When you're packing your bags ready for your two week break and you suddenly look around at all your kit, it can be difficult to decide what's important and what's not. Your camera's an obvious answer but what lens should you take? Will a tripod fit in your case? And how many accessories do you really need? Well here's our quick guide to make the decisions a little easier.
Photo by David Clapp
- Be sensible – unless you're going on a photographic holiday you won't need every single piece of kit you own.
- Pack wisely – spare weight is something everyone's always short of when they head off on holiday.
- Be safe – keep your camera gear locked away when you're in your hotel room and keep your camera bag with you at all times when you're out. Make sure your travel insurance covers your camera gear too.
As you need something to carry your passports, reading book and other bits and pieces you need for your journey, you might as well take a bag that'll fit all of these and some or even all of your camera gear too. Rolling bags can be carried on as hand luggage and can carry several lenses as well as a laptop and accessories. However, this may be a little over the top for a photographer travelling to Spain for an all inclusive holiday with their family so consider taking a rucksack instead.
Do remember you're restricted on size so don't take a bag that's too big as you won't get it in the cabin. Consider taking two bags too – one for transporting and the other for everyday use when you arrive at your destination.
If you're a compact user put your camera in a pouch to protect it that's still small enough to slip into a larger bag with your food, water and whatever else you've taken out for the day.
Messenger bags can be easier to access but if you're heading out for a full day's shooting, you may not want the weight of the bag hanging from just one shoulder. A rucksack will be more comfortable, distributing the weight across your bag. Whichever style of bag you prefer, you'll want a day bag that doesn't shout to everyone that you're a tourist or photographer carrying lots of expensive equipment.
It may seem obvious but the reason we are listing it is to remind you to check it's actually working before you set foot on the plane. Both compact and DSLR users should take a few test shots with their kit just to double-check all is OK.
While you're making sure your camera works do check your lenses at the same time. Check for dust spots as even though you can clone them out, the process will soon get annoying when you've reached your 50th holiday photo.
If you don't want to take a DSLR with you due to its size consider purchasing an advanced compact or even a 'tough' compact that can be used underwater and will survive the odd bump or two. Your Smart Phone is also a convenient tool for taking images with so remember to pack it along with its charger. You'll also need plug adapters for some countries so check before you travel.
You're restricted on how much weight you can take on the plane so don't pack too many lenses and make sure they're not too heavy. You also have to consider what you'll be doing on your holiday; if you're off to walk around the pyramids, for example, do you really want to be carrying heavy equipment around with you all day? What you're photographing will dictate what lens(es) you need. Are you photographing buildings? Doing some macro work? Or is it just about snapping shots of people?
A zoom lens is probably your best bet when going on holiday as you'll have a wide variety of focal lengths to play with in one lens. A zoom will also take up less space, aren't as heavy as several prime lenses and are usually reasonably priced.
If you're going to be taking photos in or of places that don't allow flash a fast lens would be a big help. They're also useful in low light situations such as night shots or inside churches and cathedrals.
If you're planning on visiting busy locations such as markets you'll find a monopod's the perfect support. For more serene landscape work or situations where light's a little on the low side, the stability a tripod offers will be more important. A tripod designed for travel that's compact and light is worth considering.
If you're packing a tripod make sure you pack a spare plate just in case you lose one and don't overlook taking a small support for your smart phone to ensure those quick snaps are still sharp. Various supports are available for iPhones and Android devices which allows photographers to attach a tripod or light to their phones.
Always carry spare batteries and if you're using rechargeable or solid state batteries, make sure the charger is packed. You may also need a travel adapter, if not staying in the UK, to charge / power your equipment.
You can save on room by taking one large memory card or if you don't like the idea of putting all of your trust in one card, pack several smaller ones. Whichever method you choose, make sure you have plenty of memory as you'll be annoyed if you run out of space. We've recently tested the latest SDHC / SDXC, MicroSD and Sony memory cards to find out which are the quickest. Find out the results here: Top 10 Best SD MicroSD Memory Cards. If your camera is compatible, consider using an Eye-Fi card which is an SD card that has Wi-Fi built in, enabling you to back up your photos as you shoot them to a destination of your choice, such as a laptop or tablet.
Sand, salt from the sea and sun cream aren't your camera's friends. Make sure you have a lens cloth to wipe any grease off the lens before you take your shots otherwise they'll be blurry and have a blower to hand to remove any dust or grains of sand.
If you're taking a DSLR pack a polariser as it will cut down glare. An ND filter could be handy if you're planning on playing with slower shutter speeds but it's not an essential item.
DSLR users may want to take a flash gun as it gives you more control over the direction and intensity of the flash. However, it is extra weight you don't necessarily need so save this item until last and if you have the spare room/weight pack it.
These take up little room in a bag, especially if they fold up, are lightweight and are a really handy accessory to have so make room for a small one if you can.
If you plan on reviewing images while you're away, want to upload them to share with family back home or write a blog, you'll need a device to do this on and tablets are a great way to keep weight to a minimum in your hand luggage but still provide all the tools you need to be able to get online, access documents, software etc. Check what apps you have installed and if there's anything missing you think you'll need, install them before you travel.
Finally, check that your household insurance covers your camera for accidental damage or theft if you're using it away from home. You can purchase specialist camera insurance and some travel insurance policies do cover camera kit.