Travel Photography tips – Packing smart

Travel photography tips - Travelling light packing tips

The Cullmann Amsterdam 520 shoulder bag qualifies as hand luggage on most flights

If you’re flying and genuinely looking to travel light, you may want to limit yourself to a single piece of cabin baggage. This is perhaps more practical for a shorter city break rather than holidays lasting a week or more, but it’s perfectly possible to do this with the right bag.

My preference is a Cullmann Amsterdam 520 shoulder bag, whose size (just) enables it to qualify as hand luggage on most airlines. Its chamber can be used without any dividers at all or split into whatever configuration you desire, although this can also be completely removed to free up more space.

Ordinarily, you would not want to place photographic gear into such a bag without any protection, and a bag of this style is hardly the most convenient option for day-to-day shooting. Its chamber, however, is large enough to accommodate another small shoulder bag of mine that fits this purpose. This holds a DSLR and a standard zoom lens together with a range of smaller accessories, and provides enough protection while in transit.

On a budget

Travelling light on a budget screen

Use the self-timer instead of a remote release

To save money as well as weight, divide your list of requirements into needs and wants.

For example, a new battery grip may be useful for extended periods, but a new battery is likely to be considerably cheaper and takes up hardly and space. Likewise, you may feel that you need a remote release for triggering long exposures, but a camera’s self-timer can often be used instead. Hard drives with shockproof casings are also ideal for travelling, but if you don’t imagine you’ll actually use its full capacity, you may be better off with a cheaper USB flash drive.

Products that combine a number of functions into one can save you money and bag space. A single round variable ND filter, for example, can take the place of a number of separate square ND filters and holders.

If you imagine you will only need something for the duration of your holiday, you may also want to consider renting it instead of buying it outright. Better still, if you can do this once you get to your destination, it will save you from having to pack and transport it.

Five tips for travelling light

1 Check your camera for a crop mode

travelling light Check for a crop mode

If you plan on taking a full-frame camera, check to see whether it offers a cropped- shooting option. This can save you from packing an additional telephoto lens by increasing your effective focal length (at the expense of output size). Nikon DSLRs have a DX-format crop for example, while Sony models have an APS-C option.

2 Know your battery life

travelling light Know your battery life

Small cameras often mean small batteries, and these are typically not as powerful as those found inside larger models. Furthermore, most mirrorless cameras can’t match DSLRs for battery life, with constant reliance on autofocus and image stabilisation also having an effect here. Consider investing in an additional battery that you can keep in your kit bag at all times.

3 Check teleconverter compatibility

Travel photography tips - Teleconverters

If you require a longer focal length for your travels but don’t necessarily want the expense or inconvenience of buying an additional lens, check whether your existing lenses will work with a teleconverter. Aside from the cost saving, teleconverters will take up far less space in your camera bag and be less of a burden to carry.

4 Don’t pack your camera too deeply

Travel photography tips - Don't pack camera too deeply

Be aware that as you go through airport security, it’s likely you will be asked to remove your camera, so don’t pack it too deeply. You may even be asked to turn it on to show that it is indeed a functioning camera rather than anything more sinister, so make sure that your battery is charged and inserted before you pack, to avoid any hassle.

5 Consider a hard drive that doesn’t require a computer

travel photography tips - travelling light? Consider a hard drive that doesn't need a computer

If you would like to store and back up your images while you’re away but don’t want to lug a laptop around with you, a hard drive that can be operated without one might be a good solution. The WD My Passport Wireless Pro, for example, can copy up to 3TB of information from SD-type cards without the need for a separate computer.


  1. 1. Checklist
  2. 2. Essential accessories
  3. 3. On a budget
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