This was a highly requested blog post that was long overdue! I have been traveling and learning photography since I bought my first camera back in 2015, and have really honed in on making it a skill since 2018. While I definitely don’t think that expensive camera gear will guarantee you great photos and skill, it does take your photos to the next level after you’ve learned about photography!
For me, I started out with a very inexpensive, entry level camera. I spent years shooting solely on auto mode, not knowing what to look for when shooting, slapping an Instagram filter on it and calling it a day! What really changed for me was learning how to use my camera, because at the end of the day, all camera’s will function the same! Getting an expensive, professional-level camera that you don’t know how to use will just get you the same results as an inexpensive entry-level one.
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What to look for when buying a Camera body
For your first camera, I would not spend your life savings! These things can be well over $5,000 for the camera body alone, then you throw in a few lenses and you will be at $10,000 in camera gear QUICK. Plus, what if you buy a crazy expensive camera and end up hating lugging it around!?
I would buy an inexpensive, lightweight camera to start! Make sure you like it and spend the time to learn how to use it before investing in a professional level camera. Once you are at this stage, these are the most important factors to look for when shopping for a camera:
- WIFI enabled – This is important to be able to use a camera remote, the CANON app, and be able to download photos straight from the camera to your phone. This will save you TONS of time for the editing process!
- Full-Frame Camera – You will be able to capture far more in your shot in comparison to a cropped sensor camera. You will also get to fully utilize all of the lenses you buy.
- Great auto-focus – When you are taking a ton of pictures, especially of people who are moving around, you will want to make sure the camera is able to auto-focus on the subject to give you the sharpest image possible! On lower-end cameras, they do not capture movement as well and you will end up with a lot of photos with the subject out of focus!
- Lightweight – This is especially important if you want to use this camera for travel! Lugging a big, heavy camera around for hours does not sound fun!
Ah, my first camera! This baby will always hold a special place in my heart because it is the camera that taught me how to love photography! I believe this is a great camera for someone who wants to dip their toe into photography because it is cheap, super lightweight / small, and has great auto settings. This means, you don’t NEED to shoot in manual in order to get a great shot. Click here to check it out!
This camera is BAD FREAKING ASS. The auto focus is crisp, it’s lightweight, fairly priced for a professional level camera, and has amazing quality. This camera has everything on everyone’s checklist + more:
- Full Frame – CHECK
- Lightweight – CHECK
- Great Auto Focus – CHECK
- WIFI Enabled – CHECK
- Extremely Sharp Images – CHECK
I put a LOT of research into which camera to buy, and ultimately I was between the Canon 5d Mark IV and this camera. After doing a ton of research and messaging with other photographers who have used both, I ended up choosing the EOS R. The main reason for my decision was that this is a mirrorless camera, so the images are sharper because the shutter is faster. Also, the auto focus on the EOS R is INSANE. Not only does it focus on the subject’s face, but the actual eye!
And the cherry on top was that this camera was cheaper AND lighter than the 5D Mark IV. So far, I absolutely love this camera and doubt I will ever buy another camera again! I would HIGHLY recommend this camera for anyone looking to upgrade their gear! Click here to check it out!
TIP: Don’t buy the camera and the lens combo! Most of the time, the lens that comes with the camera is not a great lens. I would just buy the camera body separately and research the best lens depending on the look you are going for.
If you want to capture any memories that are super adventurous or involve water, a GoPro is your camera! These things are completely waterproof, durable if you drop them, and can clip onto things like cars for road trip videos. To be honest, I don’t use my GoPro very much because I am not a fan of the fish eye lens, but I do use it for underwater photos and videos while I snorkel or kayak. Click here to check it out.
This is seriously the cutest thing I have ever seen!! It is as small as my hand and weighs only half a pound, making it such an easy thing to add to your camera bag for travel. There is something about an aerial perspective that takes your photography to the next level. I would honestly shoot with my drone 24/7 if it was legal to (there are strict drone laws that prohibit you from flying in certain areas or even bringing to certain countries!).
Drones can be extremely expensive, but the good thing is, the camera is already included! DJI is the most respected and popular drone brand, but there are also ones for GoPro and other companies. The Mavic Mini is the #1 entry level and fairly priced drone you can buy, perfect for first timers. The image quality is almost as good as the professional models, but the only downside is there is no portrait mode (only horizontal/landscape shots). This didn’t matter too much for me though, because if you just overshoot your subject, you can crop to make it a vertical image anyways! Click here to check it out!
TIP: I would definitely recommend upgrading to the “fly-more” combo! It includes extra batteries (the drone dies FAST), propellers, propeller guards, and a nice case to carry everything in!
Don’t underestimate IPhone photography! IPhone’s shoot great photos as long as the lighting is good. Most of the videos and photos on my Instagram stories are just shot on my IPhone because I love the convenience! The IPhone 11 Pro (which is what my boyfriend has that I steal CONSTANTLY hehe) has the amazing wide angle lens on it! I love this lens because if you take video on it, it truly makes the person watching it feel like they are there with you.
If you are wondering whether to upgrade your camera body or your lenses, I would always recommend upgrading your lenses! This is where the real magic takes place that will give you the many looks you want. For a travel photographer, it is always good to have a wide angle lens to capture everything, prime lens for portraits, and a telephoto lens for far away shots. So far, I only have 2 out of 3, so my next lens I am saving for is a telephoto lens! I will go ahead and link the one I would use though for those of you who are interested.
This is my go-to lens that is 99% of the time on my camera body. It is so versatile, I never have to worry about getting the shot, and it shoots extremely wide angle so I can capture a lot in the shot! If you have a full-frame camera though, this will distort your photo a bit if it is completely zoomed out, which can be a good or a bad thing! If you angle the camera correctly, it can make your subject look like they are 8ft tall! If you angle it badly, you can make your subject look like they have a distorted head / face, so just be careful with this one!
The most popular lens for wide angle is the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8, which this is extremely comparable for half the price! Even though the wide angle is similar, the biggest different is the aperture (f/4 v. f/2.8). Lower aperture capabilities will give you that beautiful blurred background and the ability to shoot in lower light situations. If you can afford the 16-35mm, I would definitely go with that, but if you don’t want to spend $2k on a lens, the 17-40mm is still an amazing lens that captures beautiful photos! Click here to check it out.
This is a prime lens, which in English means there is no zoom in / out capabilities. These lenses almost always have a very low aperture (the f/xx number), meaning the background will blur really well. To be honest with you, I was not a fan of prime lenses until I got this baby. I am absolutely obsessed with this lens!!
The subject is CRISP, the background blurs well, I don’t have to stand super far back to get my subject in the shot, and it is extremely light! If you are wanting to add a prime lens to your camera bag, I would HIGHLY recommend this one!
TIP: This is an RF mount, meaning it goes with Canon’s mirrorless lenses! If you have an EF mount camera body, you will need to get the 35mm EF.
This is also a prime lens, and the first prime lens I owned! Overall, I really don’t love this lens and rarely grab it. The 35mm is just SO much better! There are definitely pros and cons to this lens, but overall it just depends what you plan to use your camera for.
- CHEAP. This lens is a little over $100, which is very inexpensive in comparison to other lens that are well over $1,000!
- It creates a shallow depth of field, making the background of the photo appear closer to the subject.
- Extremely small and lightweight.
- Gives you that extremely blurred background that you see with portrait photography.
- The subject has to be extremely far from the camera, which is not always possible with travel photography!
- Not being able to zoom in and out makes it hard when the subject is moving around because instead of just adjusting your zoom, you have to physically move yourself in order to get the shot.
- I feel like this lens is not extremely sharp and does not focus well, especially in comparison to my 35mm!
If you are wanting to up your photography game, but don’t want to spend a fortune or carry around heavy equipment, this is the perfect lens for you! This wide angle lens clips right onto your IPhone camera to turn your phone into a professional camera. I brought this lens with me on my trip to France, specifically on the days when I didn’t want to lug around a camera all day, and it worked beautifully! Click here to check it out.
A Telephoto Lens is used to give you an extremely shallow depth of field and able to zoom in very far. These lenses are great for national park landscapes, safaris to capture animals that are far away, and other similar scenarios. These lens can be extremely heavy and you will need to stand very far from your subject in order to get them in the shot. I personally do not have one of these in my camera bag, but it is definitely next on the list! When I do make the purchase, it will likely be Canon’s RF 70-200mm f/2.8!
Since I started out with a camera with an EF mount, I had all EF Lenses. Once I got the Canon EOS R, it has an RF mount, meaning none of my lenses would connect to my new camera, so I had to get an EF/RF adapter to go between by camera and my EF lenses (eek, I hope that wasn’t too confusing lol). You only need this if you end up getting the Canon EOS R and have a collection of lenses for your old camera body! This is the one I have.
If you are traveling solo, don’t want to rely on a stranger to take your shot, or want to get a blurred motion picture, you will need a tripod! There are THOUSANDS online to choose from, and I just got one off Amazon that had good reviews. I would just make sure it is compact (easy to stick in your suitcase), lightweight, and sturdy enough to hold your camera + lens. I have this one!
I LOVE this thing! It is a camera mount, tripod, and selfie stick all in one! Plus, it folds down very small and I can carry it in my cross-body purse when traveling. Click here to check it out.
Have you ever wondered how people get those really cool over/under water shots? You need a dome to mount to your GoPro in order to get it! It’s very inexpensive, mounts to the front of your GoPro and wallah! You take your GoPro photography to the next level. Click here to check it out.
Camera filters are what go over your camera lens to reduce glare and bring out the color in the photo. These are especially good for any water shots, so the camera can get past the glare of the water and see underneath. These range from very cheap to very expensive, but I think the cheap Amazon ones work just fine for regular photography! These are the ones that I have.
A camera bag is super important if you have more than one lens! These bags contain padded sections for you to put your accessories, lenses, batteries, and more. If you are traveling with your camera gear, you will definitely want a padded backpack to bring with you so nothing gets broken.
And now you are fully aware of how expensive camera equipment can be! There are plenty of cute camera bags out there, but I swear all the cutest ones are expensive AF. I got just a plain, black one on Amazon and it does the trick! Here is mine.
You can truly never have enough SD cards. Whether you loose em, break em, or forget em at home, you should always have backups in your camera bag! When looking for the right SD Card, make sure you get a decent quality one that has a good amount of memory. Getting a cheap SD card will effect how quickly the camera shoots, so having a good quality one will actually speed up your photography and help you get the shot faster! Here is the one I have (64GB).
Can you picture the madness that is going on in a camera bag that has many SD cards and no way to organize them!? They would just be thrown everywhere, falling out every time you open that bag. OR, even worse, you take a vacations worth of pictures on an SD card and since you don’t have a good way to organize your bag, you lost it! You can never get those pictures and memories back! Investing in an very inexpensive (~$5) SD card holder is a MUST. Here is a cute purple one!
If you do not have WIFI in your camera, you will need a card reader that hooks up to your laptop in order to upload your pictures to your editing software. I cannot find the exact one that I have, but this one is almost identical!
This thing is the MOVE. If I am traveling and don’t have the time to pull out my laptop to import pictures, I can use this thing to plug right into my phone. It is definitely slow in comparison to the laptop reader, but it is so convenient! Click here to check it out.
Okay guys, this one is an absolute MUST. And the best part?! It’s the cheapest thing on this list haha! I edit my photos either on my touchscreen laptop or an IPad, but it can be really hard using the touch screen mouse or using your finger to be really specific! This stylus helps SO much and is so cute! Click here to check it out.
I know this list may seem overwhelming for someone who is just wanting to get into photography, heck, even I’m overwhelmed! But just remember that this is a collection. You don’t need to purchase all of this expensive equipment at once.
Start out with an affordable camera body and a versatile lens, see what you like/don’t like, and go from there! It is all about preference, because I know a lot of photographers who LOVE prime lenses and only shoot with those, while I actually prefer zoom lenses. You won’t know until you start!
I hope you found this guide useful and end up finding gear that you love! If you need any advice or have questions, don’t hesitate to comment below 🙂
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