Travel Tips: Travel Photography (Equipment)


There can be a real temptation when packing for a holiday to try and cram every piece of camera gear into your bag – I mean when are you ever going to be back in “(insert country name here)” again?  The problem is that with airline baggage restrictions getting tighter and tighter, along with the increasing amount of technology the average traveller is moving around with – as well as the inherent safety risk in taking $5,000 worth of equipment around the world to some less than safe places – travel photography can be a risky game.

I know the feeling you have some really awesome camera equipment, that perfect f1.2 50mm lens which gives such amazing crisp photos, but then again what about a tripod for those ultrafine landscape photos, don’t forget a high power flash for night time stuff and lighting large rooms.  It can get very tempting to try and take as much gear as possible with you on holiday.  But I wanted to give you a few of my thoughts and ideas to hopefully help lighten the load.

Here are my top tips for choosing your Photography equipment

1. SLR or Compact Digital

These days the current crop of Compact Digital Cameras are proving pretty amazing when it comes to Lens Quality and Image Quality.  Their images will often rival those from some big name SLR cameras.

Think about your destination and what your planned activities will be.  If you are travelling to a country that is not particularly safe are you likely to be so paranoid that you won’t even take your SLR out of the hotel room in-case it gets stolen?  If so then save yourself the hassle and just take a small compact camera you can keep safe in your pocket.

2. If you travel with an SLR think about a general all-purpose lens. 

At a minimum I like to travel with a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm however 80% of my shots come out of the 24-70mm lens, is it worth that extra hassle/weight and worry just for the 20% of time you might use the longer lens?  As an alternative strategy what about a good all-purpose zoom such as the Sigma 18-200mm.  These big zoom lenses give you the flexibility of a wide angle through to a telefoto zoom and they don’t sacrifice too much on image quality.

3. Do you need a Tripod? and if so do you really need a big one?

I used to pack my Manfrotto Tripod into my check-in bag just incase I had that one shot I needed it for.  I must admit to only really using it maybe once or twice in a 6 week trip.  More often than not I used my small Flexible Gorrillapod – at only about 200gms this little tripod will easily fit into your carry-on bag or even your handbag/laptop bag.  And for most of the time it did the job.  It can easily attach to a pole or railing and can be adjusted to a multitude of different angles.

Again think about the purpose of your holiday – do you really need a big tripod for that 1 or 2 shots you will use it for?

4. Forget the Flash

Most cameras have a built in flash unit, even reasonably high range SLR cameras have a build in flash – they are not as good as an external unit but they do the job.  Most have a guide number around 20-30 meaning they will get you about a 5-10meter range.  If you are shooting somewhere that needs flash it might be better to bump up your ISO and shoot slower shutter speed rather than popping in a big burst of flash.

I try to travel with the minimum of camera gear as I can to avoid making myself out as an easy target to thieves.  Also you will find in many places – such as temples, churches, and some art galleries – people with SLR cameras and external flash units tend to get hassled by security guards and not allowed to take pictures, whereas those with small compact cameras can shoot away to their hearts content.  If you can be as subtle as possible you stand to get some better and unique photos.

5. Don’t Delete anything until you are safely at home!

As you get a little snap happy you might find you are filling up your memory card quicker than you had planned.  It can be very tempting to do a bit of editing on the fly and delete some photos off your camera.  DONT! The LCD screen on the back of your camera is only 2-5inch in size and doesn’t give you any where near the detail or quality of a full computer monitor.  Sometimes what looks bad on the camera is actually amazing in full-size.

It is better that you either take extra memory cards with you or take a means to store the photos elsewhere safely.  I always travel with a small Asus Netbook Laptop along with a 500GB External Hard Drive.  Usually every second night I will download my camera images to the External Hard Drive and then clear the memory card of my camera.  This helps to avoid getting caught short during the day and having to delete photos on the run, or potentially missing out on potentially great shots.

Another option is to take additional memory cards.  The price of camera memory cards has come down drastically of late, you can pick up a 32GB SD Card for less than $50 now.  If you are not travelling with a laptop it might be worth having a couple of spare cards to use.  Just make sure you have a system in place so you can keep track of which cards are full and which are empty.

6. Choose a subtle camera bag

So often I will see people walking around with massive Lowepro Backpacks carrying their camera equipment.  These bags are really well made, offer loads of protection for your camera – however scream out at the top of their lungs LOOK AT ME I HAVE AN EXPENSIVE BAG!

I have fallen in love with the Lowpro Passport Sling these bags will easily hold a Digital SLR Camera with standard lens attached.  It is also expandable so that I can fit a 70-200mm Standing up in the front.  There are also external pockets which hold 2 water bottles and maps etc.  These really don’t look like a camera bag and when zipped up are very difficult for anyone to get into.  In a crowd I wear it across my body at the front which allows me to hold the top of the bag along with the zip.

I have used it now for about 3 years travelling around South East Asia and haven’t had a problem at all (touch wood) – it is also well padded and can pack down flat if you need to pack it into your carry-on/check-in bag.

If you are the type to feel a little worried about your equipment when travelling then this is the bag for you – a good camera can only take good photos if you take it out of the Hotel Room!

7. If you fail to plan you plan to fail – TAKE PICTURES!

There is no point going to the trouble of taking all your valuable equipment on a trip if you are never going to use it.  Use your past trips as a learning exercise – did you really need to take everything you took?

Plan your holiday out – where are the destinations you are travelling to?  What time of year will you be there?  Plan out your viewing locations, if everyone photographs a monument from the same spot is there another vantage point that will get you a unique angle?

If you are trying to get that amazing sunrise photograph from Angkor Wat you need to actually be there before sunrise! If you are on a family holiday make sure the rest of your travel companions are going to be happy you dragged them out of bed at 3:30am to make sunrise.


Those are just some of my tips on choosing what equipment to take on holiday with you.  Please let me know below what you use and any other tips you think might be useful I would love to hear from you.

I have no association with any of the companies or brands I linked to above, these are just products or companies I have used and recommend myself.  For those playing at home I like to travel with the following:

– Nikon D300s SLR

– Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 Lens

– Lowepro Passport Sling Bag

– Gorillapod Tripod

– 2 x 32GB Compact Flash & 2 x 16BG Secure Digital Cards

– Canon S110 Compact Camera

(Yes I have both Nikon and Canon – though I never leave them in the same bag together because we all know they can’t play nice with each other)

I also have my Asus Netbook along with my 500GB External HDD to backup the photos to.


Do you have any questions about Travel Photography? Please ask them below and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability.