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How to Pack Light for a Travel Photography Shoot

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Before a single photo is captured, photographers and videographers are tasked with many responsibilities. From previsualization to execution and everything in between, jobs of any size often have many moving parts. Add time in an airport or anything over a 5-hour drive, and one is presented with another set of logistical challenges – namely regarding gear. 

Working in a studio affords an artist two things: space and storage. It’s an ideal choice if one is looking to completely control their environment. Not to mention, everything one can possibly need is on hand at a moment’s notice. However, when a job requires travel, some difficult choices need to be made. After all, one can only fit so much in the trunk of a car. Not to mention, airline weight limits and checked bag fees can quickly turn into an expensive nightmare. We think many would agree that having to reduce one’s photo arsenal to a single gear bag (maybe two) is among the most dreaded tasks. 

If you find it a challenge to narrow down your gear inventory for travel, these five steps will help you pack light for that next destination shoot.

Before we jump in, here’s a quick overview:

  1. Camera and Lenses
  2. Action Camera
  3. Compact Drones
  4. Accessories
  5. Protective Gear

One Body, Two Lenses

If you only had the option to bring along one camera, which one would it be? While this seems like a near-impossible task, it’s one that photographers and videographers are often faced with. 

Regardless of niche or mastery of the artform, narrowing down one’s main gear choices has its benefits. For starters, it reduces the risk of gear wear, damage, loss, and theft overall. And, especially, if a shoot is a one or two person operation, there’s only so much gear one can use and carry at one time.

The Gear

In this case, it’s always preferred to pack smart – and that means packing a camera body that checks all the boxes. Sure, there are many camera bodies on today’s market that boast impressive specs; but, a select few are powerful, versatile, and most importantly, compact. This is why the Canon EOS R5 with 24-105mm f/4L Lens Kit is a great option for the jet-setting photopreneur. A top-of-the-line body paired with a lens with a wide angle to telephoto range? What more could one want?

Well, we think one more key item is needed…

Add This Lens…

Elevate your travel gear bag with a long telephoto lens, like the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens. When one needs to get closer to faraway subjects, this portable and weather-resistant lens is a favorite among portrait, wedding, wildlife, and sports photographers. 

About the Canon R5:

The Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless Digital Camera Body builds off of the powerful legacy of Canon’s full frame cameras offering next generation refinements in image quality, performance and reliability. Furthermore, it’s an ideal choice for a large range of photographic and cinematographic environments.

You Kinda Have to Bring the GoPro…

Whether up close and personal or from a distance, packing an action camera means getting to (and capturing) the action. So, why wouldn’t one pack the GoPro HERO9 Black Bundle

This thing is a lifesaver – especially for vloggers and event videographers. Thanks to its 5K video and 20MP capabilities, there’s no need to put one’s main camera body at risk. And, with its ultra-compact and simple-to-use interface, it’s never been easier to get great high-action footage that really makes one’s work stand out. 

About the Hero9 Black:

The GoPro HERO9 Black Bundle boasts a powerful new feature suite, including HindSight, and supports live streaming and Webcam mode as well. Add in HyperSmooth 3.0, built-in mounting and 30% more battery life for more of everything—in a camera that’s tough as nails and waterproof as ever. Available mods including the ultra-wide Max Lens Mod, Light Mod, Display Mod and Media Mod expand your creative options even more.

…and Make Room For A (Small) Drone

The main job of a drone is to capture aerial shots over a distance. Before these consumer-friendly innovations came along, these shots were only possible via helicopter or with professional-grade gear that cost thousands upon thousands of dollars. Today, drones like the DJI Air 2S put the power of flight into the hands of every creator. Make room for a compact drone and elevate your work with breathtaking aerial footage. 

About the DJI Air 2S:

Featuring a 1-inch CMOS sensor, powerful autonomous functions, and a compact body weighing less than 600 g, DJI Air 2S Drone is the ultimate drone for aerial photographers on the move. Take this all-in-one aerial powerhouse along anywhere to experience and record your world in stunning detail.

Non-Negotiable Accessories

Now that the gear has been chosen, it should be crystal-clear which accessories will be coming along for the journey. Odds are, if a product calls for one to think twice, it can probably stay behind. So, what’s considered essential for pro photographers? Here are our top picks to help get you started:

  • Keep those shots steady and in focus with a travel tripod.
  • Let’s face it, one can never have enough memory cards.
  • Light up your subject and surroundings with a mini LED panel
  • Prevent camera shake with a remote release.
  • Capture great video and crystal-clear sound with a compact shotgun mic.
  • And lastly, don’t forget to pack at least two extra batteries

With all that said, this can be boiled down to one simple trick for stress-free packing. Ask yourself the following question for each accessory: Is this absolutely necessary to get the job done? 

Protect & Store

There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a gear bag, including size, water resistance, personal style, and comfortability. While it’s common for a photographer to have multiple bags in their inventory to choose from, it’s still key to narrow that selection down to the right bag (or bags) for the job – especially if travel is involved. 

Whether travelling by plane, train, or automobile, there are countless storage options available that not only keep one’s inventory organized and within reach; they are also built to last and protect one’s gear. Here are the top three bag types to get you started:

  • Light: Roller Bag – a must for air travel. 
  • Lighter: Backpack – a staple for wedding, sports, wildlife, and landscape photographers and videographers.
  • Lightest: Tote – the perfect daybag that travels easily and even fits a laptop or tablet. 

Final Thoughts

Packing is a skill that’s cultivated over time. At some point in one’s career, one will need to hit the ground running on short notice. And, one will need to know exactly what gear to bring. It becomes good practice to really get to know your equipment, keep an organized inventory, and invest in powerful, versatile, and compact gear. And, when in doubt, keep your camera bag simple and stick to the essentials.

Destination shoots can, no doubt, throw even the most seasoned professionals a few curve balls. This is why the plan and prep stages are key to a successful shoot and a stress-free travel experience. It all starts with packing the right gear for the job. 

About Author

Destiny A. Lopez is a writer based in Los Angeles. Destiny has previously covered pop culture, lifestyle, tech, and personal finance for various media outlets.

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