Transporting your photography gear can be a problematic task that can require quite a bit of research and planning beforehand. Whether by a bus, a train, or a plane, travelling with your valuable photography equipment can create plenty of challenges, oftentimes placing you in various situations that could ruin your trip.
In order to make your travels easier, we’ve collected the best travel advice for photographers that will ensure a smooth and stress-free travel experience no matter where you go. Even if it’s just a vacation with your gear, you still want it to be safe, right? If so, then read on for some of the best tips for travelling photographers, no matter if you are a professional or a hobbyist.
Insure Your Gear
Insuring your photography gear, as well as investing in some additional travelers insurance, is one of the most important things you should do before taking any valuable equipment on your trip. Firstly, check if your travelers insurance includes your photography equipment. If it doesn’t, either insure all your equipment or at least the most expensive items that you own. You never know what could happen, you may lose it or it can get stolen, so it’s always best to be prepared and protect your gear beforehand.
Carry Your Gear in Your Hand Luggage
If you travel by plane, always check with your airline for how much baggage you are allowed to take on the plane with you. Some airlines only allow one small bag, while others (like an additional item like a laptop) can be brought along in a separate bag. As checked bags sometimes get lost and are oftentimes not handled as gently as you might think, our advice would be for you to always carry your photography equipment onto the plane, or at least all of the essentials that you’ll need at all times. Therefore, make sure that you check the number of bags you are allowed to carry, but also their size and weight since some airlines have very strict size/weight requirements where every inch and pound will matter.
Travel Light, but Bring the Essentials
Depending on where you go and what you shoot, make a list of all essential items you’ll need for your photography trip. Traveling light is both safe and practical, especially if you have to walk for miles while carrying your equipment along. Packing light does require some effort and a bit of thought, so take a minute to think and make a list of all items that you couldn’t do without. Make sure that you don’t forget anything since you never know what could (or couldn’t) be found in a foreign country and how much it would cost.
Apart from your camera and lens(es), make sure to bring plenty of batteries. The reason is simple – you never know how many plug sockets will be available at the place where you’ll be staying. Plus, you’ll still need to charge your laptop or tablet, and your cell phone as well. Take at least a couple of batteries for your camera, depending on how long you’ll be shooting.
Another thing is to check what type of plug sockets the country where you’ll be travelling has. If the plug sockets are different from those in your native country, make sure to take suitable plug-ins and converters in advance.
If you need a tripod and the one you have is large and heavy, it would be a good idea to invest in a smaller and lighter tripod which is more compact and more suitable for traveling.
Lastly, carry your memory cards with you at all times! Make sure they are safely stored either in your inside pockets or in your wallet and that they don’t leave your sight. Any camera is replaceable, but your photos are just as important as your passport, so keep them as safely as you would your traveling documents, especially on your way back.
Use the Right Bag
The bag that you use for carrying your photography gear has to be carefully selected when going to a foreign country.
Firstly, it needs to fit your gear and keep it safe, meaning that all the items need to stay inside instead of in outside pockets and pouches. You’ll also need to make sure it’s well-padded and waterproof. If it’s not waterproof, you can always use a rainfly so that your gear always stays completely dry and protected.
Secondly, it needs to be light, not only because of the weight restrictions most airlines have, but also for your own ease and comfort, especially if your photography job requires a lot of walking.
Lastly, if you’re using a shoulder bag (which we highly recommend instead of a backpack for increased security,) make sure that the shoulder strap is well-padded and very comfortable. If you already have the bag but are not satisfied with your shoulder strap, you can always just replace the strap with a strong and comfortable one. This way, the weight of the bag can be distributed better while you’re comfy and relaxed for hours on end.
Disguise Your Gear
Every travelling photographer with enough experience will tell you the same thing – make your camera as well as your camera bag look as trashy as possible. If you think about it, this is a very smart tip, since carrying around expensive-looking gear will always put a target on your back, no matter where you go. Protecting your equipment from theft by disguising it is quite a clever idea, since there are thieves everywhere. Best to protect yourself in advance!
You can disguise your camera by taping some duct tape on it, making it look old and broken. You can also be more creative with your bag by hiding its logos, dirtying it a bit, drawing something on it, and so on. Masking your equipment will not only protect you from thieves, but it may also keep you safe while dealing with airport customs officers as well.
Always Keep Your Camera in Sight
Lastly, for increased security, always keep your camera (including your camera bag) in sight, especially while in crowded situations. This is why we prefer shoulder bags rather than backpacks, since you may not notice if someone tries to open it from behind you. Also, as we previously mentioned, keep your hard drives and/or memory cards safely in your inside pockets or in your wallet and make sure they don’t leave your sight either. After all, photographs are more precious than your equipment since they can never be replaced.
Traveling as a photographer can be fun, but only if your photographs and your photography equipment stay in good condition. Transporting your gear is not as simple as you may think, so make sure to take all this advice into consideration if you want to be fully prepared and keep your gear safe.