The Gear of a Full-Time Traveling Photographer (and Alternatives for Beginners)
Let’s talk gear.
To be honest, I am not a very technical portrait photographer and probably don’t even know a third of my camera’s functions. But I love the gear that I have and it serves my purpose as a full-time traveling photographer perfectly, so I am happy to share it with you.
I’m a strong believer that you don’t need (and shouldn’t have) to be rich to create art, so don’t get too hung up on the right gear choices. Start with what is in your budget and explore with passion. Everything else will come from that.
Below I present you the traveling photography gear I personally use for my self-portraits and outdoor photography as well as suitable photography gear for beginners that I would buy if I were starting today.
- My Travel Portrait Photography Gear
- What I use for editing my photos
- Photography gear recommendations for beginners
- Photography gear I wish I was using
My Travel Portrait Photography Gear
My camera: Sony α7 III
After starting my photographic journey with Canon gear, I had wanted to upgrade to a full-frame camera for a long time. At the time I did finally buy it, I was only getting back into photography after a long break and about to start traveling full-time. I knew I’d be sad starting a once-in-a-lifetime adventure like this without being able to take the photos I dreamt of taking, so I went for it. And I’ve never looked back.
The Sony Alpha 7 III is a dream of a camera. The details and resolution of the photos are incredible and the depth of the portraits I take with it is in no way comparable to what my previous camera could do. It allows me to create detailed artworks that can be printed in large sizes, capturing day and night scenes equally beautiful. As a traveling photographer, I appreciate that it’s a mirrorless camera, resulting in a lighter overall weight than a traditional DSLR full-frame camera.
My most used lens: Tamron 28-75 mm F/2.8
This zoom lens is compatible with the Sony E-Mount and honestly one of the main reasons why I switched to Sony. The Canon equivalent costs a fortune! The lens is incredibly versatile and covers most of the range of angles I shoot, whether portrait work or landscape photography. A maximum aperture of F/2.8 is pretty great for a zoom lens. It creates beautiful, soft bokeh and allows you to take sharp photos even in low-light situations.
My favorite portrait lens: Sony SEL-85F18
I rarely use it for self-portraits, but if I am taking close-up portraits of other people, this is my absolute go-to. The precision of focus and depth of the portraits taken with it is to die for. There’s really nothing to add, it’s magical. During my travels, I love taking portraits of the beautiful travelers I meet and gift them a smile by sending them photographic travel memories afterward.
My tripod: Manfrotto MT190XPRO4
Since most of my work consists of self-portraits, a tripod is an absolute must. This allows me to get the right camera angle by myself without having to ask anyone to hold the camera for me or placing the camera in not-so-ideal angles onto tree stumps etc. (Definitely have done that, too.) Disclaimer: At the current moment, I use a cheap plastic tripod made for phones. It couldn’t be more unsuitable for a camera like mine and it’s right out scary to use. To be fair, I absolutely cannot recommend that to anyone, but I needed a lightweight solution for hiking. If I didn’t have gear insurance, I’d never trust that thing to hold my camera.
BUT, before I ended up massively down-sizing my gear due to my travel plans, I had the Manfrotto MT190XPRO4. Manfrotto really is a brand for tripods that I can wholeheartedly recommend. My camera always felt super stable on it and the many adjustment options, also thanks to the genius horizontal column, are fantastic. Yes, I possibly still regret selling it.
My remote: My phone
The advancements of technology, oh my. I remember having a complicated, three-piece remote for my first camera and first self-portrait experiments. Nowadays, I simply use my phone. Through the Sony Imaging App, I can remote-control my camera and, here’s the best part, even myself in live view as I stand in front of the camera. It really has been such a game-changer to see right away if I am in focus, how the pose looks, etc. without having to run back and forth a million times until you get it right.
What I use for editing my photos
The software I trust: Adobe Photoshop
After playing around with horrible, free online editing apps 10 years ago – by now these have gotten way better, of course – I started using Photoshop pretty early on. It takes a while to get used to it and to figure out how to achieve the look you are imagining, but once you get it, the possibilities are endless. Photoshop is my digital fantasy playground, allowing me to make my dreams come to life. To this day, I keep learning about what I can do with it. There are countless tutorials out there helping you to learn using the software and it’s the industry standard for a reason.
My lightweight travel laptop: Dell XPS 13
Again with traveling in mind, I wanted a lightweight, modern laptop that could quickly handle all the editing work I do and display colors accurately. Having a bigger screen would be nice sometimes, but the 13-inch screen always worked fine for me and comes with greater portability. The only thing I would do differently today is to choose more storage space – I only went for the 256 GB SSD and having large files on it, I do have to transfer files to my external hard drives a bit too often.
External hard drives: Seagate
Even though I’ve been trying to take on a more minimalistic approach to file storage, I still have huge amounts of photographic memories and PSD files I don’t (yet) want to let go of. So having some external hard drives is essential. I always have two hard drives with the exact same data on them. One serves as a backup, as mentioned above I have to keep deleting files from my laptop due to space issues. Always do your backups, people! There really is nothing sadder than losing work you were proud of, fond memories, or even worse, client work that was not even finished yet. Even as a travel photographer, it’s worth carrying a backup with you – alternatively you could backup your photos using a cloud service.
My graphic tablet: XP Pen Artist 12 Pro
The XP Pen Artist is an external monitor on which you can paint with a stylus as if it was on paper. You connect it to your laptop and you can see right on the tablet what you are drawing. The pressure sensitivity makes it feel very natural. I didn’t have a graphic tablet for years before taking up digital illustration, but it does also make editing so much easier when you go beyond simple color editing (e.g. photo manipulations, complicated cut-outs, …). Imagine doing that with a laptop trackpad. It works, but it’s really long and painful. So this is the tablet I now use for drawing and editing my travel photography in combination with Adobe Photoshop.
Photography gear recommendations for beginners
Great camera for beginners: Sony Alpha 6000
If you’re not sure yet if photography is really something you want to invest a lot of money into, I’d suggest trying my camera’s little sister, the Sony Alpha 6000. It’s a widely popular camera for beginners and more affordable while still being able to produce great results.
Lens recommendation: Sony SEL50F18F
When I started taking photos, I was madly in love with my 50mm portrait lens. On an APS-C sensor, it pretty much equals the results of an 85mm lens on a full-frame camera, like the one I am using now. This focal length is an absolute classic for a reason. The maximum aperture of F/1.8 is brilliant, needless to say.
Lens recommendation: Sony SEL35F18
Apart from a portrait lens, I’d always have a wider focal length in my repertoire as well. A 35mm fixed lens allows you to capture more of your surroundings. Again, F/1.8 is great for low light situations and sharp focus points in your pictures.
Photography gear I wish I was using
Of course, the wish for new photography gear kind of never ends. Even though I am very happy with the things I am currently using, but if I could make a wish… or two… it would be for the gear below.
For hiking photography: Peak Design Capture Camera mount V3
This camera clip allows you to attach your camera to your backpack’s shoulder strap while hiking – safely secured and easily accessible at any time. At the moment, I still carry around my camera in a budget, made-up fanny pack solution that’s often in the way when hiking uphill, so this could be really useful for capturing my outdoor adventures with a bit more ease.
For night and landscape photography: Sigma 402965 16 mm F1.4
If there’s something I’m missing in my current set-up, it’s a little bit of a wider angle. I’d love to be able to capture night skies more often, and an F/1.4 would be a dream for that. Even during the daytime, I’d sometimes appreciate being able to get more of my surroundings into the frame (without having to stitch photos together), so this lens, compatible with the Sony E-Mount, could be great.
I hope this was useful for you! Wishing you the best for your photographic journey.