be guarding your gear in a shared hostel room or on a red-eye with 12 hour layovers. Don’t forget to include a per-diem in your travel budget; after all of your travel costs, your profit should be at least the same (but ideally more) than your profit from local weddings. 


2.) Plan to be there at least 2 nights before you start shooting – and longer if you need to account for jet-lag or remote/weather-prone destinations.

There is no anxiety like not being sure you’re going to make it to your dream destination wedding! Leave a buffer day to allow for travel delays, location scouting, getting your bearings, and recovering from travel exhaustion/jet-lag. I know my body and mental health, and that means a minimum of 2 days early for me for “close” destinations (similar time zone, max 1 layover), and a minimum of 3 days early for “far” destinations (different part of the world, 2+ layovers). 


Two happy campers in Costa Rica. Peak location scouting adventure!

I’ll do a longer blog post on this but the long story short is that my file paranoia makes me a kind of insane person when it comes to guarding and backing up files while I’m traveling. Since I typically don’t have the consistent internet access to back up to my cloud service, I prioritize redundancy in my photo files.

The way I choose to do this is by first and foremost, shooting on dual slot cameras. After the wedding or elopement, I back up to both my external hard drive and to my laptop. If I’m feeling really nuts, I back it up to even another hard drive; I’ll keep one of my body and one packed away. I use a SanDisk 2TB Extreme Portable SSD, which is the perfect size to fit into my little crossbody Fjallraven Pocket satchel that I swear by for traveling. I can wear the satchel under my jacket for extra safety. I then take both copies of my SD cards and separate where each set is kept; one may stay with my camera gear, while the other goes in a bag. I’ve even mailed a hard drive home when I know I’m going to be staying and traveling for a little while. Basically, as many copies of files in as many places until I get home and can get everything properly backed up! It sounds a little nuts but gives me (and my couples) peace of mind. 


This will also be another blog post, but every locale and country has different requirements and limitations when it comes to importing photographers. Some have strict rules against it (looking at you, Canada) and some are more lax as long as your couple is local to your own country and you’re also paid in your own country. Some countries have limitations on the amount of gear that can be brought in duty-free, like Mexico. Always abide by Leave No Trace (LNT) guidelines, research local customs, and respectfully be a non-a-hole visitor. 


Wow, yet another item worthy of a separate blog post! I’m a self-proclaimed credit card queen, and have multiple travel-specific credit cards. My Chase Reserve and American Express Delta Platinum cards all offer delay insurance, baggage insurance, rental car insurance, airport lounge access, and more. I have a photographer friend who unfortunately totaled a rental car in Ireland, and her credit card insurance completely took care of it.


That’s it. That’s the whole rule. Never. Check. Your. Gear. And while we’re at it, get camera-friendly carry-on luggage but try not to get carry-on luggage that screams, “Hello, I’m a photographer, rob me.” I personally prefer camera messenger bags and backpacks, or regular bags with camera inserts. I often use a Mindshift Gear 180 Backpacking Camera Bag. It’s unassuming, rugged, and functional.


Should any emergencies come up, it’s good to know a few local people who could potentially help you out in a bind. You can even pay a local photographer a small amount to be on “stand-by” as an associate photographer if it alleviates your peace of mind.


This has always been the best money I spend to feel safe and not get lost when I’m traveling alone! Keep buddies updated on your travel plans with regular check-ins and stay connected through Find My Friends.


If you want to shoot destinations for the glory of it, it won’t be worth it. If you’re making less money and giving up more time to shoot destinations than investing in your local market, you’ll burn out. I am a massive travel fanatic, but after my fair share of time and experiences documenting destination weddings, I almost always prefer to shoot in my local market and save money for a longer non-working trip where I don’t have to lug all my camera gear around and have memory-card-related anxiety! Now I say yes to destination weddings only when it’s somewhere I already wanted to travel. 


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