If you’re like me, you probably have a lot of photography equipment at home that serve different purposes. But when comes time to pack the suitcase or the backpack before hopping on a plane, the question is inevitable: What photography equipment do you need to pack?
Before I go on and on about that question, if you have a point and shoot, and only that, well, problem solved! But let me help those who have a little more than that!
Over my years enjoying photography as a hobby, I upgraded my equipment a few times. From a Panasonic point and shoot, I moved to an Olympus DSLR, an E-500, and then to their high-end model, the E-5. I initially had two lenses: a 14-45mm and a 40-150 (I think, I never use it anymore).
But then I got into airplane photography. So I bought the Bigma! A Sigma 50-500mm. Not the fastest lens, but at 2x crop ratio on the Olympus, I had an impressive 1000mm focal. Oh and four pounds more in my equipment bag.
And then I decided that it was time to upgrade my 14-45. And I got the Zuiko 12-60mm. What a lens!
And I have other gear too!
But with all that gear, what should I pack when I travel?
Start by choosing your bag
If you’re like me, you will want to haul around your gear with you every day. And you need a good day bag. I first had a Lowepro Fastpack, in which I could put a 17″ laptop. While it’s roomy, well padded and has place for everything, I eventually got tired of it and started using my small backpack (smaller than your average school bag – I can’t find it on MEC.ca but bought it there).
I realized that it was all I needed during the day. Although a bit small for a carry on bag on the airplane (for my taste), it was a good size for a day pack. Eventually, I settled for an Air Hike backpack which is a little bigger.
I just put a little towel or t-shirt in the bottom, or a small rain poncho, and my bag is padded!
Choose the lenses you want
If you have many lenses, you need to choose which ones you want to bring. You probably have an all around lens. The one that’s always on your camera. Bring it. You probably have a zoom lens. Do you usually use it while you travel? Yes? Bring it. No? Are you going on a Safari in Africa? No? Don’t bring it.
I’m generalizing here, but you need to consider two things. 1) What is your favorite lens that is almost all the time on your camera? 2) What are you going to photograph?
If you might use a zoom, and have place in your luggage, it might be a good idea to bring it. Leave it in the hotel when you know that you won’t use it. That’s what I usually do.
Go through the same process with your other lenses. Think about what you will be shooting once at destination. If I go at the beach, I usually don’t bother with a zoom lens. If I visit a monkey forest, I like the ability to zoom in on the details!
Tripod or no Tripod?
What a tough question. Admit it, you still can’t answer that, can you? I know I had a hard time with that decision. The key thing here is to have a tripod that is sturdy enough for your camera and lens, while still lightweight and compact enough.
Let’s put it like that: If you have a really light and compact tripod, you will haul it around, but you will be unable to take good pictures with it because it will not be sturdy enough. On the other hand, if you bring a really sturdy tripod, you will find it too heavy and you will probably leave it in your hotel room. And if you don’t bring a tripod at all, you will regret it when you would have needed it.
That’s why I settled for the Manfrotto BeFree. It’s light enough so I didn’t have any problem carrying it with me whenever I thought I would need it, yet sturdy enough to support my camera.
They key thing here is to invest in a tripod that is light and sturdy. Otherwise, don’t bother because you will end up carrying it and leaving it in your hotel room.
External flash or not?
An external flash is useful for portrait photography. If you plan doing a lot of portraits while on vacation, then please bring your external flash if you have some! But otherwise, I would say don’t pack it. I don’t really see any situations where the flash would be more useful than the built-in flash on you camera.
Batteries and chargers
Of course bring your charger. And adaptors to make sure you can plug it in at destination (along with you 100 other electronic devices). But what about another battery?
I personally find that one battery is enough to last me a day. And I tend to take a lot of pictures. But I charge it every night.
One thing to be careful though if you find that your battery is losing power fast before the end of your day, is to try to limit the number of times you use the LCD to look at your pictures. Of course, look at it quickly to make sure the picture is good, but try not to look at your photos just for fun while waiting somewhere. Keep your power!
A set of filters can add bulk to you gear. I am not familiar with many filters yet, but lately I bought a polarizing filter. I was amazed at the difference it made for ocean pictures, among other things. The water looked so much better than without a filter. I wish I had it long before. I would highly recommend you buy one. Just make sure you experiment with it before going on vacation so you know how to use it properly.
As for other filter, I would say bring them if you have a specific plan in mind. Grad filters can be really useful and make great effects. Just keep in mind that it takes place in your bag.
Bring memory cards. Lots of them. Or a few big ones. Some will say that they prefer many smaller memory cards, so if something happens with one, you still have all the others. I prefer a few large capacity cards. Less manipulation, less chances of losing one. If your camera supports CF and SD, it could be a good idea to have a card of both in your camera. That way, when you run out of space, just switch the card from the camera menu instead of physically putting another card.
Along with cards, bring a portable external hard drive. If you’re positively sure you won’t run out of space, just the memory cards will be all right. But if you’re gone for a while, you will want to transfer your pictures to an external hard drive to 1) make a backup and 2) make room on you memory cards. I was usually able to find computers to use to transfer my pictures. Oh and bring something to plug your memory card into a computer.
iPad and memory card reader
To be able to watch and share pictures on the go, I brought with me on my last trips my iPad and a memory card reader that can be plugged in the iPad (for SD cards). I would transfer my pictures on the iPad every day (which would act as a backup as well), and then I could look at them. I could easily share them or take notes of settings I needed to adjust in my camera for the next day.
Other various items
I think that I’ve covered the majors items above. Along with that, I like to bring the following things:
- Mini tripod
- Waterproof cover to put over my backpack
- GoPro and it’s accessories
I think that pretty much sums up what photography equipment I bring with me on a trip. I will share in a following post how I pack my day bag for a typical day roaming around a city. All the gear mentioned above might seem a lot, but when you pack it correctly, it is easily carried everywhere.
How about you? Do you agree with me? What photography equipment do you bring on a trip?