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Being a photographer and taking photos when you’re traveling on vacation is sort of like being an off-duty chef eating at a great restaurant. You want to capture everything — every sunset, every sunrise, every lush blossom, every smile on your child’s face…and to do it perfectly each time. But over the years, I’ve learned that sometimes it’s more important to be more present in the moment than it is to get the perfect shot. Plus, traveling with a lot of gear is…well, a pain in the butt.

Travel Photography Cinque Terra

So here are a few of my must-haves for camera gear when you’re traveling (and your back and shoulders can thank me later). My mantra is this: travel light and take gear that’s multi-functional.

Must-have equipment:

  • DSLR Camera body
  • Zoom lens
  • Travel tripod
  • Point-and-shoot camera
  • Smartphone (with built-in camera)

Gear Notes

LENS: Always take zoom lens options for the most range of coverage (pssst: check out a recent post about choosing a lens). Vistas and buildings will need to be shot with a wider lens, but often times objects of interest can be far away, so a longer focal length is necessary. The two I carry most frequently are the 24-105 and the 70-200.  I sometimes will take the 100-400, but that thing’s a beast and I never can carry it for long.

TRIPOD: If you’re looking for a standard size travel tripod and are willing to invest some dough, get a carbon fiber tripod. 1.5 lbs may not seem like that big of a deal, but after carrying it all day, I promise you that it makes a HUGE difference! On the other hand, if you’re not planning on a lot of tripod use, consider a tripod mount — like this one from JOBY.

Some days or certain activities simply call for a point-and-shoot or my iPhone; there are days where I just want to focus on the experience itself and not worry about capturing the perfect photo. Believe it or not, I’ve actually gotten some pretty amazing shots using the HDR and panorama functions on my smartphone’s camera. Plus, it’s nice to be able to post images quickly in real time as they occur.

Look, you won’t enjoy your vacation any more because you took the perfect photo at the perfect moment with the perfect light; vacations are about making memories, and photos are really meant to serve as a visual reminder of the places you enjoyed and the things you saw. So go ahead and make room in that suitcase of yours for some extra souvenirs to remember your trip by.

Got any tried-and-true tips for traveling with photography gear? Let me know!

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