Our Essential Travel Photography Gear Guide

Our Essential Travel Photography Gear Guide

The travel photography gear we own and use while we travel.

Great camera equipment is essential for capturing those special moments, especially when you’re traveling around the world. There’s so much gear out there and it can be overwhelming. High quality camera equipment is expensive, but it’s also a great investment. If I had to travel with one item only, my camera always tops the list. Depending on how serious you are about taking photos and video, there’s a range of travel photography gear best suited for your needs. For us, we love taking tons of pictures and video, yet we didn’t break the bank on super expensive cameras.

We’ll break down a list of the travel photography gear we bring with us when we travel, and how we transport it. In addition to the cameras themselves, there’s also some essential camera accessories that we spent hours and hours researching. In the end, we’re very satisfied with our handy camera gear, and we’ve captured lots of photographs that keep our travel memories alive.

 

DSLR CAMERA

UPDATE: We’ve updated our camera to a Panasonic Lumix GH4 with a Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm Lens. We’ll update this article with photos and video once we start using the camera on a regular basis, and collect some additional lenses.

The main DSLR camera that we take most of our travel photos with is the Canon Rebel T3i. We’ve had this camera for over three years now. I’d recommend that you purchase the Canon Rebel T5i as it’s the newer version of the camera, likely at the same price point as we purchased the T3i years ago. It’s a fantastic entry-level camera that serves as a great introduction to learning how to operate DSLR cameras. It’s also super affordable and takes great photographs. It comes with the 18-55mm kit lens. I generally use the kit lens for most of my photos. It takes high quality photos for most situations, including landscapes. Most of the travel photos you’ll see on this travel blog are taken with this camera and lens.

Our Essential Travel Photography Gear Guide

DSLR LENSES

The first additional lens that I recommend picking up is a telephoto zoom lens. Ours was packaged along with our camera and kit lens. Thankfully, it’s a great quality zoom lens that produces clear photos of objects or things off in the distance. This lens is the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II.  I brought this lens to Kenya when I volunteered on a wildlife conservancy, taking photographs daily for field monitoring projects. When I photographed Rothschild giraffes for research purposes, I exclusively used this lens on the Canon Rebel T3i camera. My pictures of a rare white giraffe were later used in research papers and discussed extensively online, including this article on the BBC Travel website

Our Essential Travel Photography Gear Guide

A third DSLR lens we own is a Prime Lens – the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4. This is a great little lens that is best used for portrait photography and video. It has a very shallow depth of field and makes photos look super professional. Truth be told, we don’t use this one as much when we travel, but it’s a great addition to our collection nevertheless.

OTHER CAMERA ESSENTIALS

I’m not a huge fan of the regular Canon camera strap that drapes the camera across your chest. I find it’s not very comfortable, and it looks rather touristy. When we were planning our trip to Italy, I didn’t want to look like a tourist with my camera hanging in front of me. I found the perfect camera strap in my research – the BlackRapid Cross Shot Sling. The camera hangs to the side of your body, allowing you to slide the camera up to your face when you’re ready to take a picture. It isn’t as obvious that you’re wearing your camera, and it’s not bouncing on your chest when you walk around. I’m in love with this camera strap, and it’s amazing how such a small accessory like this can make such a difference.

I’m also not a huge fan of carrying the camera around in the Canon camera bag. It’s so obvious that camera equipment is inside, making it a target for theft. I found the DSLR Camera Insert Bag by Timbuk2 perfectly disguises the fact that I’m carrying a hefty camera with me. The insert fits right inside my regular purse or shoulder bag, and it protects both my camera and an additional lens. It comes in a few different sizes, though I love the extra-small version for my DSLR camera.

My favorite tripod for both a DSLR and a GoPro is the Joby Gorillapod. This tripod bends and wraps around just about any surface. It’s great for any circumstance, especially if you’re traveling by yourself and you want to snap that perfect photo, sans selfie-stick.

If you’re looking for extra batteries, I found that these third party Canon batteries work just fine! They’re very inexpensive, and they work great as a back-up to your main battery.

 

ACTION CAMERA

Our favorite action camera is the GoPro. We’ve had ours for a couple years now, and we bring it everywhere we go. The GoPro Hero 3+ Silver is affordable, durable, and takes amazing video that’s pretty much fool-proof. You can take it in freezing temperatures, under the water, and pretty much anywhere. You could even throw it up in the air or drop it, and it’ll be fine. If I’m ever worried about bringing a fancier camera with me, I’ll always bring the GoPro because I know it’ll be able to withstand any conditions.

We shot this entire video in the Bahamas with our GoPro camera.

 

GOPRO ACCESSORIES

There are so many GoPro accessories out there on the market. Here are some of the essentials that we own:

  • Varizoom StealthyGo Stabilizer TripodOne of the best, most inexpensive, stabilizer tripods on the market. It’s waterproof, and it has a few different settings that will help you get steadier shots. Highly recommend this as an essential GoPro tripod – if you purchase one item to hold your GoPro, it should be this one.
  • GoPro Chesty Chest Mount This is my second-most frequently used GoPro accessory. Anytime I want to record something and I need to use my hands, I strap the GoPro on my chest and away I go. It’s great to use when you’re kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, or doing anything else that requires your hands and full attention.
  • GoPro Head Strap Mount – When the Chesty won’t cut it, there’s the head strap mount. The camera can capture moments truly from your perspective. I’ve wandered through waterfalls wearing this, and recently worn it on a sail plane ride.
  • Suction Cup MountWe put this on the front of our rental car while road tripping around Iceland and captured some smooth video imagery. It can handle extreme wind, and you can manipulate the miniature tripod on the mount to grab video from several angles.
  • 360 Degree Time Lapse – Let your GoPro take time lapse images, and easily string them all together in post-production. This time lapse contraption slowly spins, giving you a 360 degree video view.
  • Light-weight Carrying CaseSafely stores your GoPro and several accessories when you’re traveling all over the place.

 

OUR DRONE

The latest piece of travel photography gear that we acquired was our drone. We own the DJI Phantom 3 Standard drone, which has already proved to be an amazing investment. This drone captures smooth, incredible, jaw-dropping video. We’re totally in love. We recently took the drone to Iceland, and we’re so glad we did. It allowed us to see the magnificent natural environment from an entirely new perspective. For the fabulous video (and photo) this piece of camera equipment takes, it’s very inexpensive and affordable.

Here’s a video that showcases some of the drone footage in Iceland:

 

DRONE ACCESSORIES

We needed a camera bag to transport our drone from place to place. We’d be carrying the drone as an item of carry-on luggage, and we needed to keep it safe and secure. We didn’t want to buy the DJI branded camera bag, as it would be fairly obvious that our drone would be stored inside it. The Vanguard Up-Rise II 48 holds our drone, the propellers, the remote, cords, and an extra battery safely. We’re really happy with this purchase and highly recommend it!

As the drone’s battery life only lasts about 20 minutes or so, you’ll want to pick up an extra battery. That way, you can continue flying it around that one amazing location where you’ve just got to grab video from high up above.

SMARTPHONE

Sometimes the best option is to snap a few pictures with your phone. The cameras on smartphones these days are nothing short of incredible. The photos on my Samsung Galaxy Note 5 are the best I’ve ever taken with a phone. They’re crisp and detailed. The best feature of all? I’ve always got my smartphone, whether it’s in my purse or my pocket. It’s the most convenient camera I own. I took this sunset photo in Jamaica on the beach, when I only had my Samsung Note 5 on hand.

Our Essential Travel Photography Gear Guide

With our travel photography gear, we’ve taken vivid photos to remember our travels for the rest of our lives.

There might be some places you visit only once in your lifetime. You’ll want to take the best pictures possible to keep the memories of that vacation alive. Whether you’re learning how to take photos or video, there’s a perfect camera out there for you. By having a DSLR, a smartphone, an action camera, and even a drone, you’ll build the perfect arsenal of travel photography gear for every occasion.

 

Our Essential Travel Photography Gear Guide

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What’s your favorite piece of travel photography gear? What do you recommend?

Lauren
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Lauren is one half of "Justin Plus Lauren". She loves to travel, take photos, and write all about it! Lauren eats a plant-based diet and seeks out yummy vegan food on her travels. She loves nature, animals, outdoor adventures, coffee, and her cats, Chickpea and Peanut.

16 Responses

  1. Sophie Nadeau
    | Reply

    Wow, your photos are absolutely stunning! I really want to get a gopro but the choices are pretty overwhelming…
    Sophie Nadeau recently posted…THE PARIS PANTHEON, FEMINISM, VOLTAIRE’S REAL IDENTITY & HIS REMAINSMy Profile

  2. Allison
    | Reply

    Good to know. I’m hoping to upgrade my camera in the next few years. There are so many options out there, I’m going to have to do my research. I’m always amazed though that some of my best photos were taken with my iPhone.
    Allison recently posted…Learning About Farm Life at Wagner FarmMy Profile

  3. Emily
    | Reply

    Thanks for posting this. I’m just getting into photography and have been clicking away with just a smartphone and a point and shoot so far.
    I’m just about to get a DSLR and your choice of accessories is very helpful – especially the gorillapod and the across-body belt; think I’ll be getting these!
    Your photos of the giraffes are fabulous – have you found that a 250mm lens is enough or would you go higher?

  4. Linda
    | Reply

    I’d love to take drone photography but not sure I would want to haul it as extra baggage. I will just watch yours

  5. Angie (FeetDoTravel)
    | Reply

    Well, I have to start with the white giraffe – what an amazing photo to capture and what an incredible story opportunity! I have a Canon DSLR, I love them, especially when you have an additional lens. I also not a fan of carrying a camera around with a “labelled” bag and prefer to be more discreet so love the one you use. We also have a GoPro, we use it mainly for video when scuba diving but I’m very much looking forward to more action video in the future! You’re right about smartphones these days as well, they really do take some amazing photographs and they are definitely worth having with you at all times … just in case you can capture an amazing sunset 🙂 Thank you for providing so much valuable information!

  6. Betty
    | Reply

    Wow, I am seeing more travel photographer using GoPro, but I wonder if your DSLR has video capabilities, do you think it’s still better to have a GoPro as well? Nice travel photography gear round up. =)
    Betty recently posted…Visit Memento Park in BudapestMy Profile

  7. Lisa
    | Reply

    Ooh, man I’m still kicking with a Canon T1i! They’re great entry-level cameras but I’m feeling like its time to upgrade. Not sure yet if I want to stick with Canon to keep costs down, or move onto those gorgeous looking Sony mirrorless. I’m definitely with you on the quality of Samsung cameras, I’ve got the s7 and its pretty impressive. Just need a drone now! (and a pack animal to carry it all for me…or my boyfriend haha)

  8. Ruth
    | Reply

    I enjoyed learning from your photo guide. I am taking some notes and trying some things myself. I think it is so cool you guys have a drone. It should be so exciting to see the video / photos captured from him after a fly.
    Ruth recently posted…Budapest: The Chain Bridge and Buda CastleMy Profile

  9. Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net)
    | Reply

    Thanks for all the info. Been considering a drone ourselves. We have been super impressed with the camera on our Galaxy S6, and we often get more comments on pictures from that than any other camera we use! Just read about a new LG smartphone coming out with dual camera lenses to create depth of field, one thing smartphones don’t do really well. Alas, the biggest thing for a good picture is a good photographer, so we’re working hard on that part. 😉 You guys, though…you rock! Thanks again for the details!
    Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net) recently posted…Leaf Peeping Coast to Coast: Where to find brilliant autumn color across AmericaMy Profile

  10. Sarah
    | Reply

    Wow! Thanks for this comprehensive guide. With all the photography gears you pack, it’ll be really hard to follow these recommendations for someone who’s backpacking solo.

    If I could only bring 1 or 2 gadgets/cameras, what do you recommend? (apart from the smartphone, that is)

    A GoPro, and a lightweight DSLR or mirrorless camera?

    I’d love to take great street photos, and crisp landscapes.
    Sarah recently posted…10 Things Only Girls With Curly Hair Will UnderstandMy Profile

  11. Steven
    | Reply

    Hey! Just wanted to ask how you travel with your gear, do you check in your gear case?

  12. Alex Norman
    | Reply

    Great gear review. You should definitely give a try to smartphone gimbal stabilizer like KumbaCam or Zhiyun. Video quality from a decent smartphone won’t be worse than from Phantom drone.
    Alex Norman recently posted…Best Smartphone Stabilizers 2016 – Buyer’s GuideMy Profile

  13. Andy
    | Reply

    Stunning photo,

    do you take all your gear with you or it depend on your travel ??
    Andy recently posted…Best Golf Rangefinder Reviews in 2017My Profile

  14. Terri
    | Reply

    Hello Lauren, nice information. Would you mind sharing which photo editing software you use? I am still debating which to get, but definitely going for a free option until I really get the knack of using my DSLR and editing.

    Thank you,
    Terri

  15. Steve@Gadgetonic
    | Reply

    I do not have experience with the cameras you use on a regular basis but the photos are absolutely breathtaking. I absolutely love your GoPro video from the Bahamas! We were lucky enough to have one to take with us on our honeymoon in Hawaii and were able to capture the beauty beneath the ocean while snorkeling and swimming in the hidden waterfalls. Do you bring the GoPro with you on every trip just incase?

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