As a location photographer, every photo shoot is an adventure that has its own unique challenges. I had the opportunity recently to travel, for a client, to Dallas for a portrait photo shoot.
Having traveled quite a bit for photography over the years, I realized long ago that one of the greatest challenges in traveling for a photo shoot is having to transport a lot of gear and equipment. If you are anything like me, you want to have every piece of equipment you own with you at all times. If anything unexpected comes up you want to be prepared. However when traveling, this is simply not practical.
Once you get over the emotional part of leaving some gear behind while you travel, you will be able to navigate the airport terminals like a pro. As we all know, photography equipment can be cumbersome and heavy. It can also cause delays and be very time consuming as you navigate through security, across catwalks and in and out of vehicles. After years of traveling for photo shoots, I have learned a few tricks and have streamlined the process to make traversing airports as efficient as possible.
The best piece of advice I can give you is to read the airline baggage guidelines and pack as much gear as you can bring. Cargo check what won’t break from being thrown around, equipment such as light stands, tripods, heavy duty cases, etc. Anything breakable, which would delay the photo shoot if damaged or lost, should stay as close to you as possible. Cameras, lenses, laptop, hard drives, etc. should stay with you at all times. Be sure to secure the fragile gear in a nice travel pack, with or without wheels, like the Airport Security from Think Tank.
If airline baggage costs are too high, don’t be afraid to rent equipment from a camera shop in your destination city, if one is available. You should check to see that your destination city has a camera shop that rents gear. Make sure they have everything you want to rent and reserve it well ahead of arriving. As a bonus to renting gear you will likely get to play around and test drive some new equipment. Most major cities will have camera shops geared for professional photographers with extensive rental departments. As a resource you can check the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) website for reputable photography rental shops in the town you are visiting. Again, be sure to call ahead and reserve the equipment you will need.
I always tether my camera to the computer for portrait and product photo shoots. I find this invaluable for myself and my clients. When I travel, I typically use the Manfrotto 131DDB accessory arm and the Tether Table Aero. Both are very light, store easily and make traveling a snap. One thing I really like about using the accessory arm is that I can connect my computer and camera on the same tripod. This is one less stand to transport or rent. Here is the setup for my Dallas shoot.
As a professional photographer, I find traveling to be one of the greatest perks of the business. The opportunity to see places I have never been, meet interesting people and experience unique adventures (some good, some not so good) is extremely rewarding. Make your traveling as enjoyable as possible and don’t let your gear slow you down. Pack smart, bring only what you need and let the adventures take you away. Happy traveling.
Mark Lipczynski is an optimistic photographer living at large in Phoenix, Arizona since 2005. His vision is to better the lives of others near and far by lending his talents and developing relationships with people who wish to do good.