It’s time to travel picture-perfect. RSJ contributor and master photographer Megan Edmiston shares tips on how to keep your camera safe abroad (and lends us some of her incredible shots, too!)
All of the photos in this article and many more are available for purchase at megankaileenphotography.com. Megan is impatiently awaiting her upcoming trip to South Africa and Greece (and RSJ is impatiently awaiting her photos!) PS – she can also cook you up an out-of-this world meal, too.
My Nikon D-5000 goes everywhere with me. When we are old, we will sit in our rocking chairs and reminisce about all of the things we’ve seen. With many trips abroad and plenty of near camera disasters, I’ve learned how to prevent tragedy when I am 3,000 miles from home (at least to my camera).
I’m sure I could find camera victims to pay me to teach a class about camera safety abroad, but I’m in a giving mood so you get these tips for free. Now most of these tips are written with D-SLR cameras in mind, but even if you have a digital, read them and alter them for your camera (clearly, you don’t need a large padded bag for your hand-sized camera).
1.Upload! Upload! Upload! You know that time you were travelling around Russia and just so happened to meet Vladimir Putin who then gave you an inside tour of the Kremlin, and many other off-limit Russian areas? You took hundreds of photos, but a few days later when deleting old photos of your friends at the HP7 premiere, you accidently delete several of those cherished Putin pictures. Trust me: I’ve lost more pictures than I can count, but after shedding plenty of tears, I found a way to prevent it. Upload your photos every day, heck every time you get a chance.
Nearly everyone is taking their computers abroad with them, so next time you are packing for your overseas trip, pack your camera USB cord and a card reader if you have one (they take up no space, and should be carried on in case something happens to your checked bag). You can buy card readers anywhere they sell cameras, just make sure it is compatible with your memory card. These nifty things have saved me when Lightroom has claimed my photos don’t exist. I just plug the card reader in and upload my photos directly onto my computer. From there, Lightroom or any other photo program you use can read them just fine. I’m not sure why it works this way, but I’m not going to question it.
I’m even paranoid enough to upload onto my computer AND Lightroom. If you are really worried, bring a USB drive for extra security. If you are in a situation where you can’t upload your photos constantly or at all, buy extra memory cards. I usually carry 3 that each hold 2,000 photos when I go anywhere. I refuse to delete photos until I am in the safety of my own home and have looked at every single one. Even if you aren’t taking the photos for professional reasons, you don’t want to lose those memories. I am proud to say that because of this method, I haven’t lost a photo in 3 years.
2.Buy the bag that will protect your camera, even if it’s ugly. I used to carry my camera around in a beautiful printed canvas bag. It was thin and definitely not made for carrying a D-SLR, but hey, I looked good. I looked good right up until I was on a bumpy bus ride in Cinque Terre, and my bag slid into the side of the bus. Luckily, only my lens polarizer was broken and that is an easy fix, but I knew the canvas bag had to go. I swapped my colorful, stylish bag for a hideous grey-and-black Swiss army bag that looked indestructible. This bag had camera padding on the camera padding. It had secret padded compartments for really fragile things. Even though I will never test this theory, I’m pretty sure if I dropped my bag off a cliff, my camera would survive. So yes, now I carry around a bulky, not-so-fashionable bag when I’m walking the streets of Paris or hiking the Swiss Alps…but I know that my camera is safe.
Surprisingly, the always-fashionable Parisians think my bag makes me look really professional, or I didn’t catch onto their sarcasm (but I’m hoping that’s not true.) You don’t need to spend a fortune on a bag to protect your camera, but you do need a bag that is meant for keeping your camera safe. With the several lenses that I now carry, my canvas bag would have ripped and left me crying on the sidewalk with my broken camera. That would not look good.
3.Get a neck strap. You can be a little more fashionable here, but don’t skip this one and decide to hold your camera instead. Sure there will be days when your camera bag is really not necessary, but putting it in your purse with a water bottle that is leaking when you are in line for the Notre Dame (true story) is not a good alternative. Most good cameras come with neck straps anyway, but if you don’t have one, buy one. They are really inexpensive and Etsy always has some cute ones. The camera won’t bother you, and it will be faster to pull out and take a picture if it’s simply resting on your neck. Some days, I’ll even have my bag with me while my camera is around my neck. It isn’t uncomfortable and you’ll be ready to snap a quick, discreet photo of Mick Jagger sitting outside his favorite restaurant.
4.NEVER check your camera or your camera gear. This is when the bag comes in handy. I can usually claim it as my purse or something so I can take it on in addition to my carry-on. Never let it leave your sight. I don’t care if the Italian Mafia has a gun to your head, you WILL carry on your camera (too extreme?). Not because there will be so many photo-ops during your 14-hour flight, but rather because why would you ever trust someone else with your really expensive camera? Have you seen how beaten bags come out at airports? Do you really want that to be your camera, or better yet, your broken camera? I don’t think so. Sure it’s one more thing for you to carry at the airport, but once you are on the plane, it doesn’t matter anyway.
5. Don’t let your camera out of your sight when you are out and about. Even when you are no longer dealing with the careless luggage handlers at the airport, your camera is still in danger. Don’t be the person who sets their camera down behind them, only to find out that someone took it. It may seem obvious but I have to say it, always have your camera! When you are eating, put it in between your feet so you can feel it, or even put it in your lap. When you are shopping, don’t set it down! You may forget about it after finding the perfect leather jacket. It happened to me, and yes, it was because of a beautiful black leather jacket. [The stars were aligned that day, and a store attendant brought it to me. I doubt I’d ever be so lucky again].
Some of these tips may seem like a lot of work, and now you might even contemplate not bringing a camera, but I promise this will become second-nature soon enough. Or you won’t listen to me, something horrible will happen, and you will never question my knowledge again. Which would you rather it be?