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Destination Session Guide

So you’re thinking of planning your photo session out of town! Super cool! I enjoy a good adventure (see THIS session- an hour hike into the Sauratown Mountains- if you need proof!) but I’m also pretty Type A about organization. If you fall in either or both adventerous/Type A categories then read on because this is for you!

While it’s totally worth it, an out of town shoot takes a little more effort. Shoots away from your home can be a ton of fun because they’re often in really beautiful, special places. Otherwise, why did we make the drive!? From downtown cities to mountaintop hiking sessions, they all present their own problems. But creating a careful plan can make all the difference!

Typically I work with my clients to organize the trip so it makes sense for everyone, so these tips are for us to work through together! You’re not in the alone! :)

1. Parking

One of the most easily forgotten (and totally crucial) parts of traveling for sessions is thinking ahead with parking. It may be easy to assume that we'll find parking when we get there but somehow when you’re most in need of a parking spot, there aren't any available. Google parking garages, state park parking lots, on street parking, and have backup parking just in case. Be sure to bring cash in small bills and coins to park. Check ahead of time to see if you need a special parking permit for state and national parks. Additionally, make sure you call ahead (a few days before is good) to be sure the parking you’d planned for is still available. This is actually critical. I can’t even begin to say how many non-photography related plans I’ve made to go hiking or traveling and discovered that while the location was open, parking was not and I had to abandon the adventure. A quick call makes sure this doesn’t happen.

2. Closing Times

Tying in to the last point, a lot of parks, garages, and locations close early and you may not know that if you’ve never visited or only at certain times. We may have intended to go shoot at 7:00 to catch golden hour but the locacloses at 5:30. Check closing times before you finalize plans.

3. Special Events

Is the day you’re planning your session for a holiday, long weekend, or event? Check the calendar to see if you should be expecting lots of people at your location of choice and jump on social media or the location’s website to see if a special event is scheduled for that date. It’s not the end of the world unless the location is closed for the day. Just expect heavy traffic and lots of people. (For example, the shoot seen here could have been scheduled on a Saturday but the Madison farmers market is crazy busy around the Wisconsin capitol building on Saturdays so we planned for Sunday. We were also careful to avoid the University of Wisconsin’s graduation weekend since that would also create a lot of congestion)

4. Creating a Schedule

You may want to just wing your plans but this is the worst idea possible. Create a careful schedule that allows for some wiggle room but doesn’t leave you floundering. Be sure to write down arrival times, transit times, how long you expect to be actually shooting, outfit changes, and buffer.

5. Backups

It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan in place. Backup clothes, shoes, locations, parking spots, and rain date. Even if everything goes totally right, you may have extra time to play with so the seconds give you even more options! You’ll never regret taking the time to have backups.

6. Bathrooms and Changing Locations

At some point when you’re traveling you’ll probably need to use the restroom. If you’re in an unfamiliar place, be sure you’ve got a handle on what your bathroom options are, whether it’s a coffee shop, gas station, park restroom, or the woods, know what’s available and come to grips with it. No surprises! This also goes for outfit changes. It may seem like a good idea to pack your outfit and change when you get there so you don’t mess it up, but that could backfire on you when you have to swap clothes in the woods, your car, or a sketchy bathroom. Google your options and plan ahead.

7. Flexibility

This little adventure could be insane. It probably will be! SOMETHING will go wrong guys, whether you’re hiking in 100* heat and high humidity up a mountain, getting stranded in a parking garage with a faulty parking ticket machine, or only realize once you’re at the location that nobody has cell service (all true stories from my sessions..) Even the best laid plans have hiccups because we can’t control everything. Let go of the idea that everything has to be perfect and enjoy the adventure that comes!

8. Get a Planning Partner

You don’t have to plan everything on your own! A good photographer should have all of this in mind and be able to create and execute a game plan. Even though their main job is to photograph you, they should be heading up a lot of the organizing if you both agreed that an out of town shoot would be fun.

Structure and a sense of adventure are the keys to a successful destination shoot, so be prepared to get down to business once you book your out-of-town session and have a blast!


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