Every year, I have the same struggle: knowing what photography equipment should I take with me when I'm travelling and on vacation....and which I can afford to leave behind.
It's a delicate balancing act between wanting to have the PERFECT lens with me for a certain shot, and being able to actually walk around places without kilos of equipment weighing me down.
So here's my tips for which photography equipment you'll want to pack, and which to leave at home!
Let's start with the basics, shall we? I don't think I have ever uploaded images to my computer whilst I've been on holiday, because let's face it, a vacation is a time to relax and spend with family, not a time for cataloging, key wording, editing and backing up your photos.
That means that you'll need to take a least a couple of memory cards with you, each one being able to hold a decent amount of photos. I personally take 2 x 16GB memory cards with me, and I usually find that is enough for a "standard" two week trip.
In short, have more than you think you'll need!
A Comfortable Camera Bag
As much as I love my Kelly Moore Hobo Bag, I have to say it not the comfiest or most practical for vacation!
If you are going to walking around for a while, or just on the go, then the best bet is a back pack. They tend to be the most comfortable because they spread the weight around rather than have it concentrated on your shoulder - and carrying around a DSLR and a lens or two can get heavy!
(And if you get a plain black one instead of a fancy flower one, that means you can get your husband to carry it for you 😁)
My favourite so far has been this LowePro Backpack - it holds a camera with lens attached, and up to two additional lenses (depending on their size) You can get larger versions of the same bag, but this one is just the right size for being able to walk around with easily, and has just enough extra space to pack in some other essentials like tissues, snacks, money etc.
Spare Battery & Charger
I always take a spare battery AND a charger.
I would always forget to charge my battery at the end of the day, which meant I would realise I had zero battery power left just as we were about to leave the next day! A second battery solves the problem immediately.
Even if you take a second battery, the last thing you want is to have to stop shooting because you run out of juice, so a charger is still a must.
And if you are going abroad, always make sure to pack an adaptor as well!
Your Camera Body
As I only have the one camera body I have no choice about which to take, but if you are one of those lucky people who have a choice between camera bodies, you need to decide whether to go for the lighter option or the heavier one (the heavier one usally having more features!)
I personally don't mind the weight of my DSLR, and I'm so comfortable shooting with it that I would be loathe to switch to a point and shoot camera, but there's no denying that they are easier to carry around with you!
That said, in addition to my DSLR, I always pack my waterproof point and shoot camera too - it's great for passing over to my child so he can take photos too, and even my husband can use it. Plus, they are great for trying your hand at underwater photography too!
We all know these are crucial bits of equipment, so we have to make some hard choices about which lenses to take and which to leave at home!
Ideally, you want to take two lenses maximum. That does mean that you might not have the "perfect" lens available for every shot you might want to take, but at least you can walk around with what you have.
Although I generally shoot with prime lenses, vacation photography is one time when zoom lenses are probably a better choice. That's because you want to try to cover as wide a focal range as possible so that you have more flexibility, and a zoom allows you to do that with one lens, rather than taking two or three with you.
The downside to this is that the aperture will probably not be able to open as wide as a prime lens, so if you are photographing at night or in low light, these are not ideal.
(If you want more help on camera lenses, have a quick look over on this post with 6 different types of camera lenses and when to use each one)
My recommendation is to take a zoom that covers a wide focal range as your general walkabout lens, and a prime lens that you can use for times when you want higher quality pictures, or to have a wider aperture for lower light situations.
Remember to always bear in mind what you personally like to shoot: if you shoot more landscapes, then take a wider angle lens. If you shoot more candid family photos, then something like a 35mm or 50mm is ideal. And if you like to take pictures of animals, then you are going to want a longer length lens, like a 200mm, so always keep in mind what your intended purpose is.
This is what I am personally packing this year:
Canon 16-35mm Lens (for landscapes, wide open spaces and as a walk around lens)
Canon 50mm F1.4 (An all purpose lens!)
Canon 135mm Lens (For if /when I want to take portraits and things farther afield)
If I have room I might sneak in the Sigma 35mm Lens because I love it so, so, so much.
We are driving this year (no planes) so this does mean I can pack in a bit more - if I were more restricted I would only take the 16-35mm and the 50mm.
Remote Shutter Control
If you want to actually be IN some of those vacation photos, then a remote shutter control makes this far easier than using the timer delay. This Amazon Basics Remote Shutter one is fab for slipping into your bag and not taking up too much room (plus it's cheap!)
Things I NEVER pack:
Speedlight / Flash
Why? Because they are too heavy / bulky and I never end up using them. However, if you are on a holiday and really want to get gorgeous landscapes, you might want to take your tripod. If you are going on vacation to someone's wedding, then maybe the speedlight might be useful, so always keep in mind what your MAIN desire is for your vacation pictures.
Want to improve your photography ahead of going on vacation? Then be sure to get our FREE 90 Day Photography learning blueprint before you go!