It is the travel writing which is my personal passion, but in this day and age it is pretty impossible to do it without photography alongside. A modern travel blog needs images to go with the stories, to give to brands you work with, and to build social media profiles. My first few trips were just photos taken on old phones and occasionally a point-and-shoot, but as the business grew, I had to add some photography gear to my bag.
One of the questions that gets asked the most on here, and I haven’t gotten around to answering properly, is “what do you use to take photos?” It’s a good question and the answer is: a mixture of gear. Cameras and phones have come and gone during the last seven years of more intense travel, so I’ll run through what is currently in my bag. Some of this gear I have fallen in love with and would not travel without, other gear is for a specific purpose and I definitely don’t use all the time.
Quick notes: Before we get started… just remember that I’m not a professional photographer and to be honest, a lot about photography confuses the heck out of me (still!), so all this is from the perspective of someone looking for great travel photos without a lot of complexity. This is also quite a different style of post to what I’m used to making, so I would love to hear any feedback and hope it’s useful!
SONY A7 MIRRORLESS
This camera is my one true photography love and it has been incredible. The lightweight full-frame Sony a7 was one of the first mirrorless cameras on the market and I snapped one up back in 2015. It’s not the top of the range Sony by any means, but the lightweight design, slim body, and superb image quality make it a fantastic camera for top notch travel photos. Most of the photos on Travel Textbook have been taken with the Sony a7 and almost all of my Instagram photos are with this camera because they are the highest quality. Examples of posts with entirely Sony a7 photos: Exploring Milford Sound, Oxford Photo Diary, Lisbon Travel Guide For A Weekend In Portugal’s Capital and Taking A Secret Food Tour In Bologna.
With Sony, you can download an app onto your phone which works as a remote so you can set up the camera on a tripod/surface and take photos from a distance. This sure beats setting a timer and frantically running to your position like a crazy person before it goes off. With wireless capabilities too, it’s simple to send images straight to your phone at any time without internet.
Since the release of the a7, Sony has released newer models of the camera which, if I was buying it new now, I would get the latest body. My understanding is that the latest model of the a7 is the a7 III. This is more expensive than mine which was bought back in 2016 but the specs have greatly improved.
The smartphone has become an integral part of travel these days and with ever-increasing photo quality, they are used to capture our memories too. I have travelled with a smartphone over the last few years and find them great for personal memories, video footage, and for photography apps. Smartphone cameras just keep on improving and similar to most cameras so it’s hard to go wrong. A lot of bloggers solely use phone cameras to shoot content for their blogs.
A benefit of travelling with a smart phone with an additional camera is the use of phone apps. Apps connected to GoPro, DSLR cameras etc., mean that you can quickly and easily transfer photos to phones for social sharing and use your phone as a camera remote. This can be really handy!
For our trip to the Philippines and New Zealand we knew we were going to be in and out of the water. Some brands needed specific content which involved being in the ocean so it became clear that a waterproof device was required. After a long time deliberating, we decided upon the GoPro Hero 7. GoPro releases ranges with several options: white (lowest quality), silver (middle quality) and black (top quality). If you buy a GroPro Hero 7 Black you are fully equipped with 4K footage which is pretty unreal. Because we were already stretching the budget, we opted for the lower price point. Overall, the GoPro fulfilled its purpose with great underwater footage and the newest range are completely waterproof so you don’t need to buy a case. The still images aren’t the best quality so it’s mostly for personal photos and memories or if underwater footage is specifically required. If I had more money at the time I would’ve probably gone the model up.
These instant cameras are cheap and a good novelty photography item to add to the arsenal. I love taking my Instax travelling (when I have enough luggage room) because the photos make for such great memories and I love the vintage feel. Although I almost always forget to share my Instax photos on the blog, my room at home is completely covered in them. It is a great way to keep memories and it’s nice to have instant physical copies of these moments.
BEST TRAVEL TRIPOD
I’ve made my way through a few tripods in my time, mostly because I used to buy the cheapest possible ones and give them a very good workout. Although, I’m trying not making that mistake again. Using poorly-made tripods renders them almost useless because they don’t stay still or can’t hold the weight of the camera, and your shot suffers. Tripods have been particularly fab since I have started solo travelling a lot more. Although I don’t mind asking strangers for photos, there are some locations where it’s difficult/there’s nobody around.
BIG, STURDY TRIPOD
At home when I’m exploring with a car or hiking, I have my all-time favourite tripod the Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 263 AB 100. This tripod is insanely sturdy and is used by surveyors. It is too long to fit in my current backpack though so it’s hard to take abroad. If you do a lot of photography close to home I would 100% look into getting one of these because I have no complaints.
TRAVELLING BUT NEED HEIGHT
When travelling, I need to use something that fits in my backpack easily, is light, but still gives good height with sturdy support. For this, I use the Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod With Joystick Head (but Ball Head is just as good). It packs up to around 40cm and is lightweight, perfect for putting in a day pack or carry-on.
PRACTICAL, LIGHT-WEIGHT, LOW-HEIGHT
The tripods I mentioned before are more geared towards heavy DSLR-type cameras where you want height. If you have a lightweight point-and-shoot, GoPro, or iPhone (or a DSLR but don’t need height), there is no need to invest in heavy, big and expensive tripods. For a practical for lighter devices/without height, I recommend the Joby GorillaPod 3K Kit Bendable Tripod which has good angles and is feather-light (just make sure you get the right one for the weight of your camera especially for DSLR). Manfrotto also has a great mini tripod which I am yet to try but have heard fantastic things from friends.
ADDITIONAL PHOTO GEAR
Photo kits are more than just the cameras themselves and the extra gear you need depends on the type of travel and photography you like. It’s also important to invest in SD Cards, back up batteries, lenses for your needs, and a sturdy (not too touristy looking) camera bag.
GEAR I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE SOMEDAY
Of course, if you want to go all out and get the best travel photography gear, there is plenty on offer (a lot more than what I’ve discussed here – the camera world is crazy diverse!). When I get a full-time job next year and can (hopefully) squirrel away some savings for the first time, I will hopefully begin slowly upgrading and adding to my kit. There are a few cameras I have been dreaming of, and they are:
These will most likely always remain out of reach (sad face), but a girl can dream.
BONUS USEFUL EDITING PROGRAMS AND APPS
Editing photos is half the job, too. There are loads of photo editing apps out there and it can be hard to choose which ones to you. There are several products and apps I use to edit photos and for social media which I would recommend.
- Adobe Lightroom is the number-one editing app I use and have downloaded preset packs
- VSCO app for some filters on the run
- Retouch for editing out annoying lamp poles etc.
- unsqrd app for breaking photos up into several parts to have smooth swipe effect
- Mextures for vintage textures
- Unfold is my go-to for designing stories
- Canva can also be used for more graphic-design based story pieces
- Planoly is great for feed planning
- Preview is another similar app for feed planning
Hope this was useful!
PIN FOR LATER AND FOR OTHERS!
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