Summer is nearly upon us, and for many members of our photo community, that means travel—and (more importantly) travel photography!
To help you plan ahead to maximize amazing photos and minimize stress, we’ve put together some tips and tricks that are great for beginners and pros alike.
To save on space and weight, you really only need to bring two lenses with you:
Prime – without the ability to zoom, you’ll be forced to experience the scene in a limited yet helpful way, making you move your feet to explore different angles. With fast apertures like f1.8-f2.8, you can make photos in both dark and bright conditions. And finally, you can achieve both blurry background (a.k.a. “shallow depth of field) as well as “tack sharp” photos, in which your subject is crystal clear.
Medium zoom – this will be your tool of choice when you can take your time and compose your shot, such as landscapes and monuments. You’ll have flexibility in your composition, and with a 18-200mm or 24-100mm zoom, you’ll be able to crop out all the other tourists gathered at the bottom of the 14th century bell tower you’re trying to capture.
In order to help you pick which lenses in your collection to bring, identify what kind of photos you like and hope to take, e.g. 10-20mm lenses for wide angle photos, or 24-50mm lenses for street scenes. In our Digital Cameras 2 class, the BPW covers focal length in detail, with lots of hands-on practice for those still getting comfortable with different focal lengths.
Lastly, keep in mind that the bigger the zoom range, the larger the lens will be, and those ounces add up at the end of a day spent sightseeing.
You have lots of options when looking for a light, portable, and budget-friendly tripod—some of our favorite recommendations can be found in Gear We Love: Tripods For Beginners. Manfrotto is a particularly travel-friendly brand, with lots of their models made of lightweight but sturdy aluminum.
Before you make a selection, though, make sure you measure your suitcase to be sure what you purchase will fit—and remember to measure diagonally instead of just lengthwise for a couple of extra inches. We also recommend that you wrap your tripod in a sweater or towel before you pack it so it doesn’t destroy your cologne on your way to Cologne.
Although most airports allow your digital camera to stay in your carry-on for x-ray screening, be aware that there are certain countries (including many in Asia) that will make you take out all of your electronics. Just be prepared to tackle this issue if it comes up, and give yourself a little extra time to get through security if you can.
DO keep your lithium batteries in your carry-on and NOT in your checked bag. But, make sure you check any camera repair kits or small screwdrivers you might have in your carry-on for quick fixes—the TSA is not a fan of little pointy things.
Humidity: If you’re traveling in the summer, your hotel room will almost certainly be cooler than the temperature outdoors (unless you’re going penguin-watching in Antarctica). To avoid lens fog, allow at least 30 minutes for your camera and lenses to slowly acclimate to the hotter, more humid conditions outside when you leave the hotel for the day.
Heavy rain: Your camera can handle some sprinkles, but if you’re caught in a downpour you might want some extra protection. You can buy an expensive rain cover if you like, or you can do what we do at the BPW: Cut a hole in the front of a plastic grocery bag and rubber band it around the lens. Instant camera poncho!
We all want that perfect golden light to capture the Eiffel Tower or mountain peak, but we’ve all had that moment where we show up to find it in shadow. Before you leave for your destination, do some research on sunrise and sunset times and locations so you know where your light will be coming from and when. Most often, 10a-3p isn’t going to be your best bet, so plan to get out earlier or stay out later.
You can also use Google Earth to look at where the sun will be at certain times using Google Street View or a 3D model. With apps like SunSurveyor, you can virtually stand in front of the Vatican or La Sagrada Familia and change the time to see when you’ll capture the best light.
Make sure you bring extra memory cards so you can avoid having to clear space for more photos by deleting ones you just took.. Two memory cards should be enough, as long as they’re 16GB or larger.
Don’t forget the extra batteries! For dSLRs, aim for 2-3, and bring 3-4 for mirrorless since they go through them faster. It never hurts to bring your charger along for the trip as well, if it’s compatible with your destination country’s outlets!
Enjoy the Journey
Traveling is an adventure, and sometimes adventures include wrong turns. Embrace new things and use photography as a means of discovery. Stuck at a terminal with a long layover? Look to create photos while you wait. Rainy day at the beach? Look to capture photographs of the dew drops, or of the hidden details along the sandy beach. Captivating photos are everywhere, do your best to look and find them while you travel.