Four Travel Photography Tips for Packing Light


When's the last time you packed up a ton of gear and headed off to shoot? It was probably recently. It's not particularly easy to travel light as a photographer even if it's a necessity, if not a desire!

four travel photography tips for packing light

Sometimes you need to haul luggage when you're off on holiday with your family, or you have limited space to bring much of your photography gear. Whatever your reasons for needing to travel light, it can be done and here are four tips to help you out.

1. Research and plan ahead

minimum equipment of photpgraphy gear

Research is key to knowing what minimum amount of equipment you will need where you're going. Being selective in your selection also depends significantly on what you plan on doing wherever you're going. Heading with your family to the Grand Canyon would probably mean very different camera equipment than heading off to rural India for three weeks on a backpacking trip.

Just in case you end up running out of anything you can't live without while traveling, consider the availability of extra supplies at your destination. Nothing is more frustrating than being in a rural location unable to find another camera card because you filled the only one you brought with you. No access to the Cloud for backing up your photos is another issue. What is the availability of the Internet/Wifi where you're headed?

Your research should include thinking ahead of convenience and security on a day-by-day basis, then planning accordingly. What happens if your bag is stolen or piece of equipment damaged? Leaving a few things behind in the hotel safe is rarely a bad idea (like that point and shoot camera in case you lose or damage your primary camera). Besides, schlepping around all of your equipment while sightseeing isn't fun!

Lastly, the weather or altitude at your destination can affect the performance of your equipment. Batteries don't last as long at high altitudes, and freezing weather can affect your camera's performance and, at the very least, benefit from the use of a tripod and remote trigger.

2. Equipment

travel photography

Select your gear carefully if you want to travel light. For most photographers, we suggest a two-round selection process. (For those of you who are already light travelers, you'll probably not need a second round.) Your first round is the easiest. Only select what you think you will need. Once you've made all those selections, go through again, and purge more items. Yes, really. It can be hard on your first go-around to pare down, so doing two rounds might make it easier. Consider this list as a guide, but you should make your own based on your needs:

  • A quality, lightweight camera backpack

  • One telephoto lens

  • One wide zoom lens

  • One camera body

  • Several camera cards ranging from 8GB to 32GB

  • A point and shoot camera or, preferably, high-end smartphone camera

  • One battery charger

  • One compact 2TB External Hard drive or other backup photo storage including the Cloud

  • Camera rain cover

Depending on your needs and destination, also consider these pieces:

  • A travel tripod and remote trigger

  • Extra camera batteries

  • Rain cover for your bag

All of these items should easily fit into a backpack or camera bag.

3. Understand your gear

understand your photo gear

Don't travel with newly purchased equipment you've never tried before. It might be tempting to try out your new lens or camera body on vacation, but resist the temptation! You're better off traveling with trusted, tried, and true equipment. On vacation isn't the best time to realize you don't like a new piece or you're struggling with how best to use it.

You'll slow yourself down and waste precious time while traveling. Try to limit yourself to the equipment you're well-versed using. If you think you might need to pull out a manual to use an item, leave it behind!

Lastly, clean or service your equipment before you haul it anywhere with you.

4. Know your limitations

best travel photography

Be honest with yourself about your physical abilities and limitations when it comes to hauling around equipment. Then purge your gear, taking only what you might need. Hauling around heavy stuff will make you miserable, drain your energy, and distract you.


Some of our best photography can come while traveling. Set yourself up to be the best photographer you can be by traveling light. It will be the first step toward a great trip!