Four Tips on Traveling Light as a Photographer
Before you know it, vacation time will be here. You'll want to capture lots of photos to document your experiences. It’s usually a good idea to have a bag in which to carry your camera and associated gear. But you won't want to pack too much, lest your shoulders and back start to hurt from carrying around lots of gear for long periods.
If you're planning on traveling soon, here are a few tips on how to keep your bag light.
Plan Your Trip with a Bit of Research
Top Left: Spring Sunrise by martijnvdnat, Top Right: Urban Layer Cake by Vivienne Gucwa, Bottom Left: Dreaming of Venice by nina's clicks, Bottom Right: Ready for the Day by Marquisde. All photos from the B&H Photo Flickr Group
There are various factors that you'll want to take into account when you travel, which will help to determine what ends up in your photography bag.
- How is the weather there? If it's rainy, you'll need a weather-sealed camera or a rain cover. If it is cold or super warm, you'll need an extra battery or two, because the extreme temperatures will chew through battery life.
Also, how well is your camera system supported universally?
- Who will be using the camera? Will it be just you, with lots of photography knowledge, or will it also be in the hands of someone traveling with you with less photo knowledge.
- Are you planning to go to any big festivals or events? For example, parades aren't exactly the best place to lug around certain lenses.
- Where are you going? Are you visiting ancient ruins? Are you happier, then, bringing a couple of fast primes, or a fast-aperture zoom lens?
- What situations might you encounter?
Whatever happens, also remember that this is your vacation, so try to keep it all simple so that you can enjoy yourself, and not overthink.
Small Day Bag
There are a few camera bags to consider when travelling. These can often hold a camera, lens, accessories, and any daily necessities that you may have, and still not be too large to carry around for an entire day.
As far as cameras go, DSLRs are preferred by most people. Walk around NYC and you'll see many people carrying them.
If you're travelling, though, a mirrorless camera could prove to be a better option, depending on lenses/accessories available, and for weight considerations.
"When I’m traveling as a journalist and I need my laptop during the day to file stories, I use my Urban Disguise briefcase as my day bag. It holds my laptop, two DSLRs, my lenses and accessories. Exterior pockets get water bottles and maps. If I don’t need the laptop, it gets locked in the safe in my hotel room, replaced with my printed background material and guide books about the location I’m photographing. All that works fine if not too much hiking is involved. If I need to cover more ground, the briefcase stays behind (unless you get a “backpack” holder for a briefcase, it gets tiresome to carry on your shoulder for long distances) and I travel with a Think Tank Speed Freak hip pack. It can fit one DSLR, a flash, and a couple of lenses."
"My phone or tablet can fit in the side pocket, and it has an expansion pouch for a water bottle. To pack it without it taking up room, I stuff it full with my binoculars, tripod head, and other items I want protected, and throw it into my duffel bag."
Primes or Zooms?
Here's the big one: what lenses to bring? Personally, I'm a prime lens user, and prefer to move around to change my perspective. But many times one can't do that, and it may be much more beneficial to bring a zoom lens instead. One or two zooms can often take the place of 2-3 prime lenses, with no trouble at all. Prime lenses often have a faster aperture, though, letting in more light. That's a major benefit if you don't want to carry a flash with you.
Once again, this all depends on your own perspective. But here is David Cardinal's: "While many purists swear by prime lenses, and they are light and easy to carry, most photographers aren’t willing to live with the shooting discipline they impose, or the need for changing lenses, and will find themselves searching for the ideal travel zoom—something like an 18-200mm for DSLR users, for example. But there is nothing quite like doing a photo walk with a single, fixed lens. It really helps you think about your photography.”
Cut Down on the Accessories
Depending on the subject matter, you should try to cut down on the accessories you bring, or at least try to find a way to make the package slimmer. For example, you can put filters on your lenses instead of putting them in their case (and then in a slot in the bag). You can also opt for a smaller flash, if you choose to bring one at all.
There are also many smaller alternatives to larger accessories. For example, Gorillapods are small and strong, and due to their design, they can be placed almost anywhere.
Want more? Check out these other resources:
Entry-Level Mirrorless Cameras