Travel Photography Gear: What’s in my Camera Bag?

For as long as I can remember, my family has been enthusiastic about capturing memories. My grandpa was the proud owner of a Yashica camera which used a 38mm lens and film! Although that was the only photography gear he owned, he would talk at length about how and when to use the flash, and we even experimented with the self-timer (on the now 30+ year old camera!) so we could all get some photos together as a family.

I continue to carry forward the tradition of capturing memories. Documenting my travels and the time I spend with family is something I’m extremely passionate about! After taking several online courses on photography, I invested in my first DSLR in 2017. Learning and evolving photography techniques is an endless and joyful process that I still continue to do!

Photography gear - Girl with Nikon D3400 camera photographing palm trees
I love capturing landscapes!

I use different equipment for different scenarios. And I’m going to walk you through all of it without further ado!

(Stay till the end to find out the one prop I carry with me all the time to add some magic to my pictures!)

My Photography Gear – The Complete List

The Phone Camera

As they say, the best photography gear is the one you will use!

So let’s start with one that I’m sure you already have! I find that the camera on my phone is good enough to handle 70-80% of my travel photography needs! It’s also the only camera I carry if:

  • I’m traveling with friends for fun, and photography won’t be the primary focus of the trip
  • There will be enough natural light where I’m going
  • I’m going to be walking around a lot and don’t want to carry heavy camera gear

I use the One Plus 5T, and Guru has the One Plus 6. Here are some more pictures I captured with these two phones – no filters used!

Accessories for the phone

Having someone else click your pictures or having the phone lean against something sturdy works most of the time! However, you’re going to love having a tripod for your phone if you

  • travel solo
  • can’t find someone to take a picture of the entire group
  • want to shoot in low-light
  • want to change exposure settings

I invested in this nifty little phone-tripod (under $10) with flexi-legs that can latch onto anything (including a tree, railing, or a chair). I typically latch it onto my DSLR tripod to give it some height, and I’ve been loving using this one.

If you’re looking for something more sturdy, I’d recommend getting this UBeesize tripod (under $25).

Video Stabilization:

With TikTok and Reels on my mind, I’ve recently made an addition to my phone accessory collection – a DJI OM 4 Gimbal to make my phone videos smoother. This is a MUST HAVE if you love capturing videos and can’t place your phone in a single location – like doing hotel room tours, footage of dances, or a walking tour of the place you’re visiting!

The GoPro

Another low-weight option that works like a charm is the GoPro. I find the GoPro better than the phone for the following reasons

  1. Wider-angle lens so you can capture more of the scene
  2. Images in RAW format (stores more information, great for editing)
  3. Greater video stability (smoother video)
  4. Connects to the phone so you can see what you’re capturing (lifesaver!)
  5. Optimized for underwater footage (especially the newer models which don’t require special casing)
  6. Use handsfree – on a headband, attached to a vehicle, etc. and operates with voice commands
  7. Eliminates the need to use your phone as a camera so you can save battery to navigate back home (another lifesaver!)

I got my GoPro Hero 8 (latest: GoPro Hero9) just before the pandemic started and haven’t got to use it as much as I’d like. Even so, I already love it because it’s taken away quite a lot of anxiety and error from shoots, especially when I wander by myself.

Photography gear - Girl with GoPro Hero 8
Big joy in a tiny package

It conveniently connects to my phone, which I can use to set the frame for my picture, and also use as a remote control. This is ah-may-zing because I can

  • place the GoPro at a much higher (or lower) level than me, and still comfortably see what it’s capturing
  • put myself in the frame without needing to run back to the camera to see how the image turned out (solo travelers give me a high-five!)

These days, the GoPro is a permanent member of my photography gear bag because I end up using it to capture behind-the-scenes footage of my photography process.

Accessories I use for the GoPro

  • SanDisk MicroSD Card 64GB – SD cards with higher storage are available. However, 64GB is my sweet spot.
  • A tripod that doubles as a selfie-stick – super useful to comfortably hold and place the GoPro
  • Both phone tripods I mentioned earlier also work for the GoPro!
  • GoPro headband – to go handsfree and also capture the world from my point of view
  • Additional batteries – battery life is actually one of my biggest complaints about the GoPro. I recommend getting at least one additional battery compatible with the model you have.
  • Small carrying case – with all these little parts, it helps to have a case to keep all things GoPro in one convenient place.

Also read: “Who will click my pictures?” and other solo travel problems

The DSLR Camera

I can’t have a photography gear list without including my most prized possessions – my DSLR cameras! While they can be intimidating for beginners, DSLR cameras are fantastic for the following reasons:

  • better overall image quality
  • capturing great images even in low light conditions
  • high shutter speed requirements
  • night photography
  • having fine control of exposure settings
  • looking more professional

Haha, although I struck it out, a DSLR really is one that gets people to take you more seriously as a photographer. Carrying a DSLR has always been a great conversation starter with locals anywhere I travel!

My first/beginner camera

I started with the Nikon D3400 camera when I was still learning and experimenting with manual settings. It’s budget friendly, lightweight, and versatile!

Photography gear - Gondolas at Venice swaying in the water - shot using Nikon D3400
Using long exposure to capture the sway of the Gondolas

There are admittedly hundreds of more advanced cameras that also cost a lot more, but this is one of the best cameras to get started with!

Photography gear - Girl with Nikon D3400 camera

Addons to the D3400

Prime Lens

When it comes to DSLR photography, bokeh is all the rage! Bokeh is the effect where the subject is clear and in focus, while everything else in the image appears blurred.

Any lens that has f-stop f/2.8 or less can produce this effect. While zoom lenses with this aperture range can be very expensive, a prime lens (with a fixed zoom) is more affordable, making it a must-have addon to the basic photography kit!

I use the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 prime lens. Rated 4.8/5 by nearly 12000 people, this is a fantastic low-cost lens that I use all the time with my Nikon D3400 – for street photography and travel, whether I’m going for the bokeh or not!

DSLR Upgrade

The thing about cameras if you’re passionate about photography is that you’ll soon hit the limitation barriers of a beginner’s camera. After using my Nikon D3400 for 3 years, I decided it was time for an upgrade.

One of my best purchases in the photography department has been the Sony A7 III. I love it for many reasons, the primary ones being

  • superior shutter speeds
  • sharp control of focus
  • Wi-Fi capability to connect to an app – perfect when you have to place the camera away from you!

I use the Sony camera with a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens. The quality of the images are fantastic, and the bokeh produced by this lens is an absolute delight! Unfortunately, the lens makes the entire camera a bit heavy, but I got used to it very soon.

If you have some room in your budget, and know that you won’t abandon your camera once you buy it, I strongly recommend skipping the beginners camera and moving straight on to something like this one!

Other Accessories

Adding Magic

Last but not least – regardless of which camera I plan to use, there’s one item that always part of my photography gear! This is my favorite accessory that can add that additional WOW to any image – using fairy lights!

They’re capable of adding a magical touch to just about any scene! I’ve also inspired and been appreciated by other content creators who have seen me shoot with these lights!

Girl with fairy lights in the background creating a beautiful bokeh effect - photography gear for bokeh
Absolutely love this effect – created using the Nikkor 35mm Lens

There are a lot of factors that affect how a photograph finally turns out – but I write this post to give you an insight into the tools I use.

What goes in your camera bag? What factors matter most to you when you choose to invest in a camera? Let me know in the comments below!

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