Camera gear is essential when traveling. Those of us who love spectacular photo images, especially those we have worked to capture ourselves, know the value and advantages of good equipment.
We also know the importance of a good plan before embarking on any trip. A crucial part of this planning stage is to ensure that all necessary, and possibly needed, equipment is packed in your camera bag ready to go.
I have learned the hard way to use a checklist of the photography and video equipment I need to pack before embarking on any adventure.
Our travel photography kit we detail below is something we have worked for years to build. It includes the equipment and accessories that are necessary for the types of photographs and videos we capture.
You must evaluate the images YOU want to photograph and determine which camera and video gear works best for you and your travel habits.
Inspect your camera before packing to ensure that it is functioning properly and has been cleaned. Make sure it is loaded with necessary memory cards and that a fully charged battery is inserted.
I like to carry two camera bodies so I always have a back-up and it alleviates the need to switch lenses in the field. It’s taken years to get the cameras I now have: Nikon D500, Nikon D810 and Nikon D7200.
Selecting the right camera for your photographic goals is a complicated and personal process. The cameras we have to produce the images we want may not be the best for your photography goals or travel style. We recommend doing your research to find what’s best for you. Digital Trends has a good digital camera buying guide you can reference.
To determine which lenses to pack, you must know what images you want to capture.
Will you photograph landscape, wildlife, waterfalls or all of the above?
Nikon 24-120 mm F4: This is my primary landscape lens that gives me a wide angle as well as telephoto to get closer shots.
Nikon 80-400 mm F4.5-5.6: I use this as a mid range wildlife lens.
Sigma 24 mm F1.4 prime: If you are interested in photographing the Milky Way, this is a wonderful lens to use.
Nikon 500 mm F4: This is my big daddy lens with super telephoto capabilities to capture wildlife in the distance.
A good sturdy tripod is worth the investment and can make a tremendous difference in the sharpness of your photos.
Our Mefoto Carbon Fiber Globetrotter is the perfect lightweight tripod for long hikes or when I won’t be using a large, heavy lens.
I also have the Fotopro T-74CL tripod specifically designed for outdoor and adventure photography.
There are many quality tripods of varying sizes and capacities. Evaluate your needs and spend the money to obtain a good quality tripod to meet those needs. It will definitely pay for itself in the quality of your images.
Circular Polarizer and Neutral Density filters are nice pieces of equipment to have, but pay the price for a name brand. You don’t put cheap glass in front of your expensive lens.
Circular Polarizers are great for bringing out the color and depth of your landscape shots.
Neutral Density Filters can be very helpful in obtaining a blurred motion with water scenes and when shooting in high light conditions.
A good backpack is the foundation of any travel photographer’s kit. A well-designed pack that fits and carries well when hiking and is equipped with pockets and organizing sections is a must.
We have three great backpacks we use in various circumstances. All of these backpacks are well designed with adjustable belts and straps to properly distribute the pack weight on our bodies while hiking.
The Dakine Mission Photo Backpack is used for smaller landscape excursions that will not require a lot of supplies or the use of large lenses.
The Lowepro Flipside 500 AW Backpack is best for photo trips that will necessitate the use of a large lens like our Nikon 500mm. Since we always carry two camera bodies, Jamie will carry the Dakine pack and I will carry the Lowepro so we are prepared for any wildlife or landscape shot.
The Lowepro Pro Trekker 650 AW is a large capacity bag we use to transport our camera gear on the airplane or longer road trips that will require more lenses and supplies.
Do you ever come across something that you want to photograph, but by the time you got your camera out of the bag, the moment is gone?
This camera clip by Peak Design is AMAZING! We were skeptical that it would hold our DSLR with a heavy lens, but it does. It’s so nice to have the camera securely attached while hiking – AND readily available for any photo opportunity when it comes along.
A quick field cleaning is sometimes necessary to remove dust or water droplets on your lens. NOTE: this is not for cleaning the sensor.
A good camera cleaning kit should include a lens pen, cleaning fluid in a spray bottle, air blower, microfiber cleaning cloths and a soft brush.
A remote shutter release is fantastic for decreasing camera shake caused by the pressure of your finger activating the camera shutter. Using this items results in sharper images.
I’ve used expensive and cheap models and find that they all wear out quickly. I always carry an extra because it’s frustrating when the shutter release goes out on you in the middle of a shoot. You can compensate for this by using the camera timer, but it is inconvenient. You will need to search for a remote shutter release for your specific camera model.
You will use the card over and over, so spending a bit more to get a better product, in the long term, will not cost you much more.
CARRY EXTRAS: You don’t want to miss any photographic opportunities due to forgetting to load a memory card or battery in your camera; draining a battery or filling a memory card (or two).
I encourage you to read the Do’s and Don’ts of Memory Cards by Peta Pixel. They share simple tips to keep your memory cards and images safe now and in the future.
Create a photo back-up process that you do at the end of EVERY PHOTO SHOOT. You don’t want to lose photos left in the camera if something corrupts the memory card.
My image back-up system:
When traveling keep your laptop and portable hard drive in two separate places – if your laptop is locked in the hotel safe while you are out exploring, be sure to carry the portable hard drive with you as they are small and lightweight.
Capturing memorable travel photos doesn’t require lugging around a professional camera. Focus on the principles of photography when using your phone to take pictures.
Jamie always uses her phone to take photos and videos as we travel. Many times her smartphone images are just as good as the ones I take on the DLSR because she has used the basic photographic principles to create her image.
The biggest tip for using your smartphone is the same as using any other camera: UNDERSTAND WHAT YOUR CAMERA CAN DO!
Jamie loves the JOBY Grip Tight GorillaPod Stand to use with her smartphone because the legs wrap securely around any surface. It does a wonderful job stabilizing the phone when capturing video sequences as we drive or hike. She uses the stand as a selfie stick as well.
There are GorillaPod stands for point and shoot, DSLR and smart phones. Be sure to get the correct mount for your camera needs. Some stands don’t include the mount – Jamie likes the metal Jellyfish Mount – read the description of the item to make sure you have a stand AND mount.
Eliminate the need for an electrical outlet to charge your phone by using an external battery charger.
Jamie uses her smartphone as a camera and video recorder most of the day when we are traveling, which can drain the battery pretty quickly. An external battery charger gives her phone a full charge when we’re outdoors exploring. She carries it in our backpack and plugs it into her phone so it can charge while we are away from the jeep or hotel.
There is no better photo editing program than Adobe Lightroom. It’s also a photo management tool that keeps your images organized in a comprehensive and cohesive way.
I highly recommend the Adobe Creative Cloud for Photographers – it’s well worth the $9.99 a month.
These programs may be difficult to learn so I recommend finding courses or tutorials for beginners to help you get started.
The most important instrument is the person behind the camera who creates the images. The type of camera you have does not determine the photographic outcome.
Be confident in your abilities. Get out there and capture what you love whether you use your cell phone, point-and-shoot, DLSR or video camera.
That’s it folks, our cut and dry, travel photography camera gear list formed out of the forge of painful experience and years of trekking with a camera in hand.
Read our article: 5 Basic Photography Tips You Should Know….and Never Forget!
There are many tutorials and courses you can take to improve your skills as a photographer. Digital Photography School offers beginning photography courses with high ratings.
We utilize Pinterest to organize the information when researching travel locations. Photo Jeepers has a Photo Tips board and Travel Photography board where we only pin things we have read and find worthwhile. Use our boards to help you become a better photographer. Save this to your photography boards and share with your friends!
Travel Photography Resources for outdoor adventure we recommend and use: