As a professional photographer, getting around with all your equipment is no easy feat. Once you start to travel for work, or take your gear with you on your travels, this difficulty is only compounded further. Not only do you have to be mindful about packing fragile equipment, but you face constraints surrounding the size and weight of your luggage. However, despite these irritating factors, there are certain things you can do to reduce the inconvenience you face.
What to Take
Of course, deciding what to take depends on the exact nature of your trip and whether it is strictly for business, or pleasure as well. With that said, opt for versatility and functionality rather than taking every single piece of equipment in your possession. You’re better served by taking fewer lenses, ideally zoom lenses which are adaptable. What is sometimes overlooked from the packing process is cleaning materials.
Given you’re visiting another destination that you are less familiar with, you can never predict what conditions you might encounter, or what challenges the local environment might throw your way. Lastly, ensure you pack sufficient batteries and memory storage. Once you’re away, you don’t want to get caught short.
Once you’ve decided what you’ll take with you, disassemble all of your gear. Any two pieces of equipment that can be joined together should be taken apart. This will help you save space in your luggage, and also allow you to better protect the gear with padding. On this point, ensure that you use enough protective material (e.g. foam padding, bubble wrap, or even soft clothing) to safeguard any fragile items. Also, use multiple layers of padding and cover items with an even coverage.
Alternatively, invest in a dedicated travel photography bag, which has individualised compartments that protect each piece of equipment. The layout of the compartments will also typically facilitate the gear you’re taking with you, as they have been built specifically for the purpose of transporting photography equipment. The bag may come as a rolling suitcase, backpack, or in other variations. Importantly, many are also waterproof.
Avoid packing your gear into checked luggage unless it is absolutely essential. You may need to check with the airline about what items you cannot take on board, which could include certain batteries. Not only do you minimise the risk of potential damage that might otherwise occur with baggage handling, but you also avoid the prospect of your equipment being lost or re-routed while in transit. If you must check in your gear, it is imperative that you have comprehensive insurance to protect you in the event of any loss or damage.
Even if you travel with your gear by your side, insurance should be taken out against unforeseeable incidents. Most insurers will require you to keep a record of the serial numbers and proof of purchase, so make sure you store these away. To minimise the risk of theft, you may even want to cover or remove any camera affiliated branding on your travel bag, and potentially even from your gear.
Once you’re on the ground, you won’t need all your gear at every moment. Make sure what you leave behind is secured safely and conspicuously. If you’re taking some gear out for the day, have a smaller padded bag that you can sling over your shoulder, and consider changing the strap for your camera to a more secure and comfortable option.