How to Travel Like a Pro Photographer

I was packing up for my first travel photoshoot in over a year (thanks, COVID) and discovered my cats have been using my Tenba travel case for bed! What jerks! It took me 20 minutes and half of a roll of packing tape to get all the fur off. I’m seriously considering getting a storage unit for my gear to keep the furtacular problems at bay.

Speaking of travel jobs, here are my best tips on how to travel like a Pro Photographer.

How to Travel for Photoshoots

I’ve traveled a lot for photoshoots over my 20-year photography career. Flying for a job can be fun and exciting, or it can be a total f#$%ing nightmare. Here are some things I’ve learned that make travel work more enjoyable.

Get TSA Pre

TSA Pre is a background check program that you can apply for, and it’s pretty painless. Once you have it, you can fly right through security. You don’t have to take off your shoes or remove your laptop from your bag. When I go through the TSA Pre line, I rarely get hassled about what’s in my camera or laptop bag. You’ll have to go to this website to find out the requirements and book an appointment at your local DMV. 

Keep Your Bags Underweight

Fun fact: It’s less expensive to fly with multiple bags than overweight bags. On United Airlines, An overweight bag will cost you $100 to $200, but an extra bag will only cost $45. Also, if you’re a member of ASMP, you can get a media badge, and you can use that for media rates if you have to bring massive amounts of gear. Make sure to laminate your badge with your photo, too. Here are some links to baggage info for various airlines.

United Airlines Baggage Rates
Southwest Baggage Rates
Delta Baggage Rates
Alaska Baggage Rates
American Airlines Baggage Rates

Rent Gear

If you’re flying into a major city, rent your lighting and grip locally rather than flying with it. If you don’t need much gear for your shoot, renting can cost about the same as baggage fees. You’ll also have a lot less hassle to deal with at the airport. Nowadays, I fly with my camera, tripod, and some key light modifiers I usually can’t find to rent. I’ll then rent a small grip truck with a lighting kit and have a local assistant pick it up.

Treat Yo Self!

Travel is hard on the mind and body, so make an extra effort to treat yourself when on the road. I obsess about the hotel or AirBNB options to ensure my downtime is cozy and enjoyable. I’ll look for things like a pool, gym, or even nature. I also skip the chains and fast food and go out of my way to find good quality local recommended restaurants. That’s what you have per diem. Use it!

Noise Cancellation Headphones

I used to use my Apple Airpods when traveling. I would have them at max volume and struggled to hear my audiobooks or podcasts over the drone of the engines and passenger chatter. Someone recommended noise cancellation headphones, and I bought this pair of Bose in-ear headphones. It was like magic. I was suddenly in a peaceful oasis and could tune out the sounds of screaming children, the hum of the engines, and the loud talker guy sitting behind me.

Travel Kits

Once I started traveling more than six times a year, I invested in a travel kit for my toiletries. It seems like a small thing, but there’s nothing worse than forgetting your deodorant at the start of an 8-day photoshoot in the middle of nowhere. I have a kit now with all my essentials packed and ready to go. Don’t forget to restock! Nothing worse than getting to your room at midnight and realizing you’re out of toothpaste.

Good Shoes

Comfortable shoes for doing travel photoshoots

I’m on my feet a lot at shoots, so good shoes that suit the type of job I’m doing are a must. But when I’m getting through airports, I go for a high-quality pair of trainers like these Asics. It’s like walking on pillows all day long. 

Carry Cash

I like to have a little cash with me when I travel, usually about $20 per day of travel. It’s great to have for tips or quick cab rides. Just track it as miscellaneous expenses in your books. The government lets you write off up to $1000 per year of miscellanies.

Travel Like a Pro Photographer All The Time

I hope these tips are helpful to you for your next out-of-town shoot or your next personal trip. If you have some travel tips I didn’t mention, please share them in the comments below.

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