Have you ever felt like your camera was a burden on your travels? The heavy weight along with the idea of dropping it can put many people off to travelling with their camera. But travel photography can be the sole reason for someone wanting to go somewhere.
Think of the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Italy and jaw-dropping images of the northern lights in Iceland. Photos, and more specifically great photos, of these places, urge people to travel to these locations.
Photography leaves an impression. Years after you return from your trip, don’t you want to be able to recall those precious memories with great photos? Yea. Me too.
My camera is the first thing I pack, but I often found myself looking for ways to lighten my load.
Other than tweaking my gear for specific purposes, I have found a system that works for me, and hopefully you too!
Camera bags for Travel Photography
Is it just me or do the good camera bags look like … well camera bags. For the fashionistas out there, camera bags leave a little something to be desired.
That said, I fully support camera backpacks, even if they don’t look all that nice. My trusty National Geographic bag (which to my utter shock if no longer available), has been on several trips with me. From camping to overseas vacations, this had been a great bag for what I want it to be.
Backpacks are great because they are hands-free, secure, padded, and they hold a tonne of stuff. With double straps, backpacks tend to be a little more forgiving when you have a heavier load. Backpacks become my go-to carry on for flights allowing me to rock some travel photography.
When looking for a camera backpack, I suggest a double compartment bag. While it is cheaper to get a nice-looking backpack with an added camera bag insert, I find these cumbersome. I always seem to be digging for my camera through the stuff that ends up in my bag.
Backpacks can mean that the camera is less accessible than say, a cross body bag. Some camera bags have side pockets for easier access, but I still find myself hesitating, weighing whether the shot will be worth digging my camera out. I take it out 95% of the time.
Fashionable camera bags
With cross body bags, the ease of access has significantly improved. There are many fashionable camera bag options nowadays (that aren’t exactly cheap). The cross-body bag has less room for extras, and the straps might start putting pressure on your shoulder, but I love that these bags don’t make me look like a tourist and don’t put a target on me for camera theft.
Cross body bags could also be considered your personal item on flights, allowing you to bring a carry-on instead of a checked bag because nothing beats travelling light, right? Says the person who could scream at the weight of her camera. Worth it, I say, crying slightly.
Someone stealing my camera is my worst fear and often leads me to panic in large crowds. That’s why I think PacSafe CamSafe is brilliant. Having the extra security features puts my mind more at ease.
Related: What’s in my day pack
Camera bodies are a point of discussion for travel photography. Not only is technology getting increasingly better, but mirrorless cameras have opened up a whole new avenue for light-weight camera travel.
I’m going to be real with you and say, I will most likely never be the owner of a mirrorless camera.
Because I shoot professionally in my day job, a DSLR has always been my right-hand man, and I have invested quite a bit into creating my army of lenses. GO FORTH YOUNG LENSES! Anyway, I understand the appeal of a mirrorless camera. While they still cost as much as a DSLR, they are lightweight, small, portable and offer similar quality of photos.
Mirror lenses even come with a small range of lens selection, making your ideal travel photography that much more achievable. The downside for me is still the versatility of the mirrorless. In my experience, I have found that it doesn’t quite live up to what I already know and love about my DSLR.
The DSLR (in my case the Canon 60D) is my go to. It may be heavy and rather expensive. But I love it, and that’s what counts.
I’m not even going to get into the Nikon versus Canon debate because both companies make great cameras. Just know that if you buy one, you tend to stick with that one because the lenses are not interchangeable. I only mention Canon brands, because that is what I use. If you have a Nikon or other brand of camera, the same tips apply.
The Canon Ti lineup is ideal for the DSLR beginner, the newest one being the T7i. My first camera was the T1i, and I used it for years before I dropped it and turned into a pile of mushy tear soaked peas. That moment in time – which was nearly seven years ago and still hurts to think about – forced me to move up in the camera world. So, I guess, thanks, fate? You’re still cruel.
Over the years, I have worked with a number of lenses. Each one has a very particular use, but some are more general than others. In my humble opinion, the lenses are a huge portion of what makes photography so great. Lenses are when you want to invest your money.
Last year I invested into the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. And HOLY GUACAMOLE is it ever nice. I don’t think I have taken it off my camera since purchasing it. It is a go-to lens for photojournalists, like me and I have created some stellar photographs.
But I know its use can be limited. During my trip to Central Europe, I found that its limited range didn’t allow my to fully capture the remarkable architecture that in abundant in European cities.
However, during my travels to Galapagos, I found that it’s short range and large depth of field allowed me to create some photos that make my mom proud. Okay, I know she’s proud of everything I do, but still.
In travel photography, the best lens is the one you don’t want to take off. I mean, how cumbersome is changing lenses, don’t camera people know I am too lazy to do that?! Even I admit that some lenses can’t do everything.
The lenses I want to bring must be for what I want them to do: create amazing travel photography, set the scene with wide shots and focus in on details.
There are two lenses that you should consider for travel photography. Choosing between the two is pretty easy because it depends on what you want to do with them.
A simple zoom lens like the Canon or Sigma 18-200mm. This lens is great because of the wide focal range. You could even go for a 70-300mm if you wanted to get close. Zoom lenses are ideal for safaris or in places where you cannot get close enough to your subject. I’m really only thinking safaris at the moment, only because I am desperate to go on one.
Wide Angle Lens
Wide angle lenses are perfect for capturing landscapes, architecture, or even large spaces. I’ve just purchased the Canon 10-18mm and love the wide angle it gives me. I found that in cities, my (amazing) 24-70mm just didn’t cut it.
Why not prime lenses, you ask? Because they cost an arm and a leg, and I just found they are not for me. The lens army I created does my bidding perfectly, and that’s just the way I like it. It’s not for everybody, or every situation, but this is for just the average travel photographer.
Extra important bits
A camera bag wouldn’t be complete without the very important extra bits.
Extra charged batteries are important. I remember the oozing disappointment from a friend that found she hadn’t charged her camera and didn’t have any extra batteries. I have two, and I bring my charger. If you’re going to a place that has a different electrical outlet, make sure to check your charger to see if it can handle the voltage change.
Along with the disappointment of a non-charged battery, that same friend forgot her camera’s memory card. Learn from her mistakes! Have multiple memory cards and bring them with you!
A Microfibre cloth or a lens pen will help keep pesky dust away from damaging your camera. You could also use a clear filter as protection as well.
To tripod or not to tripod?
Oh, that is truly the question. For me, I travel without a tripod 80% of the time. If I have space, like on a road trip, I will consider it, but tripods can be bulky, heavy and just plain troublesome. Also, I hate being that person that takes up so much space with the tripod.
On the other hand, tripods offer a new way to take travel photography. You won’t be able to take beautiful photos of the northern lights without one. Even long exposure shots of waterfalls require some sort of stabilization.
There are tripods out there that are built for travellers. They are compact and lightweight, but I say plan ahead for your next trip and weigh the pros and cons.
I didn’t need one in Central Europe, but you bet I’ll be taking one to my upcoming trip to Iceland.
There are times where I don’t want to use my DSLR camera. Such as underwater, that would be terrible. Even going out at night makes me want to leave my baby behind.
In an underwater case, I love bringing my iPhone (UPDATE: Google Pixel is hands down the best camera on a smart phone). It’s a great and small companion that I can whip out and take some selfies. We all do this, no judgement.
As for those underwater shots, I have a Sony Action Cam with underwater housing and a wrist strap that is perfect for under the sea travel photography.
But… just don’t lose it, like I did.
Find out how I found it again here:
Backing up your photos on the go
I would like to reiterate my fear of getting my camera stolen. It can be debilitating. I needed a way to back them up without lugging my laptop everywhere. With a heavy DSLR, the last thing I want to do is bring a laptop. Even my first generation iPad is heavy.
I have found three ways of backing up my photos while travelling. I’ll share the three and say why one of them is my go to.
Back up through the cloud
Using the cloud can be a great way to solidify the safety of your precious photographs. You will most likely need to purchase extended memory for your extensive number of photographs you will take, but protection costs mulah. With the cloud, you can send photos from Wi-Fi enabled cameras or memory cards to the cloud. While this seems great, I always find that shotty internet cam bugger up that plan.
Multiple memory cards
Having an SD card for each day of your trip might sound silly, but I was whole-heartedly considering it because of my FOGCS (fear of getting camera stolen). The idea was that if I have an SD card for each day of my trip, then if I were to lose one, I still have the remainder of my trip saved.
Backup using hard drive
What? A hard drive that I can use without a laptop? Where in the name of Ansel Adams can I find this?
Those were actual thoughts by me. Because I thought it was impossible, a dream, an invention that hadn’t been constructed yet. Lo and behold, I found this hard drive from B&H Photo. Ou can stick your card right into it and upload directly to the hard drive. Talk about a miracle. I will be using this on every single trip I take in the future. It’s also Wi-Fi enabled, so you can back up your phone photos too!
Editing on the go
I love me some Instagram – you can follow me here – I love sharing and looking at great travel photographs. But the editing software and filters can leave something to be desired.
Numerous apps can help – like VSCO cam for the dreamy quality – or Adobe Photoshop Express that can work magic on your photos.
Once you get home, you can tackle the daunting task of editing the hundreds of pictures you took.
Handy-dandy travel photography camera bag checklist:
- Camera bag
- Camera body with favourite lens
- Extra zoom or wide angle lens
- Extra SD card
- Microfibre cloth
- Action cam
What’s one thing in your camera bag you wouldn’t leave home without? Let me know below.
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