Getting the perfect travel camera is only the first step towards having a portable and lightweight travel setup. While the camera is the most vital part of your photography kit, it isn’t everything.
Following on from the ‘Best Travel Cameras In 2019’ post form the other day, I want to cover the other aspects that make for the perfect travel kit. Don’t worry though, I’ll soon be back to travel blogs!
The other day I recommend Sony cameras due to their weight and size in comparison to the competition. My philosophy today will be based around the same key elements, prioritising size, weight, and quality of the product.
Further, as with my prior article, this post is my opinion. I have used every product I recommend and I recommend these products with years of experience. However, I haven’t used every other product out there. These are the products that I know and trust, and I recommend them for that reason – however, they may not be the ‘best’ on the market or be perfect for you.
With that being said, let’s get straight into the question at hand; what are the essential travel photography accessories?
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Tripods are one of, if not the most important, accessories to have. Even if you are more of a point-and-shoot photographer, you may find that the need for a tripod arises at some point. Believe me, it’s better to have one at hand for that situation where you suddenly need it than to not get one and miss a perfect opportunity.
Tripods are especially essential for me as I do a LOT of long exposure photography. It’s my main photography interest, and I make sure to take my tripod everywhere. A common misconception, however, is that if you don’t photograph at night then you don’t need a tripod.
This is totally wrong. While tripods are essential for night and long exposure photography, they are also beneficial for landscape photography, self-portraits, and more. They help provide you with a lot more photographic freedom than you might otherwise have.
The biggest downside with tripods is their extra weight and inconvenience to carry. While the weight is always an issue (although one that is worth putting up with!) there are many backpacks out there that have specialised tripod compartments. You will see what I mean soon!
Manfrotto has always been one of my favourite brands. From when I first purchased one of their photography bags to the two tripods that I own now, I have never had a single issue with their products. On top of that is that they are usually one of the more reasonably priced brands on the market.
The Manfrotto BeFree is one of the most compact tripods on the market. While there are some cheaper tripods, none of them come close to the quality of the BeFree. I have used mine in the ocean (saltwater), in rivers, in snow, and in the sand. To this day, almost two years later, it performs just as it did while new.
While the tripod folds up very small, it is also capable of extending to almost 1.5metres tall. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished other travel tripods were just a tiny bit taller. The tripod also features an innovative switch system to choose the angle that the legs will extend on.
Perhaps my favourite feature of the tripod, however, is the default tripod head that it comes with. I am talking about the cheap head that comes with the tripod – one that is cheap, but fantastic. It doesn’t allow all of the adjustments that the more expensive heads do, but I would trust it with my life (or my camera!). Never once has my camera fallen out or have I felt worried that it might. The head is sturdy and has a great grip on the camera.
If you do need a better head for the tripod then you can always change it. BeFree is very flexible, and that is another strength that it has.
I can’t think of any major downsides to the tripod. I did have one of the feet fall off at one stage but super gluing it back in fixed the issue. Since then it hasn’t occurred again.
You can probably tell by now that I quite like Manfrotto. I have always found their products to have great quality, especially for the often cheaper prices than other brands.
The pixie complements the BeFree very well. While the BeFree is a bigger tripod that requires a minute or two to set up, the pixie is a tripod that you can attach instantly and be taking photos. This tripod won’t allow you to raise your camera or place it exactly how you want, but it will give your camera stability.
This means that it is the ideal tripod for when you have found the perfect location for a photo but need the extra stability. As the tripod is so small (and quite heavy for its size), it is also good in high winds. With a heavy camera on top, it won’t move much!
The pixie is a very simple and cheap tripod, and that is great. It just works. Made nearly fully out of metal it will also last for years.
An added bonus is that the pixie works well as a vlogging ‘stick’. If you are a vlogger, the pixie is a great tripod to use while you are out and about.
Another vital part of any photography kit is the item which holds the whole kit together – the backpack. I held off on getting a dedicated photography backpack for the longest time. I mean I could just use a normal bag right? Well, yes. But trust me, a proper photography backpack is a lifesaver once you have a few lenses and a tripod.
My favourite backpack and the only one that I would really recommend is the Lowepro Flipside 300. It’s a fantastic bag for small to medium-sized camera kits. If you have a lot of lenses or multiple camera bodies… Well, then this bag isn’t for you.
Lowepro Flipside 300
The biggest difference between a photography backpack and a normal backpack is that photography backpacks have specialised compartments for the accessories and cameras. The is important as you don’t want your gear to be hitting and rubbing against each other while you move.
The Flipside 300 has a velcro interior that allows you to set-up your segments as needed. This is vital as everyone’s camera kit is slightly different. As such, the Flipside 300 allows you to divide the bag as needed.
The back is comfortable to wear and also has a second pocket with a space for SD cards and other smaller accessories. On the exterior, there is a tripod clip which holds the tripod on the bag. The best part of this is that the BeFree fits perfectly there!
The biggest downside of the Flipside 300 is that it opens towards the back. This means that if you want to open up the back, you basically have to completely take it off your back and place it down on a surface. Maybe this is for the better though, as you wouldn’t want to drop any of the valuable gear inside!
When you are traveling often (and changing your lenses), you WILL get dust inside your camera sensor. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, it will get there.
The most common way to clean camera sensors is with air blowers. While air blowers are great in some situations, I’ve come across too many times when they don’t work at all. No matter how much air you blow, the dust remains.
On my last visit to New Zealand, I bought a lens pen for Sony mirrorless cameras (I am unable to find the pen I purchased so I have linked to a Nikon pen. Make sure that it is compatible with your camera before purchase). It was very expensive for what it is (about $50), but I was so frustrated with some camera dust I couldn’t get off! It was either that or to purchase a professional clean.
I went ahead and bought a pen and I have been amazed by it. It makes it incredibly easy to remove dust from the sensor and to clean your camera. Seriously, if you often find yourself with dust issues, make sure to get a lens pen.
No matter where you are going, make sure to always carry a cleaning cloth! These clothes should not be used on the camera sensor (leave that for the lens pen), however, they are very handy for cleaning the glass on your lenses.
Further, they are just very handy to have in general. If you need to clean the exterior of your camera – or even your phone, make sure to always have a few of these cloths!
I like to carry at least three microfiber cloths. I use one that is more course, and this is used for the most dirty devices. For example, if there is visible grime on my camera, I will use this cloth first.
I will also carry two finer cloths that are used for smaller specks of dust. I always keep these cloths for the most minor dust, as I want to make sure that they stay clean.
Other Travel Photography Essentials
Along with the basics above, there are a few more items that I would consider essential for any travel photography kit. These items will allow you flexibility as well as methods to keep your camera clean while out and about!
What remote shutter you get will depend on the brand that you are invested in. However, they are one of the most helpful camera additions out there.
Similar to tripods, they are fantastic for taking long-exposures and photos in the dark. Something that most people don’t consider though is that they are also great for taking self-portraits and other photos with yourself in. I’ve been in too many situations where I wish I could take a picture of myself but I’ve been alone. A remote shutter helps to remove this worry!
While it is possible to use the camera timer, having a remote shutter gives you a lot more options. You won’t have to reset the camera after every shot!
There are so many different products that I could recommend for anyone wanting to travel lots with their kit. However, I don’t think that many items are really ‘essential’. I didn’t even have a tripod for almost a year! In saying that, all of the items listed here are extremely helpful and I couldn’t not use them now that I have experienced them.