Photographers are a finicky bunch. We want the highest quality images but in the smallest package possible. We know that DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras provide the best images, so we bring a “big” camera on our trip, but we don’t want to take along a second camera body because of the additional weight.
Since traveling with a lot of gear is a major drag, some travel photographers opt to bring along just one camera and one lens. To be fair, there are some good reasons to bring only one camera on a trip:
– Keeps gear kit simple
– Keeps weight down to a minimum
– Makes air travel easier
– Fewer issues at customs and border crossings
Even though these points might provide a compelling argument, I highly recommend ignoring these thoughts and always traveling with at least two cameras in the same system. When I say, “in the same system,” I mean that use the same lenses, batteries, and cards. Here are my six reasons why it makes sense to always have at least two cameras with you while traveling.
The most obvious reason to bring two cameras on your next trip is redundancy. If one camera fails, you’ll have another camera that you can keep shooting with. On just about every group trip I lead, someone’s camera dies for one reason or another. The last thing you want to happen is to be in the middle of the most beautiful place in the world without a camera.
2. You look like a pro
I know there are a number of schools of thought on how you should dress and what you should look like when traveling. Some travelers want to try to blend in to their surroundings so they don’t stick out like a sore thumb. Other’s go the full tourist route and wear the gaudy tropical shirt with knee-high socks. Since I’ve already decided that I’m going to have multiple cameras with me, I dress in such a way that people assume I’m a professional photographer. People on the street see me coming and already know what I’m doing because of my gear. I’m often able to use that to my advantage as I explain my project and the purpose of my photography. This frequently gets me preferential treatment as business owners allow me to photograph on their premises or property owners allow me onto their roof-tops.
3. Multiple lenses available instantaneously
I usually travel with two cameras out at all times. One will have a medium lens like a 24-70mm and the other will have a telephoto lens like a 70-200mm. I keep the cameras slung over both shoulders so I can quickly pull up either body to get the shot. Having two cameras means I can shoot very quickly and don’t have to spend a lot of time fumbling around with lens swaps.
4. Perspective changes
Having two lenses always mounted on two active cameras means I can quickly get two perspectives on the same scene. Over the years, I’ve discovered that I tell better photo stories when I photograph the same scene from multiple perspectives. Having the two cameras out, “prods” me to move around more. It is easy to get lazy in our photography and shoot all of our images from the same spot. Having two cameras out helps to break that lazy habit.
5. One for video, one for stills
Having two cameras also means you can dedicate one for video work and the other for still photos. On some trips, I like to pre-configure one of my DSLRs to that it is optimized for HD video capture. For the camera shooting video, I set everything up in full manual mode including ISO, shutter, aperture, and focus. I also mount an accessory microphone on this body so I can capture great ambient sound. For the other body shooting still photos, I generally configure it for aperture priority, auto-ISO, and autofocus.
6. One for timelapse, the other for singles
I love creating timelapse photo sequences when I travel and do this quite often. However, the problem with shooting timelapses is that it takes one camera out of commission for the total duration of each location. For example, when shooting a sunrise, creating a timelapse requires one camera to be continuously shooting pictures for about 45 minutes to an hour. If I bring along a second camera, then I can use it to create different images in the area. I use my second camera to shoot macro, landscapes, telephoto shots of birds, and whatever strikes my fancy.
1. If you do shoot with two cameras, make sure you synchronize their clocks. This will make sorting your photos on your computer much easier later on.
2. You’ll need a way to simultaneously carry both cameras over your shoulders. I highly recommend the camera straps and mounts from Peak Design as these are what I personally use. There are also quite a few other options from companies like Black Rapid, Op/Tech, and SpiderHolster.
I hope I’ve convinced you to make the weight sacrifice and bring along a second camera body on your next trip. Having two cameras gives you lots of options, and most importantly, you’ll come home with better photographs.
Keep on shooting!