Photo Tips: 10 Tips for Preparing for a Trip



Fan Lady on Yellow - Havana, Cuba - Copyright 2011 Ralph Velasco

Fan Lady on Yellow in Havana, Cuba.

As I write this post, I’m getting ready to head out of town for what will be essentially a month on the road.  I’m going to be part of two People-to-People programs in Cuba from April 17 to May 9, then I fly back to Southern California the evening of May 9th, only to jump on a flight early the next morning to fly to the Midwest to lead my semi-annual Cultural Photo Tour of Chicago.

There’s always so much to do before a big trip, and so I thought I’d run down of a few of the steps I take to make sure I’m organized and prepared when I arrive.

10 Tips for Preparing for a Trip

  1. Usually I’m talking about working from a shot list in order to bring home a well-rounded portfolio of images, but here I’m going to recommend that you work from a packing list.  I do, and it’s always changing and being updated, and I customize it for each location, because there’s a big difference in the way I pack for a Christmas Markets tour of Eastern Europe and how I’ll pack for a trip to Cuba.
  2. I’ll start packing little by little as much as two weeks in advance.  This way I know if there’s anything I need to purchase before the trip and I’ll have plenty of time to get it before I leave.
  3. Travel to Cuba is special because down there they’re asking us to bring soap, aspirin, bandages and other basic necessities for the people, who really are in need of everything.  So I know that if I’m missing any sort of cable or battery or other photographic or electronic accessory, it’s highly unlikely I’ll find it down there.  To be sure I have everything, I work from my list and then lay it all out on my bed and make sure that I have every little chord, plug, adaptor and battery that I need.
  4. I go through all my various memory cards and I format them for my camera.  This clears them out and assures they’re ready to go when I am.
  5. I’m in the habit of cleaning all of my lenses and filters before a trip, so I know that I’m good to go so I can hit the ground running and have one less worry on my mind.
  6. Charging all the various batteries for my different cameras and electronics is high on my list for the same reason.  Plus I certainly have extra batteries with me, as well.
  7. I’ll clear out any unnecessary files on my laptop so that I have plenty of room to download images throughout the trip, and I’ll do the same on any external drives I’m using.
  8. I back up my computer and put any pertinent files in the cloud so I have access to them should I be on someone else’s computer or if something were to happen to mine or I needed to share them.  For this I use a service called DropBox.
  9. I’m sure to check in with an iPhone app I use called VelaClock.  It tells me the sunrise and sunset in just about any location around the world on any date, so for this trip, I want to know when the golden hour will be so that I can capture the best light and be out before the crowds.
  10. And last, but certainly not least, if I’ve purchased any new equipment or accessories, I’m going to want to experiment with them and learn how to use them so that I’m not in these once-in-a-lifetime places trying to figure out my gear.  The more your gear becomes a part of you, the more you’ll be prepared for the photo ops that will surely present themselves.
Have your sensor cleaned; research the destination so you know what to shoot and when; take a photography class or two to help prepare and exercise your photographic eye; meet with an instructor or mentor who can help you with any photography issues you’re not certain about.
Remember my old saying:

“It’s my feeling that 75 percent of successful photography is simply making an effort to put yourself in the right place at the right time.”

Other obvious things to do are be sure your bags aren’t over weight or size limits; check that your liquids are in 3 oz. containers and in a separate plastic bag if you’re carrying them on; set all your bills up for auto pay so that they’re taken care of automatically and you don’t have to worry about that part of your life; confirm your ride to the airport and your flights.

What are some packing tips and preparation hints you’d like to share with me and my readers?


Ralph Velasco is an Orange County-based photography instructor, international photo tour guide

and author who frequently speaks on the topic of travel photography.

He’s an award-winning blogger and creator of the My Shot Lists for Travel app for iPhone.


  1. Bring lots of twist ties for all those cords. Use packing cubes. And I like to have tote bags handy for leaving carry-on in the overhead storage and only taking out what I need for the flight. Happy traveling!

  2. John Hendricks says:

    I have two Master Lists I use when preparing for trips.
    They have kept me from forgetting things for many years!

  3. I quite agree with most of the enlisted tips. I follow them myself on my many sojourns. Thanx

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Ralph Velasco is a professional photographer and instructor who has traveled extensively and taken photographs in over 40 countries. Ralph Velasco Cultural Tours offers unique cultural touring opportunities that combine compelling locations with breathtaking views, relevant local history, scheduled activities and time to explore on your own. His events are available in dazzling international locations around the globe and his services include public speaking, corporate cultural tours and events, corporate photo walks, photo walking tours, photography eBooks, photography classes and group training seminars. His photo walking tours provide the opportunity for hands-on photography experience with a professional instructor to develop the skills necessary to capture a variety of photo subjects, settings and lighting. Ralph gives private photography lessons and his photography boot camp includes a seminar and training on camera basics, elements of composition, and a personal review of your own photography. United States and international locations; Corona del Mar & Orange County CA.

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