Later this week I’m heading off to New York and Atlanta for a couple of shoots, so I thought it would be apt to do a post on traveling for work. I’ve been lucky to travel quite a bit the last few years, even a trip to photograph a private villa in the Turks and Caicos, so this post will be a mix of dispelling misconceptions and tips for making sure everything goes smooth, before and during the shoot. All aboard.
To start, work travel is very different from recreational travel. Most of the time it’s a lot less fun than it sounds, more taxing, and much more stressful. On the client side, it’s much more of an investment to fly you somewhere, put you up in a room, and cover your expenses. As a result, a lot more is expected because, ultimately, to them it’s a larger price tag, regardless of the fact that the money isn’t going to you. This is important to know and keep in mind. Shoots are a lot less flexible and forget about going back to reshoot or do pick-up images. You have to plan out your shooting days in much more detail as any mistake, your fault or not, is multiplied.The prep starts weeks ahead of your trip. You have to get as much info about your subject as possible and pinpoint potential issues. Where will you be shooting? How much time will you have with the subject? Who is your contact? What will the weather be like? Be sure you have several copies of everyone’s contact info and also email it to yourself.
Next you must decide what equipment to take. The key is to travel as light as possible while still being able tackle any situation that might arise. Back up gear is key and it’s good to find a few rental places / camera stores and their hours, in case something breaks or gets stolen. For bigger shoots have a full gear list – this will help you make sure you have everything before you leave and keep track of things on location. Some photographers take a photo of their gear in the bag and put a copy in the bag itself. I forgot a laptop on location once which we only realized as when we were packing our gear before heading to the airport. Also, bring a couple extra hard drives to do multiple backups, the last think you want is for something to happen to your files!
With all these factors and a tight schedule things can get a bit frantic and wear you down. You have to remember to take care of yourself, physically and mentally, or the work will suffer. Simple things like eating meals on time and going out to a nice restaurant at the end of the day go a long way. Consider adding an extra day or two to your trip to explore the city you’re in. Look online to see if there are any shows or events you’d like to check out. Bring your swimsuit and take a dip in the hotel pool.
In the end, if you’re prepared,do the best work possible, and try to enjoy the limited downtime you have, you’ll be fine. Happy travels!