Here Is How You Should Travel as a Photographer

Here Is How You Should Travel as a Photographer

In 2023, I traveled extensively, frequently visiting cities and discovering new countries and cultures. Despite all my travel being within the EU, I feel like I've learned a great deal. I will share all my travel insights in this article.


Ah, travel – don't we just love to go out and explore new places? Sure, we do, especially on holidays. However, traveling for work is way more common than traveling for leisure in my life. In fact, I can't say I traveled for leisure in 2023 at all. Besides going down to a few cities in Hungary for a few days, the rest has been for work reasons. In 2023, I crossed borders in all ways possible, except on foot: airplane, sea, train, car. Each trip was like no other, and I experimented with bringing little to no kit to bringing several lights, stands, and the rest of it. Here are my findings and the things I will be implementing in 2024.

Kit To Bring

Starting with the kit, assuming most photographers will find that most interesting. As a photographer working with off-camera lighting a lot, I must bring a flash. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. I normally take two camera bodies and two lenses: my primary Canon 5DS body and a backup Canon 5D Mark IV. As for lenses, I take the 24-70mm f/2.8 and rarely a 16-35mm f/2.8. Recently, I was lucky enough to get a 50mm f/1.4, which will be replacing my 24-70mm f/2.8. I learned that I can cut down on what I bring. While I want redundancy in my setup, two camera bodies and a 50mm f/1.4 are all I need. Regarding flash and modifiers, I experimented with bringing a single A1, a B2, and a B1X. Of the three, the one I liked the most was the B2, as it is lightweight and can fulfill many tasks. However, the pack and head system means more footprint on location. For this reason, I will be bringing the B1X. Modifier-wise, a Magnum reflector and a 3’ Octa will do most jobs. If there is not enough space for an Octa, an OCF dish can comfortably provide similar lighting. Things such as a laptop, tether cable, drives, and other small bits are to stay.

When traveling, you need to keep your kit to a minimum. If space is tight, settle on taking a single camera, lens, speedlight, tether cable, and an SSD. You can really do most work with that setup. If space is less of a problem, grab a bigger light, but don't take several. Chances are, whatever you are shooting can be done with a single good battery-powered strobe. While I can't speak for camera and lens brands, I can speak for lights. Having traveled with my Profoto lights far and wide, they work just fine. I am not afraid to break anything if my bag bumps against a train step. The same with modifiers: the 3’ octa has been assembled and broken down hundreds of times, and it holds up like it was bought yesterday. While some readers will go against me and say that I am sponsored or paid by Profoto to say this, this simply isn't true. I have bought my lights and have made a conscious choice to use that brand. I will switch as soon as there is something better, trust me. There just isn't anything better.

Organizing Shoots in Foreign Markets

Organizing shoots in foreign cities can be quite a challenge as you want to find interesting people to photograph or ways you can photograph various important events. This comes with outreach. Around a month before your trip, start reaching out to people in the city you will be visiting and try to set up a shoot. This can be done via looking at hashtags on Instagram, but an even better way would be to find a few key photographers working in that market and then seeing the team credits. Follow the team, and voila, you now have a small list of possible collaborators. From then on, it becomes easy, as local people can be very helpful in finding cool locations, etc.


Travel inevitably involves networking. I won't spend much on this point as I cover it extensively in another article, but I do want to say this. Batch meetings, dinners, possibly even relevant events. While an hour-long meeting with generally shallow conversation may not seem like the best way to spend time in a new city, it can lead to some promising jobs. Who knows, maybe the next time you will be visiting that city, you will be flown in.


When you travel, you are inevitably taking tens of thousands of dollars of gear with you. I recommend packing your bags in a way that makes it hard for possible criminals to get inside them. Another great safety measure is AirTags. You can get a pack of five and put them in various bags that you will be bringing. I can only wish for photography brands to start implementing this technology into their products. One can simply dump the bag itself and take the contents. I advise against checked baggage. It is best to take your most precious possessions on board and keep an eye on them. If you really have to put your bag underneath yourself, use AirTags and have contingency plans in case it gets lost. When going by train or bus, keep your bags over your head. Should you have a large bag that the driver won't allow inside, put it under the bus, but from the opposite side. Typically, you'd place your luggage on the same side as you're entering. If someone exits at a stop, they will have all the chances to steal your stuff if it's there. By placing it on the other side, you are making it much more difficult.

In Hotel Rooms

In hotel rooms, I keep my gear in a bag and then hide the bag someplace. Under the bed is an obvious one, so don't put it there. One way is inside a sofa, another is in one of the little kitchen cabinets, and so on. Once again, AirTags are your friend. If you are extra paranoid, you can hide your gear but leave the bag with various small items out. Should someone want to take your gear, they will grab the first thing they see: your bag. Always check you locked the door and take other obvious precautions. I always take my laptop with me, as the data stored on it is what's most precious to me. Should it get stolen, I would lose passwords, the ability to work, and many more other things.

All my expensive gear has my name, number, and sometimes address. 
That is my actual phone number, it is there in case anything goes missing. Please don't just call me. 

On The Street

All camera bags I had were the ones that lock from the back. This way, the only way to access the camera compartment is by taking the bag off and then taking the gear out. This is the safest way. When in London, Paris, or Barcelona, you might be a victim of pickpockets. I generally put my passport, phone, keys, money, and so on inside the bag with all the cameras and have them on my person at all times. Your phone should be in your inside breast pocket, with the garment zipped up. This is not a 100% way to stay protected, but it will stop most pickpockets.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.

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In the image of the camera bags on the train platform: You might as well replace the "Profoto" and other logos with a sign that says: "Expensive Photo Equipment, Please Steal."

Seriously, subtle is definitely better.

I agree haha! That was an outlier, to be frank. I was moving my studio from one city to another, and had to pack a ton of gear into any bags I could find. I kept an eye on my bags throughout the whole journey. My regular travel bag is much more subtle, and all my logos are taped over.

I travel quite a bit for photography, too. I mean I am on the road away from home about 150 days a year, on average. But all of my travel is by car, and it is all within the United States.

Because my car is always where I am, I am not limited in how much gear I can take with me. I can take as much as I want, and it is no more difficult and no riskier than taking less gear.

I wholeheartedly agree with you about the value of networking. I have gotten to know other wildlife photographers all around the U.S.,and often meet up with them during my travels. Many of the people I have followed on Instagram, at some point we end up meeting in real life and shoot together. It's pretty cool that 400 or 500 of the people who I follow on social media are people that I have shot with in real life! These people are an invaluable source of not only friendship, but also of current information as to where wildlife can be found and photographed at any given place and time.

This is my Google Maps Timeline for the last 4 years (screenshot below). There are still places that I haven't gone to photograph wildlife, namely:

the area within 200 miles of Atlanta, Georgia

the entirety of New England

the southernmost portion of Texas

the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada range in CA and NV

This needs to change, and I plan to target these 4 areas over the course of the next 3 years, to familiarize myself with the wildlife photo opportunities in these regions that I have not explored yet. I know several people who live in each of these regions, so all I have to do is get myself there with a free week or three, and they will show me around and guide me to the better opportunities. Travel is certainly at its best when you know people all along the way and at the destinations.

Pretty cool :) Do you making a living from this or is it pure passion?

It is definitely my passion, and obsession. But I also make a part of my living from it. Most years, about 25% of my total income comes from licensing my wildlife photos for use in ads and publications and so forth. I could not live on the amount I make from selling my wildlife photos ... but I could not live without that money, either.

What a great travel timeline you have, Tom! Great to see that my points apply to other genres as well.

The obvious problem with airtags as you say is the thief can easily dump them and yes it is bizarre camera companies haven't implemented some sort of on board tracking system into cameras, considering just how expensive they are.