I will be getting married in Guatemala. My brother (a US citizen) is an excellent photographer, and I would love for him to take some photos before and after the wedding (he will be in the best man, so can't photograph the actual service).

I have two related questions:

  1. Can he legally do this as a tourist? Or would this count as work, and require a work visa even though I won't be paying him?

    This expats post says that working for free for an organization that typically charges a salary is not permitted (in the US). It doesn't mention whether the same restriction applies to freelance types of work.

  2. Assuming he can do it, can he bring equipment with him as a tourist, or will the fact that he's bringing professional photography equipment* as a tourist raise red flags at customs and immigration (that he should either be on a work visa, or that he's importing equipment, etc)?

*This would likely include not only his camera--which is normal fare for a tourist--but reflectors, lighting, etc.

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    Wait, you're not paying him? Then he's simply a guest with more freedom to roam around the ceremony, surely? – Mark Mayo Oct 21 '14 at 11:58
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    @MarkMayo: I believe that in some jurisdictions (possibly including the US?), if you are doing a job that would normally receive pay, it doesn't matter that you're not getting paid or not, you are potentially taking away work from a local, so you must have a work permit. – Flimzy Oct 21 '14 at 12:01
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    @MarkMayo: This is new information to me as well, and I'm not sure it's correct (thus the question). If it is correct, then the wedding I shot in Mexico last year may technically have been illegal. :) – Flimzy Oct 21 '14 at 12:03
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    @MeNoTalk: Until he brings a bunch of lighting equipment into the country with him--then he needs to declare a "professional equipment" exemption, and then the customs officer is going to ask if he's there on business or pleasure. That's really my concern. I was just anticipating a "He shouldn't be taking professional photos at all as a tourist!" response. – Flimzy Oct 21 '14 at 12:05
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    @MarkMayo: I've updated the question with the reference that made me think it might be an issue... from our good friend littleadv on expats. – Flimzy Oct 21 '14 at 12:17

It is a gray area, and to get a definitive answer, you will have to send a complete list of equipment and shooting sites to a Guatemalan lawyer.

Most landscape photographers I know travel around on tourist visa, although this is not completely legal. But they were never caught, mainly because they won't carry that much equipment, since artificial lighting of the Sierra Nevada would require at least one NPP, which falls under the hazardous goods restrictions and exceeds the weight limits. ;)

While a professional photographer, going on vacation with some of his professional equipment, shooting photos for the primary purpose of keeping a memory for himself (and secondary purpose of showing them around to his family and friends), is clearly still a tourist, reflectors and "studio shots" is another thing entirely.

Throw in a room rented/lent for the shots, and you are one step further on the way to "work" - only the "for my relative" and the "not for money" part left to distinguish him from a paid professional.

You should really consider how much risk to take, or whether slightly less professional photos are still good enough for the family album. Is there any requirement for indoor shots with studio equipment?

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    We will likely opt for locally purchased/borrowed/rented lighting equipment and/or outdoor shots. We might have been leaning that directly anyway, versus transporting the equipment, but if it's a legal gray area, it's just one more reason not to bother with the transportation of equipment. – Flimzy Oct 21 '14 at 14:12

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