The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation

 

Attention Photographers: Here’s What to Pack Next Time You Travel

When you go on vacation, especially an international “holiday” as they say in Australia, you will want to pack light without major sacrifices. As a photographer, you probably want to get the best possible photos with the least amount of excess. On my recent trip to Queensland, Australia, sponsored by Tourism Queensland, I strategically chose certain photography equipment, as well as other technology so that I could take notes, blog and interact on social media.

photog pack list The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation
pin it4 The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation

With the benefit of hindsight, here’s the MCP Perfect Photographer Pack List.

Our pack list assumes you are going on a vacation, not on a professional photography assignment where you might need more extensive gear. Just bookmark this post and then modify the list as needed – we hope it gives you a great starting point:

1. Camera – You’ll need to decide if you want your dSLR or something more compact.

  • I don’t mind the extra weight of my dSLR so I traveled with my Canon 5D MKIII.  It also has two memory slots, which is a huge plus.
  • Here’s the question to ask yourself: “What camera will I actually carry around once I am at my destination?” If you know you’ll be frustrated with the weight of a heavier camera, bring a smaller point and shoot, or bring both for more options.

me 600x400 The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation
pin it4 The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation

2. Lenses – Assuming you bring your SLR, you’ll need to pick what lenses accompany you. It is hard to decide what lenses will be best, especially if you have never been somewhere before. Ideally, I recommend a lens or lenses that cover a wide range of focal lengths.

  • Tamron makes a few solid lenses that range from 18-270mm for crop sensor and 28-300 for full frame cameras. The potential downside of these is the aperture is a higher number, which means they are slower than primes and some zooms and not ideal for low light shooting. They provide flexibility which is great for travel and I’ve used them on many occasions.
  • On my Australia trip, I chose to cover a large focal range with two wide aperture zoom lenses so I had the choice of using the 2.8 aperture. Tamron sent me the new 24-70mm lens with vibration compensation (image stability). Here’s an image of the Great Barrier Reef using this lens – photographed from a GBR Helicopter.
GBReef 600x286 The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation
pin it4 The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation
  • Additionally, I brought my favorite Canon 70-200 2.8 II with IS. It’s large and heavy but is so amazing for telephoto shots. It helped me capture great closeups of Australia’s furry and not so furry animals. Check out this closeup of a crocodile.
closeup croc The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation
pin it4 The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation
  • I also brought the Canon 50 1.2. It stayed in the hotel during the day but I brought it to dinner to photograph food and people in low-light situations. Though I’d love to travel even lighter, this was a magical combination.
dinner The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation
pin it4 The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation
  • The only other lens I considered for this trip was the 100mm macro. When photographing flora and fauna in the rainforest, I would have loved my macro. After a careful weight-benefit analysis, I’d still leave it at home.

3. Camera batteries – Remember your camera batteries and bring an extra if possible. If your low-battery light comes on, you don’t want to miss out. Most larger cameras use lithium ion proprietary batteries that are not easy to locate when traveling.

4. Battery chargers – Always make sure you can charge your batteries. Remember to pack batteries in your carry-on. Some airlines do not permit batteries in checked luggage, though there is conflicting information on the web about this.

5. External flash and batteries – If you bring an SLR, especially if it does not have a built in flash, pack a small one to use as fill-flash in bright sun or as extra light in darker settings. I used my Canon Speedlite 270EX II Flash for Canon SLR Cameras multiple times during the week long trip.

6. Memory cards – memory is cheap these days. Make sure you have enough. This is usually not hard to find while traveling if you forget, but it’s likely going to cost you more for less.

  • I brought a SanDisk 32GB Compact Flash memory card and a SanDisk 16GB card. To give you an idea, I filled the first card and about 1/2 of the second card, shooting raw.  I took approximately 1,600 images.  If you shoot raw and have a similar resolution on your camera, this can help you judge what size you need.

7. Eye-fi card - The Eye-fi SD Card worked like magic. I used it to unload small jpg preview photos wirelessly to my iPad at the end of each day.

  • These work great if you have a point and shoot or an dSLR with a SD slot. Since I have two memory slots on my camera, I recorded RAW images to my SanDisk CF Card and low res images for immediate sharing to my Eye-fi SD card.
  • For this solution to work, you need a SD slot. Hopefully they will make Eye-fi cards for Compact Flash in the future. The other limitation is size as these cards go up to 8GB at the time of this article.

 

8. iPad (or tablet or small laptop) plus charger/cord – If you want to write about your travels, get work done, blog, or preview your photos at night, bring one or more of these. I personally travel solely with my iPad to keep the weight down.

 

9. A keyboard – If you bring a tablet or iPad, you may benefit from a small keyboard to get things done faster. I am in love with my logitech bluetooth case style keyboard. I used it to take notes in a blogging workshop, work on blog posts, and respond to some emails on the iPad with ease. The viewing angle of the iPad when inserted is ideal to view photos as well as watch movies on the plane.

 

10. iPhone or smart phone plus charger – An iPhone, or similar smart phone, makes it convenient to take quick snapshots, when your camera is tucked away for a short time or when you just want to travel light one day on your trip. I used mine a lot when it just did not make sense to use a big camera and lens. Here’s an iPhone image of a look out area in Port Douglas.

scene iphone 600x286 The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation
pin it4 The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation

  • I loved that I could press a few buttons and send the photo to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Plus on the latter two, I could tag #qldblog, so the other bloggers and the Tourism Queensland hosts could easily locate the images.

11. A camera bag – I have more camera bags than I care to admit. But when it came to this trip, I actually bought one at a local store so I could try it first. I wanted to take a rolling camera bag but Virgin Australia has a 15 pound limit, and my bag weighed 12 empty. For those wondering, yes, I witnessed them randomly weighing people’s carry-on bags.

  • I needed a lightweight, easy-to-carry bag that could fit: three lenses, a small flash, extra batteries, my Canon 5D MKIII, and a separate section for non-photography, long haul airplane flight needs. After searching, I chose the Tenba Backpack in a fun red color.
  • Once I filled the bag, it weighed 20 pounds, but I was never asked to weigh it. It didn’t “look” heavy since it looked like a regular backpack, not a camera bag. Score one for my amazing Facebook fans who warned me to find a bag that “appeared” light and care-free. Oh, and if they did weigh it, my plan was to move two lenses to my purse temporarily.

 

12. USB external battery pack - Unfortunately when traveling, you don’t always have access to an electrical outlet. A USB battery pack allows you to connect to a small battery pack which can charge your iPhone, laptop, tablet or iPad while on the go.

 

13. International needs - Remember plug adapters if you are traveling internationally. And consider an app like Skype, Text Free with Voice, or other communication tool that you can use while on a wi-fi network. You can use these to contact people so you do not incur high roaming charges. I also did some editing on my iPad, so I could share on social networks.  The top three apps I used were Instagram (ID: mcpactions), Snapseed, and Pic Collage.

The best news about packing is that if you forget something, many of these items will be available at your destination. While you probably will not want to pick up a new camera or lenses, you can definitely get memory cards, AA batteries, and even disposable cameras at most destinations.

 

Here’s a summary list without all the explanation.

(just copy, paste, pack and enjoy your travels!)

  1. Camera
  2. Lenses
  3. Camera Batteries
  4. Battery Chargers
  5. External Flash with Batteries
  6. Memory Cards (SD and/or CF)
  7. Eye-fi Card
  8. iPad, laptop or tablet with charger
  9. Keyboard
  10. iPhone with charger
  11. Camera bag
  12. USB external battery pack
  13. Plug adapters (for international travel) and maybe some iPhone/iPad/android apps to edit and communicate

Remember, this is a suggested list.  You may prefer to carry more or less, depending on your situation. All photos shown here were edited with MCP’s Fusion Photoshop Action Set. Now it’s your turn.  What do you bring on your vacations?

Coming up: Later this week I will be sharing some of my favorite photos from the trip and giving you a list of the types of photos to take to take while traveling to document your vacation.

 The Perfect Photographer Pack List For Your Next Vacation

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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19 Comments and 10 Replies



  1. 1

    This is a GREAT list! Tho I would caution anyone who invests in an Eye-Fi to make sure you buy it from someone with a good return policy, like Amazon. I found it to be nothing but a headache. I tried working with tech support, only to learn that my camera body (a Nikon D80) has some kind of metal piece near where the memory card goes that causes interference with the Eye-Fi. I ended up returning it and use the memory card reader that came with my iPad camera connection kit instead. It’s not instant, but it’s compact and a good way to review photos on a large screen while traveling.

    • Dawn, thank you for letting us know of your experience with the eye-fi card. I loved mine. I called and had them help me set it up, which did take some explaining. But from there, it was flawless and perfect.
      Jodi

  2. 2
    utahhostage says:

    This is an awesome reference for traveling! I’m bookmarking this post for my future trips. Thank you!

  3. 3
    Tricia Orr says:

    Awesome information for traveling!! I love it!

  4. 4
    Kelley says:

    Great info!! I am traveling to Alaska next month and am already trying to figure out what gear to take!! This was so helpful!

    • Kelley, When will you be in Alaska? I will be there toward the end of the month (July) on a cruise with my mom. Where are you going? My set up will be very similar to this. The only think I may also bring is an extender since 200mm is not that long on a full frame. But I have not decided yet.

      • JustKarin says:

        That is a very good idea – for travelling I always have a 2.0 extender with me and 3 macro rings instead of my 2.8 150mm macro I love so much.

        Question: does your 70-200 fit in that Tenba Vector bag you mentioned? And if so, on the body or seperate?
        Looks like a great bag, is it comfortable when you carry it around for a few hours?

        Thanks and enjoy your trips everyone!

  5. 5
    bobbie says:

    just got back from the grand tetons and packed pretty much what you suggested, including my 100 mm mac but didnt use it much..just for a few flowers

    i dont know what the eyfi is so have to look into that

    also i did bring my ipad ( the original one) but didnt know i could upload or view my photos on the ipad…so i am just uploading them to my computer now that i am home..can someone explain how you use ipad to see your photos…i have canon 7D and original ipad..is there a way?

    • David says:

      Hi Bobbie

      First up yes in answer to your question, your Canon 7D will support Eyefi (Wi-Fi) for cameras.

      Here’s how to do it for iPhone, should work for ipad too!

      Canon 7D & Eye-Fi Pro X2
      .
      It works!

      If you’re reading this, you probably have a Canon 7D and are interested in getting the Eye-Fi cards to work wirelessly, or are contemplating buying either the 7D or an Eye-Fi card.

      I bought the same cards he recommended from Amazon (Eye-Fi Card & CF Adapter). Together they were about $115 USD or £75 GBP.

      Here’s what I did:
      1.Download the Eye-Fi Center software(Windows version) from the Eye-Fi web site and install it.
      2.Follow the instructions provided by the folks who make the Eye-Fi cards and insert the USB Card Reader with the Eye-Fi card into my laptop USB port.
      3.Register an email account as per the onscreen instructions.
      4.Configure the SD card the way you desire; just follow the screens, you’ll figure it out.
      5.I wanted this to work with my iPhone, so I installed the Eye-Fi App for the iPhone. On my computer, I configured the SD card to work in ‘Direct mode’.
      6.Configure the iPhone to connect to the wireless network that the Eye-Fi card uses. (the SD card generates it’s own ad-hoc network; add this to your iPhone network list and connect)
      7.I have a link here just for the CF card reader for ipad http://gizmodo.com/5786061/heres-a-cf-card-reader-adapter-for-ipad-and-ipad-2

      8.Insert the SD into the CF adapter, then CF into my 7D.

      9.Once the 7D powers up, wait a minute, then ensure the iPhone can ‘see’ the Eye-Fi card wireless ad-hoc network; then connect.
      10.Take pictures, they get sent to the iPhone. Sweet!

      Performance:
      It takes about 10 seconds to transfer a large JPG file to my iPhone and about 30 seconds to transfer a RAW file. It attempts to transfer movies but after tranferring(you can watch the progress on the iPhone using the Eye-Fi App) it then says “receiveFailed”. I switched to H-speed mode, rattled off 20 quick shots. Doesn’t work. Camera gave a Err 02 warning and rebooted. The entire sequence of shots was just absent from the card.

      Notes:
      This ‘should’ work with the iPod Touch and the iPad.

      Make sure that you turn on the power on the camera first, wait a minute, then check the network settings so you can connect to the Eye-Fi network. If your camera goes into ‘sleep’ mode, the ad-hoc network will disconnect….you’ll have to wake up the cam and reconnect to start transferring files again.

  6. 6
    Christina G says:

    Great post/ideas! I never thought of some things you suggested!

  7. 7
    Michael says:

    Hello and thanks for a great list.
    I made one as well and they compliment each other perfectly as I do not cover cameras and lenses as much as gear and packing tricks. Check it out
    http://www.balifornian.com/blog/2012/2/10/the-best-tips-tricks-and-gear-for-travel-photographers.html
    I think I will add a link to your list as it covers more of the directly camera related stuff as mine covers everything aside from those items. Id love to hear your thoughts.
    Warm regards,
    Michael

  8. 8
    Ronda Palmer says:

    I would also like to know how you upload your photos to your ipad without your computer – that would be awesome!

  9. 9
    ciki says:

    wow babe.. that truly is one scary croc! You have a terrific eye and camera for the wild:) well done!

    Love the packing list – I think I need to invest in a DSLR asap, so I can improve the quality of my food shots.. asap:)

  10. 10
    Paul says:

    Whenever I travel, my backpack carries my old Canon 50D, its 24-70 f/2.8, a 70-200 f/2.8, a Speedlite 580EX II, 2 batteries & charger, one laptop, and an assortment of trinkets. The total weight of my backpack is between 20 & 22 lbs. Too heavy. I’m looking for ways to reduce.

    • Dave says:

      @Paul

      Here’s a few ways to lighten your load when traveling:
      1. Trade the 24-70 for a 24-105 as a walk around lens. The 240-105 is my go to anytime, anywhere lens.
      2. Trade the 580 for a 270-size flash. You won’t have the range, but you’ll have a smaller form-factor to work with.
      3. trade the 70-200/2.8 for a 70-200/4. Much lighter and the IQ is excellent. You’re not losing a lot between the f/2.8 and the f/4. If necessary, crank up the ISO another click.
      4. Do you need both batteries? I have a battery that lasts for over 3000 shots. I’ve never had to go to the backup. (1D Mk III…I don’t
      know how the 50D battery life is.)

      Those would be my lighten-up suggestions…of course I’m already starting with a 1D body so I know that I’m not trimming any weight.

  11. 11
    ciki says:

    Great post babe! That Croc shot is awesome! Will need to invest in a DSLR like yours to improve my food photography:)

  12. 12
    Bob says:

    Nature Destinations …
    1. ThinkTank Airport Airstream – fits under the seat or overhead bin of any regional airline. Quality made with locking security for equipment and laptop.
    2. Nikon D300 with grip
    3. 3 Nikkor lenses
    4. 1 Speedlight with Gary Fong collapsible Lightsphere and domes
    5. 1 Polarizer
    6. San Disk Extreme 16GB & 32GB Compact Flash Cards (for shotting in RAW format).
    7. Spare batteries with chargers (pack in luggage)
    City Destinations …
    Nikon V1 system

  13. 13
    Bob says:

    I would add to my list 2 teleconverters for the FX lenses.

    Everything on the list fits nicely into the ThinkTank bag.

  14. 14
    Cecil says:

    It might sound funny but to me here in South Africa I always pack a new rubbish bin liner into my camera bag as a sudden Thunderstorm might just ruin my day and maybe my camera. The moment I detect the rain starting everything goes into the plastic bag. No matter how waterproof your camera bag is water will always get in. Just remember to air it as soon as you can to prevent humidity getting the better of your equipment. The plastic bag does not take up any significant space when it is folded properly.

  15. 15
    Ann Cameron says:

    Hi Jodi,

    We are off to South Africa in 1.5 weeks time and it was interesting to read your list. I was planning on taking my Canon 18-200 3.5 lens, my Canon 100-400 L series (I have the 70-200 but bought the 100-400 a couple of years ago with another African trip in mind) and the 50 mm 1.4. I was pleased to see that my choice basically matches yours. Thank you so much.

    Ann

  16. 16

    Jodi,
    I just bought my 1st higher end camera. I purchased the 5D Mark II. I have been interested in photography for about a year now,… the lens I purchased was the Tamron that you carried with you on this trip. I went with that because of the great reviews for video. I also do some video production. I wanted to get your feedback on that lens? What did you think about it? I am now saving for that Cannon 70 – 200 2.8!!!! I have tried that lens and I love it!

    :) Thanks!

  17. 17

    Great post! I am also putting my bag together for my trip to the Olympics! I was planning to carry my shootsac bag, but seeing your post makes me want to purchase the Tenba Daypack. I think it would be perfect for me to carry around the Olympic events and London in general. Funny I too have tons of camera bags! I keep buying more…*sigh* I hope this daypack fits my gear Nikon D3S, 70-200mm, 24-70mm, 85mm, teleconverter, flash and laptop. I better bring tons of memory cards. Gotta motivate and start getting ready for my trip. Thanks again for the post! BTW, nice croc shot!

  18. 18

    Hi Jodi, Thanks for the tip about the weight. I am traveling to Australia in a couple days with similar gear, plus laptop, as I’ll be doing a bit of work while away. My carry-on camera bag weighs 14 lbs, and I still need to pack a spare set of clothes and toothbrush in it in case of lost luggage. The 5D is in my “purse”. Might have to throw a lens in there too.

    So a smaller purse-type bag is allowed? That was my concern.

  19. 19
    leanne says:

    Great list! Handy to have. I really like the fun colored backpack too!



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