Travel Photography Essentials
So you’ve booked the travel photography trip of your dreams, or maybe a client is sending you on your first assignment somewhere across the globe. It’s time to plan your excursion, buy any necessary gear, and pack for the trip. So what should you bring? Here’s a list of travel photography essentials that will elevate your travel photography to the next level.
Camera, Lenses & Tripod
There are dozens of cameras, lenses, and tripods on the market, each with various strengths and weaknesses, and choosing the right setup could be the topic of its own article. The best goal for travel photography is to pack the best photographic punch (highest quality photos/best focal length coverage) into the smallest/lightest amount of gear. I’ll get into cameras and lenses in a future post but for now, let’s talk about travel accessories and services that make my life better.
Having a phone capable of taking great pictures is also a good strategy. Something like the iPhone X will allow you to always have a photographic device, even if you’re just out to dinner. You never know what shot could be waiting for you! Plus, all the awesome apps on phones these days makes it absolutely indispensable as possible the most important tool in my arsenal. I’ll share more about phone apps in a future post as well.
Additionally, for certain trips, you may want to consider a fun, yet solid, point-and-shoot waterproof camera like the Olympus TG-5 for photographing in the elements, at the beach or underwater. We use these type of cameras on my Jordan Photo Tour where we do an awesome water hike in the spectacular Wadi Musa Canyon.
Having the perfect messenger bag to carry and organize your travel photography essentials is key to a stress-free trip. You want your bag to be large enough to store all your essential computer and other non-camera gear, yet small enough that you can easily carry it around on journeys of various types and lengths. I like the Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag 15”. After clearing the laptop out it can also hold a complete small daily photography kit and comes with a built-in tripod feature that works with most tripods.
Another great choice is the Tenba Messenger DNA 15 Slim Bag.
Backing up your photos is of the utmost importance when out in the field. You don’t want to spend money, trek all the way to some epic travel destination, and photograph a truly memorable sunrise, only to then lose your photo file. The Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB Portable External Hard Drive is a great option for its combination of small size and large storage capacity.
Your phone can be the most valuable tool other than your camera. I’m an iPhone fan and with all the awesome travel and photography related apps available on both iOS and Android, well… Don’t leave home without it!
And don’t forget to keep your memory cards safe by using something like the Gepe CardSafe Extreme. I’ve used these for over a decade and it is the perfect solution to safely storing all your valuable memory cards.
Headphones can make all the difference for comfort while in transit. And travel, and life is often better with music. I recommend listening to music associated with the cultures and countries you plan on visiting. While travelling around the world running awesome photography tours in some spectacular destinations, I’ve also gotten into listening to podcasts and audiobooks and these headphones are perfect for allowing me to concentrate on the narration rather than any ambient noise.
Some ideas for headphones include the Bose QuietComfort 35 (my all-time favorite travel accessory) and the Bose QuietComfort 20. These are top-of-the-line, noise-canceling options that allow you to reduce surrounding distractions and focus on your music. While they are expensive, I use them not only on my travels but daily while at home as well. A cheaper alternative is the RHA MA650 Wireless.
For those times when you want to catch some shut-eye on the plane or block out the street noise during a night in a big city, you’ll need some earplugs. Hearos are my all time favorite earplugs. They are very comfortable and block out most of the noise in any noisy situation.
Adaptors, Power Strips, and Portable Chargers
As a travel photographer, you’ll be carrying quite a lot of electronic gear with you – cameras, phones, laptops, etc. You’ll want to make sure these devices are always properly charged, and to do that you’ll want to:
- Have an all-in-one international travel plug adaptor so you can plug in your devices no matter where you are in the world.
- Plug in a power strip so you can charge multiple devices at once.
- Keep a portable battery pack with you for on-the-go charging.
Packing clothing for travel will depend on the person and the type of trip. But the key is to buy durable gear because you might not always be able to replace it in the field depending on where you travel. It’s also a good idea to purchase high-quality clothing so you can buy an item once and be set for the next 5-10 years. Keeping warm, dry, blister-free, and comfortable is of vital importance to staying healthy on the road, trust me!
Arcteryx is my preferred brand for top-of-the-line jackets, perfect for cooler trips like Iceland or Antarctica. The Beta AR and Atom LT Hoody are two of my “never leave home without it” items. I can’t say enough good things about the whole Arc’teryx line of clothing. Half my wardrobe consists of Arc’teryx gear!
Smart wool socks are a must as well. Smartwool makes premium merino wool socks for hiking, running, biking and everyday wear. Good shoes are only part of the way to keep your feet comfortable and blister free. Trust me, these socks will make all the difference if you want to have happy feet.
Haglofs makes comfortable and durable walking shoes, which are important since you’ll be on your feet a lot during most travel days.
I have gone through a ton of shoes in my travels and the Haglofs ROC Icon GT Walking Shoes are my top choice of all time. If you’ll be doing a lot of trekking hiking in snowy climates like Norway, the Salomon Men’s Toundra Pro boots are unbeatable.
Additional Assorted Essentials
One other thing you might want to bring on your trip is a lighting device for when you need to explore and photograph in low-light situations. A headlamp like the Petzl Tikka XP works well so you can keep your hands free while hiking or working with your camera.
Finally, bringing Ziploc plastic bags on your trips is always a good idea. These zip up bags and even regular garbage bags can be used in a pinch to protect your camera (and bag) during the rain, store tiny travel items, pack toiletries, or keep certain valuables free from moisture. And speaking of moisture, I recommend always packing Silica Gel Desiccant Packets in your messenger bag when you travel.
Proper Travel Planning
Of course, travel photography involves quite a bit of planning. Finding the best flight, hotel, and car rental deals will free up funds, giving you more money to spend at your destination.
Google Flights is a great tool for finding the cheapest route options for any given flight path. I particularly like the Flight Insights Tool, which allows you to see and compare the departure and arrival dates to find the cheapest date combinations.
Hipmunk is another fast, easy way to plan travel. I like it for its comprehensive travel search, from commercial flights, trains, and charter flights to hotels and vacation rentals through Airbnb.
Finally, Expedia is always a quick and easy method of scanning for flights, hotels, and car rentals.
“Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
~Dwight D. Eisenhower