How To Pack Light For Travel Photography

Let’s be real, we all know a few of those people who pack a liiittle too much when taking a vacation. But with photography, it is soooooo easy to over-pack. There are a million and one things you can bring to cover any setting imaginable. But the truth is, you can cover the vast majority of situations you will encounter with a minimal amount of equipment. 

There are a lot of reasons you may want to pack light on your next trip, but convenience is the most common one. When you are traveling via bus or plane, it’s pretty important that you minimize your gear, and even if you are driving, you might be surprised at how fast you can fill that trunk real estate. But beyond convenience, I honestly think that being a gear minimalist will help you have a more enjoyable trip, and helps maximize your mobility when exploring new places.

I should start out by saying there are no “hacks” for cutting down on your travel photography kit. Its all about stripping your kit down to the essentials. That being said, here are some things I take into consideration when I pack my bag.

Be Realistic

Too many people carry around unnecessary equipment in case of the off chance that they will get to use it. For example, I used to always bring a flash with me in case of the off chance to shoot some portraits. But in reality, I can count the number of times I used it on one hand. Needless to say, I no longer carry it in my travel kit. So when you are packing your bag, just ask yourself whether you will really be using each piece of gear.

Never Take More Than 3 Lenses

One lens can cover 90% of the shooting conditions you will encounter, so there is absolutely no reason why you need more than 3. For full frame cameras, anything that covers the 24-70mm range will probably be enough, and for crop sensors, anything that covers 18-50mm is a good choice. Because you have so much freedom when shooting travel, fast lenses are not a necessity, so even the 18-55mm kit lens will work well.

If you have the means, the “trinity” is always a good choice, but Personally, I would take A) a mid-range zoom lens(see above), B) a fast prime like a 50 or 35mm, and C) either a telephoto or an ultra wide. Whichever suits your needs better.

If you really need to slim down your arsenal, just take a mid range zoom, or a fast prime(50mm or wider). You will be fine, and you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Leave The Extras At Home

Polarizers, nd filters, etc are nice to have with you at times, but they certainly aren’t a necessity. If you arent doing 1 minute + exposures, don’t bring a cable release. Your self timer will do the same job just fine. If you know you will have time to charge your batteries every night, just take 2 or 3 with you(unless you shoot mirrorless, that is). And while its nice to have a backup body, a good point and shoot will save you space, and you will most likely be fine if you leave out a second camera altogether.

Downsize(or eliminate) your tripod

If you shoot a lot at night or early in the morning, you need a tripod, but there are some great ones out there that are absolutely tiny, and can even fit inside a backpack. I highly recommend the Sirui T-2005x. I purchased mine for less than $100, and the built quality is insane. Its not a full sized tripod, but you can get it up to around 5′, which will be fine as a travel tripod for most people. Best of all, when folded down it measures at just over a foot, and can easily fit in most backpacks, and many camera bags.

If you don’t often use a tripod though, just leave it at home altogether. Up until recently I rarely used a tripod and I still consider it a luxury rather than a necessity.

Only bring what you can carry

This is a rule I live by when packing for any trip, regardless of whether it is for photography or not. By only bringing what you can carry, you force yourself to decide what is really an essential in your kit. For me, it was key in minimizing my gear, and being more mobile and flexible when I am photographing a new area.

Hopefully these tips help you on your next trip, and let me know if you have any of your own.

Safe travels, and happy shooting!

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