Everything You Need to Know About Destination Pre-Wedding Photoshoots – Part 1

So you’re engaged and want a glorious overseas pre-wedding photography shoot filled with exotic mystique, from the dreamy romance of Paris, to tropical beach life in Fiji, idyllic Mediterranean groves of Santorini, or gritty urban bustle of the Big Apple. How do you go about planning the photoshoot? Where do you start?

We turned to Kelvin Koh – as a Sony photography ambassador who travels frequently for destination wedding photoshoots, and the founder of Lightedpixels Photography which has been on Singapore Tatler’s Best of Singapore Photographers (Wedding) for 11 years running, Kelvin was the perfect person to share some valuable insights.

TWS: What factors should couples consider when selecting their destination of choice?

Kelvin: There are a few that I can think of right off the bat:

(1) If the destination they have chosen has seasons! If so, which season is best suited for them.

(2) Cost of visiting the destination. Besides just the travel charges, you should also check on accommodation and transport charges. Some cities are a lot more costly to visit.

(3) Availability of a hair and makeup artist (if you need one) at the destination. Some destinations can be really exotic, but it can also be really difficult to find a hair and makeup artist to assist.

(4) The geography of the destination. Generally, there are two types – a city destination like Paris, and a road-trip type like New Zealand.

(5) Language – do the locals speak English or a language you understand?

(6) Special events – sometimes it’s great to be part of a street celebration, it makes for great photos. Other times it can be a challenge just to get a room if a convention is taking place.


TWS: Would you recommend that couples hire vendors from the destination country, or pay to fly local vendors?

Kelvin: Both have their own merits. If a couple can find a local vendor, this may bring cost advantages. However, there are a few issues to take note of – what are the deliverables and how will they be delivered? What is the legal recourse if things do not pan out the way you planned? Will there be a language or cultural barrier?

Flying your local photographer may be more costly, but in general you get better support and it should be easier for you to communicate and get along. It will also be easier to arrange pre- and post-shoot meetings.

That said, the world is getting smaller and I believe that in the future, there will be fewer barriers to international shoots.


TWS: How long in advance should couples start planning or preparing?

Kelvin: 6 months in advance will allow everyone (couple and photographer) time to prepare. It’s best to touch base again closer to the date, about 1 month to the shoot. Confirming early also allows for better planning and cheaper accommodation and flights.


TWS: What should couples include in their packing list?

Kelvin: Comfortable walking shoes! Very often during shoots, brides wear sneakers or comfortable walking shoes beneath their gowns. They only wear heels when their feet can be seen.

If it’s going to be chilly at the destination, it’s advisable to pack long johns to be worn beneath the dress. Again, it cannot be seen and helps when the weather gets really cold.

During the shoot itself, my advice is to travel light. If possible, do not bring anything along when you are shooting. Leave your things in the hotel or car to make it easier for you to move around.

Apart from the shoot, couples sometimes forget to pack the following: wedding shoes, cuff links, ties and belt.


TWS: Besides the packing list, do you have any style tips (like the couple’s outfit coordination for example) that you believe make better photos?

Kelvin: Yes. Putting thought into what you wear always helps.

Normally I review the couple’s outfits with them and give them feedback. You can seek advice from your hair and makeup artist too.

I believe that it is best to dress the way you are. Be comfortable in what you wear. I incline towards achieving a timeless quality. These images will last a lifetime and you don’t want them to look dated in years.


TWS: Who usually plans the itinerary for the shoot, the couple or photographer? Or do the couple and the photographer usually plan this together prior to the shoot?

Kelvin: It depends. Some couples are very familiar with the overseas destination as they either stayed or studied there. In that case, they usually have places they want to revisit and shoot at. Otherwise, it is usually decided by us, the photographers.


TWS: How do you go about planning or scheduling the itinerary for a destination pre-wedding shoot?

Kelvin: Working out the itinerary for the shoot is not as straightforward as it may appear. Amongst other things, we consider time of the day. I usually start with knowing when the sun is rising or setting.

When I started doing this about 13 years ago, many thought it was crazy to start shooting at 6am in the morning in Paris. Yes, it still is! However, there are some great benefits and I think many photographers have caught on. Now, I see many more photographers shooting at sunrise too when I am shooting. I plan the shoot locations based on how they will look at sunrise and sunset, because some locations look better at sunrise while others look better at sunset.

For example, the Louvre in Paris looks a lot nicer in the evening than at any other time of day. I only shoot the Lourve in the evening, because the evening light casts a beautiful warm glow on the limestone walls of the buildings, which you cannot get if you shoot at any other time of the day.

I like to plan for variety, so we have a good mix of locations. Some are scenic while others are architectural or historical. I also check if permission is needed to shoot at a particular location.

I plan our travel routes based on the proximity of each location to the others. I try and minimise the traveling distances and find the most efficient route because you do not want to spend most of your time traveling instead of shooting. A relaxed shoot is always the best. You get better images when you are not rushing or exhausted from a packed itinerary. I also normally allow for breaks during the shoot to grab a drink or bite.

A happy couple makes for better photos. So too a happy photographer.


TWS: Do you think couples should meet with their photographer and other vendors prior to the destination shoot?

Kelvin: Yes – whenever possible, just so you know what to expect. Perhaps more importantly, it’s good to see if you are comfortable with the person who will be shooting you. Portrait photography sessions are intimate and if you cannot click with your photographer, it may make for awkward silences and exchanges during the shoot.

Same thing goes for your hair and makeup artist. If your hair and makeup artist is based overseas, you can Skype, or at least look at his or her portfolio, or send them some reference images and ask if they would be comfortable basing your look on the references.


That’s it for now, Wedding Scoopers – we hope you’ve found Kelvin’s experience valuable! Want more insights? Stay tuned for Part 2!


More destination pre-wedding photoshoot features you might like
Everything You Need to Know About Destination Pre-Wedding Photoshoots – Part 2
Destination Engagement Shoots Guaranteed to Give You Wanderlust: Part 1
Top Destination Engagement Shoots Guaranteed to Give You Wanderlust: Part 2



Vendor Information
Photography: Lightedpixels Photography