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10 Essential Accessories Whenever I Travel For My Shoot Trips

Recently, I came back from a trip from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – A frequent place I visit to shoot aside from Bangkok, Thailand. I am always on the lookout for accessories and systems to make my travels more efficient, as in packing the right accessories needed for the job. Below are 10 accessories/gadgets that I find very useful, I will share a little about how simple things can make such a huge impact during my travels. This article can be used as a checklist for beginners at the same time.

1. Memory Card Reader

I have been testing card readers over the years and have tried various types/sizes and I always bring one with me during my travels. Some may argue that technology is so advance that you might not need a card reader anymore as you can transfer via Wi-Fi nowadays. I beg to differ as it will take a while for this portion of technology to be good enough for my requirements.

I shoot in raw and these raw files are pretty big, transfers via Wi-Fi were extremely slow and the amount of files I need to transfer is pretty substantial. I backup all my files almost immediately after every shoot and my trusty card readers always does the job. A few critical points to take note when purchasing a card reader.

a. Size – I am pretty particular about this as there aren’t many good card reader with a good size especially when my requirement is that it needs to read not just SD cards but CF cards as well.

b. Reliability – Choose good brands in the market and they have never given me a problem, I have heard of a lot of corrupted files cases from friends who buys card reader off the shelf without any research

c. Transfer speed – Go for USB 3.0 to cater for allowable high speed when you connect other devices. On a side note, even when you get a USB 3.1 there isn’t that many devices that transfers high speed at 10 Gpbs. It will still take many years for the bulk of devices to be match that speed, the good thing is that they are backward compatible so no harm if you wish to get a USB 3.1 but it usually cost more for not a significant use as of now.

d. Usage of Slots – Look for card readers with slots that you need and nothing more. There are a lot of ’10-in-1’ or ’25-in-1’ in the market but I rarely use the rest of the slots either than SD and CF. A big reason why I do not pay for what I do not use, I focus on card readers that gives me these two essential slots and everything else is secondary.

e. Recommendation – I don’t like to do recommendations but I think this helps as an idiot proof guide for beginners. I will list a few brands and the ones I am using now if you wish to know.

  • McKAL Super Compact MP902 – been using for years and it gave me zero problem

  • SanDisk ImageMate PRO Multi-card reader/writer – I don’t really use this for travel but I list what I use anyway

  • Other good brands like Lexar(Higher end) and Transcend(Value for money) won’t go wrong as well

2. Memory Card Case

Throughout my shooting career, I always needed a memory card holder which is hardy yet compact. I have tried and tested various kinds but would still go back to a rock solid hard covered type. In addition, do not skim on the size as protecting your CF/SD cards is more important than saving space in this case.

Getting a good memory card holder is a no brainer if you wish to protect these little pieces of picture storage essentially containing your hard work. Also did I mentioned that the one I am using currently is waterproof and super shock-proof? Brands do not matter that much but do check out the material and quality of the casing itself, below is what I am using and some highly recommended ones.

a. JJC memory card case - I bought this many years ago and it is still so hardy, they have various combination according to what kinds of cards you wish to store (Mine holds 4xCF/4xSD/2xXD/2xTF)

b. Other brands I recommend – Pangshi (Super nice design but not as tough as my current especially at the hinges and latch), Pelican.

3. Portable SSD

After you have taken all your pictures, where do you store them? Yes, a hard drive for good backup? That is what I have been using for the past 15 years but in the last 3 years or so I have switched to portable SSD. Two main reasons for the switch, they are so compact and their transfer speed is unmatched! I am totally sold for the past 3 years.

The one I use currently is Samsung T3 but there is a newer version named T5, T3 serves me well that I bought two initially – I presume it will stay with me for a while too. Get whichever size according to your shooting needs. (I have 2 x 250 GB and they are fine as they are mainly used for travel backup and not actual backing up when I am back in Singapore)

4. Multi-port USB Charger

A multi-port USB charger is important for me as there are so many items to charge in my hotel room at night or when I do indoor shoot at my hotel. I use it to charge my smartphone, spare batteries, speakers, tablet, etc. all at the same time if needed. This is crucial as most hotel rooms do not have that many socket and I have to start unplugging hotel lamps and TV sockets whenever I run out of socket, having a multi-port charger is so convenient concentrating all my items in one place. A lot of my charging items are USB compatible now so a good 5-way charger (ANKER) is good to start with.

5. Bluetooth Speaker

Another essential for me as I like to do most of my shoot with some sort of background music. It helps to bring in different mood and atmosphere which I want to achieve during the shoot itself. Currently, I use a very affordable X-mini Click 2 as it is a tiny ball packed with powerful audio - Highly recommended for its size, easiness to carry around and as well as its powerful sound!

6. Cleaning Tools

Cleaning tools are a must for every trip, every photographer swear by it! I can’t stop saying enough how many times they have saved me from dirty lenses on the spot whenever I needed it. Every shooter should do their own research on which brands they prefer as there are too many opinions regarding these items, find the right ones that work for you. 3 main items are placed in a small pouch and these are all I need:

a. Lens Pen

b. Blower

c. Microfiber cloth (Just a quick mention of a super handy microfiber cloth that comes in a self-attached pouch: Spudz)

7. Gadget Pouch Organizer

After suggesting so many accessories to bring whenever I travel for shoot, where do you place all these? Yes, a good gadget pouch organizer is important! I am a pouch person. It’s like having a checklist within a checklist, I have a few of the items mentioned above in this organiser and they are always ticked as long as I bring this pouch organiser. I have 3 separate ones usually, one for all my chargers/cables (for camera, tablet, phone) and another that holds the smaller ones such as my SSD, cleaning tool kit, batteries and finally, one for camera specific items (clips, lighting items, plates, multi-tool, etc.)

I keep myself as organised as possible and this helped make my workflow really smooth. I place this as super important as an essential ‘accessory’ in this list.

8. Tablet

The main reason of bringing a tablet is so that it acts as a medium for transferring of files from my cards to the SSD. I seldom bring a laptop anymore even though they can be so slim and tiny nowadays, having my good old tablet is more than enough. In addition to the main reason, it acts as an offline portfolio when I need to do referencing or simply when I need to browse the web for a bigger view while I am discussing with my model certain ideas which words simply cannot express.

9. Extension Cord

The last two items (points 8. and 9.) are pretty subjective to the kind of photography genre you shoot. Some may need and some may not. They become essential for me when I am shooting for specific purpose and usually it does. I use the Allocacoc PowerCube extension which allow me to extend power to the areas I need effortlessly. It’s slightly more expensive than a normal extension cord but it is worth it, a simple concept of how an extension cord work made life much easier for me. I use this during room shoots as it does not take up a lot of space when I bring it for travel. – Go check it out if you haven’t already!

10. Travel Tripod (Sirui T-025)

Lastly, a good travel tripod is definitely useful when you go on trips. I use a Sirui T-025 reversed-leg tripod for travel. This tripod can be sized down to a mere length of 34cm and extends up to a good 121cm in height, 34cm can fit into my backpack comfortably without the head sticking out of my bag. That is so convenient and nobody even knows that I have a hidden tripod inside my bag.

Do research a bit for a good travel tripod for what you shoot, a few important factors to consider are maximum height it can extend to, minimum length when you need to keep it, weight, stability and how fast you can set it up.

That's all for my top 10 most essential travel accessories whenever I travel for shoot trips. Most of these may not sound significant but they have saved me in all sort of situations or have speed up my workflow in one way or another. Have you got a few 'must haves' to share as well?

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