Attention Photographers: Here’s What to Pack Next Time You Travel
When you go on vacation, especially an international “holiday” as they say in Australia, you will want to pack light without major sacrifices. As a photographer, you probably want to get the best possible photos with the least amount of excess. On my recent trip to Queensland, Australia, sponsored by Tourism Queensland, I strategically chose certain photography equipment, as well as other technology so that I could take notes, blog and interact on social media.
With the benefit of hindsight, here’s the MCP Perfect Photographer Pack List.
Our pack list assumes you are going on a vacation, not on a professional photography assignment where you might need more extensive gear. Just bookmark this post and then modify the list as needed – we hope it gives you a great starting point:
1. Camera – You’ll need to decide if you want your dSLR or something more compact.
- I don’t mind the extra weight of my dSLR so I traveled with my Canon 5D MKIII. It also has two memory slots, which is a huge plus.
- Here’s the question to ask yourself: “What camera will I actually carry around once I am at my destination?” If you know you’ll be frustrated with the weight of a heavier camera, bring a smaller point and shoot, or bring both for more options.
2. Lenses – Assuming you bring your SLR, you’ll need to pick what lenses accompany you. It is hard to decide what lenses will be best, especially if you have never been somewhere before. Ideally, I recommend a lens or lenses that cover a wide range of focal lengths.
- Tamron makes a few solid lenses that range from 18-270mm for crop sensor and 28-300 for full frame cameras. The potential downside of these is the aperture is a higher number, which means they are slower than primes and some zooms and not ideal for low light shooting. They provide flexibility which is great for travel and I’ve used them on many occasions.
- On my Australia trip, I chose to cover a large focal range with two wide aperture zoom lenses so I had the choice of using the 2.8 aperture. Tamron sent me the new 24-70mm lens with vibration compensation (image stability). Here’s an image of the Great Barrier Reef using this lens – photographed from a GBR Helicopter.
- Additionally, I brought my favorite Canon 70-200 2.8 II with IS. It’s large and heavy but is so amazing for telephoto shots. It helped me capture great closeups of Australia’s furry and not so furry animals. Check out this closeup of a crocodile.
- I also brought the Canon 50 1.2. It stayed in the hotel during the day but I brought it to dinner to photograph food and people in low-light situations. Though I’d love to travel even lighter, this was a magical combination.
- The only other lens I considered for this trip was the 100mm macro. When photographing flora and fauna in the rainforest, I would have loved my macro. After a careful weight-benefit analysis, I’d still leave it at home.
3. Camera batteries – Remember your camera batteries and bring an extra if possible. If your low-battery light comes on, you don’t want to miss out. Most larger cameras use lithium ion proprietary batteries that are not easy to locate when traveling.
4. Battery chargers – Always make sure you can charge your batteries. Remember to pack batteries in your carry-on. Some airlines do not permit batteries in checked luggage, though there is conflicting information on the web about this.
5. External flash and batteries – If you bring an SLR, especially if it does not have a built in flash, pack a small one to use as fill-flash in bright sun or as extra light in darker settings. I used my Canon Speedlite 270EX II Flash for Canon SLR Cameras multiple times during the week long trip.
6. Memory cards – memory is cheap these days. Make sure you have enough. This is usually not hard to find while traveling if you forget, but it’s likely going to cost you more for less.
- I brought a SanDisk 32GB Compact Flash memory card and a SanDisk 16GB card. To give you an idea, I filled the first card and about 1/2 of the second card, shooting raw. I took approximately 1,600 images. If you shoot raw and have a similar resolution on your camera, this can help you judge what size you need.
7. Eye-fi card - The Eye-fi SD Card worked like magic. I used it to unload small jpg preview photos wirelessly to my iPad at the end of each day.
- These work great if you have a point and shoot or an dSLR with a SD slot. Since I have two memory slots on my camera, I recorded RAW images to my SanDisk CF Card and low res images for immediate sharing to my Eye-fi SD card.
- For this solution to work, you need a SD slot. Hopefully they will make Eye-fi cards for Compact Flash in the future. The other limitation is size as these cards go up to 8GB at the time of this article.
8. iPad (or tablet or small laptop) plus charger/cord – If you want to write about your travels, get work done, blog, or preview your photos at night, bring one or more of these. I personally travel solely with my iPad to keep the weight down.
9. A keyboard – If you bring a tablet or iPad, you may benefit from a small keyboard to get things done faster. I am in love with my logitech bluetooth case style keyboard. I used it to take notes in a blogging workshop, work on blog posts, and respond to some emails on the iPad with ease. The viewing angle of the iPad when inserted is ideal to view photos as well as watch movies on the plane.
10. iPhone or smart phone plus charger – An iPhone, or similar smart phone, makes it convenient to take quick snapshots, when your camera is tucked away for a short time or when you just want to travel light one day on your trip. I used mine a lot when it just did not make sense to use a big camera and lens. Here’s an iPhone image of a look out area in Port Douglas.
- I loved that I could press a few buttons and send the photo to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Plus on the latter two, I could tag #qldblog, so the other bloggers and the Tourism Queensland hosts could easily locate the images.
11. A camera bag – I have more camera bags than I care to admit. But when it came to this trip, I actually bought one at a local store so I could try it first. I wanted to take a rolling camera bag but Virgin Australia has a 15 pound limit, and my bag weighed 12 empty. For those wondering, yes, I witnessed them randomly weighing people’s carry-on bags.
- I needed a lightweight, easy-to-carry bag that could fit: three lenses, a small flash, extra batteries, my Canon 5D MKIII, and a separate section for non-photography, long haul airplane flight needs. After searching, I chose the Tenba Backpack in a fun red color.
- Once I filled the bag, it weighed 20 pounds, but I was never asked to weigh it. It didn’t “look” heavy since it looked like a regular backpack, not a camera bag. Score one for my amazing Facebook fans who warned me to find a bag that “appeared” light and care-free. Oh, and if they did weigh it, my plan was to move two lenses to my purse temporarily.
12. USB external battery pack - Unfortunately when traveling, you don’t always have access to an electrical outlet. A USB battery pack allows you to connect to a small battery pack which can charge your iPhone, laptop, tablet or iPad while on the go.
13. International needs - Remember plug adapters if you are traveling internationally. And consider an app like Skype, Text Free with Voice, or other communication tool that you can use while on a wi-fi network. You can use these to contact people so you do not incur high roaming charges. I also did some editing on my iPad, so I could share on social networks. The top three apps I used were Instagram (ID: mcpactions), Snapseed, and Pic Collage.
The best news about packing is that if you forget something, many of these items will be available at your destination. While you probably will not want to pick up a new camera or lenses, you can definitely get memory cards, AA batteries, and even disposable cameras at most destinations.
Here’s a summary list without all the explanation.
(just copy, paste, pack and enjoy your travels!)
- Camera Batteries
- Battery Chargers
- External Flash with Batteries
- Memory Cards (SD and/or CF)
- Eye-fi Card
- iPad, laptop or tablet with charger
- iPhone with charger
- Camera bag
- USB external battery pack
- Plug adapters (for international travel) and maybe some iPhone/iPad/android apps to edit and communicate
Remember, this is a suggested list. You may prefer to carry more or less, depending on your situation. All photos shown here were edited with MCP’s Fusion Photoshop Action Set. Now it’s your turn. What do you bring on your vacations?
Coming up: Later this week I will be sharing some of my favorite photos from the trip and giving you a list of the types of photos to take to take while traveling to document your vacation.