Written by Ophelie
Updated 25 April 21
Will take 8mn to read
What gear do I need to go on a first photo trip? As a beginner, I asked myself the same question. I was very excited to go alone with my camera. So excited that I went without checking the photography equipment I really needed… and missed some good shots because of not having the right travel photography gear. Too bad.
But no panic… It won’t happen to you with these 11 photo gear essentials– to go with confidence on a very first own photo trip and achieve nice results! All the tips are thought for beginners on a budget.
What gear do I really need for travel photography?
- Lense(s) / lens kit
- Remote shutter release
- Location scouting photo app
- Easy light meter application
- Spare batteries and memory cards
- Cleaning kit
- A map of main photo spots
- Quick photo editing tools on mobile
- Camera bag
- Travel laptop and editing software
Checklist to save on your phone/laptop, below in the article
How much will it cost me?
130 to 350 $
- Lens from 100$ or free if kit included in camera price
- Tripod from 50$
- Spare battery from 20$
- Memory card from 14$
- Cleaning kit from 10$
- Camera bag from 40$
- EXTRA: travel laptop from 500$
This post contains affiliate links to relevant photography gear products on Amazon.
Top 1 - Lenses
I know, the word ‘lense’ sounds like the obvious topic every photographer talks about… but still seems for a beginner like a mysterious jungle full of weird animals. Biests such as prime lens, zoom, wide angle, fish eye or teleobjective. As a beginner travel photographer, it’s overwhelming. Point is, that lenses are on the top spot on the photography gear checklist. The lens(es) we choose to take with us will define the type of photography we’ll practice. Here some basic tips I follow myself as a beginner travel photographer.
Keep the number of lenses to the minimum in your photo equipment
Lenses cost… and weight. That’s why 1 to 2 lenses are enough when you are a beginner in travel photography. I know that it’s tempting to fill the camera bag with several beautiful looking lenses. But less is more… and learning on a reduced amount of lenses is a good way to master first your equipment without getting distracted.
Take advantage of the lens kits
Most cameras nowadays include a lens kit with wide range objectives – often, a 16-50mm lens zoom. It’s a big advantage for us as newbies in photography. Because you get one to sometimes two lenses in the camera price. And because the wide range lenses – or zoom – offer flexibility regarding the type of photography. With the 16-50mm, you can try landscape photography with a focal length between 16-35mm, as well as portraits from 45-50mm. The difference between a zoom and a prime lens has to do with the range of available focal lengths. The prime has no zoom – only one length, i.e. 70mm for portrait. Quality and price are quite higher. Zoom lenses will be a very good choice to start though. If you are still not sure about the best camera for you, check later my selection of travel cameras for the beginner photographer on a budget.
Photography for beginners - Which lens for which type of photography?
- Classic 18-50mm – often sold as lens kit along with the camera. Landscape to portrait photography. A good start to learn photography.
- Fisheye 8-24mm. In a photo gear for landscape and/or architecture photography. At 8mm, the lens captures the scene at such a large angle that distortion can appear.
- Wide angle lens kit 24-35mm. No distortion. To learn landscape photography with an already powerful lens.
- 35-70mm – for beginners who have two loves (always so much more interesting than one) – landscape and portrait. Multi usage lens.
- 70 – 300mm – for portrait and macro photography.
Check the compatibility of the lenses with the camera before buying
Which lenses can be mounted on your camera frame? This particularly matters for mirrorless cameras. They often have a limited compatibility. Think of it and do your homework before buying any lens!
2 - Tripod
Why adding a tripod to the travel photography gear list?
You might not see the importance of a tripod when you start photographing. But no worries, it will become clear after a few photo shootings in difficult situations.
As a beginner, I think that our biggest frustration is the blurry photo. It happens even more by travel photography because we shoot often outside. Outdoor conditions can be tough. The light diminishes, the wind or the movement of your hand make the camera unsteady.
The tripod will allow gaining stability. Thus, you have more flexibility to adjust correctly ISO, shutter speed and aperture. These factors will help to get crisper images, reducing noise and blur. Tripods are mandatory for long exposure, for example.
Travel photography tip - What should a tripod be like?
- Stable, light, with adjustable size and head, with bubble level.
- Common brand for camera tripods: Manfrotto, Oben and Davis & Sanford. Quality tripods starting under 80$, on Amazon. Around 50$ for entry level tripods.
Davis & Sanford Explorer Tripod – 41$. I find this tripod a good mix of quality, ease of use, and lightweight. You can set it up quickly. The head is also easy to move thanks to its handle. It will support cameras up to 4 pounds. Perfect to start out without spending too much.
Manfrotto MK Compact Advanced Tripod – 68$. Manfrotto is a solid choice when it comes to travel photography gear. Consider this tripod if you have got a mirrorless or a DSLR. It’s a very light tripod (42 ounces), easy to carry. My choice to upgrade my own travel photography gear!
3- Remote shutter
Same story as the tripod – the remote shutter tool will become quickly an irreplaceable piece of the travel photography gear as soon as you’ll try it. Two very simple reasons: first, it’s the selfie stick version for the camera. To take photos without being behind the camera. Second, to use it along with the tripod in order to minimize the risk of getting blurry photographs because of hands’ movements.
Remote shutter apps and devices
The remote controls are often wireless. And for some of them, they are free as an app linked to your camera – perfect for a beginner travel photo gear on a budget. Check in the App store for Remote shutter camera apps with good ratings. For my Sony A6000, I used the app PlayMemories, included in the camera. It’s sufficient to take selfies. If you need more sophisticated remote shutters, it’s worth spending a few dollars on a wireless or wired shutter.
4. Location scouting photo & golden hour apps
Camera and phone form a nice couple in a travel photography gear. From meteo apps to technical photo tools and quick post editing mobile applications, your phone will be useful part of the equipment. And the best of it? Most apps are free and really simple to use.
It’s stunning how helpful some apps can be to plan a photo trip. As a beginner, they will help you to map and then schedule photography road trips. First, use a location app to scoutt off-beaten places to photograph away from the crowd. One of them, Locationscout, is a free databank for locating photo spots. Photographers upload their photos with geographical locations, tips on best hours to take photos for each place and other useful infos. Everyone can upload his own photos! And to plan your time, downloading blue / golden hour apps related to the sun course. To know the right time to photograph.
Quick selection of tested apps
1. To find photo spots – Google earth / Flickr / Scoutt / Locationscoutt
2. To check sun course – Golden hour / Photo Time: Golden hour, Blue hour
5 - Easy light meter app
As a beginner I don’t feel always confident in setting the camera. Especially when shooting in manual mode. Light conditions can be tough. The camera make sometimes mistakes. It’s when photography apps come into action. Very easy-to-use light meter photo apps will measure the light present around your camera. Then, they’ll provide settings to use on the camera like aperture, speed, ISO, exposure adjustment or white balance.
Tip for newbies in photography
A light meter is actually used mostly by film cameras’ users. Digital camera actually have got an in-built light meter. I myself use these apps rather as guidance along with my camera settings and own appreciation. Precious help when you are beginner photographer, they still won’t replace your own judgement. Use them when you are really not sure about the settings to put or to confirm your choices.
Easy to get lost in the forest of photo apps for travel photographers! Limit yourself to one to two apps. Downside is that every app doesn’t always work on every phone.
1. Light meter – free
2. Pocket light meter – free. With option to upload results on Evernote!
3. LightMeter from David Quilles 1$
Download the PDF checklist I used to get my travel photo gear ready. Essentials and some extras, made for beginner photographers.
6 - Spare battery and memory card
Why to invest into spare photo gear?
Well, the reason is simple – better safe than sorry! Spare battery is first essential on your travel photography gear checklist… especially for long days out in the wild! I noticed also that the camera battery get discharged quicker by dramatic changes of temperatures and while using an external flash. Good thing is, spare batteries can be found for a bargain.
Spare memory cards are as important. Did you already get frustrated to miss photos on a road trip because you didn’t have any space left in the camera? It’s not a good feeling!
How to know the size needed for memory card - explanation for beginner
Size of memory card depends on the format you shoot. Photographing in RAW – unprocessed format – takes incredibly more space than photographing in JPEG – compressed standard format defined often by default – 25MB vs. 8MB for a JPEG. Settings like bracketing or high ISO also impact the images size. Look up at a simple table to calculate the memory card size adapted to your photo needs. Since you’ll get more freedom to edit photos and a better quality with RAW photographs, I definitely recommend to invest in memory cards.
SanDisk 128GB Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Card – C10, U3, V30, 4K UHD, SD Card – 30$. For extensive photo shootings. High storage capacity..
7 - Cleaning lens kit
I think, it might be the little detail we most forget as a beginner photographers. But a basic cleaning lens kit has a well-deserved spot in your travel photography gear. I was so angry at myself when I noticed after my first photo trip in New Zealand that a whole list of landscape photographs had a fleck on them. Because my camera lens didn’t get a quick cleaning after hours of outdoor shooting.
You don’t want that. So, what to take with you in your photography equipment? Like always, we’ll keep it basic and cheap.
Useful tested tip for beginner photographer
Avoid using sprays or water to clean the camera lens. I personally only use my breath and then swipe softly with a micro-fiber cloth or lens paper tissue. And once a year, I spend some dollars (around 50) to get a thorough cleaning action on my lens at a photography taller. I never ever clean myself the sensor which is way too sensible.
Compact Camera Lens Cleaning Kit including Silicone Dust Air Blower, Lens Cleaning Pen, Microfiber Cleaning Cloth, Wet Cleaning Wipe and Cotton Swab with Carrying Pouch for Canon Sony Nikon Fujifilm – 10$. I’ve got the same items in my own kit I bought for my mirrorless camera. Universal kit, with the necessary tools. Very affordable.
8 - A map!
The day I got clever… I took the map with me! Once on the road, it will be crucial to be on time at the places you decided to photograph. Sunrise and sunset won’t wait, so better have the map ready to hit the road. In your travel photography gear, add mobile maps with points of interests and which work offline!
Google Maps / Maps me / paper maps at local tourist info points
9 - Camera bag
Yes, it can seem obvious but it’s good to mention it – add a camera bag to your travel photography gear checklist!
How to choose the right bag? All depends on your camera. A standard bag will be enough for the beginners on the road with a compact camera. Holster camera bags fill the role – small pouches to carry a single camera with a lens attached. I personally use and recommend the brand Lowepro – My shoulder camera bag hasn’t let me down for the past 3 years.
For those who go with mirrorless or DSLR ones, look at bags that contain space for different lenses.
Quick overview of type of camera bags
1. Shoulder bags – very handy to access the photography equipment quickly. Useful when you have to change lenses or hide the camera.
2. Backpacks for photographers – best for travel photo trips with a lot of hiking and heavy gear items.
Lowepro LP36858 Tahoe 25 II Camera Bag – Lightweight Case For Your Point and Shoot Camera and Accessories,Black – 9$. I really like this brand. It’s good quality. This pouch will protect your compact camera.
CADeN Compact Camera Bag Case Canvas Leather Trim Compatible for Nikon, Canon, Sony SLR/DSLR Mirrorless Camera and Lenses. Waterproof – 20$. Very cool design and well priced. It’ll be enough for small mirrorless cameras and a lens. And it’s waterproof!
TARION Camera Backpack Waterproof Camera Bag Large Capacity Camera Case with 15 Inch Laptop Compartment Rain Cover for Women Men Photographer Lens Tripod Green – 40$. A cheaper alternative to brands like Lowepro. The cool thing: you can attach the tripod at the bottom of the bag! It can hold up to 6 lenses. It’s a good start if you’re on a budget.
Lowepro Tahoe BP 150 (Mica/Pixel Camo) – 75$. Lowepro again! It’s a bit pricey but it’ll surely last. Good investment if you’re planning to do photography on the long term. Holds DSLR, lenses, flash, laptop, and other accessories.
10 - Photo editing tools on mobile
The fun part doesn’t stop at taking photos! When on a photo trip, you might want to work at the end of the day on the best images. To post instantly on Instagram, Facebook or on a portfolio. To check the potential of photos by editing colours or contrasts quickly. To simply have a cheaper and handier alternative to the travel laptop and photo software. It’s just the perfect essential in a beginner photo equipment.
My tip for beginners
Use photo editing apps without complex! Amazing photo editing tools are out there. Plus, they are also great to correct basic settings like colours, contrasts or saturation on specific zones of an image. If you want more inspiration, find other cool photo apps on this concise article.
The 2 apps I find very easy
Snapseed and PixLr
11 - Travel laptop made for beginner photographer
Before starting with travel photography, I honestly thought that a quality travel laptop was an unnecessary expense. Mistake. Because I didn’t resist long to work seriously on my photos in a proper photo software. Problem: a travel laptop should be light, small and not too expensive – no need to spend a fortune on gear which will be exposed at bad weather and potential robbers.
How to choose a laptop for travel photography
- Check specifications: min. 2 Ghz, Intel i5 or i7 processor, min. 8 GB RAM, 12 inch screen, 250GB SSD storage, graphic card with 2GB vram and released after 2014, OS Windows 7 to 10, OS Mac 10.11 to 10.13.
- Look for laptop models from the past few years (5 years backwards max.)
- Check the weight. More than 1.5 kg is heavy on travel.
- Compare prices on marketplaces (ebay, amazon, cash converter).
- Find a nice compromise between power, portability and budget.
Which travel laptop is best to edit photos?
You made it! Maybe you have other questions about travel photography gear?
Curiosity makes the awesome traveler you are.
Check out other travel and photo blog posts!
Check out other travel and photo blog posts!