How many camera bodies should I take to a destination wedding? After having photographed over 30 destination weddings I have a pretty good feel for this. The answer to the question depends on this:
Where is the wedding?
It makes all the difference. Each country has it’s own set of laws regulating foreign workers. I’ll cover a few of the locations that I have been to and it will give you an idea of what is involved. . . .
Bahamas: After obtaining a foreign worker permit I was able to bring in as many camera bodies as I could fit in to my carry-ons. This country “requires” a work permit for all foreign workers. Before booking my flight I checked with a number of other wedding photographers and local Bahamian wedding coordinators – they all recommended getting the work permit as it is relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of getting caught without one. The fee for the permit was around $400 which was covered by my client. Ultimately I spent all of my work time at either the One and Only Ocean Club and the Atlantis Resort and nobody ever checked, but I definitely had a sense of peace about having the permit.
US state/territory: Since I live in California I can take as many camera bodies to the US Virgin Islands as I can fit in my carry-ons – film and digital. This goes for any US state or Territory (Hawaii, New York, Florida, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, St. Thomas or other USVI, etc.). There is no weight limit for a carry-on bag so if I can lift the bag up to the overhead bin then I am golden. Nobody else will handle my carry-ons except for me.
Mexico: This is where I have photographed most of my destination work. I learned this one the hard way so pay attention. For destination weddings in Zihuatanejo, Cancun, Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel, Mazatlan, etc. I bring two camera bodies and four lenses. I declare to customs that I am attending a wedding and doing sightseeing. Though the bag search at MX airports is random it is definitely not worth it to get caught bringing in four camera bodies and trying to pretend that you are a tourist. The declaration that you sign when you go through customs is very clear on this. If you are going to Mexico for work they have a VERY expensive foreign worker tax – 30% of your contract!!
Ask questions, do your research! Be prepared for your client! Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.