Whether you’re heading abroad because you were hired onto a photography shoot with National Geographic, or you just want to explore a new place while capturing it with your camera to the best of your ability, it’s important that you bring along all of the essential travel photography gear that you need to get the highest quality of photos possible.
It doesn’t matter if you’re being paid to take pictures or you just want a way to remember and document your trip, taking great photos requires certain pieces of photography equipment that make it easier to get the shot you want while enhancing the quality of the images you take.
When it comes to traveling there are a few must have travel photography accessories and gear that you should consider bringing along with you.
In this post I’m going to detail some of the best and most recommended items of travel photography gear that will let you take the best photos without having to sacrifice too much time, weight or space in your suitcase.
These photography essentials are for amateur and professional photographers alike. If you’re content with taking your travel photos using your smartphone or a small, inexpensive point-and-shoot then you might not need as many, or any, of these accessories.
The Top 10 Recommended Must-Have Camera Accessories for Travelers and Travel Photographers
1. Camera Bag or Photography Daypack
One of the most important pieces of essential photography gear is a camera bag or a backpack that’s specifically designed for photography equipment.
The reason why this item is so important is because how you store your camera and carry it around with you determines how much you need to worry about the camera itself and what additional photography accessories you can travel with.
If you’re using a high end DSLR with an expensive lens you’re not going to want to be walking around with it hanging off your neck for extended periods of time, especially in busier touristy areas.
Walking around with it on your neck not only makes you a target for thieves but also increases the risk of damaging your camera by bumping or bashing it into something by mistake.
A camera bag will protect your camera and lens while also giving you room to store any additional accessories you want to take along with you.
Many bags, especially backpacks designed for photography, enable you to carry a tripod, spare lens, memory cards, a flash and almost anything else you would need to compose a great shot.
It’s also much easier to use a bag if you’re going to be getting on and off public transportation and it really helps you to stay organized when you’re out and about taking pictures.
2. Extra Memory Cards and Card Case
I used to only travel with just one memory card until I got back from exploring one day, put the card into my laptops card reader and tried to upload my photos.
Somehow the memory card had corrupted during the day and more than 300 photos that I took were lost forever.
I vaguely remember seeing an error on the screen when I was taking photos earlier but I simply reset my camera and everything seemed fine – it wasn’t.
Since then I’ve started carrying along spare memory cards and I try to switch them out every day.
This helps to extend the lifespan of each memory card and if I noticed something wrong with one card I can easily switch it out without risking losing everything.
Spare memory cards are a must, especially if you’re taking RAW photos that can be upwards of 25 to 50 megabytes per shot.
It’s easy to fill up a 32 GB card if you’re taking hundreds of photos throughout the day and you never want to be stuck without any space left for additional shots.
Along with your memory cards, a case for the cards that you’re carrying is also an essential travel photography accessory.
A case helps to protect your cards from getting corrupted or damaged when they’re in your bag or pocket and prevents any dust and debris from getting built-up in the cards and then transferring into your camera.
These cases are very affordable and it’s worth it to use them, especially if you’re traveling in dusty areas or spending a lot of time taking photos in outdoor natural areas.
3. Camera and Lens Cleaning Equipment
If you want to avoid dust spots, grease spots and stains while increasing the lifespan of your camera gear you’ll want to bring along a few items of camera and lens cleaning equipment.
For many people dust spots are a rare occurrence but when they happen, and it’s inevitable if you use your camera long enough, you’ll want to be able to deal with it quickly and effectively.
Having to go back through thousands of photos and editing out a dust spot is not an enjoyable way to spend your time so a little preparation goes a long way.
To clean most dust spots there’s only one accessory you need – a blower.
Dust typically gets stuck on the sensor of your camera and that’s why you can see a small spot when you take a photo with dust on the sensor.
The sensors are very fragile and you could scratch it if you used a cloth or brush, so that’s why a blower is recommended.
Cleaning your lens is a lot easier and all you need for that is a lens pen, some spray and a microfiber cloth.
I recommend cleaning your lens every day to avoid any weird smudges or grease stains that could reduce your image quality.
4. Travel Adapters and Power Strip
If you’re traveling abroad somewhere that uses a different voltage you’ll definitely want to bring along some travel adapters so that you can charge your batteries or any other accessories.
It’s always a good idea bringing more than one adapter as that will allow you to charge more than just one or two things at a time.
There are plenty of travel adapters available online but if you’re not sure which ones to get I recommend checking out my post on the best travel adapters.
A power strip that will work using the voltage of the country you’re visiting is another great accessory to bring along with you and will let you charge even more of your batteries and other camera gear at once.
You shouldn’t ever have to decide between charging your batteries, smartphone, laptop or anything else that needs charging so a power adapter is always a good travel essential to have.
5. External Harddrive
If you plan on taking hundreds of photos per day (which is quite common if you’re a travel photographer) or you want to make videos or take timelapses you’ll need somewhere to store all of your photos and footage.
Memory cards can fill up quite fast so an external portable hard drive with at least 1 to 2 terabytes of storage is definitely what I would recommend for storing your photos.
Along with the additional storage space you can also use a portable hard drive for backing up your photos as well.
You always want to make sure you back up your photos on a regular basis in case you lose a memory card, your computer hard drive crashes or you can’t access your online storage for some reason.
Portable hard drives are relatively inexpensive and they come with a ton of space these days so I definitely recommend bringing one along with you whenever you’re traveling.
6. A Travel Tripod
Regular tripods can be very heavy, hard to carry and aren’t really that necessary for the majority of travel photographers.
Unless you’ve been commissioned to take photos for an important publication or company you don’t need to carry a regular tripod.
Thankfully, there are a variety of travel tripods available that are lightweight and pack down very small, making them suitable to take with you wherever you go.
Don’t get me wrong, tripods are important if you want to get great shots at night, take timelapses or capture any long exposures.
Any serious travel photographer will have a tripod with them but they will tend to carry the ones that are specifically designed for travelers.
When it comes to travel tripods you’re able to choose between a variety of different designs and styles. If you want to travel as light as possible then you’ll want to consider a carbon fiber tripod but otherwise something a little less intense is more than suitable.
Personally, I carry a Joby GorillaPod and it works well in about 85% of the situations I’m taking photos in and lately I’ve been looking into a full-size tripod but one that is still designed for travelers.
Depending on your preferences it’s up to you decide which options are the most ideal for your travel photography needs.
7. A Spare Lens
Depending on your style of photography you’ll want to consider carrying along an extra lens with you whenever you’re traveling.
If you’re using a point-and-shoot then you don’t worry about extra lenses but otherwise for mirrorless and DSLR camera users a spare travel lens is something to think about.
As you know, lenses come in all different shapes and sizes and I’m not really able to tell you which specific lens to bring with you since it depends on your photography style and what you’re planning on shooting.
If you’re going to be taking a lot of night shots you might want to consider bringing along a prime lens, but if you’ll be photographing wildlife then a zoom lens is likely a more suitable option.
I’ve come across a few travelers that are lugging around two or three extra lenses and even for many professionals that’s just total overkill.
It’s most probable that you don’t even need an extra lens but, even if you think more than one will come in handy, try to bring just one spare and avoid taking along every piece of camera gear you own just because you think it might come in handy for that one super unlikely shot.
8. A GoPro
This might seem like an unusual suggestion for one of your must have travel photography accessories but a GoPro is an essential piece of travel photography gear.
When I first got my GoPro I didn’t use it very often but over time it became one of my favorite travel photography accessories.
There are a few different models available so I recommend taking a look at each one and seeing which model is a suitable choice for you.
If you’re planning on doing any outdoor water activities like snorkeling, surfing or you’re going to be spending a lot of time outdoors the GoPro is awesome for capturing those moments where a DSLR or mirrorless camera wouldn’t be a good idea to bring along.
Also, since they’re so small you can just toss it in your camera bag or even leave it in your pocket and it’s always readily available and good to go.
One of my favorite things about the GoPro is that they come with so many different mounts and attachments that you can really use them anywhere to capture some unique shots that would’ve been impossible without one.
9. Waterproof Camera Bag
If a GoPro is out of your budget or something you’re not interested in but you still want to capture photos underwater or not have to worry about your camera in the rain then you should thinking about grabbing a waterproof camera bag.
Even if your trip enter trip revolves around spending time exploring cities a waterproof camera bag it’s still a great investment just to avoid getting your camera wet when it rains – and believe me, if you’re going to be traveling for any extended period of time it’s going to rain and you don’t want to miss out on any photographic opportunities.
They make waterproof bags for mirrorless, DSLR and even point-and-shoot camera and they’re very small, lightweight and easy to just throw in to your backpack or suitcase without having to worry about it taking up too much space.
Consider it somewhat of an insurance policy that will help to keep your camera dry and allow you to still take photos even when it’s pouring outside.
Another one of my most highly recommended must have travel photography accessories are lens filters.
There are a wide range of different filters available with the UV filter, polarizing filter and the ND filter being some of the more popular choices.
A UV filter for your camera lens is necessary to help protect your lens from scratches, cracks or smudges while you’re out in the field.
Polarizing filters are good to use if you want darker, more accurately colored skies in your photos without all the overexposure or highlights as well as to suppress any glare coming off of highly reflective surfaces.
ND filters, or Neutral Density filters, are used to reduce the amount of total light that’s entering the camera lens and are great to use for emphasizing motion, especially with water or at high speeds.
I keep a lens filter permanently on my lenses at all times and it has helped to avoid a few serious accidents or I would’ve otherwise scratched or even broken the lens glass.
It has also improved the quality of my photos and allows me to spend more time capturing great shots rather than worrying about the position of the sun or issues with overexposure.
I think this is a given but if you are traveling with all of your photography gear and you plan on spending a lot of time capturing your adventures then you’ll want to carry along a laptop with you.
Having a laptop makes it easier to back up your photos and edit them soon after you take them rather than waiting until you get back home and having thousands of photos to go through.
Traveling with a laptop makes it possible to share your photos with your friends, family and on social media so that people can follow along with you on your trip.
As a long-term traveler with a passion for travel photography I travel with my laptop wherever I go and it has since become one of my most important items of travel photography gear.