Travel photography is my favorite kind of photography. Let's face it, unless you are a portrait photographer, the majority of your shooting probably occurs when you travel and there are so many tools out there that can help you get better shots, make traveling more convenient and encourage you to shoot more when you travel. I have done photography in over 20 countries and used an enormous amount of different tools. Below are 21 of my favorite tools that have helped make travel photography more fun, convenient and productive for me.
Travel Surge Protector
Photographers travel with a lot of things to plug in. Computers, cameras, phones, rechargeable batteries and so forth. I have frequented many hotel rooms where I could only reach one or two outlets that were already full from lamps, alarms and televisions. It is really annoying to try and rotate through charging different items when you are out shooting until 2:00 a.m. and have to wake up at 5:00 a.m. for the sunrise. This travel surge protector is available for under $20 on Amazon, contains three plug ins and two USB ports. That should give you enough room to get everything charged when you only have one outlet available. The surge protector is also nice to keep everything safe. I have lost multiple laptop cords and batteries from using cheap adapters in foreign countries.
If you are serious about travel photography, you need a passport. To me, there is nothing more fun than experiencing and photographing a new culture. Once you have traveled internationally, domestic travel will not hold the same appeal. My wife has a great passport wallet that replaces her purse when we travel. I couldn't find the one she uses, but there are hundreds of available options. This one from Amazon is probably the cheapest one you will find.
If you are traveling somewhere warm, you aren't going to want to carry along a jacket. That can be a mistake when unexpected rain or cold wind invades. Finding a decent foldable jacket that takes up little room can be a lifesaver. You can also use it as a convenient blanket or pillow on the airplane. I bought mine years ago at a trade show and can't find it now, but this one has been highly recommended.
External Phone Battery Pack
I have used iPhones and Android phones and the only thing common with every smart phone I have used is that the batteries stop lasting after a few months. As such, I have been a fan of external battery cases. Although they add a little bulk, they can double or triple your battery life, which is just enough to make it through a travel day. I have used lots of cheap brands and they have all worked fine. Here is the one I am currently using.
External Battery Packs
In addition to traveling with a battery case for my phone, I always carry two to three external charging packs. I use cheap ones I have picked up as promotional items and they are usually good for an extra 50% battery life. You can see a ton of options on Amazon, but here is a reputable one if you don't want to gamble.
Really Good Photo Spots App
I know this app isn't available yet (as of the time this article), but it is coming soon. I have had the privilege of testing it for the past month or so and really enjoy it. I can't tell you the hours I have spent trying to find photo locations when I travel. This app will save you a ton of time and get you started with the absolute best locations out there.
A Great Backpack
I have bought, tested and reviewed many backpacks. I have at least a dozen in my garage now because a backpack has such a huge impact on keeping you comfortable, organized and efficient. I did a review not too long ago of some of my favorites. At this point, there are two bags I am using the majority of the time and they are both excellent. I love the Streetwalker for airplane travel and cities and the bag from Tamrac whenever I am going to be hiking.
The Platypod is an awesome tool. I recently used this in Europe and found myself using it more often than I imagined. Not only is it perfect for those locations where you cannot use a tripod, I used it as a great secondary tripod I carried whenever I didn't want to carry my regular tripod.
One of the most important travel items for me is the perfect tripod. I love the one I have from Oben because it is a perfect balance of stability and size. I want a tripod that reverse folds so that it is compact enough to fit in a carry-on bag.
Mindshift Gear Filter Nest Mini
I recently reviewed this filter holder. I love it. I always had multiple filters loose in my bag taking up room, but this filter holder makes it so much easier, making the small investment definitely worth it.
Flash lights are great and I always travel with one, but a head lamp is the way to go for photography as it keeps your hands free for setting up your camera or carrying gear. Any head lamp will do, but Jim Harmer recommends this head lamp, which is cheap and takes AA batteries. I saw him use it in Glacier National Park and it looks like a great deal.
I was sad to hear that TriggerTrap shut its doors because I love the remote I got from them. My one complaint was there was no way wirelessly trigger the remote. Because of that, I am getting a new remote from Alpine Labs. The Spark remote can be used as a normal wired remote, an infared trigger good from 30 feet away, or a more powerful remote using your cell phone. This remote is currently available on kickstarter. I know some are weary to get involved with a kickstarter campaign, but the Spark has already reached its goal and this is the second remote Alpine Labs has launched via kickstarter. Once I get mine, I will get a full review published.
If you haven't ditched the camera strap that came with your camera yet, you should. I wrote an article a while back reviewing several different straps for any budget, each of which would likely be an upgrade over the one that came with your camera. The added comfort a good strap can provide is worth it when you are carrying your camera all day for each day of your vacation. I am currently using the Cecilia Strap reviewed in my article as it is compact for travel, very comfortable and looks great.
Peak Design Field Pouch
When I travel, I don't like to carry my camera bag every time I leave the hotel room. If I am going out to dinner or just out for a walk, I want to carry my camera and something small for my other essentials. The Field Pouch is the perfect tool for that. Check out the review I wrote.
Travel pants are a luxury you don't know you want yet. If you have the money to spend, I highly recommend Bluffworks. They are super comfortable and durable and perfect for traveling. You can see my full review here. If you want something a little easier on the pocketbook , check out Jim Harmer's recommendation for tactical pants.
Vallerret Photography Gloves
If you have followed this website or the affiliated podcasts, you know that most of us use and love the photography gloves from Vallerret. I have the older model and, while I do wish they were a little warmer when it is really cold, I will never go anywhere even slightly cold without using them. They will prolong your time in the field before your hands freeze and you give up.
You should not have a tripod if you don't have an L bracket. Shooting vertical is such a pain without an L bracket, and an L bracket can be had for so cheap. Just get one and you will never look back. You will likely be fine with a cheap one as there isn't much to them, just make sure to get one fitted for your camera rather than a universal bracket that won't fit your camera as well or give you easy access to your ports, battery and memory card. I reviewed the one I use and love in this article.
When I shot Nikon, I had two batteries, but I could have gotten away with one as it lasted all day and I could charge it at night. Now that I shoot mirrorless, I never leave without at least three batteries. I have had great luck using the Wasabi brand and they are cheap enough it is simply not worth the risk of experiencing a dead battery at location you may never see again.
18.DJI Mavic Pro
I don't have this….yet. This is the travel photography gear I have been pining for. I have wanted to get a drone for a while, but because most of my photography is travel, the thought of lugging around an additional bag just for my drone was not appealing. Then, DJI came out with the Mavic Pro and my interest piqued. I love the idea of having a drone that can fit in my Peak Design Field Pouch. I am just trying to determine whether the image quality on this is going to be good enough and whether I can justify the $999 price tag.
I shoot with a 27 mm pancake lens from Fuji. It is not the best quality lens, but it is so convenient for travel. I use this lens when I want to minimize the size of my camera. I can actually fit the whole camera in my pocket with this lens attached. You don't always want to carry a big lens around on vacation so it is worth the investment to put a lens on your camera that will encourage you to take it with you everywhere you go. I did a full review of my lens in a previous article.
The last thing you want is to realize you forgot your allen wrench when you need to tighten a quick release plate or camera strap on vacation. I have had that happen before and almost lost my camera when the attachment came out. The Thinguma may be an expensive allen wrench, but it goes on your key chain so you will always have it when you need it.
Travel pouches are an overlooked tool that won't help your photography at all, but will help you stay organized, which is essential when living out of a suitcase. You can find a variety of cheap options that would probably work fine, but I use the ones from Think Tank because I know they have great quality.