Photographers alike understand just how much of a hassle it can be to travel with their camera gear. After the process of narrowing down your equipment to the necessities, and then further narrowing those necessities down to what you can travel with practically, comes the challenge of figuring out how you’ll bring all of it with you. Traveling with camera gear is definitely tricky, especially with pieces that are larger or delicate. However, with proper planning and the right gear, you can safely bring your equipment all around the globe with you. Below are some of ours favorite tips for traveling photographers!
Narrow your equipment down to your necessities, and then further narrow that list down to what you can safely travel with in a practical manner. Really ask yourself, “Could I make do without this?” and how much the piece really adds to your work as a photographer. Do whatever you can not to overpack, if you can avoid it.
When you are traveling with valuable equipment, it’s essential to keep track of what you’re packing as you pack it. That way you can easily reference your list and be sure you aren’t leaving anything behind when it comes time to leave the trip. I personally usually only travel with one or two lenses (my 50mm and 35mm) if I am just bringing my camera for fun, personal work.
Take your time while packing. Be sure not to forget any chargers, memory cards, cleaners, and cloths that you may need. Keep in mind adapters, portable hard drives, plugs for downloading memory cards, and any other little tidbits that you use on a usual basis. I also recommend making sure each piece of equipment is insured with the serial number written down. (We log all of our equipment in an excel spreadsheet with the purchase date, serial number, and value and then we hand that off to our insurance company!)
Airlines across the world are notorious for being rough with checked luggage, and this video of Air Canada’s baggage handlers chucking luggage down from the aircraft is just one of many examples. Airlines have also been known to lose checked baggage due. For that reason, it is imperative to carry as much as your equipment on you as you can. I always prioritize packing my camera gear first and foremost in the carry-on.
You should always check with your airline first, as guidelines for carry on luggage will vary depending on who you are flying with. Keep the essentials, such as your camera, lenses, and chargers with you. Lighting equipment, tripods, and anything else that you could work without (if you absolutely had to) can fare in proper traveling equipment.
Keep in mind, if you are working with film, you’ll want to carry it on and remove it from the X-Ray scanner. Simply ask the TSA agents to hand check it! It will lessen the chances of damaging the rolls of film.
Having proper gear to travel with is the key to safely, securely, and reasonably boarding a plane with all of your photography equipment. There are a number of brands that offer wonderful suitcases, personal bags, and inserts that are designed to go inside of backpacks. Some of these include MindShift, ThinkTank, Crumpler, and Tenba.
Proper travel equipment has dividers, securing and specifying places within the bag or suitcase for each camera and lens. Suitcases should be padded on the inside, with a hard exterior for maximum protection. Some travel bags and suitcases may also come with locks, as an added safety precaution. Not only would a lock prevent theft, it would also prevent the bag accidentally popping open in transit.
Let’s face it – photography is an expensive hobby and career. Between the cameras, lenses, tripods, lighting equipment, and any other accessories, it’s not uncommon for a simple visit to the camera shop to cost you in the upwards of a few hundred dollars. Travel equipment is a whole other expense of it’s own, with some equipment costing well over two-three hundred dollars. That’s quite a pretty penny, especially in a pinch or if you are saving up for other photography equipment.
For the time being, you can always work with makeshift travel equipment. Taking a sturdy backpack or hard-cover suitcase, you can divide, pad, and insulate your camera gear with clothing such as t-shirts and sweatshirts. If I am traveling with my waterhousing for underwater shoots, I’ll pack that in my stow-away luggage and stuff my clothes inside and around it to protect it!
Traveling with camera gear can be tricky, especially if you’re flying across the world with larger or delicate pieces of equipment. As a rule of thumb, you should always carry as much with you as you can – or at the very least, the essentials, including your camera. Staying organized with a packing list, taking your time as you pack, as well as investing in the right luggage are at the foundation of successfully traveling with your photography equipment.
And of course, don’t forget your passport!
Interested in seeing some of the journeys I’ve taken as a photographer? Head on over to my travel blog! To learn more about our mentorship program where we cover traveling with camera gear, what equipment we use, and more please contact us.