As a carry-on only traveler, I’ve often struggled with taking great travel photographs and packing light. A few years ago, as smartphones upped their camera game, I decided that my iPhone, which I’d be bringing along anyway, takes photos that are “good enough” for me.
But not all travelers will adopt my smartphone-only philosophy. And hobby photographers want to practice and perfect their skills on their trips with a real camera. So Shane Haumpton is offering up some helpful tips on taking good photos AND packing light.
Many travelers love taking photos, which is why the camera is a must-pack item in practically every travel bag. Some people even take their enthusiasm too far, stuffing a lot of photography gear into their bag just to make sure they take better photos of their trip.
Which raises the question: is every single piece of camera equipment that we’re packing really useful and necessary?
Packing light for a trip doesn’t just apply to clothes and personal necessities but also to photography gear. Ditch the “I-have-to-pack-this-and-that” attitude and start thinking about ways to pack just the ones you need without adding much weight and bulk to your luggage.
Unless you’re a seasoned professional photographer who makes a living out of taking photos of landscapes and structures, there’s no need to carry more cameras and lenses than what you’ll actually need.
I’m sharing some smart packing tips for travelers who love taking photos but hate carrying heavy and bulky stuff:
1. Decide the type of camera to bring. While there are a lot of lightweight DSLRs out there, I still think they’re still too bulky to lug around. On my travels, I always bring my portable Fujifilm X-T10 that’s perfect for traveling light. This 16-megapixel mirrorless camera can also take sharp and excellent-quality images.
2. Carry a lightweight camera bag for your gear. This way, your hands are free just for shooting, and everything else that you’ll need are at your back. Also bring a durable yet lightweight and comfortable camera strap that will give you quick access to your camera and will keep it secure from falling off and from getting stolen while you’re carrying or using it.
3. Bring a versatile lens that you can use for many shooting situations. Torn between prime lenses and zoom lenses? There’s a lot of debate going on about which of the two lens type is more portable. Personally though, I’d recommend bringing one zoom lens (one that’s ideal for travel photography) that can do the job of two or three prime lenses. Better if you use a lens with a focal length of 18-200mm.
4. Invest in a compact tripod that you can conveniently bring anywhere. Tripods are essential for shooting in low light or in slow shutter speed to produce sharp images. So yes, you need one for your travels—just be sure to bring a portable tripod that won’t hurt or strain your back when you carry it.
5. Bring spare batteries and chargers. You know what’s worse than having a camera battery that dies quickly? It’s forgetting to pack extra batteries and chargers. So make sure you have them in your camera bag. For added convenience, bring also a universal travel adapter for powering up your batteries if the ports in the country you’re visiting are different from those in your home country.
6. Pack some cleaning tools. You might encounter weather changes that can damage your lens, so pack some cleaning tools such as cleaning fluid, tissue, and cloth. Cleaning your camera lenses can help keep them in good condition and prevent moisture buildup.
7. Jot down the model and serial number of all your important photography gear. And keep it somewhere safe. This information can help in claiming or finding your equipment if it gets confiscated, lost, or stolen.
8. Prepare for backups. The photos from your trip are the most important souvenirs you can ever have, so it’s best to back them up immediately after shooting. If you’re traveling with a laptop, bring a portable storage device. If not, you can always bring a couple of memory cards. Put them in a small bag or container, so you won’t misplace them.
Traveling with your photography gear takes a lot of preparation and thoughtful planning. The main goal is to always travel light, so you can enjoy capturing the beauty of places and people you encounter, as well as the special moments in your trip, and go home without a strained back or sore shoulders.