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How To: Pack your Camera Bag

by March 2011 - last edited February 2013 by Community Manager

A comprehensive kit is about more than just having a camera and lenses. For successful travel photography you'll need to supplement your camera gear with some other equipment. The secret though is to pack as small and effectively as possible. You don't want to take too much, but neither do you want to find out on top of a mountain that you have left something vital behind.

 

Camera Bag

 If you're serious about travel photography and have a DSLR with a number of lenses, you'll need some sort of camera bag to lug all that stuff around with you. Camera bags are a trade-off between portability and access. If you have a lot of gear then a backpack-style camera bag is great for carrying lots of equipment.

 

A shoulder style bag is great for walking around taking pictures, as you can easily access stuff. I use a combination of both: a backpack for transporting and trekking and a small shoulder style bag for day-to-day use.

 

Cards and card case

 Camera memory has never been so cheap. Make sure you have plenty of cards and you won't have to skimp on those memories. It’s also worth having a decent card case to organise all of the cards, so you know which have been used and which haven't.

 

 

Camera memory cards and case by Steve Davey

Camera memory cards and case

 

Backup drive

Digital photographs are inherently ephemeral: they can be easily deleted, corrupted and lost forever. However, they can also be easily copied, so it’s easy to make a back-up. I always carry a laptop and external hard disk, and make three copies before I erase and re-use a memory card. If you don't want to go to this level, I’d still recommend a stand-alone backup drive and enough memory cards that you don't have to reuse them so you will have two copies.

 

Camera memory backup drive by Steve Davey

Camera memory backup drive

 

The Hyperdrive Colorspace UDMA has a screen and can copy cards direct without use of a computer. It also has an adaptor which will take AA batteries, as well as a rechargeable battery.

 

Remote release

 If you’re going to shoot with a tripod, you’ll need some sort of remote release to avoid touching directly and causing the camera to shake. Many cameras have a bundled remote release, but if not you can pick up a secondhand wireless remote for around £15. Mine works over 30 metres and has a bulb facility for unlimited exposures.

 

Remote control shutter release by Steve Davey

Remote control shutter release

 

Spirit level

If you’re going to shoot panoramas using a tripod, you need to make sure that the camera is totally level, otherwise the images won't line up. A good way is to use a mini spirit level, which will sit on the camera's hot shoe (where a mountable flash would be attached).

 

 

Mini spirit level by Steve Davey

Mini spirit level

 

Polarising filter

 You should have a UV filter on every lens to reduce UV haze, and also to protect the lens. It’s also worth having a polarising filter. Under certain conditions these can reduce reflections, cut out haze and also make washed out blue skies more intense.

 

 

Polarising filter by Steve Davey

Polarising filter

 

The Hama Circular Polarising filter is a cheap and cheerful option: the 77mm filter can be picked up for around £30.

 

Camera cleaning

 A blower is useful to clean the camera and lenses, including blowing on the sensor to remove dust. Never use compressed air inside the camera, and never touch the sensor with a blower brush.

 

The Visible Dust Hurricane Blower is recommended and can be bought for around £10.

 

Blower, sensor brush and cloth by Steve Davey

Blower, sensor brush and cloth

 

If your camera doesn't have a sensor cleaning function, consider one of the Visible Dust sensor brushes. These will statically charge and lift dust from the sensor, but use with great care!

Visible Dust Artic Butterfly SL700 costs about £50. The SD 800 Professional Kit for full frame cameras is around £100

Washable micropore cloths are great for cleaning lenses and are available everywhere for around £5.

 

Universal adapter

Universal adapter with USB port by Steve Davey

Universal adapter with USB port

 

A good electrical adapter will allow you to charge equipment everywhere, and also if it has a fuse, will protect against electrical surges.

A Swiss World Travel Mains Adapter withUSB port is extra handy for charging ipods etc. and can be bought for around £10-15.

As a professional photographer, I carry a bunch of other things: a reflector for lightening shadows by reflecting light when shooting portraits, a GPS tagger so I have the precise location embedded into pictures to help with captioning, a ring-flash adaptor to get even light when using a flash and even a calibration target to calibrate my cameras on the road. There does seem to be no limit to what you can sell a photographer - carrying it all is their issue.

If you live near, or travel to London, then join Steve on one of his exclusive London photography courses. More information on http://www.bettertravelphotography.com/courses.


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TonyOsborne March 2011
What's the point of a blog on this subject when this airline has such a low cabin baggage allowance that camera gear cannot be guaranteed safe travel. I think I was just lucky that my camera bag wasn't weighed because some of my camera gear and lenses would have gone in the hold and might have been the last time I saw it either intact or indeed at all.
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March 2011
Tony,

As a pro photographer I do share the worries over carry on. All of the things on this list though (except the backup drive) are accessories that I safely chuck in my hold baggage. The Virgin economy limit is 6kg plus a small camera. More than that, it is possible to put a lens or two in a deep pocket.

Cheers,

Steve

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