Photography is an art. And it is also a technology! The world of camera bodies, lenses, flashes, softboxes, and other lighting features can be downright overwhelming.
We get a lot of questions about the equipment we use and while it is, of course, an ever-evolving list, we thought we’d share the list of what we currently own and use at various times for our travel photography! While providing some brief notes, we did not want to go overboard in describing these since you can find helpful reviews across the internet.
But first a few general notes:
Take the least amount of gear that you can get away with. The more you carry, the more to worry about - whether theft or the added risk of damaging your equipment.
Be aware of your setting - whether the location, the time of day, or your ability to maintain control of your equipment (for example, if you are hauling equipment in a bag and go into a museum that does not allow bags, that can limit your activities). Cameras can make you the target of theft and may not be something you want to take to all locations. The good news is that most people have pretty darn good smartphone cameras these days that can fill in.
Have water awareness! In so many places, a sunny day can quickly turn into a downpour or a nice hike can end up next to a gorgeous waterfall…with a lot of mist and spray. Carry a protective bag or sleeve to be able to safely stow your camera equipment.
Consider renting camera equipment either to try a new camera, lens or peripheral to see how you like it before buying or to expand your options without the large cost affiliated with many of these purchases. We have used BorrowLenses for our wedding photography business for about 8 years and have had only wonderful experiences. They also sell used photography gear, though we have never purchased any ourselves.
Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate and affiliate with BorrowLenses we earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. We never recommend anything that we do not personally use and stand by.
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 EF II (USM) - our most common go-to lens. It is both versatile and functions well in low light.
Canon EFS 18-135 IS - this lens came as part of the kit with our Canon 7D body. While it can’t hold a candle to some others in low light settings, this lens is very versatile, more affordable, and offers great zoom capabilities for outdoor shots.
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 EF ZOOM - this is a substantial lens (in size and weight) so we most often take it when we want to make use of the zoom feature for wildlife shots.
Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro L IS - great for those macro detail shots - flower petals, grains of sand, etc.
Canon 50mm f/1.4 EF (USM) - while we like this lens, it is not as versatile as others, though it is small and weighs practically nothing so is easy to bring along
We have continued to upgrade our Canon Speedlites as the technology has improved. In order of our most favorite and also newest to oldest, we’d recommend either of the first two for their wireless capabilities.
Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT
Canon Speedlite 580EX II
Favorite other equipment
We have a range of other equipment, from reflectors to studio lighting. Here are the items we are most likely to take on our travels.
B+W 82mm Kaesemann XS-Pro Circular Polarizer MRC Nano Filter - Since our purchase in 2015, this polarizer filter has been discontinued and replaced with an updated version by the manufacturer. The new one is the B+W 82mm XS-Pro Kaesemann High Transmission Circular Polarizer MRC-Nano Filter. We use this filter on the 24-70mm lens, particularly when we are stuck photographing in very sunny conditions. The polarizing filter helps reduce glare. Note that the size (in this case, an 82mm) has to match the size of the lens (this is typically written right on the lens itself) in order for it to fit.
Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3 - As tiny as this is, it typically accompanies us on trips. The timer can be used for a number of reasons, but a few of our most common: to remotely trigger the camera when we are doing a slow shutter speed to avoid accidentally bumping the camera or to set it on a timer to take a series of photos, either of us or a dynamic scene. To use this, you will either want a tripod or a solid surface on which to place your camera.
Tripod - We have had ours so long that we don’t recall information about its make and model. Tripods are (in our opinion) a bit of a pain to carry along, so we tend to take them only when we are not traveling by plane. Not all tripods are alike. Make sure you have one that is very sturdy to manage the weight of your camera.
Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter - now that we have this, I’m not sure how we ever lived without it. The transmitter sits on the camera body (and importantly, weighs much less than a flash), and communicates wirelessly with off-camera flashes simultaneously. When traveling, we are most likely to use this when we are doing creative and artistic shots at night.
Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW Camera and Laptop Backpack - Yes, packing and hauling all of our equipment is quite an activity in and of itself! For trips where we feel the need to take a lot of equipment or are taken via car (instead of plane), we are most likely to take the backpack.
Canon 100-DG Digital Gadget Bag (Black) - In addition to the backpack, we also have two different sizes of Canon shoulder bags that we are most likely to use where our travel requires a plane trip to limit the amount of equipment we are taking. This one is the larger of the two.
While batteries, memory cards, and the like aren’t exactly exciting, they are essential to photography! Here are our favorites:
Duracell Rechargeable Long Life Ion Core AA NiMH Batteries - while batteries aren’t very exciting, they are absolutely essential for the flashes. Because flash photography can eat through batteries, we find reusable ones to be most economical and environmentally sound. After trying some other ones over the years and doing research, we landed on this brand and have loved using them - the charge holds pretty well even when using a lot of flash.
Powerex MH-C800S 8-Cell Smart Charger for AA / AAA NiMH / NiCD Batteries - to accompany the batteries, the charger! What we love about this one is that it is easy to take with us so we can recharge when needed. It also allows for both fast or slow charge options to maximize the lifespan of the batteries. That is not an overly common feature for battery chargers.
SanDisk 32GB Extreme Pro CompactFlash Memory Card - these are all we use at this point. They’re large enough that we don’t need to change them too frequently, are highly reliable, and we have had no issues with them.
Flash bounces - we use several different techniques to minimize the ‘deer in headlights’ look that direct flash creates. When you need to be on-the-go and softboxes or other off-camera options aren’t possible, flash bounces are a must-have. Most or all of ours are Vello brand, and these are one of the most affordable pieces of photography equipment out there. The only tip is to make sure you get one that is a match for your flash, as they are fitted to match certain ones.