Recently, a young talented photographer that is on his way to a very promising career asked me about how I handled traveling so much. You see he was about to accept some projects that would take him away from home for an extended period of time and he was concerned about how he would take it. His question got me thinking… This way of life has become so familiar to me, that I forgot how my life has changed and developed because of it and thus, I’m inspired to create this post that lists the pros and cons of being a photographer that travels for work and how I’ve handled it.
Regular followers of my blog and various forms of social media already know I travel a LOT for shoots. We are talking over 100k miles and thousands spent in baggage fees a year! Thus, a streamlined effective travel kit loaded with gear that doesn’t waste space or weight is crucial for me. I’ve been spending the last month replacing old gear, cases, stands, lights, etc. A lot of my kit had become worn out, bent, and no longer worked properly due to hard use. During a recent trip to B&H in New York City, I discovered the most beautiful travel light stand kit I have ever seen: The Manfrotto 1004BAC stackable light stand kit.
Why do I love these stands so much?
They are light weight at only 6.6 lbs each and extend to 12 feet high and close down to 42.1″
They don’t flex and bend like a lot of other travel stands and have a max load weight of 20lbs, which is plenty for my Profoto D1 1000 heads with a huge light modifier.
The 3 stands in the kit literally stack and lock together for easy transport.
They have this cool “double braced” wide leg stance for more stability, especially when raising your lights really high. I’ve tested them and I am impressed how they don’t flex and feel like they want to topple over as much as other lights. This is great because I cannot always travel with sand bags so being able to walk off of a plane and head to a portrait session and not worry about a light with a softbox mounted onto it toppling over onto a portrait subject due to a weak stand.
My fellow photographer buddy Clint Davis was on set and saw these stands and we immediately lusted over these stands, which are honestly a steal for $329 for all 3 stands. Kinda funny considering all of the gear porn we had on set (Tether Tools, Phase One, Profoto). You can check out the stands on B&H’s website with free shipping here: LINK
Keep an eye on my blog the coming weeks. I have replaced a majority of the lighting, travel gear, and cases I was using earlier this year in hopes of streamlining a better travel kit with the most effective gear of the best value. This includes a new strobe case, camera bag configuration, light stand case and layout, and tether table.
Believe me, I will be doing many more health posts like this geared towards photographers and filmmakers that work on our feet for long hours with simple tips on how we live longer with healthier necks and backs, heavy gear be damned.
1. Take 20 minutes to plan ahead. Once you know where you are staying, search for the local Whole Foods or grocery store and hit it up as soon as you land. Stock up on water, your favorite health bars, and some unsalted almonds or cashews. Having your food ready not only saves you time but also saves you from making poor choices when on the road. [It doesn't hurt to pack some healthy snacks before you start your trip to avoid the stuff that is so bad for you on the road - DS]
2. There is nothing wrong with grabbing lunch at a Wendy’s or Chik-Fil-A every now and then. Simply order a grilled chicken sandwich or two and hold the fries and diet soda, you DO NOT need those useless added calories. [Avoiding fried foods in general is a good rule to follow. It's bad for your heart and drags you down during a long day - DS]
3. Stay hydrated while traveling or on set. It is so easy to forget to drink water throughout our busy days but it is ESSENTIAL for optimal health. As a guideline, try to consume a minimum of HALF of your body weight in ounces of water during the day. For example, I weight 200lbs so I try to get 100oz in from the time I wake up to when I get to bed, that is simply 5 20oz bottles throughout the day. [I used to love soda with caffeine, but I replaced that with just water and you'd be surprised how your stamina lasts longer on water than it does trying to fill yourself with sugary sodas and fruit juices. Soda is so bad for you and water is truly essential to keep yourself going. I always carry a refillable water bottle or canteen with me everywhere I go, even on the airplane - DS]
4. And last but most definitely not least, make time for some exercise. It does not matter how busy you “think” you are. Everyone has time for a 10-20 minute hotel room workout, simply make it a priority. It is a great way to help raise natural energy levels in the morning as well as help to “blow off” some steam and get your mind right after a long day. [Don't have a gym nearby? You can always go for a jog. I always bring runnings shoes just in case. Can't run that for whatever reason, here is an app or two that have some cool workout suggestions you can do right in your hotel room in just a few minutes!]
It’s not a diet, it is about a healthy lifestyle. If you are on a crash diet to try and lose weight to hit a certain goal, you may make that goal but it will most likely not stay there long. Starving yourself is bad for you (portion control is an entirely different story) in most situations. Feeding your body with the right healthy food can actually do wonders.
Do at least one thing a day that points you in the right direction of a healthy lifestyle, as little as it may be. As long as you are being proactive, you are in a better place than you were yesterday.
Strong body equals strong mind. It also works the other way around. Taking care of yourself can improve your productivity and creativity.
I’ve received fantastic response about photographers wanting to learn and be more dedicated to bettering their health since my first fitness post. I love. Please continue to comment with your input, tips, suggestions, or what you would like to see me blog about more. Thanks again to Adam for his input!
A lot of people message and ask what I use on the road, considering I am constantly on the road travelling for shoots. I hope this answers your questions. I provided hotlinks throughout the list in case you wanted to pickup any of this out for yourself. Feel free to message/comment with any questions you may have. I did a post like this awhile back, but since I’ve bought a bunch of new gear this year, here is an updated list of what I carry to most photo shoots in my Think Tank Aiport Security bag (the Airport Security is airplane carry-on legal size).
2x Vagabond Mini Battery Packs – TSA freaks out if you check these battery packs but you can carry them as a carry-on for some odd reason. I always travel with these to power my portrait strobes in my separate lighting case. Great to have even if you are in a location with power outlets. Sometimes you want to hide a light somewhere far from a plug! They also come handy in a pinch if you get stuck in a power outage.
Microfiber lens cleaning cloth
Square credit card reader… in case clients like to pay immediately
Finally and most importantly… extra pens and business cards!
I also always travel with a separate laptop bag as my second carry-on. Here are some things I always have in there:
15″ Mac Book Pro with 2 batteries
iPad3 (sometimes a second iPad as well) – I use this for wireless tethering/camera control, image review with clients, and watching movies and reading books (kindle app) during my constant travel. It also always has a copy of my portfolio downloaded to it if I want to show off my work to a new/old client.
Garmin GPS because I am in rental cars in strange places all of the time. I love my Nuvi 2555LMT because its compact, fast, lifetime map updates, and even has live traffic updates.
Wireless router – not for internet, but to create a dedicated on-set wireless network between my iPad, laptop, and cameras for tethering purposes thanks to Capture Pilot and Capture One software.
2 sets of headphones – I always need one for when I run or use the hotel gym (always bring my running shoes) and I am always destroying or losing a pair.
4G data card for my laptop, because being connected on the road is crucial
CF card reader
Various apple chargers for iPhone and iPad
Again, I hope this helps! Feel free to post questions.
I take A LOT of photos on my iPhone, especially when I travel for shoots. Photo Stats is a cool application for your iPhone that analyzes your shooting habits. It lists everything from where you’ve taken photos to your most productive time of day, what percentage you shoot landscape vs horizontal, etc.
“If an image is worth thousand words how much is an infographic about all your photos in the camera roll?” – Photo Stats Website
If you click to see the rest of the post below, you can see some of my most recent iPhone photography stats. Unfortunately, I just downloaded about 900 photos from my recent travels onto my computer so it won’t reflect the bulk of my recent shooting stats, but this should give you an idea about how the application works.
One error I noticed is that it says I use flash 100% of the time, which is untrue. I would estimate that less than 10% of my photos are taken with the iPhone flash. Also, it says I use the camera 100% of the time to take the photos… really?
For .99 cents I think it is a pretty cool app. I plan on running an analysis on myself every couple of weeks to track my shooting habits since I do so much iPhone photography. I wish my DSLRs had this kind of tracking/analysis software!