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June 18, 2018

How to Photograph a Destination Wedding

Over the past five years,  we’ve to traveled countless states and places to photograph destination weddings. Being based in the middle of Virginia, this requires a bit more planning on our part to make sure our couples get THE best experience no matter where we go. We take extra precautions and make sure to have plans in place way ahead of time and we’re sharing some of them today.

Transportation to Destination Weddings

If weddings are within the States, we always pick the option to drive, if we can.  The main reason is to keep our equipment safe. We have seen one too many videos of airport staff throwing bags against walls and onto trucks that would shatter any delicate item in them.

While cameras are generally sturdy,  pack them in padding and hard cases. Any brunt force can affect the way cameras can work. Cameras are machines with moving parts in them. Any loose parts or damage can alter the way an image looks. Just like a car, all the parts have to work in harmony for a smooth ride.

Make sure to rent a car that has the space and can handle long distances. Always double check the weather not just in your state but all states and cities you will be passing through.

Enterpise Rental has been our go to for renting and they have always been amazing! They make the process quick and painless with their online reservation process. Plus you can accumulate points to use towards additional rentals. They have everything from coverage on the vehicles to coverage for others.

Renting a car also allows to move from ceremony, reception, and portrait locations quickly. This leaves the burden off brides and grooms from having to stuff photographers into their cars, rentals, or bus. Wedding equipment is bulky and heavy. You want to avoid making bride and grooms uncomfortable by having large equipment stashed away with them.

We always plan to get to locations ahead of time for First Looks or Bridal Portraits to plan for lighting and compositions. Renting a car, always for extra space to help carry anything for our bride and grooms. It’s a win win.
If you plan to fly, pack gear onto your carry on to prevent damage to essential equipment. We recommend hard cases and padding for any equipment that you cannot carry such as light stands in case your luggage is dropped. Don’t go for the knock off brands for cases. Equipment is difficult to replace. Spending a few hundred now on a legit case is better than spending thousands on broken gear later.

Back-Up Equipment

As a husband and wife team, we have always needed to have more than one of everything, which meant our investment in equipment was always bigger than most people we know. This has helped us in the long run, because we have doubles of literally everything.

Always have a back-up camera body. It’s essential when you’re shooting weddings. Weddings require a higher volume of images; much larger than an engagement or portrait session. More clicks means more use out of gear, which in turn, wears away at your equipment. Lenses are the same. Always have a backup lens, especially any you use primarily throughout the day.
Used gear from authorized retailers could even work if buying new is not an option. Make sure the products you purchase are not grey market. Nikon and most repairs shops will not cover equipment that are from unauthorized dealers. That means you could be left with spending hundreds on gear that can’t be used after it breaks or fails. If you are unsure if a product is a grey market product, ask for model numbers and use the manufacturers website to check if the model numbers are valid.
Don’t forget to ask when the last time the equipment was calibrated, cleaned and serviced. Equipment has to be serviced regularly, much like a car. The last thing you want is purchasing backup  used equipment that fails on you!

If you can’t purchase additional equipment, try renting them. Borrowed lenses offer rentals from a few days to up to a week for equipment which helps when traveling. Keep in mind during Winter months, shipment can be slow due to snowstorms or inclement weather.

You will need to plan well ahead of time for gear to arrive accordingly.We have heard countless stories of couples losing out on wedding images from photographers who failed to plan. Backup equipment is KEY, we cannot stress this enough. It’s our jobs to do everything within our power to not only capture capture the images but to protect the images too.

Checklist

When you are traveling with gear, especially in a different state, make sure to track all of your gear. We have a checklist of all the equipment we take and use check boxes to keep track of equipment. Often times, pack up happens at the end of the night for weddings and it’s dark. Our bags and equipment also happen to be dark, it’s easy to miss a lens or card.

The checklist will keep you on track and avoid having to repurchase or travel back to retrieve it. It’s also a good idea to tag your gear in case it is found by a wedding vendor or family member. They will know exactly where to return it to.

Make sure you or an assistant keeps track of equipment throughout the day. Leaving gear in extreme conditions such as a hot car or in rain can damage camera gear. Our camera bodies are weather proofed and can withstand drizzles. Though in torrential rain or dropped in puddle, equipment may not hold up. Wind can take down light stands and any equipment left unattended. Using weights help to keep light stands from falling and protect it.

Timeline

We always plan to leave two to three days ahead of time. This helps in case of traffic, major accidents, road closures or inclement weather. The last thing you want is showing up late to the wedding.
Start your timeline by planning to arrive at the hotel a day or two ahead of time. Then build in extra time on top of that for travel.

If you are renting a car, add in extra days to pick up and and drop off the vehicle.
We photographed a wedding in Missouri and fortunately we had no issues getting there. On our way back home, we ran into a major snowstorm. Luckily we had rented a vehicle made to navigate through snow and had already added in an extra day to drop off so that we didn’t run into problems with our rental car company. If you do end up dropping off earlier, they won’t charge the extra day.

Keep these tips in mind for your next destination wedding. In fact, many of these are very helpful for local weddings, too!

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