Travel has the capacity to take you to any number of amazing destinations to photograph. It also means you are often on the move, setting up in your new location of choice, only then to pack up and move to the next, often soon after. Staying organized while traveling can have some major benefits to the enjoyment of your trip as well as your photography.
Ultimately, the more organized you are, the less time you need to spend on the logistics of travel, and the more you can dedicate your time to taking photos when opportunity knocks and enjoying the journey. The list below covers both travel and photographic logistics to help in the process.
While reading this article, keep in mind that all points suggested for staying organized can be implemented into your workflow before you go traveling. Getting organized and developing an efficient workflow is best established before you hit the road where time can be of the essence and photo opportunities plentiful.
The points raised below could definitely be considered common sense. But, there are also very real practical benefits to each of them that may result in the difference between coming home with a special, image or missing out.
1. Download and backup when you have the time
There’s nothing worse than realizing you are about to visit an amazing location and you do not enough memory to photograph it comprehensively.
If you are traveling with your own computer and hard drives, then you will have greater flexibility to download and backup your precious files. Assume for a moment, you are relying on other people’s computers. This is where it is important to take advantage and download and backup when you can.
I have seen many memory cards corrupt or simply stop working during expeditions for many different reasons. If you only have a couple of free cards left and one of them stops working, you will definitely be limited until you are able to download and make room for more content. This is especially true if a situation presents itself and you have a once in a lifetime opportunity to capture something special.
While working in Antarctica, I had several days where I shot over 1000 images before lunchtime because the subject matter was so good. It is this type of situation it is imperative to efficiently download when possible.
2. When you have time to charge batteries, do it
For much the same reason as downloading your content, when there is the opportunity to charge your batteries, be sure to do it. It is often the most obvious, day to day tasks that we forget about, yet they can be responsible for the worst possible situations to present themselves.
While it is imperative to have multiple batteries (as well as multiple memory cards), it is also critical to be sure to recharge them when there is time. It is all too easy to think the pile of batteries in your bag are mostly fully charged, when in fact they may be mostly empty. Keeping empty ones separate can help keep yourself organized, however, your best practice should include charging when there is time.
3. If you can do it today, don’t do leave it until tomorrow
This is an old saying that I have heard many times. If there is time to get organized today, then do it. I have been reminded of this many times when having an early start to photograph sunrise, only to arrive five minutes after the light was at its best.
If there is the opportunity to make sure your bag is packed and ready to go, then take it. Be sure to have memory cards and charged batteries in your cameras before you leave for a shoot. If time is of the essence, you will only regret not being more organized.
If you need specific gear for the next day’s location, be sure your bag is packed with the gear you need all in the one place. It will lessen the pressure to get everything ready when you’re running out of time.
4. Put your gear in the same place
Once you have figured out the best places to keep all your gear within your bag, always put each item back in the same spot.
I learned this photographing weddings when I was always working quickly and needed quick access to accessories like flash triggers, camera remotes, batteries, memory, etc. There is nothing better when you are under pressure for time than knowing exactly where the item you need is within your bag. It also means that if you send a friend to get something for you when time is not plentiful, you can not only describe the item clearly, but also tell them exactly where to find it.
Learning the best way to pack your gear is something that comes from time and experience. Before you travel, be sure to head out on day trips taking photos as much as possible. This will help cement the best way to pack your bag to allow for efficient packing and quick access to your gear.
5. Keep your gear clean
Keeping your gear clean and well-maintained will also help to keep it functioning properly. If you are working near the ocean or in a dusty environment, be sure to wipe down your cameras and lenses on a regular basis so nothing foreign finds its way into the internal parts of your cameras. Be sure to also clean where possible, the inside of your camera bag. I have always found it to be a place where dust can build up over time, especially when working in challenging environments.
If you are confident to do so, also consider cleaning your sensor. Avoiding dust spots on your images can help reduce the amount of editing time your images need at a later time.
6. Keep all other non-photographic related items organized and separate in your bag
Often while travelling, we have more personal items on us than normal. Be sure to keep these safe and packed well within your camera bag, preferably separate to your gear so it does not interfere with daily activities. This is particularly important when working in challenging environments.
It’s also important to be sure to have them organized and easily accessible, especially if you have flights or other forms of transport that require paperwork and/or tickets that need to be accessed regularly.
7. Be sure to keep your data organized
This more organized your content is while travelling, the quicker you can begin choosing images, begin keywording and captioning them, as well as editing once you are home or even while still on the road. This is an important factor whether you are shooting for a client or just for your own enjoyment.
The enormity of starting the editing process can sometimes turn you off making a start, as the task can seem too big to comprehend. This feeling changes the more experienced you become, however, breaking your editing process down into steps will always help. Speed in handling your files and the editing process comes with time, and is usually achieved by increasing efficiency across the many steps in the process.
Staying organized across all the stages of editing will only help to reduce the amount of time it takes to organize, and choose and edit your images. This in turn gives you a completed portfolio sooner to enjoy and share.
The bottom line for staying organized while you’re traveling is it will help reduce your stress level. Travel can be hard at the best of times, make it easier for yourself by planning and staying organized. You’ll be ready for anything.
Do you have any other tips to add? Please do so in the comments section below.