Aug. 6, 2021

7 Travel tips for photographers

7 Travel tips for photographers

πŸ’― πŸ’― πŸ’― "your client is trusting you so much that they'd rather fly you out instead of hiring someone local. So by understanding how to manage all this travel minutia, you can maintain focus on the job at hand, which will allow you to enjoy the experience to the fullest."

EP 32: Traveling on assignment is one of the great privileges a photographer can experience, but it can also bring unwanted stress.  In this episode, I'll give you some advice on tips to reduce your travel anxiety for your next assignment.

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Michael Der  0:02  
You're listening to Artrepreneurs, a podcast that inspires photographers and visual artists to live their best creative lives. My name is Michael Der and I am a full time photographer with nearly 10 years of experience in the freelancing world. And I'm sitting down with an amazing community of visual artists to talk about process, business, and the lessons that have helped them grow. So let's get to it. Artrepreneurs starts right now.

What is up everybody, we are back with Episode 32 of Artrepreneurs season one here to give you some tools to improve your creative business. Now with the Olympics going on, and many of my colleagues out there already, I was thinking about some of the essential aspects to traveling for work. And while I wouldn't consider my career to be Olympic worthy, or on that level, I have been on the road my fair share over the past seven years. So with over 50 out of state jobs that I've participated in over the years, I thought I'd give you my top seven travel tips for photographers going on assignment. And to preface each assignment I know is going to be uniquely different from weddings, to sporting events to ad campaigns to lifestyle and editorial work. Each job may require different points of emphasis. So what I'm going to do is try to find a middle ground and give you more practical advice on travel that should apply regardless of your niche. So let's get started. 

Number one, set up your business credit card. Alright, so I wanted to start off with finances first, because everything that you do for these jobs is going to require some capital during your trip, whether it's flights, rental cars, gas, luggage fees, hotels or food, you're going to need to pay for some if not all of these basic out of town expenses. And a business credit card is going to be helpful for a couple important reasons. 

Number one, it helps you organize your itemized tax deductions. So if you pay with personal cash or credit card or debit cards, you're going to have to rely on collecting and storing your receipts, which are one known to fade or to get lost altogether. And then you'll have to keep up with consistent documentation every time you get a meal on assignment or request an Uber or expense anything else on the job like parking or tolls or gas. And in the past, I have done this exact same thing. I've used my own personal filing method. And I will tell you, it's not an effective way to access your expenses when you need it the most. So using a specific card solely for business expenses is going to allow you more concise organization come tax time because you won't be rummaging through receipts and trying to recall what was purchased on the job and what wasn't. 

The second reason why I think it's important to have a business credit card instead of just a personal credit card is that you can get significantly higher credit limits on a business card than a personal card. On top of that most business credit cards will not report to your personal credit report. So those two elements are very important to note because not always, but oftentimes, your employer is not going to be fronting the expenses for you on the company credit card. In fact, it's very common practice for the photographer to front the expenses for travel, and then the client will reimburse them later. Therefore, if you use the same personal credit card that you use to buy groceries or vacations with you might be in danger of not having enough credit limit to afford the big purchases which you're going to need to do the job for example, it's not uncommon for me to put two to $3,000 on my credit card for an out of state job when you combine the flights, the hotels and the rental cars. Additionally, you may receive payment reimbursement from your client 30 to 60, even 90 days after the job is completed. So if you can't pay off your $3,000 credit card payment in full, a personal credit card will sync your score. But on a business credit card, the three major credit bureaus that collect and store information about you, they aren't going to be able to see that unpaid balance, which means your score won't be impacted. 

Alright, so moving on now number two, carry on all your essentials and your redundancies. Okay, so obviously, this is flight related and certainly dependent on the type of job that you're doing. But when you have the option to check in luggage, simply make sure that you don't have anything in that luggage that is essential for you to do the job that you're hired to do. So for me, it's really important to carry these following essentials on me at all times, cameras, lenses, flashes, memory cards, card readers, laptops, hard drives, camera straps, ring gear, batteries, and then redundancies of all of them just in case one falls. Now, the only redundancy I haven't really practiced bringing is a secondary laptop, which I understand is a risk in itself. But from a standpoint of cost and space, it's just something I haven't implemented quite yet. If the job were highly, highly predicated on it like a large commercial job where the agency creators need to see the images tethered to a laptop. At that point, I might separate my personal computer with one solely for that purpose. But for many of the events that I do, that's just not a necessity. So basically, as long as I have the central gear and redundancies in place on me meeting in my carry on bag, I can afford to lose my checking luggage and still get the job done. That to me is always my priority to be able to execute the job the second I get off the plane if necessary. This also means that I go to moderate links to wear the attire suitable for the job when I board the plane. If the assignment calls for a 10 mile hike, I don't wear a nice dress shoes on the flight and then keep my all day sneakers in my luggage. If I need to do a corporate shoot. I might wear a nice button down the day of my flight and not a T shirt or a hoodie because if the airline loses my luggage or misplace it, I'm still ready to show I'm a professional. 

Alright, moving along tip number three, don't put your gear in a roller, put your gear in a backpack. Alright, so this is just my experience. But anytime I've been waiting for a flight to board, the intendant almost always come on and say, we've run out of overhead space, all rollers will be checked from here on out. And maybe it's just my bad luck. But it honestly happens about 95% of the flights that I board. And there are some camera bags that are rollers that are small enough to potentially fit underneath your seat. But if you've ever had one of those contentious conversations with an airline professional about what can and can't fit, you'll never want to do it again. So for me, I try to avoid it at all costs. And as much as I would love to roll my gear through the airports and to my job saving my back and my shoulders. I always load my gear into a backpack. They never question it at the gate. And it allows me to eliminate the stress associated with that predicament. For those of you who are curious, my flight bag of choice is the think tank streetwalker hard drive, and it does fit under most commercial seats, I'll be at sometimes uncomfortably. 

Okay, number four, invest in TSA precheck. Now, whether you travel once a year on a job or once a month, I strongly suggest applying for TSA precheck. To get through security lines faster. Flying is one of the most stressful things that I have to do. And when it's for work, I'm even more stressed out. So I don't want to add on standing in line for 30 minutes, then in a hurry trying to take out the laptop, put my shoes and belt in a separate bin and then invariably have some discussion with a TSA agent about my gear. I know it's a third world problem for sure. But I'd much rather be sitting at my gate with an iced coffee in hand with time to spare. So if you hate traveling xiety as much as I do at this time, I believe it's $85 for five years, and it's easy to set up and apply. I've had it for almost my entire professional career and I can't think of a better $85 spent for smaller airports that may not show its value as much. But for major airports with a lot of traffic like Atlanta, LA, Chicago, Dallas and Denver, it can certainly help save a lot of time and frustration. 

Tip number five, max out your points for hotels, rental cars and flights. So this is something that I didn't really take advantage of until late because when I was starting out in my career, my clients would actually book my transportation for me usually opting for the cheapest fares possible. Now for the most part, my clients have me book whatever I want and then I invoice them afterwards. So if you have the option and the ability to do so, use the same airlines use the same rental car agencies and use the same hotels. By signing up for their free reward systems. You can accumulate points and be able to redeem some of those for your own personal travel perks like upgrades, free bookings faster Wi Fi friendlier cancellation fees, and priority benefits. So I have nine different airline rewards account. So I know I didn't max out the benefits to start. But if you're taking advantage of your own destiny and the client is going to reimburse you anyways. Opt for consistency over short term affordability. 

Number six, check in early. Alright, so when you're setting up your flights and your hotels in advance, do your best to get in as early as possible. And in some cases, this might mean paying a little extra for a direct flight over a connecting one. But if saving a couple of hours of your time is important to you, I would strongly suggest doing it typically for me out of state jobs start the next morning bright and early. So I need to be hydrated, fed rested and ready to go which is very hard to do when you land at 8pm grab your luggage, get the rental car, check into the hotel, get some dinner, shower and prep for the next day. I've had plenty of experiences traveling to the east coast for a job going to sleep on West Coast time only the heavy 5am call time which runs me about three hours of sleep. It's not ideal for a full day when you need to bring your A game so be sure to get in early, get your prep ready for the next day. Maybe even take some melatonin gummies and get your rest. 

Okay, we made it to tip number seven. Pack light.  work trips, unless they are prolonged trips like being at the Olympics for a few weeks, are typically turning you around in a hurry. Clients oftentimes don't want to shell out more money for an additional night. So you might be checking in Friday night, checking out of the hotel Saturday morning, shooting your assignment and then jumping right back on a flight later that day. So I do my best to avoid large amounts of items that take up more space and weight travel size sunscreen, toothpaste, face wash and deodorant work just as fine as the full-size options. I also opt for light and breathable clothing material that can roll up nicely into packing cubes like micro modal, undershirts and boxers that take up half the space of regular cotton. Instead of heavy jeans, I look for a lightweight material like nylon spandex or polyester and look at the forecast before you go because that's going to help you determine if you need extra gear like jackets, rain boots or extra pants. If it's clear in the forecast, you can avoid all that heavy clothing. The space you save will go a long way not just for your upcoming trip, but also for your future travel philosophy. 

So those are my seven tips for you folks today. I know there are probably a dozen or more that I could share with you when it comes to travel. But I really wanted to condense this down to what I think is a good mixture of professional and personal benefits to you. traveling for work has been one of the great privileges that I've had in my career but it can also bring a level of stress to your psyche. When I was traveling each week early on, I could not enjoy the experience. I was getting Constantly flustered and I couldn't focus my energy on the creative aspects the way I wanted to. Remember, your client is trusting you so much that they'd rather fly you out instead of hiring someone local. So by understanding how to manage all this travel minutia, you can maintain focus on the job at hand, which will allow you to enjoy the experience to the fullest. 

So that is my spiel for today, folks, let's review what we've learned but this time in reverse order just for the hell of it, one pack light to check in early three max out those rewards for invest in pre-check five, use backpacks, not rollers. Six, carry all your essential items on you at all times. And seven, use a business credit card for all your travel expenses. Big shout out to all your Artrepreneurs for tuning into the show and for sharing our content. Happy flying everybody and see you next week.

Hey everybody, this is Michael Der thank you so much for making it all the way to the end of the episode. I hope you'll follow tag and engage with us on our Instagram account at Artrepreneurspod. We've also launched our website Artrepreneurspodcom. It is the central hub where you can sign up for our newsletter, read our blog posts, send us voicemails, and even access discounts from our amazing affiliates. It's also the perfect spot to shout out Artrepreneurs with what would be an immensely appreciated five-star rating and review. And if you're feeling extra generous, you can even make a small donation that's really going to help accelerate the growth of this podcast. But no matter what you do, folks, I just want to say thank you so much for supporting this program. There are a lot of great photography podcasts out there and I am just grateful to have gained your trust even for a moment. Take care of everyone. See you next week.

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