There’s two main reasons NOT to use the brand-new camera strap that’s supplied with your new camera or lens case.
Reason 1: The first is that shouts out ‘Steal me’.
Reason 2: By leaving it in the box it adds value to your gear when you want to sell it.
Based experience of traveling with photographic equipment and also my belief that ‘bad guys’ lurk around many corner’s; your expensive camera bag and its contents need to be looked after at all times. I’ve seen people eying up my camera gear whilst in different countries and it must be remembered that the value you put on gear can vastly different to some people who are not so well off as us westerners. From my experience I’ve set about compiling a list of ‘do & don’ts’ to consider when taking your photo gear on a trip. In no particular order take a look at these 20 suggestions.
1) Advertising your camera gear
Given that many cameras companies like to advertise their name (normally in very bright colours) on their camera straps, it follows the ‘bad guys’ spot you a mile off. I think it’s best not to use the given strap for that reason. You could of course turn it inside out but that’s just silly. If you leave it in the box it could add value to and reselling later. Avoid at all costs the kind that when used shows the name around the back of your neck; if that’s not an invitation I don’t know what is. The best way is to buy an ‘off the peg’ strap or treat your self to a hand made ‘jobbie’. Consider also turning your camera inwards so the big lettering seen normally on the front, is facing inwards
2) A wrist strap
I’ve used a fabric wrist strap on my mirrorless cameras for a long time and it may be worth considering one over a neck strap? If the camera is not too heavy, this is an ideal way to carry your camera and it only make it obvious when shooting. (tip: don’t use a leather type as it sticks to your skin and will soon be discarded). It’s best to keep it on at all times as ‘bad guy’ can bump into your forcing you to drop it.
3) Do you really need all of your gear
Many photographers also become collectors over the years and subsequently convince themselves that they are sure to need all the contents of their camera bag when travelling. Empty the contents of bag onto the table and ask yourself, do I really need all these lenses?. Very often a good quality zoom lens will cut out the need for 3 lenses (check out Fuji XF range for instance). Are you sure you need that bounce flash or all those filters and most of all, can you travel with (wait for it) only one camera and lens. I’ve got mine down to a Fuji XE-2 with an 23mm lens; a lens that will produce large prints easily.
4) Buying new gear for your trip?
If are planning to buy a new camera / lens for you trip then you really should consider mirrorless. The difference in weight alone is a real bonus. Unless you are a pro with a need for ‘50 squillion’ mega pics then you may be surprised to know 16x12” prints can be made easily from a smaller format camera. If you know beforehand that a lot of you subjects will be in low light then pay more attention to the lens aperture (i.e. f2, f1.8 or similar) as this will help reduce the need for a high ISO.
5) I’ve got a new camera bag!!! look at me
Consider a bag with no name plastered all over the outside. If for instance you see a ‘Billingham’ bag, the chances are that inside could be a Leica plus expensive lenses or at least something similar. You may as well walk around with big arrow above your head saying, “look what l’ve got”. If you must advertise then remember to adjust the strap length to allow it to be worn over your neck and across your shoulder with the bag opening facing inwards. (very light fingers on trains, it’s happened to me in Paris)
6) Water proof bags or covers?
No need really, just carry a large think plastic bag in the bottom of the camera bag (maybe without air holes). However with many cameras now water resistant maybe less of an issue? What happens in a sudden summers storm, are you still ok?
7) Table top tripods
Planning on lots of selfies?, then why not grab hold of one of those bendy small things that have a ton of joints. These have almost no weight at all and could be useful in a range of low light situations.
8) Batteries & Cards
They have become cheaper now so it’s a no brainier; take at least two of each. If you can afford it, take enough cards to allow you to change them every other day and leave the used ones in your place of residence. Don’t think you need to fill up your cards; if you lose them from your camera bag there may be no way of retrieving all your hard work. The camera manufacturer will advise as to the most suitable for your camera. When you think you have enough, take more.
9) Battery Chargers
Again, with space and weight in mind, it may be better to purchase the type that does not require a lead; you’ll only buy it once and it most likely will come with a range of ‘click on’ plug fittings covering most countries.
10) Permission to take photographs
While this may have religious connotations, for the most part it means no flash. Simply turn it off before you entry a building, church or where ever. If you like taking street photography remember to ask your subject first and certainly don’t just snap and walk away. Be prepared also to show your image on the camera screen to your subjects afterwards. This may also influence your new camera choice in that a ‘flippy out’ screen could be useful when you want to be less obvious where photography is limited; remember to ‘shoot from the hip’ or looking down at your waist.
11) Remember, it’s not film, it’s digital
No more being restricted to 24 or 36 exposures and saying, ‘how many have you got left?”. If you are using the jpeg format only then it would be useful to set your camera to ‘bracketing’ i.e. taking a range of photos at different exposures all at the same time. This is because of any possible limits on time that you have to decide on the exposure value remembering that you always delete the unwanted pics after dinner on the same day. If, on the other hand, you are using the raw format you’ll know that you have lots more control when editing later.
12) Insure your gear?
This calls for some research. If your gear is worth thousands then you may need to go to a specialist insurer. But it’s worth looking into the details of your travel insurance as very often your individual personal items area covered. Take a look also at your home insurance policy as this may offer cover. Look also at the airlines policy as this may bring up one or two issues to be considered. Remember that the memory cards are not covered nor their contents so if possible, email the images to yourself as you as and when.
13) Cleaning gear
Remember a set of lens cleaning swabs, cottons buds and cloths. If however, you are using just one lens then your sensor should remain clear whilst you are away.
14) ‘Carry-on’ luggage or 'hand luggage as we say in the UK
No this is not a reference to the early British comedy films instead we are talking plane luggage. Only put your camera gear in the planes hold if you have no other choice; the risk of damage and or theft it too great. With a small bag placed under your seat, you are good to go.
15) Keep your bag in sight i.e. under the seat in front
Again don’t put your camera bag in an overhead locker which is out of sight instead keep your SMALL camera bag under the seat in front of you during take-off and landing. Another reason to travel light.
16) Be mindful of muggers
From experience I can quote two examples of lucky escapes. Whilst in Cuba I was greeted by two well-dressed locals who wanted to lead me to the local areas of town. They looked very surprised when I ended the conversation early only to discover their plan after. The trick was to offer local advice even if not requested and then demand money for their service; I don’t like to think how that could have ended. The second example was on the metro in Paris. Three or four very young children started to sing to me whilst another helped themselves to my camera bag contents however, my sharp eye kept me safe. It’s best to be aware of your surrounding at all times sadly and to be mindful of those who do not share your interests in photography (remember, this applies to taking pictures using your phone as well).
17) Record the numbers of your camera
Take a copy of the serial numbers on all of your gear and also take a picture of your camera gear etc. Given the high cost of camera gear it is also a good idea to carry the original sales receipts with you, why? in order to prove that you did not purchase any of your gear whilst on your trip. This may also be wise given that some authorities could charge you import taxes if they believe you made the purchase abroad. Check out any travel alterations since leaving the EU.
18) Bags in overhead lockers.. be very careful of clumsy people
Again don’t put your camera bag in an overhead locker which is out of sight instead keep your SMALL camera bag under the seat in front of you during take-off and landing. If you have more than one bag, strap them together. Someone took my suitcase once on a train from London to Newcastle thinking it was the same as theirs; luckily they left it a ticket office half way.
19) Be aware of your surroundings
It’s so easy to get raped up in the local atmosphere and environment causing you drop your guard. Don’t dither when taking your shots instead take control of the situation by giving off a sense of authority. If you are travelling between locations say by coach, then put you camera back in the bag; very important if using trains.
20). Back up your photos
Check a cloud based storage facility such Goggle Drive.
But above all...
Take plenty of pictures remembering that you may not have the chance to visit that location/s again. Nothing is worse than getting home and being disappointed with the angle of your shot or exposure or seeing an out of focus image... but above all, enjoy the trip.
Thanks for reading
Terence Jones ARPS
A photography enthusiast with a long and varied interest in taking pictures.
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