10 Packing Tips for Photographers Traveling Internationally

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Wanted to share a quick list of tips I sent to my sister Mary this past weekend. She's a burgeoning photographer with a great portfolio. Check out her Etsy site too. 

I've done a fair bit of travel photography and picked up a bunch of tips from travel photo pros like Rick Sammon, Frederick Van Johnson, Karen Hutton, and Martin Bailey.

When my sister reached out to me this week in prep for our family trip to Italy this spring, I was prepped to share!

So here's my quick list of packing tips - PLEASE comment and share your tips as well!


Lumix GX8 with 12-35mm f2.8 (24-70mm equivalent) Photo credit: ePhotozine

Lumix GX8 with 12-35mm f2.8
(24-70mm equivalent)

Photo credit: ePhotozine

1) Less is More

Really slim down on all of the gear. One of the reasons I like my Lumix GX and lenses - so small and light.

The rest of your gear supports your camera. Small mirrorless cameras provide a "packing annuity" shrinking the size and weight of almost all of the rest of your gear. You'll see what I mean as you read the tips.

  • Backup camera = mobile phone or a small compact camera
  • Ditch all of the other non-essentials stuff like lens blowers, etc
  • Ditch GoPro and audio equipment unless you are making a movie

2) Theft is a REAL threat

  • The fewer the logos and shiny objects the better.
  • Use camera bags that don't look like camera bags (see below)
  • My friends often use black electrical tape to cover logos on their cameras.


3) Two Bags - one for travel, one for walk around

On trains, planes, and automobiles, I carry my gear, laptop and all things electronic in my ThinkTank ShapeShifter (had this for 4+ years now - amazing)

For walk around - Use a bag that doesn't scream "I have expensive camera gear inside!". 2nd bag should flat pack into your luggage or main gear bag. Here are a couple of examples or something like this.


4) Pack minimum number of high-quality lenses

High quality zoom lenses are good for travel.

Mirrorless lenses are light and tiny. Sm - ALL.

The following are my "holy trinity" of lenses. Each of these lenses fits in the palm of my hand.

Midrange Zoom for walk around / street shooting / landscape

Usually on my camera 75-85% of the time

Full frame focal length: 24-70mm f2.8

What I carry: Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 (24-70mm equivalent)


Prime for interior, low light shots, some portraits

Next most used lens! Prime but super versatile!

Full frame focal length: 30 to 50mm f1.8

What I carry: Lumix 20mm f1.7 (40mm equivalent)


Wide Zoom for architecture and landscape

Full frame focal length: 14-28mm f4

What I carry: Lumix 7-14mm (14-28mm equivalent)


Nice to haves...

If you think you'll take a lot of portraits, throw a Long Prime in your bag: 85mm f1.8.

Here is my Olympus 45mm f1.8 -- see, tiny.

 

Lens adapters like this one let me fit more common Canon EOS lenses onto my Lumix mirrorless camera.


5) Smallest / Lightest tripod and ball head

Mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter so too are the tripods that support them.

I ALWAYS travel with my Joby Gorilla Pod with a arca-swiss ball head

50% of the time I also take my main tripod, MeFoto Roadtrip


6) Consider a wrist strap instead of a shoulder strap

Nothing screams "I AM A TOURIST" like a crazy camera strap. Instead I use this wrist strap from Peak Design.

Shooting small lightweight mirrorless cameras makes wrist straps a better choice.


7) Pack 3 to 4 extra batteries

Number them so you know which is charged, depleted.

Use a label maker to label the batts with your email and phone number.


8) Pack 4 or 5 memory cards

Same deal here: number and label these.

If you bring multiple cameras, then also label the card to match the camera.


9) USB3 or Thunderbolt SSD Hard Drive

For backing up photos, duh. 1TB preferred. Minimum 500GB.

SSD preferred -- no moving parts to damage during travel.


10) Extremely useful odds and ends

Ok ok - I'm cheating. It's a catch-all category. But seriously everything here is mighty useful and takes up little space and weight.

Small LED flashlight for night photos. 

Get one with a red filter to preserve night vision. I always carry this Gerber Recon Multicolor Flashlight.

Mobile phone tripod mount adapter.

For time lapse shots with your phone. Get one with a threads to fit your tripod.

I attach an arca-swiss plate to mine that way I can pop it into the tripod in a second.

 

Small micro-fiber cloth(s) 

Ridonkulously useful for cleaning your gear. Easily washable and dry fast.

 

Finally, pack an Allen wrench (hex key) for your tripod / ball head


PLEASE SHARE your packing tips and comments with me! Good traveling!