This week I have a bit of a different selfie tip for you, as I’m writing to you from a cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland…far from my home in Vancouver, Canada.
Of course, travel is on my mind and packing camera gear for travel is an important decision I ponder with every adventure and also a question I often get. I had someone recently ask “I’m heading out on a trip and am not sure if I should bring my big camera or just my phone. What cameras do you travel with?”
So I thought today was the perfect day to share my answer with you and share the things I ponder when faced with the questions: What camera should I bring? What is too much? What is not enough?
Of course, the answer is individual, but here are some things to consider to find the right answer for you:
What do you most love to shoot with?
This is the biggest question I have for you in deciding what to bring on a trip. What is your everyday gear that makes you happy to get out and take photos with. Is it your phone? Then it might make sense to not take your DSLR if it is usually not something you shoot with.
This may ebb and flow too as some times or seasons we may be more into one type of camera, so it’s a question I like to ask myself regularly with each trip as the answer may be different.
As well, what camera is your selfie-taking happy place? Because especially when travelling, it’s easy to get caught up with being behind the camera but it feels important to be in the visual story of our trip too, right? You may want to make certain camera decisions based on general photo needs, but ponder your needs around what you’re most likely to take a selfie with too?
What’s happening on the trip?
After pondering which gear you are most likely to use, this is another factor to think of before deciding. What is happening on the trip that might feel like you don’t want to be without a camera? Are you visiting someone special? Is it an event? Is it somewhere special?
Recently I went on a trip to Latvia, where my mom’s side of the family is from originally. To me, it was the most special trip of my lifetime so this question was clear. I knew that in response to the first question here, I would 100% bring my DSLR and favourite lenses and my iPhone. But I also love taking photos with my Polaroid SX-70 and decided to bring it, along with some film to use. I wouldn’t normally bring it on a trip, but in this case I didn’t regret it at all.
If I knew the trip was likely to be busy with little time for photo or selfie taking, I’d probably just travel with my iPhone.
What’s going on in your next trip and will you want to have your camera in hand?
How are you travelling?
Another vital piece might be how much of the trip will you be carrying your gear?
As a transit rider and car-free person, packing light is pivotal both for everyday especially for travel. My travelling to different places often includes riding transit (or at least from the airport) into the city so my gear is on my back a lot. If you’re going on a trip in a car or are flying and won’t have to carry your bags around during your trip, it may be an option to bring heavier or more gear than you might if it was going to be on your shoulders the whole time.
On this recent trip, I knew I’d have a few big days of travelling but mainly I’d have a home base in each city I was in. Had I been doing a lot more carrying of my bags and travelling from place to place that might have changed things!
Can you go on a photo walk?
When I travel, if I can make space (even 5 minutes) for going on a photo walk and capturing the landscape, the light, the geography of where I’m staying, it feels worthwhile to bring my DSLR no matter how many other photos I may take. If you can commit to taking your camera out on one day of your adventure and bring it with you, I’m sure you won’t regret bringing it!
Even if you don’t normally go on photo walks at home, it is such a divine tool for capturing the story of your trip and truly doesn’t take long at all. I define a photo walk as going out with no other intention than to see what delights you and to capture it through your lens…yourself included!
Pick a Lens!
So if you’ve decided you do want to bring a big DSLR with you, the next question might be…what lens should I bring (if you have multiple lenses). I find that with travel it makes the most sense to bring a wider angle lens as we’re more likely to want to get the big picture of the landscape, cityscape, of group photos or of a self-portrait in a larger context. A more portrait focused lens like a 50mm lens is one of my favourites and is much lighter to travel with but may not have the same big picture perspective as a zoom lens. I find that the most versatile lens (like a zoom lens) is the most ideal for travel.
Picking 1 lens that most suits your needs is a great way to bring your DSLR but not ALL your gear. Unless you know you’ll be doing something that needs specific gear it’s probably ideal to leave stuff at home like an external flash, a tripod, even extra camera cleaning tools or filters. That can help a lot in making a camera bag lighter.
What about a Tripod? Or a Selfie Stick or Monopod?
This is another thing for us to ponder! Do we need to bring a tripod or monopod? Or a selfie stick? I’ve shared about selfie sticks (and the pros & cons of them including travelling with them) in this post but I wanted to mention them here as it’s something to consider.
How light is your tripod or monopod? While I take self-portraits nearly everywhere I go, I rarely use a tripod even at home. I can always find a bench or a fence or use my purse to prop my camera on. So while you might think I’d be the type to travel with a tripod, I’m not. I’d only bring a tripod personally if I was planning to shoot a lot of video and have yet to bring a tripod on an overseas trip.
That might not be the case for you though. Tripods can help us keep our photos stable if our hands are shaky. A monopod is a way to add stability but is smaller and lighter.
A selfie stick might be a good choice for you too if you’ve decided your phone is your primary camera for your adventures. Selfie sticks allow us to get a wider range of view around us (you know for things like getting the Eiffel Tower in the frame with us)! It might be a good choice for you.
In these recent travels to Europe I didn’t bring a tripod but did bring my selfie stick as I wanted to try it in Paris. Honestly, they were everywhere there so it wasn’t out of the norm to use it. That said, I didn’t once use it in Latvia. Even taking selfies was far less common and overt there, and I didn’t feel comfortable using it there. I did still take selfies, of course, finding places to prop my camera.
So a tripod or selfie stick might be a good addition for you, but are added weight in our bags for a lot of us. Something to ponder though!
Get a Comfy Camera Bag
If you crave to bring your camera gear on more trips, a comfy bag is really worth investing in. I’m a fan of camera bags that don’t look like they would have a camera in them which luckily are much more common these days. For travel, it’s vital that the bag have a cross body strap option for me as when I’ve got my backpack on, perching a purse on my shoulder just doesn’t work (nor would another camera backpack).
Having my camera bag look more subtle and have room for things like my wallet, water bottle and journal are important too.
Here are a few of the kinds of camera bags that I would recommend for travel:
- The Jo Totes Bellbrook Backpack looks like a dreamy backpack for travel. I tend to travel with my luggage in backpack form, so it might be more ideal for those who travel with a rolling suitcase and would make a great carry on bag as it can hold your computer too.
- The Epiphanie Chelsea Bag looks like a dreamy small bag for travel. I’ve owned a few styles of bags from them (like the one in the photo above that they no longer make) and loved them.
- I’ve never owned a Kelly Moore bag but swoon over them…especially the Collins Bag which looks nothing like any camera bag I’ve ever seen. I love that the camera pockets are inserts that you can remove if you want to use it like a regular bag!
What if you decide to just bring a phone?
I think my back would thank me if I made that choice and yours might too! If you’re using your phone the most to shoot it might be the best choice for you and especially as our phones take such high quality photos these days.
Here are a few extra suggestions for you if your phone is your main camera for travel:
- Clear out your camera roll before you go just like you would clear out a memory card on a DSLR before you head out.
- Make sure it’s the highest quality size of photo you’re taking (for example use the basic camera in the phone rather than Instagram)
- Use the front facing lens which is a higher quality to take your photos.
- Get a timer app like Gorillacam to help you be able to get in the photo along with the beautiful place you’ve travelled to!
What do I bring?
When travelling, I almost always bring my DSLR and my favourite lens the Canon 24-70 2.8. The drawback being that it is actually very heavy to carry around. This is my favourite self-taking lens too especially when I want to get the big picture of the place I’m in too. For me it’s worth it for the photos it takes, but for others it might be too heavy to be ideal (it definitely leaves me with achy shoulders after a day of wandering).
I also bring my Canon 50mm 1.4 lens which I find I use on days when I’m craving a lighter lens and don’t expect to be taking landscape photos. It’s small and light so it’s easy to bring as an extra lens but don’t use as much as the other lens (so I could see myself leaving it behind if I had to travel with less).
I also chose to bring along my Polaroid SX-70 this trip. I don’t tend to bring it on every trip but I mean, there’s castles and gorgeous old buildings and beautiful landscapes. I couldn’t resist and will make sure to use it.
And my iPhone of course. With lots of space to take photos with it.
I also bring 2 batteries and 1 battery charger, 2 memory cards but leave all other camera accessories at home including a tripod or flash.
So do I pack light for travel? Not so much, but from experience of other trips, I know I’ll use what I do bring. It only takes overpacking camera gear once to really wake us up to what we do actually use, so another suggestion I have is to write yourself a note of what worked and what didn’t so you’ll have it to refer to next time!
So what should you bring? I hope these suggestions are helpful in figuring that out.
Alas, I can’t really answer that question for you, but I hope these will help you decide to either take the pressure of yourself to bring a camera other than a phone or to get inspired to!
I’m happy to provide suggestions for your situation in the comments if you’re still torn as to what you want to bring along on your next trip!