The Benefits of Traveling Light – Daily Thoughts 012

Tuesday was an extremely long day, hence the delay on this post. It is Tuesday still somewhere in the world, so all good!

I was up super early to fly out to Osaka, and on the flight I was thinking about what I’d write for today. The biggest thing that stuck out for me during packing for this trip is the evolution of what I take with me for travel photography, so I thought I’d expand upon that.

I travel quite a bit, and it always takes me a bit to decide what to bring with me as far as photography equipment. Early on, I’d try to bring as much stuff with me as possible, just in case I needed it. However, I learned over time that most of the stuff sat unused during the trip and was taking up valuable space and weight in my bag.

1. Take less than what you think you might need.

The keyword here is “might”. If you’re shooting for a client or know exactly what you’ll be shooting during your trip, you’ll have a list of gear that you will need to get the shots. You’ll want to bring that stuff since it’s essential.

However, if you don’t have a plan (first mistake), this is where it’s easy to get carried away and overpack. My first few big trips I thought to myself, “I’ll shoot some landscapes, probably some street photography, maybe a few portraits, and possibly a little video.” That led me to a full bag of multiple lenses, accessories, and a couple of cameras. Did I use everything extensively? No way.

If I had planned ahead and only brought the essentials, I could’ve come back with the same results, or even more since my choices would be simpler and my bag would’ve been lighter.

2. Limiting your gear forces you to get creative and allows you to shoot more.

When you’re restricted to a couple pieces of gear, you’ve gotta get creative to get shots that you would’ve used other gear for. It also pushes you out of your comfort zone, which is a great place to be when you want to improve your photography.

Didn’t bring a tripod? Find yourself something to set your camera on top of to get your shot. Didn’t bring a large enough zoom to reach your subject? Get closer. Didn’t bring a flash? Explore the area around you and find a light source or sources that can light your subject.

You get the idea.

Since you’ve limited your gear, you won’t be constantly pondering about how to capture a shot. If you’re dragging a buffet of lenses around on a trip, you’ll most likely be spending all of your time figuring out which one to use. Limiting your selection will help you make decisions faster so you can shoot the scene and move on to the next one.

3. Your body will thank you.

The last thing you want when you’re traveling is to carry a heavy bag around with you everywhere you go. While the bag might feel fine when you first pick it up and you think you’ll be okay carrying it everywhere, things change after extended periods of time.

Exploring a city takes its toll on the body and adding any weight to your bag will be noticeable. This trip to Japan, I left most of my gear at home, and I’m still struggling after a few hours of straight carrying my bag.

The lighter the bag, the longer you can last in between breaks to rest. With a heavy bag, by the time you find a good location, chances are you will need to take the bag off and rest your back and shoulders a bit. With a lighter bag, I’ve been able to shoot straight for an hour or two before my legs need a break.

Anyways, I’m off to Kyoto to shoot and work today, so let me get out of this Starbuck’s!

Until tomorrow,


Get these daily posts delivered directly to your inbox every weekday!
Every weekday morning I write a post based on what I'm thinking about, what I notice in the industry, and advice you can apply to your photography. Sign up to get them delivered directly to your inbox.
We respect your privacy.