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Travel Advice for Photographers From a Pilot & 2 Travelers

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Jan 30

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Making Sure Your Trip Goes Well

Traveling can either be an amazing experience or a nightmare. Today we bring you tips from pilot and photographer Evan Hunt and traveling band photographer Adam Elmakias.

Today’s Episode Timeline

  • 0:05 – The guys give an intro and Amelia sneezes
  • 1:20 -Announcing winners from last week
  • 2:20 – Bringing the essentials
  • 3:35 – Buy clothes when you get to the location
  • 4:25 – Taking your gear on a walk
  • 6:35 – What you should take with you and what you should leave at home
  • 10:00 – Great advice on getting gear at your location
  • 13:40- Where you should sit on the plane
  • 16:40- Advice for checking baggage
  • 19:15- Planning enough time for your trip
  • 23:35- This week’s contest!

Last Week’s Contest Winner

Lets us know which Phlearn PRO Photoshop Tutorial you would like!

This Week’s Contest

What is your best advice for photographers traveling with their gear.
Bonus points for including an awesome story!

5 People will each win 1 PRO Photoshop Tutorial.
Just post your entry in a comment to this episode. Contest will be open all week long, with the winners chosen in next Monday’s Phlearn!

Some of the Goodies Mentioned in Today’s Episode

Best Tips From Today’s Episode

  1. Travel light – It can be very tempting to bring everything you know on a trip, but the best thing you can do is to go through your gear and pull everything you don’t NEED. This includes extra prime lenses, grip, gels, and other things you don’t use on every shoot. Try to figure out your shoots ahead of time, and leave all the gear that doesn’t meet the needs of the shoots.
  2. Sit in the back of the plane – They always load planes from back to front, so getting your seat in the back will mean you can board earlier, and have enough room for your stuff in the overhead bins.
  3. Bring plenty of snacks – Anything you can do to keep from feeling horrible after a long flight is worth doing. This includes bringing an empty water bottle and filling it from a water fountain after you go through security. Bring some protein bars for the journey and for the shoot.
  4. Use Twitter to rent gear – Indirectly anyways, you can tweet to your followers to see if anyone in the city you are going to has some gear you can borrow. Better yet, you can ask a person with many followers who lives in that city to blast the message to their followers. Having friends really pays off.
  • Damian Sanchez

    That’s amazeballs Aaron – thank you!

    Shameless self-promotion but are you able to link my name to my FB fanpage?

    Thanks heaps!

    Oh, and can I get the Dark Skies tutorial please :-)

  • Chris

    Great show, guys!

    My best travel tip is all about the planning.  Use google docs or dropbox to host a document that has your schedule, hotel info, things you want to do, things you need to remember for your shoots and add google map links to any locations that are important/directions to that camera borrow house. 

    Share the document with your friends, assistants, models, etc so everyone stays on the same page!

    Keep on Phlearning on.

  • Wes Powell

    Using a mail carrier to ship gear to your hotel or location prior to traveling can be cheaper than the airline fees. We tend to do that sometimes on video shoots when there is more equipment.

  • Sean Webb

    Perfect episode as I’ll be traveling for a year shortly. I really liked the tip about getting a seat in the back of the plane to ensure you get overhead bins. Of course if it’s a plane like SWA then ensuring you get a early boarding number is the way to go. So one of the most important tips I can give is with respect to carry-on weight limits. I’ll be traveling Air New Zealand and they are strict about how much your bag can weight (15 lbs max) – many other airlines are the same and I hear they are starting to enforce it more as gas prices sky rocket. Since I’ll be carrying a D7000, 11-16, 24-70, and 70-200 and a laptop I needed to be sure I stay under the limit or they will make me check my bag. To do so, you can buy a luggage scale. They’re cheap and easy to use. Also, if your checked bag is over you can be in for some nasty over weight fees. Another note is that many airlines will allow you to remove your laptop and consider it a personal item (like a purse) separate from your carry-on camera bag thus helping you stay under the limit. Note my bag weights 14.7 lbs, just enough room for a couple energy bars! Finally, since I’ll be traveling to many third world countries where my camera gear is worth a year plus wages for most people, I highly recommend getting it insured. It’s going to cost me $30/month which is nothing compared to the cost of replacing thousands worth of gear!

  • Seth DuBois

    I guess my best tip would be to not stack electronics in your carry ons. If electronics are stacked on top of each other the x-ray technicians (is that what they’re called?) get weary and want to run the bag through again or have it searched. With everything laid out flat it’s easy to distinguish what is what and there’s less cause for concern or confusion.

    This is really helpful if you’re trying to get through security without hiccups, I have been stopped a couple times because of this.

  • Anonymous

    I like to plan all the pubic transportation beforehand. I write it all down in my notebook, so I know where to go when I’m off the train/plane/bus.

  • Marius Manastireanu

    if you can, make the check-in online, you save precious time in the airport :)
    once i didn’t had the opportunity to make it (no internet connection) and, well.. it was awful, i lost some time in the airport.. 

  • Ian Arneson

    Less is more. Don’t be that guy who brings all his lenses, all his filters, all his tripods and memory cards. What surprised me and inspired me the most about having less is that limitations can force you to be extremely creative and adaptive. Not packing everything in a way forces you to think more about how your going to capture The scene snice you didn’t pack every little thing. You obviously can’t carry photoshop everywhere you go, and its good to have a nice set of lenses, but to bring them all is more of a cost then a benefit. Limit yourself and you just may surprise yourself.

  • Christian Noval

    Just a couple of advices from my experience:
    - Biggest issue: make backups of your raw files and store them in another bag than your camera equipment. You can and should insure your camera, but not your files! They can be much more expensive to remake, that the price of a stolen camera. If you backup on your notebook, then don’t store it with your camera. It would of cause be even better to make an on-line backup.
    - Spend some money on good camera bags. Some places it’s a big advantage, if the bag doesn’t shout ‘expensive camera in here’. I often bring both an Pelican carry-on wheeled bag and a Thinktank Urban Disguise.
    - Renting cars usually are much cheaper if you rent in the city and not at the airport.
    - If you’re out of space for your tripod, a GorillaPods can often be the solution.

  • Jeni

    For a slightly different perspective….as a parent, traveling with children is quite the opposite of traveling light. haha  You really need to pack extra everything for kids, extra clothes, extra diapers, toys, crayons, snacks, etc….which means less stuff for momma.  So, when I travel with my girls I only have room for my camera and a lens (MAYBE two lenses). My 50mm almost never leaves my camera, especially while traveling. It’s small and great in low light, which means I don’t have to tote around a flash too. Although we don’t fly, we definitely have limited space in the car (two carseats take up a lot of room).  *carseats are also something you have to think about when flying.  You’re going to have to carry it along with EVERYTHING else you’re traveling with.  A small, lightweight, umbrella stroller is great to have too. They don’t take up much room, are easy to fold and unfold, and you won’t have to carry a tired kid. =)

  • willard chviers

    The few times ive flown with my gear ive never had to check a bag but i thought this tip was a good one if i ever needed to check gear. Basically you check your bag with a cheep starter pistol, which the airlines consider a weapon, they lock it up and keep a good eye on it (a lost a bag with a “weapon” would be very bad news for the tsa) 

    Lifehacker has a writeup on it here:

  • Lisa Mirante

    2 things:

    1. Kids – if you have kids out of “car seat” age, turn them into pack mules.  A 5-year old gets 2 carry-on bags just like you do and can pull a wheeled carry bag and a smaller bag of their own.  A wheeled carry on should be able to carry a day’s worth of clothes (for when your checked luggage doesn’t show up), snacks and games for the kids and maybe some camera gear wrapped in the clothes.

    2. Weight limits – I believe if it’s attached to you it’s not a carry-on so doesn’t count toward your weight limit.  If you’re traveling where weight limits are low and strictly enforced, wear a vest and put some of the heavier stuff in your pockets before your bag gets weighed.  Put it back in after it’s weighed or when you get on the plane.

  • janiecakes

    Fun episode and lots of good tips.  I used to travel every week for work a few years ago (did it for about 6 years) and I have a few tips for female travelers. 

    1. Don’t bring a purse. Put your wallet or billfold and any other small necessities in a camera bag/backpack. You’re only allowed 2 carry on bags and a purse counts as 1 bag. I sometimes would carry a very small purse that would fit into my bag.

    2.  Wear slip on shoes. The are much easier to take off when you go through security. Also if you’re wearing a jacket, take it off and put it in your carry on before you go through security…less things to take off, less things to collect at the end of the conveyor belt. 

    3. Don’t be tempted to carry your billfold around the airport. Keep it
    in your bag or backpack. It’s a pain to have to go digging in your bag
    for it whenever you buy something to eat or whatever in the airport, but
    it is safer. Here is the reason why:

    I used to carry my billfold in my hand at the airport during layovers and at my destination because I knew I would be needing it to get food, pay for taxi, etc., and it was a pain to get it out of my backpack.  Before I left the secure area of the airport, I went to the ladies room and laid my billfold and my cellphone on a shelf in the stall.  My cell phone rang, it was my limo driver trying to find out if I had landed.  I started talking to him and grabbed my backpack and my rollerboard carry-on, washed my hands, and went down the baggage area where he was waiting for me.  As soon as I saw him (realizing I was going to have to pay him) I realized I had left my billfold in the ladies room…in the secure area…where I couldn’t get back into because I didn’t have my ID.

    I reported the missing billfold and, luckily, I had been traveling to this city a lot and used the same limo driver who was kind enough to take me to my hotel and allow me pay him for the limo ride on the return trip. I figured if I didn’t get my billfold back and my company would help me out for the week.  No problem.  Welllllll, I just happened to have booked a different hotel than I normally stay in and so they didn’t know me and wouldn’t give me a room without a credit card.   It was about midnight by that time and, of course, no one would be at the office to help me.  I finally called one of my credit card companies and explained the situation.  They called the hotel for me and I was able to get a room.  Luckily, security found my billfold and I got it back the next day.  That was the most stressful trip I have ever been on. I will never carry my billfold in my hand ANYWHERE again. 

    Sorry for the long story.

  • Eric Burgers

    Heavy lenses? Battery packs? Use a Photo Vest – it counts as a jacket but is actually a bag disguised as clothing!

  • janiecakes

    I’m watching War Games with Matthew Broderick…OMG, Adam looks so much like Matthew at that young age!

  • Anniina Rutanen

    do not and i repeat DO NOT try to fit your hand luggage under the seat in front of you if you’ve got any valuables in it. =

    It just happened to me a few weeks ago that I cracked my brand new computer because I was in hurry and trying to keep my stuff as close to me as possible. I got it for christmas, had it for two weeks, had to travel back to uk, handled it with a bit too much aggression and now I’ve got a palm sized black area in the middle of the screen. YOU try to edit photos like this…… -.- it’s like having a giant permanent dirtspot in your face all the time. Absolutely frustrating.

    I’ve been flying quite a lot and there’s always something that goes wrong… I’ve encountered like ALL the possible luggage problems there is apart from actually losing one. I suggest you buy a sturdy, light, easily movable and secure luggage. I’ve got one that could easily fit 60kg worth of stuff (or more if they’re rocks or vases like some of the stuff I’ve had to carry around with me) and the airline limit is 15kg. FIFTEEN KILOS and its not even the cabin bag. And the bag itself weighs about 4 kilos and is huge and sucks in all possible ways.

    So fill your pockets, wear three pairs of trousers + 3 tops + 3jumpers + a leather jacket + a scarf ++++++++ and hope for the best.

    Also wear comfortable shoes!! And drink lots of water (not just because of the 10 layers of clothes you have on)

    oh yeah and do not try to fit 8 giant easter eggs + a 8kg ceramic vase in the same cabin luggage, It’s probably going to exceed the size limits even though the weight is fine…. cause they’re hollow. And you’ll have to pay 30£ extra to have it put in the hold with other bigger luggage.. And guess what happened to those easter eggs after being hammered against a heavy vase + other sturdier luggage for 3 hours….. not pretty…

    oh I’ve got so many other horror stories to tell but I think I’m gonna get some sleep now… :D

    oh yeah and I’ve got about 100kg worth of belongings in uk but I’m actually finnish and will have to move back to Finland in june. I’m gonna have a total of 40kg I can take to plain with me ………………. what can I leave behind??? (all I own is good quality cause I hate buying things I could just throw away and now even miss..)

    and just one more tip though it doesn’t have much to do with travelling. BACKUP YOUR FILES. SERIOUSLY. MAKE AT LEAST 7 COPIES. and keep them safe + updated + in different locations. It’s gonna give you a lot of headache if you lose ALL your files a month before you’ll have to gather a portfolio of your best work to get into the best photography university in the country!!!!!!!!!!!! I had just got the new computer and was gonnna move all the files there. But some shitface stole my external harddrive in that 1 week window that I had without a backup. (because that WAS my backup…)

    ohh one more. If you don’t want to carry your computer with you, just take the harddrive. Weighs a lot less. I’ve used my dad’s computer during my holidays back in Finland. I’ve got more than enough camera gear that I had to take with me + I tried to fill my luggage with stuff that I could leave there (so I did not have to carry the same things back and forth all the time)

    so if you kind of live in two places, buy doubles of everything (that you can afford to buy, like clothes, toiletries, divide your book collection…)

    and that about it for tonight. :)

  • Karissa Hosek

    I travel back and forth with my photo gear and I always seem to pack too much, i have a large rolling bag i check in with clothes shoes softbox and tripod, but it doesnt fit light stands! thanks for the info about the SKB case going to look into that.
    I keep my strobes if needed then my camera bag with lens’ in a carry on bag. 

    Aaron I had the same problem with security, there was an asian guy that was hard to understand and he was so confused what my alien bees were when I explained them. He kept pointing at them saying what is inside? I said it was the circuit board that triggers the bulb to flash. He points No, no, whats that? Sir, I’m not sure I didn’t design these but I use them for lights in photography.
    He says okay, you can go. 

    I fly Jet Blue for direct flights to SF, I love the room between isles, the tv & xm, the food that’s free is always a good selection
     but theres only one free check in, and if its over 50lbs make it TWO bags so you dont pay for overcharge fee of $50, when one extra bag costs $35

    Southwest does free check in so if you have alot of stuff I recommend them, I didnt have a stand case for my alien bees so I bubble wrapped them and checked in another bag, had no idea it was free for two so I was very happy =)

  • Photographybymel

    if you’re a woman, dress down and daggy otherwise if you even look half good you will get pulled over for the explosive test and a bit of a pat down! I am not saying I am a looker at all but the only time I haven’t been pulled over is when I was rushed and didn’t care how I looked!!  actually maybe I just always look guilty! A more serious tip, I pre-book taxis to make sure I get to venues well before I need to be there. Also, I use navigation on my phone so I seem as though I know where I am going so the taxi driver doesn’t assume I am a tourist and takes me the “long” way. 

  • Jay

    Get on the frequent flier program.  I used to travel 150,000 miles a year.  If you get over 20k, you get priority status in lines, the ability to bring and check more bags for free, priority in selecting seats so you can get isle or window, not the dreaded middle set.

    Check in online and if you have an smartphone, bring your ticket on the smartphone.  No paper ticket, and you can get your seats from home earlier than the folks at the airport.

    Get your phone synced with your airline account so they can text you statuses of your flight, delays, online, etc.

    Use the travel sites like travelocity, etc to look for package deals of the flight + the hotel.  You can sometimes get some screamin’ deals.

    If you rent car, get the gold clubs, etc…you can walk off the plane and straight into your car without having to stand in line, etc.

    For international travel, get the GSM roaming option on your phone, make sure you have a GSM quad band phone so you don’t have to rent a phone.  Quad band will let you roam in asia pacific too.  

    Keep a printed copy of your itinerary in your front pocket, you may lose charge, etc on your electronics.

    If you’re delayed at the airport on your flight, check to see if there are flights to other cities that you can get to your city from.  Often times, if your flight is delayed more than 2 hours, you might find a hub city w/ transfer that will get you there still closer to ontime.  I’ve turned 4 hour delays into arriving an hour ahead of time.

    Too many tips to list here, but these are a few.

  • Rajendra

    Traveling with photography gear is all about compromising.  If you’re not a professional, then you’re shooting purely for FUN.  Why give up that FUN (hereafter referred to as PHUN !) by lugging around more gear than the absolute minimum needed to have PHUN.  This absolute minimum is one camera body and one zoom lens.  

    Here is why I think this works:

    The majority (about 90%) of the value of a good image resides in composition and exposure.  The remaining 10% is contributed by the quality of the lens (prime vs zoom, bokeh), dynamic range of the sensor, use of a tripod vs hand held, etc.  Evidence for this might be presented by asking oneself what are the greatest images in history ?  Does anyone remember what kind of camera or lens was used ? Would those images have been very different had a slightly different camera or lens been used ? For the most part, I don’t think so.  Great shots have been taken even with an iPhone.  Hence, to me, it makes a lot of sense to travel with just one camera body and one zoom lens.  I use an 18-200 when traveling.  Sure, I will not achieve the absolute effect I’m looking for had I carried a few primes and a couple of bodies but I’ll have access to 90% of the value of the image and have lots of PHUN which after all it’s all about.

  • Even Ødegård

    You can say alot of things of what to pack and what to bring, but the most important thing is to always keep calm and be friendly. If you dont stress the security people don stress and as a photographer you have the weirdest things in your bag that could be bombs. So be helpful and keep smiling gets you a long way. 

  • Ágúst

    I’ve actually traveled a lot and needed to bring lots of equipment to places like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and so on. Also I’ve worked in airport baggage departments and now work as a police officer, so I think I might have a few tips for you :)

    These are some of the things that I have learned in that time. Some tips are photography related but some can be applied to all traveling.

    1. Make sure you know where you’re going. This is just basic stuff people. Don’t just know the name of the country and city. Know the street, check Google maps or street view (I use this A LOT!) to see the surroundings of the hotel or other places you’ll be visiting. This will help you know where to go and shave off valuable time, especially when carrying loads of equipment. Same thing goes for the airports, those can be HUGE. 

    2. Use the technology. Most people have smartphones with big bright screens. Put pictures into the phone with screenshots of maps, pictures of your hotel, overview map of the airports or any other important places.

    3. Photocopy your passport. Keep a copy in each bag. This will be valuable if you lose your passport and might bring lost luggage back home.

    4. Know your travel insurance and creditcards. Many creditcard companies offer travel insurance. Bring those phone numbers with you. Take a picture of your credit card with your phone (make sure to lock the phone :) ).

    5. You might have to pay for that extra weight on board. Many clients require budget estimates. Extra weight is expensive so make sure you take it into account when making the budge estimate!

    6. Bring cash along and keep it on you, not in your bags. This is your emergency money so keep a phone number to your embassy there also. Make sure you can use that currency in your destination country :)

    7. Food. I usually bring along dried food items (nuts, raisins) in my backpack. That way I can eat almost anywhere. Drinks are harder because of airport security but make sure you bring some along after landing. You never know how long the rest of the trip will take. Don’t eat unhealthy and look for fresh food.

    8. Plan your sleep. Got an 8 hour night flight ahead of you? Don’t sleep for 10 hours before flight! Plan for the time difference at your destination.

    9. Pack and dress wisely for airport screening. You will be required to remove your laptop from your bags so don’t put that at the bottom. Don’t bring keys or change in your pockets (why would you need keys?!). Use a belt without metal objects. I made an indent into the foam of my pelican case for my laptop, so it’s always at top.

    10. Drugs. Bring drugs to other countries (say it like Morgan Freeman). Actually and seriously, bring your legal drugs (aspirin and/or imodium) with you. Don’t bring too much and keep it in the original packaging. DON’T put pills in ziplock bags!! Have you tried locating a pharmacist in Iraq? Exactly.

    11. Mark your bags and arrive early at the baggage conveyor post-flight. Baggage delivery sometimes happens outside of a secondary secure area, meaning that anyone has access to the conveyor belt. People wander off the street into the airport, grab a bag and disappear. Put stickers on your bag and rape tape it thoroughly. That will also notify you if the bag has been opened. 

    12. Don’t overpack your bags. They will not make the aggressive handling at airports and might unload all your gear over the conveyor belts. Also check tip 11 for that rape-tape-top-tip :)

    13. Bring your essential equipment on the carry-on. 

    14. BACKUP. This varies on how long the trip is, what you bring on it and how you shoot. You could bring a laptop with you and an external harddrive. Keep copies on both items. You can keep data on the memory cards if you have lots of those. If you have lots of memory cards you can copy data onto extra memory cards and mail them back home. It’s also possible to do the same thing with DVD’s, writing your data on DVD’s and mailing them back home. That way, if you get robbed or if everything is lost, your pictures will be waiting back at home. Don’t rely on having an internet connection for uploading pictures! It all comes down to one thing, not keeping all of your eggs in one basket.

    I could probably think of a few other things but it’s time to shovel some snow like an Icelandic boss. 
    My shameless plug would be my Facebook page:
    And of course the website,

  • Andrea Peipe

    Good one Aaron, the guys seem like so much fun to hang with :D

    I don’t really have much tips… I always only bring one lens (sometimes also my 50 mm 1.4 but only when I have a lot of space) which is my 17-55 2.8 because it covers a wide range. I tell people at the security that I have a camera with me so they know I am cooperating with them (last time the lady was actually all “oh you have a nice camera!” which was very cute!). But I have never travelled with light stands and stuff so… 

  • Kari Latimer

    if your wondering what to leave in the uk. Just leave  all your camera gear I’ll look after it for you lol

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