Planning a Destination Engagement Session? Here’s How!


Apr 20, 2023

Tips for Planning a Destination Engagement or Portrait Session // Wedding Photographers in Huntsville, Alabama

How to plan a destination engagement session

Do you love exploring the world and dream of taking pictures in the most fairytale location you can imagine? Or are you engaged and wishing you could have a dreamy destination wedding? A destination session might be perfect for you! A destination wedding isn’t feasible for everybody, but anyone can have a destination engagement or family portrait session of their own.

We’re dreaming of our own anniversary session in Scotland, and we can’t wait to make that happen! Until then, we would love to help give you the tools to make your dream engagement or portrait session a reality.

This guide will walk you through some of the logistics, give our recommendations, and let you know what it would look like if we were photographing your destination engagement or portrait session for you. From choosing a location to budgeting, we’ve got the info.

Choosing a Perfect Location

First, you’ll need to decide if you want to go international or if you want to stay within the US. International trips always take a little more planning, so you’ll want to give yourself ample time to plan out logistics, get your plane tickets, and make other necessary reservations.

Next, come up with a list of places that you would get really, really excited about.
Do you have a place that’s really special to you? Maybe your first trip together was to Washington DC, or maybe you’re a Disney fan and swoon at the idea of sitting on Belle’s fountain in a fairytale German village. (It’s a real deal.) You might dream of the Spanish-moss-draped streets of Savannah or the architecture of Balboa Park. Jane Austen land, fishing villages of Nova Scotia, or Glacier National Park? Literally, the world is open!

Your destination doesn’t even have to be airplane worthy. You might want to have your session at Auburn where you first met each other. Maybe Franklin, TN is your favorite weekend getaway and you want to do something special there. Near or far, what matters is that it will a perfect place for you and your story. Not to mention… it’s an awesome excuse for a fun weekend getaway!

Nova Scotia Peggy's Cove

When To Schedule Your Destination Session

This will be something you plan out with your own photographer. We usually do most of our local engagement and family portrait sessions during the week, but we often schedule our destination sessions on a Friday or Saturday to make it easier for our couples to travel over a weekend instead of during the week. We know that travel requires more flexibility, so we work with you to accommodate the best schedule possible!

It’s always best to start talking about your destination session with your photographer as soon as possible! Especially during the busy seasons, photographers’ weekends fill up very quickly and travel options become more limited. Just let us know you’re interested in a destination engagement session and we’ll walk you through every step!

Will You Know The Best Places To Shoot?

As wedding photographers, we’re experts in dealing with photographing people in new locations. Light, background, location, and crowds are all things we know how to handle. We promise to take great care of you! We’ll even be doing a little scouting ahead of time to find plenty of great location options. If you have some special places in mind already, let us know and we can incorporate them in the best way possible!

We also take advantage of the cool location and gift you with an extended engagement or family session. That means we’ll schedule a little longer session so we have plenty of time
to go to a few different amazing locations. You’ve come all that way for your session, and we are going to make sure it’s absolutely dreamy for you!

But guys – don’t worry! It’s not 2 hours full of smiling at the camera or anything that will make you go crazy. There is plenty of exploring, and maybe even a mini ice cream or coffee break in there during an outfit change. The whole session feels like exploring a fun new city with friends, and we promise to make it enjoyable for everyone!

What Do I Need To Plan?

Besides coordinating with us on the time and place, you only need to plan for yourselves! Choose your outfits and book your accommodations. We have both an engagement session style guide and family portrait session style guide we share with our clients to make outfit planning even easier.

We’ll take care of all the session details and walk you through anything you need to know or do!

What About Hair and Makeup?

Decide whether you are going to hire a professional hair and makeup artist for your session. If you need help finding a professional at your location, let us know! We have access to top wedding professionals all over the world, so we have resources to help find a great recommendation for you!

Some women choose to do their own hair and makeup for a destination session for simplicity. That’s also fine! When we book out destination sessions each year, I often choose one or the other to book so I’m not spending my entire day at a salon. Sometimes I’ll book a makeup appointment and keep a simple hairstyle, and other times I’ll do my own makeup and schedule my hair appointment. Do what makes the most sense for you!

How Much Should I Budget?

The travel cost depends on where the location is and the process your photographer has in place. I can give you an idea of what we do, but definitely check with your photographer to get all the details.

When we start talking about location ideas, we’ll be able to give you a specific quote. We personally have an estimated travel fee of around $150 for destinations 1-2 hours away, $350 for around 2-4 hours, and $500-800 for destinations 4-8 hours from Huntsville. (We’re fans of driving when we can, and it also takes out the airline ticket fee for our clients.) For domestic or international locations requiring airfare, the travel fee will be a custom quote for the location. (Note: these are just some ballpark estimates! Every location is very different, and we’ll be able to give you a custom quote when you give us some location ideas. We always do our best to keep travel costs as low as possible because we want to help make this happen for you.)

Some photographers will also request additional lodging costs, food costs, etc. We personally choose to charge a flat fee for simplicity, then take care of all the little details ourselves.

Help Me Make That Final Decision

We’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world in the last several years. We’ll be honest – there have been a few times that we hesitated a little bit when it came to pressing the “purchase” button for our plane tickets, but we can say without a doubt that we have never, ever once regretted it even the smallest bit! This once-in-a-lifetime experience will become your own favorite memory. With pictures to prove it!

We love local sessions in Huntsville, for sure! There are many great places right out our back door. You can’t go wrong whichever way you go. But if your wanderlust is as strong as ours, this session will create memories that you’ll cherish for the rest of your lives.

Our house is full of portraits taken during photo sessions during our travels. We have a canvas collection from Verona in our living room, Prince Edward Island portraits in our dining room, Banff National Park with our sweet then 9-month-old little boy near the door, and a family album filled with Savannah portraits of the 3 of us. I can tell you that these printed portraits at some of our favorite travel locations bring us joy every day!
How to plan a destination engagement session

We hope this guide was helpful for thinking through the logistics of planning a destination engagement or family session. It’s not the right fit for everyone, but if you think it sounds so fun – go do it! You’ll never regret it.


Looking for more helpful session planning tips? Check out our Family Portrait Session Guide or Preserving Your Legacy: The Importance of Print.

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