7 Travel Photography Tips
As photographers, we've all been there...we have a trip planned that we're soooo excited for and we just want to bring every piece of gear that we own. We're always excited to test out our new lens, or lights, or gadgets since we have so many but is that really the best way to go? I used to bring everything that I own when I traveled and my back, shoulders and luggage space while flying has always paid dearly. Over time, I've learned to adapt and find ways around certain things and in many cases, it's made me a much better photographer all around. I've been excited to share these 7 travel photography tips with people so lets dive right into it.
1 - PACK LIGHT AND LEARN HOW TO USE LIMITED GEAR
The first and most obvious thing I want to point out is to travel as light as possible! By this, I mean pack 2 lenses instead of 4 or 5, don't bring as many accessories, and downsize your whole camera bag all together. You always feel limited by not bringing a huge 70-200mm f/2.8 but its always a hassle to carry around and you may only use it once or twice on your whole trip. I decided to just bring a short telephoto like an 85mm which is so much smaller that I can hand-hold it all day long. By limiting your lens choice, you also learn how to master the ones you bring with you. If you only had 1 lens with you, you wouldn't just not get the photo, you would do whatever it takes to get the shot you want and that is super important as a photographer to be able to utilize every single piece of gear to the best of our abilities. You don't know what you can do with only an 85mm or 50mm until you try it and it'll open up a whole new world of photography.
By downsizing the amount of gear you're bringing, you can also utilize a smaller camera bag. I travelled all around the world with my Tarmac Expedition 7x and it held up like a tank, but its big and bulky so I didn't want to lug it around with me anymore. It was wayyy worth spending the $27 on a small travel bag from Amazon. They force you to limit the amount of gear you bring and your back, shoulders, along with your creativity will thank you in the long run.
2 - USE A CELL PHONE LIGHT INSTEAD OF FLASHES
As mentioned before, packing light is key, so I figured out a solution for flashes as well. Flash guns take up a lot of space in a camera bag. You can never bring just 1, you always want 2 or 3, plus the transmitter , and all of that takes up a lot of space in a camera bag. A few years ago, I started leaving them all at home and just using whatever ambient light is available, or just use the light on my cell phone instead. Sounds weird but I've learned to make it work and haven't been disappointed.
Check out how much space you will save in your bag by eliminating 2 flashes:
I shot this photo by putting my camera on a gorilla pod set with a long exposure and just running around my buddy, Justin, letting off light in 2 second bursts from every angle that I would normally have my flashes set up. It came out pretty cool and it was also really fun to shoot. I made a more detailed blog about it that you can check out here. It would be hard to believe for anyone else that this image was taken with no flashes or strobes. It's all part of the game... go get creative with your lighting!
3 - DITCH THE TRIPOD
Don't make your life more complicated, you don't need to pack and lug around a full sized tripod around. I've been asked a bunch about what tripod I bring around or what travel tripods I recommend and people almost get mad when I tell them what I use...a Joby Gorillapod. Even the smaller travel tripods seem a little too big and bulky to carry around so I just bring the small Gorillapod and somehow ALWAYS manage to find a place to sit it on or clamp it to, I have yet to have a problem. I look at a tripod as being a limited tool when you travel. You can only go as low or high as it allows you to, but a Gorillapod has no limits. It can go pretty much straight down to the ground and it'll go as high as you're willing to climb. The sky is the limit with this little guy. Don't be that guy walking around with a tripod strapped to his camera bag turning around and bumping it into people on the streets, just get a Job Gorillapod.
4 - USE TILES IN ALL OF YOUR BAGs
Enough about using your gear, lets talk about possibly protecting it. The last thing you would want on a trip around the world is to misplace or have a bag stolen from you with thousands of dollars worth of gear and a memory card full of, well....memories. Even though we try our best to make sure we always have an eye on our things, we can still slip up when we least expect it. For this reason, I have fitted Tiles in all my of bags. This way, even if I misplaced a bag, I still have a chance of tracking it down before it all goes on Craigslist or eBay. This will pretty much alert you with the Tile App of where your bag is located. However, don't just throw the tile in any random pocket of the bag or else it'll be too easy for the baddy to find and toss out once they realize they're being tracked down. I have all of my tiles strategically hidden in flaps or under straps where no one would normally look. When you do find out where your stuff is, you can either confront the person yourself or keep an eye on them as you alert the authorities for help. I've been in a situation where we found a guy who stole my buddies camera bag and it took every fiber of my being to not put a brick through his head after we beat him to the ground, but it could be dangerous, so hopefully you have more will power than I do.
5 - GET AN INTERNATIONAL SIM CARD
Everyone likes posting about what they're doing on their vacation. Whether it's a shot of your exotic dinner on Facebook or a photo of your hot dog legs at the beach on Instagram, we always want to rub it in our friends faces back home. Wireless carriers will always charge you an arm and a leg for international data or texting but if you buy a local sim card, it'll be much cheaper and you'll have wayyy more data to work with. When I went to Thailand, AT&T was going to charge me $40 FOR ONLY 300mb OF DATA! At the airport, I bought a local sim card for somewhere around $9 and it gave me 5GB of data that worked fine pretty much everywhere I was in the country.
You need to have an unlocked phone, so if you're still paying off your cell phone every month, you won't be able to do it yet. I always buy my phones out right which gives me the privilege to do this and it's well worth it for this reason alone. No one likes being shut out from the social media world, especially when so much is going on in your life. You need to share it with everyone!
6 - USE A FLASH DRIVE FOR BACKING UP
This is easily one of my favorite travel tips for photographers! Everyone will tell you to always back up your photos/ videos, especially when you're away. You never know when you're going to have a corrupted memory card and lose everything from your trip. Most people will recommend to bring a portable hard drive like a Lacie Rugged Drive, which is still a good idea, but it's a bit bulky and could take up space and add weight to your bag. For the past few years, I've been taking a PNY USB Flash Drive with me to back up my photos. They're tiny, so they take up virtually no space and if you're super neurotic about backing up, you can easily throw multiple flash drives in your bag. These are so handy, that I have multiple flash drives in different bags and at my desk just incase I need a quick transfer or backup.
7 - USB ALL THE THINGS!
Since everyone is on their cell phones all day anyway, most people usually have some sort of portable power bank with them to charge up their phone mid-day. You should learn to utilize this to the MAX! Almost everything I have is able to be charged via a USB power bank so I'm sure to bring at least one with me everywhere I go. Whether I'm hiking around, driving from place to place or sitting in a restaurant, I can have all of my batteries charging in my bag without having to cling to an outlet in the corner of a room.
I personally use the Amazon Basics 10,000mAh Power Bank since it was inexpensive and very thin, pretty much the size of my Samsung Galaxy S8. It seems to be discontinued but this Anker Powercore 10,000mAh Power Bank seems to be very popular and also small. I also have a bunch of these short 6 inch Micro USB cables so that I wouldn't have a bunch of cables getting tangled in my bag. Everything from my camera batteries, to my cell phone, to my drone remote and even my smart watch can be charged like this. No need to ever worry about conserving power and possibly missing a photo due to running out of power.