Something that I always used to dreamed of being able to do was getting paid to travel and do my job. When I first started my company, most of my jobs were pretty local to my area but now - I’m fortunate enough to have a much bigger clientele base, with quite a few of them contracting me to travel for video & photo work. Because of that there's A LOT I’ve learned about how to make sure a job runs smoothly while traveling out of town for work. To save you guys from all the mistakes I’ve made, some crazy mishaps, & having to learn by trial & error, I’m going to take you guys along for a little job shadow. In this post, we'll be going over my process to handle traveling for photo & video jobs.
For those of you who want to jump right into the info or watch the video version, here's everything we'll be covering and a link to the vlog.
And for those of you who'd rather watch than read, we got you covered! You can check out the vlog version here!
Planning Your Itinerary
So the first thing I do before every trip, is I plan out all the details in my itinerary. Whenever I get the inquiry from a client, I’m immediately hopping on my computer, communicating with them, and getting the details ironed out. For me & my team, it’s easiest to plan out our shoots on google calendar. This whole process is typically just conversing back and forth with the client, and getting all the necessary details that I normally need for a shoot. You’re entitled to run your shoots however you like, but for those who would like a reference this is typically what I try to gather:
Confirmed Dates Of When The Shoot Is Occurring - This helps lock in all other details and plan my travel accordingly.
Shoot Time & Duration - You need this for every job, but it's extra important to be aware of your schedule when you’re traveling in new locations. Speaking of locations....
The Shoot Location(s) - This lets me know where I’ll be working, helps me look up hotels/ coordinate places to stay, and is obviously factors into help determine my travel costs.
Contact Info - Super important, I always try to get an email & a phone number for at least 2 points of contact when on the job. Honestly, the more the merrier here.
Any Remaining Details Or Requests - Remember that while your clients are generally going to tell you everything they want or expect, it's your job to double check details and make sure everything is all clear on your end. If the client thinks what they’re asking for is a 1 hour shoot but you know you’ll need more time, communicate with them so that there's no confusion when you’re on the job.
Once I’ve gathered all my shoot details It's time to send an estimate/invoice for the shoot. On the estimate/invoice is of course things like my travel costs, which essentially determines my budgeting for the shoot. For the most part, I have all of my travel rates worked out already so I don’t have to fumble and calculate one every time a new job comes in. But for those of you who are new to this or are wondering how to calculate your rates, try to keep in mind the following:
How will you be traveling? Are you going to be driving, or do you have to book a plane ticket to get where you're going? Maybe you have to do both? This obviously determines if you're paying for something like gas & mileage vs paying to check and travel with gear.
How far away is the job? Friendly reminder that travel takes time and energy, so It’s important to think beyond just the shoot day. For example, If your driving but the shoot is 5+ hours away, you might want to look into booking an extra day or two for your stay. One to arrive early and get settled in maybe the night before, or maybe to rest after a long day of work.
How long will you be away? This is important for two reasons, the first being it may affect how much you charge for the shoot or job as whole. If there's only one day of shooting booked, but the shoot is 8 hours away - you’re going to be spending at least 3 days on the job. 1 shooting, and 2 traveling there and back home. That's 2 other days that you’re traveling, and could be working or earning more money. The second is one we can all relate to - wherever you are you gotta eat. Meals can add up quickly if your spending multiple days away on a job. While you probably shouldn’t be eating at 5 star restaurants the whole time, you do want to make sure to charge so you can keep yourself fed.
Booking Your Accommodations & Travel
Okay! Next it's time to start booking your accommodations & travel! I have two main pieces of advice for this part of your process. The first is to always book as early in advance as possible! Not only will it increase the likelihood of your rates being cheaper, but you’re also giving yourself the best chance of securing all the accommodations you need/want. I’ll be honest, I’ve gotten burned more than a few times because I figured I would be okay just booking a hotel a couple days before my shoot. Sometimes you get lucky, but you never know what could be going on in that area besides your job. A convention or festival, a sporting tournament of some kind, a concert, a training camp, or it could just be “busy season” for business travelers who work from that area! I’ve been blocked out from hotels as far out as 1.5 weeks in advance, and there’s nothing worse then trying to scramble last minute to find a place to stay so you can do your job. So I mean this when I say- book ASAP.
The second piece of advice I have is to double check your bookings. It’s always good to save your confirmation email/number and call ahead to double check your reservation. I’ve literally booked a stay through some of the most common travel sites (I will not mention names) & then called, or even worse, shown up to the property only to be told I wasn’t booked. Something to remember is that booking sites and hotels do run separate from one another so there is room for miscommunication between them. Booking directly through the hotels website, or calling to confirm once you’ve booked your stay will ensure your trip continues running smoothly and help you maintain peace of mind.
I typically use Booking.com to take care of all my accomodations for shoots. They have a pretty trustworthy track record with me, provide good discounts & rates on stays, and have a good reward program for people who sign up.
Planning/Packing Your Gear
Everything is booked and planned out, so now it’s time to start packing - specifically your gear. I try follow 2 general rules here thumb here: bring only what you need, and if you think you need it, bring it. Bringing only what you need helps you save on... pretty much everything. Time required to pack, or set up & break it down the equipment, space in your car or bags to carry that equipment, money required to transport that equipment if you're flying. Overpacking is never really the name of the game when traveling, and when your traveling AND working. Keep your packing simple and organized so that you can focus more on doing your job.
Speaking of doing your job, if you’re like me then that means you probably always have something you're working on. Editing, writing or creating content, emailing clients, managing my social media, its never ending! Because of this, I typically travel with a few necessities that allow me to have a solid mobile work station. Outside of my camera gear, for work I typically pack the following:
Laptop - for well, everything I just mentioned.
Mini Travel Tech Organizer - this holds and organizes all my hard drives, adaptors, earbuds, smaller cords, etc. Super useful for traveling with tech, I highly suggest checking it out !
My Phone - for pretty much everything the laptop does but just in my pocket and on the go
iPad - If spaces allows and I’m not already overpacking, I like having the iPad to bring with me on shoots, or just second second screen to pair for work with my laptop.
Back to what we were saying earlier - If you think you need it, bring it. Don’t try to be a master minimalist. You know you’re going to need the basics - Camera, check. Batteries, check. Memory cards, check. But for other items you may be on the fence about - like should I bring that extra tripod, or do I need that stabilizer if i’m just shooting talking head pieces - bring it. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry, especially when you’re on the job. You also never know, sometimes I have clients ask me to do extra work on the fly, or add things in. So if you give yourself an extra little bit of preparation, you could earn some extra cash or at the very least look more professional to your client.
Last but not least, I recommend packing all your gear up the day or night before you have to leave for travel. This does two things: the first is that it gives you a chance to pack when your mind is clear. You don’t want to be rushing to pack the morning of and forget something - that's a no, no. The second thing is that it gives you a chance to double check your gear & make sure you have everything that you need. With everything packed the night before, you can run over things once more in the morning before you take off.
Accommodations booked, gear packed, now it’s time to travel. For travel, I always recommend leaving early. If you’re traveling the day of your shoot, I’d recommend giving yourself at least an hour or so buffer to account for traffic and other potential slowdowns along the way. If you’re traveling the day before, I typically like to leave earlier in the morning so again, I can try to avoid traffic or traveling through less favorable times of the day. Overnight trips are fun, but when possible I try to keep my sleep schedule intact and rest during the evenings.
Check In & Night Before Prep
Something I suggest for every shoot ESPECIALLY when traveling is to lay out your gear the night before. Get all the batteries charging, cameras packed up, memory cards cleared and put away - just make sure everything’s ready so you can just get up, have a good start to the morning & have a smooth start to your shoot day!
Rise & shine, time to show up and do the work! This is the most exciting/fun part of it all because we've already done all the work to set ourselves up for success. Our gear has already been laid out from the night before, so we can get up and have plenty of time to get ready, have a little breakfast and be on our way. Sticking to the principal we mentioned before, It's always good to leave ahead of time for the shoot so you can have plenty of time to get there, meet the client and any potential partners, set up, and be ready to go. With all that prep that we did leading up, your shoot should be running smoothly, and you should be able to focus on doing your job/ having fun with the client.
Offloading Footage & Backup
Once your shoot is all done and you're back at your hotel, it's time to close out our job by properly backing up our footage. I usually like to backup my footage on two physical drives if possible, and follow up with a copy onto my cloud storage as well. When you’re traveling and moving around, a lot can happen & go wrong. Your equipment could get lost, damaged, or stolen and if that happens while you’re on the job, you can end up in some real deep water. Having multiple backups, traveling or no traveling is just good practice to keep as a professional. Set your files to copy on your computer and go relax while you let it do all the work.
For those of you looking for good hard drives to keep your footage safe, I got you! You can check out some of my most reliable choices here.
So that's it! My basic steps for preparing yourself to travel and manage your shoots smoothly. Feel free to take this routine, and add in or take away anything you like. To those of you who made it this far, which of these steps was most helpful for your job? Hopefully, you were able to walk away with at least one extra tip to help make your work easier. If you like this content, please remember to subscribe to our mailing list and become a part of our community! Thanks for reading, and happy shooting!