1. Pack light
When you're traveling, you usually spend most of your days walking from morning to night to see as much as possible. The last thing you want is to bring a massive photography kit that will add more weight to yourself that you need lug around all day. I like to keep it simple when I'm traveling and try to bring the bare minimum with me.
My favourite camera kit to bring with me when I'm traveling is:
- Canon 5Dmkiii
- 35mm f1.4 lens
- Spare camera battery
- Spare memory card
I would very rarely bring a second lens with me as this minimal kit is already pretty heavy for me to carry around all day! But if I have a car with me, sometimes I like to bring my 50mm lens to get a few shots with a different focal length.
I choose the 35mm lens as my favourite to travel with as it's such a good all-rounder lens. It's wide angle so it's great for getting beautiful shots of landscapes and cityscapes. It also a great portrait lens for photos of you and your friends as well as documentary street photography. It's also the lightest prime lens I own, so bonus points for that!
2. Carry your camera with you everywhere
I like to walk around with my camera on my neck and turned on. Sometimes the most interesting things happen around you unexpectedly and disappear after a few moments. A flock of birds flying past, an interesting person walks by you, sights you see while on public transport or traveling by car. I find it so important to constantly have my camera at the ready to shoot whatever I see as it happens.
3. Bring a bag
Going back on my last point, sometimes you need to put your camera away. Maybe towards the end of the day or at night, when you're traveling back home on public transport and you don't want to put a target on yourself carrying around expensive equipment for everyone to see. Even when you're just eating lunch and you need both hands, its handy to be able to put away your gear. I always bring with me a backpack or a big enough handbag that I can quickly put away my camera when I feel the need to.
Another little tip depending how mindful you are of your camera, is to pick a bag that doesn't look like a camera bag. This could be more useful if you are traveling to an unsafe country - look inconspicuous!
4. Wake up early
When visiting popular locations, I find it's so much better to wake up as early as possible and get to your destination before the tourists start pouring in. This gives you a chance to see some beautiful landmarks in gorgeous morning light, capture photos without mass amounts of people in your shot and in general it just feels magical to be somewhere that's supposed to be packed full of people when it's empty.
There have been a few instances where heading off somewhere really early has come in handy. One morning my friends and I woke up at sunrise and headed straight to Central Park in New York City. We went picture crazy as it felt like we had the park to ourselves and light was soft and magical. Later in the day we were walking back through Central Park and there were people everywhere. It was safe to say that the photos I took that morning were some of my favourite of the park compared to the shots I took during the rest of visits to Central Park. Again, when we were visiting the Empire State Building, we arrived just as it opened so we were able to go up to the top without waiting in line at all and didn't have to wait to get a great view as there weren't many people at the top. When we finished and were heading back down, there was already over an hour of wait time to get to the top.
5. Camera settings
I've spoken about the importance of shooting in raw in the past, but I could apply it even more when you're traveling and shooting on the fly. When you're traveling, you often don't have the chance to take the same photo twice. Shooting raw could save a photo that was accidentally over or underexposed. If you find it too time consuming to shoot in manual mode, you can also shoot with shutter or aperture priority.
6. Keep your files organised
As tired as I am when I get back from a day of adventuring and exploring, before I go to sleep I like to download all the photos I took that day in a folder named with the date and the location we went to and put my camera batteries on charge. It can be difficult to stay on top of this, the longer you travel, the more tired you are. But trust me you will be thanking yourself when you get home if you can roughly stick to this schedule! Instead of coming home to a giant pile of mixed up photos, you already have everything sorted by date and name which will make going through all your photos when you're home so much easier!
Another thing to keep in mind if you're downloading photos on the road and re-shooting on cards is backing up your files. I know they're not client photos, but your holiday photos are just as important in my opinion! If you can purchase a small, cheap hard drive somewhere at home to take with you, back up your photos whenever you have some extra downtime at your hotel or apartment.
7. Take candid photos
While it's great to have posed photos in front of landmarks, don't forget to get candid photos too! I love candid photos as they remind me more of the atmosphere of the day rather than just showing me where I was. So snap away at your friends walking around, take pictures of interesting characters you see on the streets and keep it natural!
8. Get photos of yourself!
Being a photographer taking all the pictures, you usually miss out on being in them! If you're traveling by yourself it could be a good idea to bring a lightweight tripod that you can set up and shoot on self timer if there aren't many people around (you wouldn't want to set up a tripod in a busy area in case someone knocks into it and drops your camera to the ground). If you are daring enough, you could ask someone who looks trustworthy to take some photos of you too!
If you are traveling with friends or a partner or family, I like to set up my camera settings (usually by getting a photo of said friend or family member in the spot I want a photo - then you both have a nice photo there yay!) then handing the camera to them with all the settings set and ask them to take a few photos of me. When I do this I get a few posed photos then walk around a little to get some more candid looking photos. This can feel a little strange sometimes but if you can just act silly in front of your friends and laugh it off it's worth it to get some nice photos of yourself.
Sometimes this system doesn't work out amazingly. With a lens that shoots with a shallow depth of field and handing a foreign camera to someone who hasn't really used it before sometimes you can end up with blurry photos of yourself, but in the end run those photos can be cool too!
The first thing that I love to do when I get to a new city is get out there and walk. You ground yourself, start understanding where everything is a little more and it really sinks in that you are somewhere new, very very far away from home or anything you know. Some of my best photos happen when I wander around a city without a destination in mind. I find when I wander, I spend more time taking in the details and taking my time when shooting pictures. On the other hand, when I'm on my way to a particular destination, I can often forget to stop and walk down a random street or notice the little things. It's important to take your time! Something I need to remind myself sometimes too.
10. Share your story
We've all seen countless photos of the Eiffel Tower and the view of the Empire State Building from up high. When you're traveling it's important to get these photos, but also remember to shoot the things in between - the moments that made your trip your own. Take pictures of your friends, the food you ate, a door your found interesting, encounters with strangers. Take pictures of the things that speak to you and that mean something to you.
I wanted to leave you all with one last thing. This isn't a tip, more something I'd like to mention. Don't forget to leave your camera at home sometimes. While I want to absorb everything I can with my camera, sometimes it's important to let it go, leave it at home. Explore and see everything you can with your eyes instead of through the viewfinder. Get out there and create stories! j x