What camera should i buy as a traveling photographer?
There are many ways to earn a living as a traveling photographer. And luckily, not all of them demand a professional and super expensive camera. Taking photos while traveling is first and foremost about meeting people. So reconsider once more before getting a new camera: do you really need it?
I’m trying to keep my equipment to a bare minimum. Unless I’m able to pack everything in a carry-on bag, it is too much- and that is including everything I need to wear for up to a full month in a single trip.
I have listed the different cameras that I use / have used. They are all good for different situations. Make sure you know what you want, before buying what you need.
Remember, all camera manufacturers are liars!
Traveling is a hard job. Both you and your camera will be exposed to a lot of different weather conditions, bumps and impacts. It is well worth it to spend some extra cash on getting a well built camera. My first (analogue) camera happened to be a Nikon and then it became just natural to continue with the same brand. But I know for sure that the equivalent from Canon is just as good.
Nikon D800 / D810
My Nikon D800 has been with me all over the world for more than three years now, and it has never failed me. After more than 300,000 shots, it still goes on. Well worth the money spent. The camera was discontinued in 2014 but you will probably still continue be able to find a brand new one. Otherwise, a second-hand one that has been treated well (so, don’t buy my camera) will go on for years.
The successor to the D800 is the D810. Haven’t tried it myself but I have no doubt that it is just as good. The difference between the two is trivial.
- Interchangeable lenses gives a big variety of shots.
- Extremely sturdy
- Full-frame sensor
- Big and heavy
- Makes you look like a photographer
- Why to choose this one:
Why to choose this DSLR:
If you want to shoot for the more glossy / mainstream travel magazines (you need a decent image resolution for that and this is more than enough). If you want to create videos.
If buying a full format DSLR seems like a big investment, you should consider starting out with a DX format (smaller sensor). Nikon D7200 is about half the price and you will be able to use the same lenses as for a full-format. If you choose a cheaper DSLR and buy a good lens (read below) no-one will notice.
Cheaper and lighter than a full-format
Why to choose this DSLR:
Same as above, but if you'll manage with a slightly less sturdy camera and don't mind about the smaller sensor/lens-crop.
I use only prime lenses and just three of them. First of all, they are super-sharp. Secondly, they are very small and light. And, as a matter of fact not too expensive. If you don’t have any, start with the 50mm, then 35 and lastly the 85mm. Or in whatever order you feel like. Remember that these focal-lengths are for full-frame sensors, though the lenses works well on cameras that isn't full format.
Slightly wide-angled lens. Great for street-photography, city scenes, candid snapshots. The low aperture value makes it good even in low-light conditions.
This is the lens that I’m using for 80% of my photos - I’ve actually worn out three of these lenses during 10 years. Great all-round lens for photographing details, food and most importantly: portraits! Set at f/1.4, it gives an extremely blurred background. Learn to keep your camera still and you’ll be able to shoot with barely no light at all.
A great choice for really close-portraits and if you can’t / don’t want to come too close a street scene. Good to have for the few situations when you actually can’t use your feet to zoom. Maximum aperture of 1.8 gives a very shallow depth-of-field.
When I don’t want to travel with the full DSLR gear, the FujiFilm X100T is a great companion. With a fixed lens equivalent to 35mm it becomes very compact but still pumps out images with brilliant quality and very good colours. The size and the super-quiet shutter makes it a great camera for street-photo-like pictures. Even though you have your DSLR with you, you could take a day or two with the X100T alone just to get closer to people. If my DSLR were to break, I would be able to finish the assignment with this.
- Very compact
- Less intimidating
- Close-up portraits will get distorted
- Fixed focal-length
Why to choose this one:
If you want to shoot for more alternative publications, where you don’t need the classical variety among the destination photos. Shoot for Instagram/online (transfer from camera to phone via Wi-Fi). To get personal and intimate shots. If you don’t want to think about what lens to put on but focus everything on shooting.
When not on any kind of assignment, I love shooting with just my phone. I´ve never had another brand other than iPhone and with the iPhone 6 the picture quality went from good to great. Now, the images comes out so good that you will be able to print them in a decent size.
- Great for playing around, takes away all the pressure
- Always with you
- Relatively few publications will print the photos
- Bad in low-light conditions
Why to choose this camera:
If you are shooting mainly for Instagram or web. If you want one of the best way to evolve as a photographer and learn to work with what you have.
My favourite app for adding feeling and mood in photos. Includes ready-made filters but you can also change every setting separately.
Send images from your Fuji-camera directly to the phone, wherever you are. Great when you want to edit and upload quickly
This app tells you exactly where the sun will be at any given time during the day. Not sure if the sun will set behind that beautiful building or not? Focalware will tell you!
I look for three features in my backpack, apart from fact that it should protect my stuff in a good way. First, it needs to be divided into one compartment for gear and one for clothes and personal stuff. Secondly, it shouldn’t look like a typical camera bag - you don’t want to attract more thieves than necessary. Lastly, it needs to go as a carry-on bag on most planes. I would recommend one of the following bags:
Well-built with waterproof canvas. Choose from three different ’earthy’ colours that will help you blend in. The fact that you need to lift off the top of the bag to get to the camera equipment makes it harder for pickpockets to make away with your gear
Will house as much as the above. It’s got a few convenient straps that will help attach miscellaneous stuff on the outside. Comes with a foldable rain cover.
When you limit yourself to just one camera-body, you need to have your lenses close by. I usually attach two small pouches to my belt so that I can quickly switch the current lens out for another.
The only decent one that I’ve found thus far is from LowePro. It’s made in the usual photography bag black canvas and is offered in several sizes. The smallest one (8x6 cm) fits a 50mm, the next size (9x9 cm) fits the slightly larger lenses. Great when you don’t want to carry around the backpack all day.
Instead of using a flash, I bring a small, foldable reflector screen. It takes literally no space in your bag and can lift your portraits quite a bit. Use it to direct a little extra light to the face and it will get rid of the dark shadows.
Just as I don’t want to expose my fairly expensive equipment by carrying an obvious camera backpack, I usually get rid of the standard camera strap that comes with the camera - it screams out the brand of the camera in bright colours. I like using a simple leather strap instead. It is durable, looks nice but is not too eye-catching. This one from Italian Figosa is one of my favourites lately.
Just kidding, you don't need a frikking drone! :)