Vacation Photo Tip #2: take along only what you need

Happy woman tourist with green scarf during flight in plane to her vacation

In the first photo tip of this open ended series about vacation photography we looked a bit into some more social aspects of traveling in the company of non-photographers such as spouses, kids, and friends. We came to the conclusion that it might a bright idea to think of ways to make compatible their vision of the vacation (relaxation, pool, drinks) and yours (taking world class, shocking, and breathtaking pictures to punish all the others with slideshows back home when the days get shorter).

This time let’s look into a technical and organizational matter. This might on the surface be the most trivial of all tips, but be assured it is also the most important one:

Vacation picture tip #2: consider what equipment you will need and leave home all the rest

Man is an animal that is, when not drunk or intoxicated, gifted with the ability to imagine multiple possible futures in scenarios of things that may or may not happen. Thus we are able to plan for the future we want, model it, create it in a structured and organized way. Unless we are photographers of course, especially if we already went through the very dangerous phase of the Gear Acquisition Syndrome (also known to affect musicians btw). Because in that case we tend to take along every last bit of equipment we own to our vacation, and it might be a lot. I saw a good friend travelling to Norway last winter capturing some northern lights with two FF-DSLR cameras, seven lenses, two tripods, and a bean sack. Just in case. Better safe than sorry. Their means of transport was dog sleds.

Deep down we know that such an approach is deeply flawed. When we wander along beaches, climb mountains, throw ourselves out of planes, dive for sea turtles and reef sharks, or, well, ride on dog sleds, we need some stuff that we can take along. Because if we cannot we will not. No equipment, no pictures. The best camera is always the one we have in the moment.

The old Greeks had it right already

The problem with the approach to take along only strictly what we will need and keep the equipment light weight and transportable seems to be that we do not know what we will find in our vacation. We may need that UV filter. We may find some use for that second tripod with the ball head. But that is not true. In reality, what we really need to do is think about the way we take pictures. This style will not suddenly change just because we are on vacation. We will still be ourselves, we will take our personality along with us. Or, as it was already inscribed on the gates to the Oracle of Delphi: Know thyself.

For me personally all I need is a camera, a 35mm and 85mm lens, both with a polarizing filter, and a portable flash. I shoot people and rarely architecture or landscapes. Others might want to change the flash for a tripod. For many people a zoom lens will be what they need. And a lot of people would be well served with a light weight but water proof prosumer compact camera.

Some more ideas

Here are some more things you might want to think of:

  • Some people say that the era of the DLSR is over and small, mirrorless cameras can do all the jobs (with the exception of high velocity sports at the moment). I am one of those people. Consider trading in your big and bulky DSLR for a slim new model.
  • Simplify your equipment as much as you can, but not further. Some things you will need. For me a polarizing filter is essential and it is next to impossible to imitate its effect afterwards in raw processing or retouching.
  • Do really watch your own habits. If you never use that 135mm lens in your everyday photography, then chances are that you will not use it in your vacation either. Do not take that thing too far though: a holiday is also a great time to experiment. But most of the time such experiments will not concern hardware but style – there will be a tip on that later.
  • Flying is difficult beast. I prefer to make sure I have all my photo equipment in cabin luggage as the airline handling of suitcases and such can be rough.
  • Remember that the main focus of this tip is not on being light weight per se but on transportability. A good bag might be your best friend. Choose very wisely and rather spend a bit more money here but on yet another lens you will never use.

For further reading here are two articles that I found helpful on the matter:


Do you have a different view on the matter? Or another idea how equipment can become more portable? Let us know in the comment section below!


Happy woman tourist with green scarf during flight in plane to her vacation

The title stock image can be licensed royalty free use at Fotolia: woman tourist traveling in plane to her vacation almost bursting from anticipation


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