The Ultimate Travel Photography Gear List

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A bit outdated (April 2013, but a top-down view of the variety and quantity of photography gear I bring on every trip.

Capturing quality images while I’m traveling is really important to me, but it can be challenging due to a myriad of factors. After traveling through a dozen plus different countries and taking photos for this website, I put together my ultimate travel photography gear list to share what works for me.

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My portable lighting equipment: the Canon 600EX-RT speedlight and ST-E2 transmitter. If I need a constant light source, I use the Comer video light.

 

Introduction:

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I’m not a fan of the slow focusing and bad battery life of the Sony a7R, but it does take some incredible images at 36 megapixels!

As a full-time wedding photographer, taking quality images is of paramount importance to me, and that doesn’t change when I travel. While it would be much easier to just use my iPhone or a point and shoot camera to grab travel memories with, the photographer in me just can’t settle for that!

Not only do I want to challenge myself creatively while I’m traveling and capture the new landscapes, people, and cultures as beautifully as possible, I also want to share those images with my audience and help inspire others to explore the world, right here on this website.

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Setup for long exposure/HDR/nighttime photography: camera body and lens with ND filter on top of fluid ball head that is attached to the tripod.

But that means traveling with lots more equipment, including heavy camera bodies, multiple lenses, and accessories. So how do you minimize your photography gear weight, without compromising on quality? When researching online, I found lots of information targeted at photographers heading overseas for travel photography workshops where they would be spending weeks at a time in one location.

But what about travelers like me who were on set itineraries (perhaps with their partners or small group tour groups) to experience all facets of the country, while at the same time coming away with quality images? After traveling to more than a dozen countries and pursuing my love of travel photography, I decided to put together this ultimate travel photography gear list to help photographers who were in the same situation.

 

The problems I was running into as an aspiring travel photographer:

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The only camera backpack I’ll ever use: the f-stop Tilopa BC. It’s durable while comfortable to wear; compact while spacious enough to fit all my gear; secure while making it easy for me to get what I need right away.

Anyone who’s traveled on a set itinerary (whether it be a private tour or small group adventure) will know that there isn’t a lot of time to scout, set up, and experiment when it comes to photography. You have to be on your toes and grab photos in the moment, ensuring you don’t hold up your travel companions or miss those magical fleeting moments. There isn’t always a lot of time to change lenses and the security situation of being in a crowded and unknown city just adds to the difficulty.

You need ease of access to your photography gear at a moment’s notice and durability so it can handle the sometimes rough and tough conditions that traveling presents. In addition, you need your travel photography gear to be compact and able to fit within the cabin baggage restrictions of airlines. Checking in your camera equipment at the airport should never be an option, and ideally it should never leave your sight while in transit! How do you squeeze everything you really need into such a limited space and weight allowance, without compromising on the quality of images you are able to capture?

 

My solution on travel photography equipment:

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My go-to camera bodies: Canon 5D Mark III and Sony a7R.

After experimenting with what works (and what doesn’t) over the past four years, I feel that I’ve established a travel photography system that works. It allows me to capture the highest quality and most creative images possible, while ensuring ease of access to my equipment within the weight and space limitations imposed on me. This ultimate travel photography gear list sets out what I now take with me on each and every trip when I head off exploring the world.

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The Canon 5D Mark III allows me to capture a wide range of subjects, from landscapes to people. It’s not too heavy, a full-frame sensor, and works great in low light situations.

Professional level DSLR and mirrorless cameras with high quality lenses are essential, and I travel with two Canon 5D Mark III camera bodies. Not only do they take great quality images and facilitate a wide variety of lenses, but they are also durable and the batteries last a long time. From capturing sweeping landscapes to intimate portraits, and wildlife action shots to close-up macro work, they do absolutely everything beautifully. The only real downside is the weight, with the bodies heavy compared to other cameras.

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Back of the Sony a7R, which always takes me a few second to get used to when I’m switching between it it and the 5D. I only use the Sony for landscapes and tripod shots. The rest are with the Canon.

To counteract that I also bring a lightweight Sony a7R that offers amazing quality and high resolution, although it’s not as durable as the Canon 5D Mark III and the batteries nowhere near as long lasting (a day if I’m lucky).

Bringing two Canon 5D Mark III bodies allows me to shoot with two different lenses at the same time (usually a 24-70mm and 70-2000mm) and quickly grab those fleeting moments when they happen. If I only need one body, then I’ll leave the other one in my luggage back at the hotel or in the car (if I’m with a trusted driver) and keep my weight down slightly.

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The 2-3 Canon lenses I bring on all my trips. These days, I substitute the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens for the f/4L IS one to save weight, and the 16-35mm for the one from Sony since the latter has far better image quality.

When it comes to lenses, I only take professional-level fast lenses to capture the best images possible. My top lens choices are as follows:

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Occasionally, I bring my Canon 100mm macro if I know I’m going to take a lot of portraits of people.

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My go-to traveler tripod, the GT1542T, with a fluid ball head at the top to securely hold my DSLR or mirrorless camera in place.

In addition, I always travel with my Gitzo travel tripod for long exposure, HDR, and low-light situations, using a cable release remote when possible. I take my lightweight 13” MacBook Air laptop and external hard drive for backing up, as well as CF cards, extra batteries, and neutral density (ND) filters.

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Inside the Tilopa BC, which you can get easily get to by unzipping the main compartment: 2 camera bodies, 4 lenses, and accessories.

A comfortable and well-designed backpack to hold everything is also essential, and my f-stop Tilopa BC backpack has served me incredibly well over the last couple of years. It’s really durable and fits a lot of gear, all whilst ensuring accessibility when I need to change lenses in remote or difficult situations. It easily fits into the overhead compartment on planes and never (ever!) leaves my sight when we are in transit or out sightseeing!

 

Don’t forget the accessories!

From extra camera batteries and an external hard drive to filters and cable release remotes, there’s far more to a travel photography gear list than just the cameras and lenses:

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Although I rarely use the Canon speedlight, it’s essential when I need to photograph people and objects (lodging and food) in low light situations (at night time).

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Similarly, I bring my Canon 2x teleconverter if I need an extra reach in my lens, though I will lose 2 full stops of light. My 70-200mm turns into a 140-400mm!

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Always make sure to bring a back-up battery for all your electronics, like I do here with my portable Comer video light.

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You can never have enough camera batteries. I normally bring 5-6 for the Canon 5D III and 4 for the Sony a7R. I also charge used ones every chance I get, usually when I check into my hotel room.

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Set of Eneloop rechargeable batteries for my flash, transmitter, and other devices that need AA batteries. Be sure to have them fully charged beforehand.

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I bring a set of 10-12 32 GB CompactFlash cards for my 2 Canon 5D Mark IIIs. Be sure to back up your images every chance you get, generally by the end of each day.

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This CF card holder is arguably my most important photography-related item. It’s always in my camera backpack or somewhere safely stowed away.

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Backing up all my RAW files onto the Western Digital Firewire 800 external hard drive.

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The SanDisk Firewire 800 CF card reader. It’s a good idea to bring at least two if possible, just to ensure you’ll always be able to back-up your images while traveling. These days, you can use the USB 3.0 version.

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The Gitzo GT1541T traveler tripod nicely folds into a compact size, going either inside my luggage when flying or right on the side of my f-stop Tilopa BC backpack when I’m out and about shooting.

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Set of LEE Filters graduated neutral density filters along with adapters.

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Cable release remotes for both Canon 5D Mark III and Sony a7R, essential to get the sharpest, cleanest, and highest quality images possible (when using a tripod).

One last thing that shouldn’t be overlooked in this ultimate travel photography gear list is travel insurance. While medical cover is obviously a top priority, make sure you have a travel insurance plan that covers the photography gear you are traveling with in case of loss, damage or theft. You might be carrying a few thousand dollars on your back and the risk of losing it (without being compensated) just isn’t worth it!

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The front side of the Tilopa BC is super durable with lots of attachments and side pockets. It’s made perfectly for a travel photographer.

 

Conclusion:

This setup has been my companion trekking to Nepal’s Everest Base Camp and along Peru’s Inca Trail, while exploring the rural landscapes of Morocco and the offshore islands of Thailand, and when delving into the madness of India’s cities. Of course there has to be some compromise, and there is definitely photography gear not listed here that I would love to be able to take with me.

But staying within the limitations that travel photography imposes, this equipment setup has enabled me to document all of our travel experiences on Only A Day Away for our dedicated audience, and indulged my creative side as a professional photographer who wants to capture the most evocative images possible, no matter where in the world I am!

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The Sony mirrorless camera isn’t as durable as the Canon 5D Mark III, so I have to be mindful of when I use it.

I hope this ultimate travel photography gear list helps other photographers prepare for their next adventure and capture high quality images while there. If you have any more questions about my travel photography gear choices or want to share some of your own, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or drop me a message directly.

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