Minimalist Travel Photography Gear

Photographers are perpetually looking for minimalist travel photography gear that allows them to capture and deliver high-quality images. I’ve talked a lot about ideal travel photography equipment on this blog, but pretty much every scenario assumes a laptop will handle photo editing. However, the rising popularity of tablets and mobile phones, along with photo editing apps has made it possible to do your entire photography workflow using a much smaller device. In this article, photographer Isaac Zapata shares his minimalist travel photography gear that omits the need of a laptop.

Introducing Isaac Zapata

About a week ago, I was browsing through The Photo Brigade’s In My Bag column and stumbled upon the most recent entry featuring photographer Isaac Zapata. He traveled to Istanbul on a professional assignment with the most minimal photography setup I had ever seen. He claims this was all he needed to shoot, process, and deliver photos to his client. That setup consisted of:

  • one DSLR
  • two lenses
  • one film camera
  • a smartphone
  • iPad

I was most intrigued with the iPad, curious to see how he was utilizing it in his workflow. Isaac’s accompanying description was rather minimal, so I sent him an email asking if he would be willing to share details. I was happy to get a rather detailed reply from him, as well as encouragement to share his methods online. Here is what he said.

In My Bag Isaac Zapata Minimalist Travel Photography Gear

Image via Isaac Zapata

Isaac’s Minimalist Travel Photography Gear

*As described in an email, lightly edited

I really believe photography is all about the subject. The process helps, but broken down to its basics it will always be about what’s in front of the lens and the moment captured. Regarding the lighter set up (and my approach to work in general), less is always more if you planned correctly. Most of the workflow they teach us today is designed to get us to pay for things we don’t need. If it isn’t good out of the camera its not worth my time. Some of the most iconic images in the world were shot with minimal post work on manual lenses and film cameras before 2002.

How to Connect Shuttersnitch with an iPad

I shot my digital images using the Canon 6D. Its wireless capabilities allow for downloading images to my iPad mini while I shoot. I also use a secondary app called Shuttersnitch that piggybacks off the original EOS 6D Remote App to display the images on my iPad. Shuttersnitch has a better interface with a lot more sorting options which speeds up workflow. If you have a 12-year-old niece or nephew, he or she can set it up in 5 minutes.

Phanfare Cloud File Storage

The second app I use is from Phanfare, a $200.00 a year unlimited file storage service that allows my clients to download and print their images. It also includes an iPad app that allows me to upload the Shuttersnitch selected images to their cloud so I don’t need my larger MacBook while on the field. After each shoot, I stop at a Starbucks or cafe, select about 30 to 50 images and upload them (a nice end to the day). Each full shoot is kept on my SD cards for later sorting, naming and backing up online and on my external hard drive at home as a matter of redundancy. All said and done the projects are delivered by next day 5 PM and my high-res hero shots are usually backed up online and available to my clients within less than 2 hours thanks to this setup.

Connecting Mobile Phone and Digital Camera

My Samsung Galaxy phone also uploads directly to my Dropbox account, so when I want to shoot really light I use a micro SD card adapter to shoot as an SD card on the camera. Once the photo shoot is over I swap the micro SD out of the adapter and into the phone for quicker upload and emails from my phone. No need for a camera bag or iPad. For this setup, I usually use my Canon 60D and a Canon 17-40mm f/4 lens. The crop factor makes the 40 end of the lens a decent portrait 62MM and the 17mm end is still wide enough to capture full landscapes pretty well. Walking around with just one camera and a mobile phone in my pocket is great too.

How to shoot tethered with Canon DSLR Controller app

Why I Never Shoot RAW

Finally, if you are aiming to achieve the most optimal minimalist travel photography gear setup, I advise you to not shoot RAW. Ever.  You’re good enough, and should not need training wheels.

I usually shoot between 8MB to 5MB file sizes (M and S1 on a Canon) with just one SanDisk 8GB memory card. If I can’t tell a story in 8GB of card space I am doing something wrong. Not to mention the more files you have the more time you spend digging around in post processing. Also, no client should ever want to see or use the other 1500 files (and if they do you probably shouldn’t work with them). For the trip, I used two SanDisk 16GB cards which I didn’t clear for 2 weeks.

I use this method primarily to speed up my workflow so that images are transmitted to clients faster so they don’t need to wait long to see the finished product. I can even transmit the photos in the middle of the shoot so the clients can look at the images on their larger computer monitors and ensure they are receiving the photos they had in mind. Speed in photo transmission is especially vital for those who work in photojournalism or a breaking news-related field.  This faster workflow also translates to having more spare time, which can be used to do more photo shoots! This speedy workflow has become a huge selling point with all my clients.

Links to Isaac’s Work

Want to see Issac’s method in action? Here’s a list of links attached below so you can see more shots and how the clients receive the work:

Sony a6300 versus a6000 mirrorless camera

My Verison of Minimalist Travel Photography Gear

Sounds like a pretty handy method will great payoff, doesn’t it? As a fellow Canon 6D owner, I love Isaac’s clever use of the Canon 6D’s WiFi function. Until recently, I used my Canon 6D as my primary travel photography camera, but it has since been replaced with the Sony a6300. This little mirrorless camera is even more compact and has far superior WiFi functionality for quick transferring of images directly to mobile phones.

I still do all of my professional photo shoots with my Canon 5D Mark III, which lacks built-in Wi-Fi. As a result, I rely on tethered shooting with DSLR Controller app to view my images on the spot and transfer images directly to my mobile phone. This is a decent option for shooting with cameras that lack Wi-Fi connectivity.

In Conclusion

What’s your version of minimalist travel photography gear? Let me know in the comments below!

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By | 2017-02-11T15:36:18+00:00 December 30th, 2016|2 Comments

About the Author:

Suzi Pratt is an event and food photographer based in Seattle. She is also a web designer and blogger who aims to inspire and teach others how to start a photography business. View her at photography portfolio, or her web design portfolio.
  • D

    Good article, though this is a really silly paragraph: “Finally, if you are aiming to achieve the most optimal minimalist travel photography gear setup, I advise you to not shoot RAW. Ever. You’re good enough, and should not need training wheels.” No one should take this advice. Ever. The reason is that you’re not good enough. None of us are good enough, and no one should believe they are. Ansel Adams spent hours and hours in the darkroom post-processing and if he needed those “training wheels” I don’t know why anyone else should think we don’t. While the spirit of the idea behind this is fine (“don’t rely on crutches you don’t need”), it really is terrible advice. Why would you NOT shoot RAW? It’s a flip of a switch on your camera and the only additional size in your camera bag is a wafer-thin SD card and you may just get back that great photo that was on the verge. Shooting JPGs is no more “natural” or “minimalist” than RAW… both formats are as unnatural as a camera itself. So if you’re reading this post, do yourself a favor: if you’re an adequate photographer, go ahead and shoot RAW. Actually, you should always shoot RAW. Always.

    • Fair point. I admit I do shoot quite a bit of RAW for paid photo gigs, but when I travel and want to carry less gear with me, I generally aim to shoot JPG because I tend to fill my SD/CF cards quite fast. As a result, I’ve definitely lost SD/CF cards full of photos while traveling, and thus prefer to just travel with a single card. It’s a personal preference and there’s definitely nothing wrong with shooting all RAW.

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