A Practical Approach to Travel as a Wedding Photographer
Recently, several of you have reached out to me about how to best go about shooting your first international wedding, however by the time I can offer my opinion it’s sometimes too late to put into action some of what I can easily help with. Thus I hope to be able to put a few of my core beliefs and ideas of how to have a life of less travel hassle…
Probably the best word I can use to describe my attitude towards travelling hassle free is – consistency.
Now, I can already hear the nay-sayers thinking, boring! However, stick with me, the title of this blog is not, ‘adventure at every corner’ and whilst I love some adventure as much as the next person, when working and when being paid to be somewhere – consistency, trumps adventure, every time. This is not just a joyride, it’s a job too. A job that when coupled with a stress-free travel environment, and amazing couples, naturally breeds enjoyment and perhaps even – fulfilment.
Control. The first way to create consistency with travel, whether 5 trips a year or 50, is to implement personal control over your own travel arrangements. Having your clients book your travel might seem like a golden idea and a complete time saver for you. It’s not!
You won’t be thanking them for booking you on the cheapest flight possible or the earliest flight out (which also happens to be the airport furthest from you). And you certainly will not be thanking them for inputting your passport details incorrectly on the API.
Having control, researching and picking the travel arrangements that best suit you is one of the best tips I can offer. It might not seem like a big deal, but when you have control, you can be assured that you’re travelling on the correct flight, with the correct airline, form the correct airport. What’s more, if you start some loyalty with an airline later down the line, it’s much easier to credit any previously flown flights toward some status. More on that another time.
Just to give you one more crucial reason this is important, and believe me, there are many many more… Mobile boarding passes with most airlines are generated within your online account (or mobile app), so to save having to find a printer or going back and forth in emails with your couples to try and receive the correct login details you need – Book Your Own Travel!
Consistency of Airline & Airport. Flying with 10 different airlines, from a variety of airports, all with different procedures and baggage requirements is no fun whatsoever. Whether you choose Ryanair, EasyJet, SAS, Iberia or any other global airline, it’s rewarding in both time, and often money, to stick to one, or a small handful when flying – especially so when building loyalty.
Of course, it’s not always possible to travel with the same airline or even from the same airport. On occasion the route you wish existed – simply will not. You may have to fly a new airline or fly from a different airport, or both. When this happens, you’ll need to do a little more research into baggage restrictions and allow yourself more time to travel through a new environment. Where at all possible, even for the sake of a few £$, it’s my view to choose a familiar airport and airline to save yourself time and energy that you could otherwise be deployed in your business elsewhere.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. Last year I took more than 30 trips, visited 12 countries, totalling more than 60 international flights, stayed over 100 nights in hotel rooms and hired enough cars to of received top level Avis status TWICE OVER!
I say this because it illustrates a point that then when you repeat any task, like booking travel arrangements here, as you repeat you get very proficient at doing it quickly when you’re visiting the same websites to book the same/similar flights, hotels and cars.
I always implement a quick Kayak search to make sure I am not overpaying too much for my loyalty to an airline, airport or hotel chain, but simplicity, speed and familiarity are my friends.
Having a repeatable system when booking travel, even if only for a few trips a year, is unquestionably useful and provides peace of mind that all the boxes are ‘physically’ ticked.
I use Trello to keep track of all my travel arrangements (and nearly everything else, including this article). Most of my flights and hotel bookings are automatically added into my digital diary, but it’s in Trello I can find all my details and keep track of what I have, and haven’t already booked, for any given trip.
Early AM flight?
You bet Trello will give me the answer.
You’ll save yourself so much time in the long run by taking half an hour to arrange your own trip as opposed to having your clients do it for you. What’s more, every airline and major hotel chain takes American Express, so you can bag some nice cash back or miles for some personal travel too!
“My business travel pays for my personal travel.”
Your clients don’t know what’s best for you, so next time they offer to book things for you, educate them that you need to have control and they will thank you for it, don’t they have enough to do without worrying about your travel requirements anyhow?
Remember to tell them your flights are booked though – they’ll probably want to know you’re organised. :)
Later, if you begin to travel more frequently, this mindset of self-organisation at the outset will mean that as you grow you will have developed a formula you can grow into, rather than a mass of email confirmations that you can’t find when you’re moving about because of lack of 4G! :)
The Overhead Test. I can summarise this point in one sentence for you. ‘If it doesn’t fit in the overhead for a destination wedding, do you need it for any wedding?’
I’ll explain a little more…
If you only plan on travelling once or twice or year, this is where a lack of experience can really hurt you, simply because you’re unlikely to be prepared for the practicalities of travel. If you have a driving licence (myself included), this is specifically aimed at you. When you drive to weddings it’s easy to get yourself in the habit of having every backup and eventuality covered. Your car, if anything like mine, can quickly become an Aladdin’s cave of things you might need, someday – next year – never!
When you fly, you don’t have the luxury of carrying 5 cameras, 10 lenses, 2 tripods and 3 sets of spare clothes. So when you start to travel frequently it’s important to build your equipment base and the foundations of ‘what you actually need’ around the worst case scenario of what you can carry. This is why I have built my ‘core’ photography equipment that I use weekly to document weddings around the basis of 12KG’s that can fit inside a Think Tank Airport Advantage for an ‘arhhhh’ Flybe flight.
Whilst I rarely travel with that little amount of equipment, (thank you EasyJet, British Airways & Iberia) I know, if need be, I can do it – and that is a comforting feeling.
Sure when flying isn’t involved I may have a few extra items; an extra set of clothes than normal, or maybe a lighting stand, or soft box that I never actually need – but very little else. When you become familiar with a set amount of equipment in your car, then come to realise you can’t (or otherwise make it hard for yourself) to travel with that same equipment – life can become frustrating.
In reducing your equipment, you will actually have made life much simpler for yourself, not to mention a whole lot lighter! – your neck and back with thank you for sure.
The key really is that you quickly become familiar with the same selection of equipment available in every location, anywhere in the world. It’s the same equipment if I am shooting a wedding in Cornwall, Marbella, Lake Como, London or Bali – you have got to love consistency!
So many advantages.
Plus, who needs 6 flash guns and 10 lenses anyhow?
Slim your gear down, make life simpler and you’ll thank yourself.
Minus Stressful Situations. Take some time to think what it is that could make you stressed, or just a little apprehensive, and then reverse engineer that situation to think of things you can do now, to help avoid or better eliminate what’s to come.
A quick example would be the fear of having all your images in one place as you are unable to separate them on the move. This is something I will go into more depth within a future article. But to reverse think that situation, here are some of the thoughts that come to my mind…
- Multiple copies – 4 or more in my case.
- Separating wherever possible, I keep two copies in one bag, a third in a second bag and a forth in my trouser/short pocket. (I find the Lacie Rugged drives are perfect for a pocket size drive.)
- Where possible a cloud back-up. (even if JPEG only – it’s a fail-safe strategy)
- Using a small Peli or Otter case for a minimum of one copy. (fire/water/crush resistant)
- Backing up to multiple copies at the earliest opportunity. (I never even step into a car to leave a wedding until I have a minimum of 3 copies)
In my view the above should be implemented whether shooting a wedding 5 or 5,000 miles from home, but when you travel you involve a few extra risks and thus for me this is completely routine.
If you like geeky articles on photography, travel and productivity, just like this one, please tell me.
Barney’s Top Tips
(1) If you find yourself frequently on the limit with hand baggage, consider investing in a different bag. Personally, I love a bag with wheels, as I hate sweating because I’m wearing a backpack. However, backpacks naturally have less weight (no wheels or handles) and can ‘appear’ to look less bulky, especially if you’re flying with the budget airlines. Worth considering.
(2) If you buy a bag with wheels, avoid 4 wheels, it seems like a good idea at first, but once you’re on a bus or train and let go of the handle, you’ll soon find your bag rolling away from you.
(3) If you get asked by ground staff to check your hand baggage due to the plane being full, kindly explain that you would prefer not too because there is $$$ of fragile equipment within. This will normally resolve the situation. To avoid being forced into an argument, board the plane earlier! Worst case, if you get given a luggage tag to gate check your bag, promptly remove it when out of sight and walking towards the plane.
Sign Up For More Like This