Warning: This post may be a bit drier if you’re not interested in photography with some nerdy details and how-to’s for surviving a medium size international catalogue shoot. We also posted a short travelogue of the trip here if that’s of more interest.
There is a ton that goes into successfully executing a location shoot of this scale. We’ve been lucky enough to both shoot and produce photoshoots all over the world and over the next few weeks we will do a series of posts based on the New Zealand shoot highlighting what we’ve learned throughout the years.
Part 1: Packing and Travel
Part 2: Lighting
Part 3: Digital Remote Workflow
Part 4: Planning and Logistics
Packing and Travel
The gear we choose to bring on a shoot depends entirely on the creative brief that outlines our agenda. This shoot called for the full gamut from backcountry ski action photography, to fully produced and styled lighting set ups… so we had no choice but to pack it all. This brings us to the first part of getting a shoot like this done well… packing and travel.
Always carry on the bare minimum to survive and start getting accomplishing something when you get there. Often bags get held up, lost, or delayed especially when traveling to more remote destinations and traveling with overweight bags.
-Passport (forget this and you’re F@#$ed)
-Travel cash (though we rarely even see the currency of countries we visit thanks to the ubiquity of plastic, you’ll need it for tips, taxis, etc… always tip the airline curb check guy!)
-Camera and lenses (even if you have no extra lighting gear, extra clothes, or equipment at least you can start shooting ambient light set ups, travel photos, etc.)
-Computer, hard drive, card reader, and cords (the client will likely want to review images plus it’s always good to back up your photos ASAP)
-Extra camera battery and charger (nothing makes you look worse than holding a dead camera because you checked your battery/charger)
-Light weight rain jacket and down jacket (sucks to be cold)
-Boots (in a worst case scenario you can always rent but skiing or riding on a rental board or skis sucks… riding in beat up rear entry boots is impossible)
-Toothbrush (no one likes skunk breath and nothing gives you skunk mouth like passing out on a plane)
-Sleeping pills (even with airline status you still might end up on a middle seat between a heavy set fellow and loud talker that can’t tell that headphones and a book mean you’re not interested… check out and skip the jetlag)
Additional options that happen to be on our list:
-Journal (always nice to be able to record thoughts/ideas, make lists, sketch, or just remember the cool places you’ve seen and how you experienced them)
-Book (or kindle if you think you can blaze through more than one on a trip [yeah right] or you’re too ADD to stick with one)
-Magazine or two (light and content rich… and sometimes it’s nice to just look at pretty pictures of stuff you like)
-Headphones (This should probably be on the mandatory list… drone out plane noise and groove out)
-Breath mints (again… skunk breath)
-Point and shoot Camera (easier to bust out at random occasions than the SLR… Though we shoot Nikons the Cannon S-90 is the perfect pocket tool)
Pelican Cases are invaluable for checking expensive breakable items. Arrange them so everything is well padded and if possible distribute the weight well… Weight cut offs for the airlines are usually at 50 and 70 lbs… over 50 and you’re looking at unexpected charges… over 70 and you’re going to feel like you dropped the soap in the prison shower.
Lowe Pro Bags. LowePro makes a Huge assortment of bags that cover a wide range of uses. We like the Flipside models to carry our Profoto 7B kits with battery, two heads, and extension chord and the Specialist 85 AW to carry the Profoto Acute 600. These bags are very customizable for whatever you’re carrying and have comfortable ergonomic harness that carry better than any other pack we’ve tried for the angry midget (heavy lighting kits).
To avoid needing a work visa it’s best to familiarize yourself with what the destination country is concerned with so you know what documents to get, how to properly prepare, and have your talking points in mind before you’re brought to the dreaded “back room”.
In NZ the primary concern is that you’re not bringing in gear to sell or trade with the company you’re shooting for. The best way to avoid hassles is to get a Carnet…
Carnets or “Merchandise Passports” are a good idea if you’re traveling with a lot of gear. On this trip we had a camera bag and two Pelican cases full of lighting gear confiscated and a carnet would have saved us this hassle/cost. You can get a carnet at your international departure airport if you show up with a comprehensive itemized list of the equipment you’re carrying.
Batteries can create issues. We’ve been advised to take the cassette out of the batteries and carry them on but we’ve always risked it and haven’t run into any issues yet (knock wood).
Random Travel Tips
-Check out the “traveling media clause” for your airline and get a letter of assignment if you can… this should help with overweight baggage fees (usually only works for domestic)
-Always ask about a window (or aisle if you prefer) upon check-in. Ask if there’s a bulk head available. Unless you’re on SouthWest in which case check in early!
-Audibles.com and/or iTunes podcasts (NPR This American Life, The Moth, Adam Carrolla are a few favorites)
-Find a belt that doesn’t have much metal in the buckle so you don’t have to take it on and off at every security check point.
Please feel free to comment and share your tips and experiences. Let us know if there’s anything else you’d like help/advice with. Stay tuned for New Zealand Catalogue Photo Shoot, Details- Part 2: Digital Remote Workflow