I’ll start this entry with an anecdote…
I recently did a handful of travel shoots around the U.S. Think of something along the lines of Nat Geo or Discovery Channel without the quality. The goal was for our two man (one camera) team to capture as much 4K footage as possible each day and the stated objective was “quantity over quality”. Off-putting already just from that description, right? I agree. But winters can be slow and very cold in the Northeast, so the prospect of warmer weather, a paycheck, a change of scenery, and the promise of future international shoots triumphed.
On location, I did my very best keep the quality as high as possible. I bought a travel jib, a handheld gimbal stabilizer, and various lenses that were best suited for travel filming – but when it came down to it, there wasn’t really enough time to use the camera movement gear. Why? It was requested to create one hour of finished content per day. That’s a LOT of content to film in one day – especially when driving from location to location. The travel itinerary was intense. After filming each day, we drove our rental car to the next day’s location (which was anywhere between two and four hours away), checked into the hotel, and did a double back up of all of the footage. This didn’t allow any real time to enjoy any off-time from filming.
10 hours filming + 3 hours driving (average) + 2 hours (or more) = an average of 15 hours per day (+/- an hour or two based on drive time).
Most of the locations were, in fact, quite beautiful – but to not capture the footage as best as possible was deeply unsatisfying. Time is finite and I am not a fan of wasting mine. Day after day, we logged terabyte after terabyte of tripod shots – static, panning, and tilting. If I was lucky, I could do some focus pulls depending on the subject matter. Also, some of the locations were totally visually underwhelming – making it extremely difficult to capture the volume of content we were asked for. The combination of stress and unsatisfying footage made the trip unenjoyable overall. Granted, it wasn’t all vinegar; there were some laughs and enjoyable imagery but if I was asked if it was worthwhile overall, I wouldn’t be able to say it was.
There are added stresses with traveling and travel shoots. If you’re doing a travel shoot, make sure the money is good enough to make it worth while if there isn’t time in the schedule for you to enjoy the location/scenery/environment. Some gigs can be working vacations if you have a good amount of time off – others can be non-stop work with no time to breath. If the money is so-so (or bad), definitely make sure there is plenty of time for you to really enjoy where you’re going.
If the pay rate and shooting conditions are both unappealing, consider the fact that the shoot might not be worth it. In hindsight, if I had paid for the exact same trip and stayed in one location, I probably could have filmed some incredible, high-quality footage to sell as stock footage and spent the rest of the time exploring, having fun, and enjoying the trip. Obviously not all travel job will be like the one described above, but always take into consideration the value of your time (and happiness) when deciding about a job offer.