Monday, June 25, 2018

The travel photographer's checklist: 14 items to check-off before you leave

Philadelphia, PA Skyline looking southwest - Copyright © 2017 NSL Photography. All Rights Reserved.Before leaving on a trip, photographers need to prepare themselves and their gear so they'll be ready to shoot upon arrival and get quality images.

There is much that can go wrong that might end one's chance to take advantage of a great travel photo opportunity. It's impossible to predict everything, but research and a flexible plan to handle many if not most emergencies and gear failures can help you overcome problems.

I start to plan my journeys a month out, but my planning gets intense the week before I leave and with 24 hours to go. When planning is well thought out, pulling everything together before you leave should go smoothly.

Here are my 16 items to check-off before you leave on your travel photography journey.

1. Create a list of what you must pack:This may be obvious, but many people don't bother. Unfortunately, to often they leave something essential at home. I start my list a month before any major trip, or as soon as plans begin to be developed for it. I review the list regularly and amend it as I think of new circumstances, opportunities and complete more research.

Your list must include more than just photo gear. Ancillary gear is important too. Memory card readers, batteries, chargers, sensor cleaning kits, etc., must be included on your list. You'll need repair tools and supplies. Add tweezers, crazy glue, jewelry screwdrivers, pliers and duct tape to your list.

I organize my list by type of gear to make it harder to forget something. I start with prior lists and build from there.

2. If you need to rent or borrow something, reserve it sooner than later:There are times when I want to bring a lens or other gear to a photo shoot that I don't own. If you need a piece of expensive gear you can't justify purchasing, borrow or rent it. Get your reservation in as early as possible. Rental companies don't have lots of stock of expensive, seldom used gear.

3. Update and backup your computer. Don't forget to include its accessories in your list:I insert metadata into my images while saving them on a primary and backup drives while traveling. I often edit images for publishing while still traveling. Therefore, my laptop computer must be ready, updated and backed up.

4. Have your camera gear manuals on your smartphone, tablet and computer:
Cameras are complex. There's always something new to learn about your gear. If you don't use a feature regularly you can forget how to use it. I keep searchable PDF copies of all my manuals on my laptop and other mobile devices.

5. Power, power, power:
Digital photo gear needs power. Charge your devices and spare batteries before you leave. Make sure you bring all necessary battery chargers with you.

6. Test, test, test:
Some of the gear you're taking might have been sitting idle on shelves for a while. Test every piece of gear you're taking to make sure they work, before you leave. Test them enough in advance of your departure to have time to get them fixed or replaced.

7. Clean all your gear:
This makes sure your camera's sensor and lenses are fully ready to go. A clean laptop screen is easier to use to edit.

8. Format your memory cards before you leave:
You need memory cards at full capacity, working properly. Format them to properly clear them and find errors before you're ready to go. While they can fail later, formatting them in your camera can help prevent errors.

9. Reset all cameras and photo gear to their base settings:
This should be standard operating procedure (SOP) before any photo shoot/session, so you know exactly how your camera is set when you start shooting.

10. Make sure you have release forms:
You never know when you might potentially sell a great image you make, so have your model and property release forms with you. I use the EZ-Release app in my smartphone, so I'm always ready.

11. Research your locations and keep notes:
Research every location to which you'll be traveling. Don't commit the information to memory. Keep detailed notes. I load all my notes into my laptop and smartphone. While traveling I add comments to my notes for future work and to be able to help others later.

12. Check the weather forecasts to be prepared:Even if the shoot/session is inside, weather can affect your travel. I check weather forecasts regularly to be prepared.

13. Decide on the best bags for transit and shooting:
Once you choose your gear, choose your bags for both travel with your gear, and to carry it while shooting. The bags may be different.

14. Check directions:
You've got to make sure how to get to any destination whether you're driving or using another form of transportation.

If you follow this checklist I think you'll be prepared for just about any photo shoot/session a short distance from home, or in another part of the world.

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