With the increase in destination weddings, photographers are facing the new challenge of having to ensure the very best images for their clients whilst in a country and venue that they are not used to. Most wedding photographers will be accustomed to taking photos in places that they have never been to, however, when wedding photography locations are familiar or a couple of hours drive away, scouting a location is a lot easier. Here are a few wedding photography tips on how to scout out a brand new wedding location overseas.

Prepare to succeed

Your scouting of a destination wedding location can begin weeks or months before the date of the event. Using Google Maps, especially with Street View, can give you an initial feel for the direction of the sun and the area immediately surrounding the venues. You can do a quick search on Instagram for other wedding images taken at the venue to give you a good idea of great spots to shoot or see when you’re on your first scouting trip.

Protect your gear

Before travelling to the overseas destination, double check all your gear. Make sure you have spare batteries, memory cards or film, backup cameras, hard drives and if necessary, international travel plug adapters to charge all your gear. Invest in a hard shell camera case to keep your camera bodies, lenses and other equipment safe while travelling. If you’re flying to the destination, take the most essential gear with you on the plane and think about paying for early boarding to secure overhead space for your camera cases and equipment.

Explore the local culture

Arrive at the destination two to three days before the wedding and try and immerse yourself in the local culture and lifestyle of the location. This will help you to embed the destination’s style or culture into your photographs on the day of the event. You’ll also have a better understanding of the lighting depending on different weather conditions and times of the day, as well as giving you some creative wedding photo ideas.

Walk before you run

When visiting a wedding destination or venue abroad it’s important to take your time. Take the time to shoot areas which you think you’d like to use on the wedding day. Practice your compositions without the subjects so you can simply pop them in on the day of the wedding. Taking photos while scouting the venue will give you an idea of how the light looks on your camera. This way, you’ll not only be better prepared for the wedding, but you’ll create a library for yourself which you can use when trying to come up with different wedding photoshoot ideas.

Explore the venues involved

Visit the venue one or two days beforehand to do a preliminary run of the wedding day from start to finish. Whilst you won’t be able to account for the changes on the day of the wedding, you’ll be able to get a solid understanding of where and when things are happening. Make sure to ask if there will be any extra additions requested by the bride and groom, or special traditions related to the destination. All of this will make sure you’re in the right place at the right time for capturing the story of the special day.

Find out when the DJ, orchestra, lighting, and caterers will be setting up at the venue, to avoid planning shots in areas blocked off or obstructed by the different parties involved. You might also want to find out where certain wedding features will be positioned, so you know in advance where you can and can’t shoot from.

Select your portrait locations but be flexible

It’s very unlikely that the light will be exactly the same on the day of the wedding as the day you scout a location. Whilst looking for the ideal locations to capture portrait photos, make sure to have a couple of backup spots just in case. You may find that on the day of the wedding, the family wants something different from the spot you had in mind, or that the elements aren’t as you’d expected. The more prepared you are ahead of the big day, the better your photography will come out when it needs to.

Your destination wedding photos will be greatly improved if you are familiar with the location and venue and have an idea of where you want to shoot certain images from. There will be plenty of things that may unfold differently on the day of the wedding, but if you plan your scouting trip well enough, you’ll have a plan to fall back on.