For most planning a trip and taking photos during that trip means only one thing: pack your smartphone and this is most certainly applicable for photographers at every level but in this list, we’ll assume that you’re looking to go into a bit more detail. We’ve compiled a list of 10 essential items or considerations when packing your bags for a trip with photography in mind. So let’s have a look at what are top 10 items to include in your suitcase!
1 – Preparation
If you’re planning a trip specifically for photography or at least with the intention to dedicate time to taking some serious shots, no doubt you’ll have already put some time into the prep work. Nevertheless ‘preparation’ is the first tip because it’s always worth the prep work; the more you know about the destination, landscape and weather the better your decision-making will be. Also understanding the assignment is important whether it be a landscape shoot, portraiture or even a corporate video production and you’re shooting the stills to go with it, getting to grips with the task means that you’ll inevitably pack smartly. Knowing everything you can about the environment will help to inform your decisions when bringing the right equipment.
2 – Bring Back-Ups
Although I’ve said that planning is the first step to a successful photography trip, it won’t help one bit if you’ve done a year’s planning and your kit stops working! There has been many an occasion where for whatever reason there’s a critical fault in the camera, lights or microphone so it’s always worth bringing a back-up of each of your essential items (where you can). Especially smaller items like memory cards, card readers, microphones which you should bring replacements of.
Having said that, a lot of kit nowadays is extremely reliable and rugged as companies are well aware of the harsh environments and situations their gear is being put through. I will say that I pack doubles mostly for peace of mind as generally speaking there will only be minor accidents where there’s a solvable problem.
3 – Tripod
The almighty tripod, useful in every situation and easily transportable. This is a piece of equipment that’s almost as important as the camera itself; for capturing the best possible quality of footage, a tripod is key. Depending on your plans, even a mini tripod that can literally fit into a pocket could be the solution when you need to create a time lapse or set a low shutter speed to capture movement. Especially in low-light situations a tripod allows for the camera to capture more detail although nowadays the technology of digital cameras allows for amazing low-light detail.
4 – Power
As mentioned in tip #2 packing doubles is so handy when it comes to memory cards but with batteries or portable charging solutions I tend to pack multiples of each – memory cards you can probably buy quite easily in many locations, finding the right batteries isn’t always a simple task so I probably tend to overpack them. Portable power banks are another piece of kit that I’ll usually bring a spare of, as you may be away from a power outlet and so need to rely on charged portable ones which are both powerful and reliable. I can even get a good number of full charges on my full-frame mirrorless camera with one of the bigger power banks.
5 – Plug Converters
For all those batteries and power banks you’ll definitely need to pack a suitable amount of plug converters from your region to your destination’s. You can also pick these up at the airport but for a drastically inflated price which is fine if you’ve forgotten your own and need one but not ideal if you’re trying to keep spending to a minimum and solely on the photography.
6 – Lights
I don’t only mean portable lights to illuminate a scene or a hotshoe lamp which could be an option depending on the type of shoot you’re travelling for. By Lights, I’m also including torches or headlamps because for some photos you may need to set up in the dark. This used to be a must but with smartphone torches being so accessible and bright, you may not always need a dedicated torch.
7 – Rain Protection
I know that there are plenty of dedicated camera rain ‘bags’ which certainly have their place but in my experience it’s not been necessary; generally if I’m taking photos I try to avoid taking them during actual heavy rain. Thankfully light rain isn’t as threatening as it used to be thanks to a lot of camera bodies being weatherproof and tightly sealed against any potential water damage.
8 – Camera Bag
Of course to travel anywhere with somewhat heavy or a lot of equipment you’ll need a good bag. And while any rucksack might seem like a good choice, a dedicated camera bag is really ideal. They are designed precisely with the travelling photographer in mind so that bodies, lenses, lights and whatever else each have their own padded section where everything is safe and secured in place; nothing’s going to be banging around and potentially getting damaged.
9 – Memory
This has been touched on at the beginning of this article but bringing plenty of memory cards, hard drives and a card reader or two will serve to preserve your peace of mind during the trip. Having backups means you can save your work across multiple storage devices to make sure that absolutely nothing is lost thanks to corruption or faults at any point. Of course, bringing the camera itself goes without saying but the memory cards are just as vital – no memory card means no photo basically!
10 – Tool Kit
This is probably only necessary for longer trips where you may need to do repairs on the fly as backups or replacements could take weeks when you simply don’t have this amount of time. Keeping a small toolkit of screwdrivers, pliers and gaffa tape should stand you in good stead for most eventualities! Gaffa tape has multiple applications and can be a lifesaver for fixes outside of photography; all kinds of things may malfunction and can be held together with some tape!