Laura Pearman from Laura Pearman Photography shares her 8 best tips for solo female travelling as an International Photographer.
A few months ago, whilst I was at a conference on a hot London summer day, I met a kindred spirit, Laura Pearman. We bonded over our passion of solo travel and after only a few minutes of chatting, we discovered that we even used to live on the same street in Newcastle many years ago - freaky or what!? Laura kindly agreed to not only be a guest on my new podcast, but to also write a guest post too! This is SUCH a great value post. Take a listen and read on too! Laura has a wealth of knowledge about taking amazing photographs when we’re on the road and (being the beautiful lady she is), shared her top beauty hacks for travelling too - bonus! I would like to say a HUGE thank you to Laura, I could have chatted for hours on end (see you for a coffee in Newcastle soon Laura!) x
I’m so pleased to be a guest on both the Girls That Travel podcast and blog. Here I want to share with you my honed tips on solo travel as well as share with you some of my International Photographer tips for your next trip. I’ve organised this list in the order that I prep for my own expeditions, so you can check things off as you go.
No.1 Physical Priming
To be fully ready for any trip you want to do everything you can to avoid being ill whilst there. Let me tell you travelling when poorly and alone is truly AWFUL. It can easily turn into a very expensive nightmare as well. This is what I do to avoid it.
Fitness & Health
Being an International Photographer on the road can be very physically demanding. Even if you do all you can to have a lightweight kit with you, you will still be putting your body into awkward shapes to get the right shot, being in full energy mode for your clients, and awake all hours. To get my body ready for this I tend to dial up on my usual workout regimen with 2 months before take-off. I throw in a little extra weight on weight training and I make sure I cool down with tonnes of extra stretches.
I pack in as much extra sleep as I can and pay closer attention to my diet from a month down to a big trip.
Now it really depends on what kind of a trip you are embarking on. Your beauty prep for a beachy trip to the Maldives is going to be different to an intense trip with a backpack.
In most cases before I travel I go to the hairdresser and get a fresh cut and colour.
Then I visit my salon for a range of waxing and tinting depending on my needs. Having pre-prepped eyebrows and lashes can almost eliminate your need for make up in a super-hot place. It’s totally worth the investment.
No.2 Booking Travel Plans
I have experienced all the different ways you can book your travel. From flying by the seat of your pants and literally picking a destination and time when IN THE AIRPORT, to being far more organised. I think ultimately your choices on this really depend on your goal of discovery going into a trip.
Professional International Photographer Travel
When travelling for work, I like to have this headache completely delegated. Over the years I have developed a lovely relationship with my own travel agent. She knows what my personal international photographer preferences are, and she almost ALWAYS thinks of little extras that I would never have even contemplated till the last minute. She knows I HATE Charles de Gaulle Airport. She knows I like to arrive in the daytime. She knows my bare minimum requirements when it comes to hotel cleanliness.
No.3 Online Travel Scouting
There are a lot of cases where I am booked to shoot a headshot in a location that neither my client or I have ever visited before. When this is the case I do a good amount of scouting to make sure that I have enough insider knowledge when it comes to shoot day.
I start my research with google maps. Zooming in to the little yellow guy size gives me a 360 of the nearby areas and from that I can get street names, hotspots or quarters of a city.
Bloggers & Tourists
It’s amazing the time we live in these days. With some knowledge of a new location I then take to social media to see what round ups travel bloggers and tourists have shared. I really love Pinterest for this. I can access great photography of the rough areas I had and this often helps me decide on final plans for my own sessions.
No.4 The Right Kit Bag
With a much more in-depth knowledge of what the place is going to be like, I quickly get a clearer idea of exactly what kit I’m going to need to capture it. If there is no strong need for a certain lens or piece of kit, I don’t bring it with me. If I find I have calculated this completely wrong and I really did need that big heavy zoom lens I make arrangements to hire one for a day when I’m on the ground. This has happened only once in my travels.
I have a full collection of camera bags. They all come into use at different times on different trips. If I’m going to be shooting at a conference where I need to be networking and taking notes as a delegate, I’ll likely go for something more professional looking like this:
If I am going to be in a place where there is a lot of rain, and I need to have my hands free I’m going for the backpack like this:
It’s important to think about your safety here as a solo female traveller. When you carry a flashy camera bag on your back it can make you an extra target. Having something that screams “There is £5K on my back” is not wise when you are travelling to a place where the mugging stats are high. There are so many options these days for more subtle bags that take a camera-safe insert. Explore these and go with what feels right to you.
No.5 The Right Shoes
I know I may come off like a total Mammy here but having your feet as comfy as possible has a HUGE effect on your overall experience when on the road. If you know you will be walking a lot, invest in those hiking boots and get a proper professional fitting of them in store before you buy.
If you are going to be shooting somewhere super professional, shop around for the right kind of flats and if you absolutely have to wear heels have some fold up flats in your bag for when your feet start hurting.
No.6 Photography Saving Planning
This is one of the biggest parts of my travelling planning as an International Photographer.
I want to KNOW that my photography is safe and ready for me to work on when I get back to the office. On every single trip I research what wi fi connection I can access (my travel agent knows this btw). This gives me peace of mind that I can securely back up to a cloud and have my work ready for my team to get going on and back up again in a more secure spot all whilst I’m away.
In non wi-fi zones I still run a multiple back up of shot files to different devices. This reduces my chances of losing anything to airport scanners, or unexpected equipment failure. I’d still be searching out an internet café in Outer Mongolia just to try and get that extra cloud back up in before I board a flight.
No.7 Money & Insurance
Money and Insurance can be a total nightmare or a breeze as long as you prepare the right way.
No matter where I travel to in the world, I have some US Dollars on me in cash form. I’ve been in a few sticky situations over the years and the power of a US bill has helped me. In a lot of countries where a more obscure currency is used, the US Dollar is still often accepted.
Before I leave or any trip I have a small amount of local cash on me. Being able to hit the ground running as soon as the airport doors close behind you gives me total peace of mind.
I always travel with a back-up credit card and I always call my bank to let them know where and when I’m going to. I had a really stressful experience once in the middle of the Australian Outback because I hadn’t done this. Let me tell you, trying to remember the 3rd character of your security code on a really bad phone line is not worth the hassle.
As an International photographer, insurance is often something I plan for a lot in day to day life. I am regularly calling my insurance broker to double check I can do something before it gets booked. On occasion, I buy a temporary cover for an assistant, or to increase my cover for a certain shoot.
Travelling is no different. Once I have a clear-cut list of my kit that I’ll be travelling with I make sure my current policy will cover me for emergency hire costs if any of that kit fails when I’m there. If I am ever in the situation where I need to claim I am really careful with keeping receipts for all expenses to make the form filling tasks much easier on my return.
No.8 On The Ground Logistics
As soon as I land in a new place ready to begin some work, I have a good wander around to see what local knowledge I can find. This includes going for a coffee at a local café, striking up conversation with shop owners etc. I’m looking for insider information on the following.
I have the daylight hours in my phone as part of my pre-travel prep. But asking a local about light often results in you learning that a certain street or place is best for sunsets, and the café over there is open first after sunrise for coffee.
This is very similar to the daylight research. I will already have the local weather forecast added to my various weather apps in my scouting phase of travel prep. But what I look for from local knowledge is times of rain showers, and I want to get some local expert advice to build out my plan b’s like where to go if the sun is too harsh, or a lovely looking spot for too much rain.
Referring back to being the little yellow Google Maps guy, I take a wander around to the places I was looking at in my scouting prep. When actually there, I can check out the ground and make sure I’m fully prepared to be there shooting, but also that I can give my client a few tips before shoot day. Being able to tell them “The sand on that beach is really hot, come prepared” or “You definitely will need those hiking boots tomorrow.” Helps me deliver the right level of service.
Further Beauty & Medical Prep
Over the years I have developed a really clear kit of what medical and beauty supplies and rituals I have for my travelling as an International Photographer.
To download this list (along with my beauty & medical hacks) for your next trip, you can help yourself here: