Can anything ruin your travels like than coming home with crappy photos? I know – no photos at all. What will really rip your undies is if it could’ve been avoided if you were better prepared. You don’t need a lot of gear to take great travel photos, but a few extra things in your camera bag can help you prepare for whatever your travels might throw at you. These are a few travel photography accessories that I’ve found are well worth the insignificant extra weight and cost.
Lens Wipes – $11
These little beauties are tiny, weigh nothing, and will clean your lenses far better than a microfibre cloth (although I always carry one of them too). The alcohol in the wipes will clean just about anything off your gear that a lens cloth will often just smear around. You can also use them to clean the LCD on the back of your camera, your glasses, even the screens on your devices. As an added bonus, you can sniff them for a cheap buzz (kidding).
Camera Strap – $67
I’ve been using sling-style camera straps by Blackrapid for years, and I can’t imagine ever having a camera hanging around my neck again. A sling-strap distributes the weight of your camera over your shoulder instead of your neck and leaves the camera sitting on your hip where your hand conveniently lives. Perfect for long days of walking around exploring a city when you don’t want to carry your whole camera bag. My strap has a little pocket for little goodies like memory cards or lens wipes.
Memory Card Wallet – $17
When my spare memory cards aren’t in my camera strap pocket, they live safe and secure in my Think Tank Photo Pee Wee Pixel Pocket Rocket Memory Card Wallet. Yup, that’s what it’s called. It has space for four CF cards and three SD cards, although these days I’m all SD. There’s even a space for your business card in case you throw it as somebody and they’re nice enough to try to find you to return it.
Power Bank – $49
I have been accused of being a little obsessed with gadgets, and I can’t really argue. In my defence, I don’t own any gadgets that I don’t use. The problem with gadgets is that they need electricity, which can be in short supply when travelling. I’m lucky enough that all my gadgets can be charged via USB, including my camera (thank you, Sony).
I don’t go anywhere without my Anker PowerCore 20100 power bank now. I have the 20,000mAh model, which is enough to charge my phone six times! It has two USB outlets, meaning I can charge multiple gadgets or devices at the same time. That’s if my girlfriend hasn’t already drained it.
Headlamp – $29
My favourite times of day for photography are from about an hour before sunset to an hour after sunrise. That gives me a little light at either end and whole lotta darkness in the middle. If I’m photographing sunrise, I’m walking to my location in the dark. If I’m photographing sunset I’m walking back from my location in the dark. If I’m photographing the stars or milky way… you get the idea. I’m often out in the dark.
A headlamp is invaluable for not only getting to and from locations in the dark, but also seeing what you’re doing while keeping your hands free. It’s also great for illuminating the foreground to find a focus point and for light-painting fun. The Petzl Tikka Headlamp isn’t the cheapest option, but mine’s still going strong after a few years.
L-Bracket – $49
I don’t know how long I tolerated trying to shoot vertical images with the camera flopped over onto the side of my tripod ball-head. When I heard of the wonders of an L-bracket, I was like a man possessed. I had to have one. An L-bracket essentially gives you the ability to connect your tripod to either the bottom or the side of your camera. It’s lightning fast and means that when your camera is vertical, it sits on TOP of your tripod, rather than hanging off the side.
There are expensive brands that will sell you one specifically for your model of camera, but the universal ones work just as well and won’t cost you a limb. I use the 3 Legged Thing Universal L-Bracket as it came discounted with my tripod, but there are cheaper third-party options.
Card Reader – $17
Plugging in and importing each of your memory cards individually at the end of the day is for people who get paid by the hour. A card reader will make the process far simpler and quicker. Different models will accept different card types, so check what you need first. I still use my Kingston Multi-Card Reader from when I used both CF and SD cards. As I only use SD and microSD cards these days, I would go for the Anker 8-in-1 Portable Card Reader.
Remote Shutter Release – $18
If you are photographing anything that requires your camera to be on a tripod, I would recommend using a remote shutter release. Why put your camera on a nice, sturdy tripod only to shake it around with your big, gammy hands? You can use 2-second delay, but if you’re wanting to play with long exposures and astrophotography, a remote shutter release is a must. It’ll take your shaky mitts off the camera and also allow you to leave the shutter open well past 30 seconds.
I’ve used Neewer’s models for years, but rarely use mine these days thanks to my camera’s ability to connect to my phone, which now acts as my shutter release (thanks again, Sony). I still keep the shutter release in my camera bag as a backup though.
Filter Hive – $29
The debate over whether filters are necessary for photography anymore rages on, but until software can accurately replicate what you can do with a polarising or neutral density (ND) filter, I will continue to carry those precious, magical pieces of glass around. If you use filters (and you should), you’re gonna want to put them somewhere safe.
I use the MindShift Gear Filter Hive MINI. It holds four filters, and I know they’re safe from getting scratched or broken. Nothing is completely safe, though. If something can break, I will find a way. So far they’ve remained intact while safely in the filter hive.
After a few years of travelling with my camera gear and constantly working to minimise it, these are my must-have travel photography accessories. There are other things I haven’t mentioned like memory cards, spare batteries, and gaffer tape to silence any uninvited company, but I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that you need that stuff.
If there’s anything you think I’ve missed or anything you can’t live without, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.