How To Choose The Best Travel Camera (Plus Win A Free GoPro!)

Best Travel Camera Guide

How to Choose a Travel Camera

Travel Photography

After 7 years as a professional travel photographer & blogger, I keep getting asked what’s the best travel camera. There are so many to choose from! Here’s what I would pick, and why.

If you’re into photography, traveling the world with a good camera can help you bring back images that will stand the test of time — memories to share with family and friends for years to come.

Amazing travel photos are some of my most treasured souvenirs!

But what’s the best travel camera for capturing these special moments on your journey? There’s no easy answer to this question. Different people will have different requirements and budgets.

My goal with this digital camera buyers guide is to help you narrow down the overwhelming choices that are out there — and pick the perfect travel camera for your next trip.

Travel Photos from Norway

Norway’s Lofoten Islands

Travel Camera Features

  • Size & Weight: Gone are the days when a bigger camera means a better camera. If you want to travel with your camera, you’ll want something small & lightweight.
  • Manual Settings: Photography professionals want the ability to fully control the settings of their camera so they can dial in the perfect shot in all kinds of different situations.
  • Megapixels: Many people assume that more megapixels is better. This isn’t always true if the pixels themselves are small. However more megapixels on a large sensor will give you higher detail, and allow you to “crop” your image without reducing quality.
  • Fast Lens: Lens aperture is measured in f/numbers, like f/1.4, f/2.8, f/4, etc. The lower the number, the better it will perform in low-light situations.
  • Zoom Range: A zoom lens lets you get closer to the action, especially for wildlife or people. But the bigger the zoom the bulkier a camera gets. How much zoom you want is a personal preference.
  • HD/4K Video: Most quality travel cameras will shoot video in HD 1080p. Some even have 4K capabilities — which honestly most people won’t need unless you’re doing professional work.
  • WiFi/Bluetooth Enabled: Some cameras have their own wifi network, allowing you to upload your photos instantly to your computer or smartphone.
  • Interchangeable Lenses: High-end mirrorless and DSLR cameras have interchangeable lenses, allowing you to pick the perfect lens for different situations.
  • Weatherproofing: Will your travel camera hold up against the elements? Some cameras are better protected from moisture and dust than others.
Travel Camera Sensor Size

Understanding Camera Sensors

Camera Sensor Size

When choosing the perfect camera for traveling, you need to understand different camera sensors, and how they affect image quality and camera size.

In general, a camera with a large sensor is going to perform better in low light because that large sensor can capture more of it.

With a large sensor you’ll also get more detail, allowing you to print your images large, or crop them smaller, and not loose any quality.

However a large camera sensor means the camera itself will be larger as well.

Travel Photos from Hawaii

Ridge Hiking in Hawaii

What Do You Want To Capture?

When choosing the best travel camera for your needs, you must define what those needs are. Different cameras have strengths and weaknesses depending on what you’re using them for.

Are you looking for portability? Weatherproofing & ruggedness? Professional high-end image quality? Something reasonably priced? Are you going to be shooting more landscapes, wildlife, adventure activities, or people?

You often can’t have it all when it comes to travel cameras.

Keep reading below to learn the pros & cons for each type of camera, and which types of travel photography they work best for.

Point & Shoot Cameras

Point & shoot cameras have come a long way. As technology has improved, companies have managed to pack these pocket-sized cameras with tons of features. Some shoot 4k video and have manual settings, just like the more expensive ones in this list.

The big difference is the camera sensor is a bit smaller, and they don’t have interchangeable lenses.

In my opinion, a mid-range to high-end point & shoot is the best option for 75% of amature travel photographers. They combine the perfect mix of portability, power, and budget-friendliness.

Sony RX100 Series ($700 – $1000)

Sony RX100 Travel Camera

Sony RX100 V

The Sony RX100 V is my favorite point & shoot travel camera. It’s what I’d call a “professional” point & shoot. While it fits in my pocket, it has many of the same features as my larger primary mirrorless camera.

It’s a bit pricey at $1000, but you can also pick up older models like the RX100 III ($700) and RX100 IV ($850) for less. They also make reasonably priced underwater dive-housings for this line.

Highlights

  • 4k Video
  • Ultra-Fast Focusing
  • Flip-screen for Vlogging
  • Built-In Flash

Issues:

  • 1″ Sensor
  • Fixed Lens
  • Crappy Microphone

Check Price For Sony RX100 V Here

Canon PowerShot G7 X ($650)

Canon G7X II Travel Camera

Canon G7X II

The Canon G7 X is another fantastic point & shoot that’s great for travel photography. A bit less expensive than the Sony, it has fewer high-end features, but shoots great video with better on-board audio than the Sony. It’s a favorite for many YouTubers and Vloggers.

Highlights

  • Flip-screen for Vlogging
  • Built-In Flash
  • Decent Microphone

Issues:

  • 1″ Sensor
  • Fixed Lens
  • Slow Focusing

Check Price For Canon G7X Here

Travel Photos from a GoPro

Best Action Travel Cameras

Action Cameras

Action cameras have really transformed the travel photography & video world over the years. These tiny, waterproof, indestructible cameras can go anywhere & record anything!

If you plan on hiking, mountain biking, surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, or even swimming under waterfalls during your travels, an action camera can create epic video & photos of the experience.

GoPro Hero 6 ($500)

GoPro Hero 6 Travel Camera

GoPro Hero 6

The GoPro Hero 6 is GoPro’s best camera yet, with improved video stabilization, color, and 60p slow-motion 4k footage. It’s waterproof case and touch-screen will handle any adventures you dream up. A must-have for adventure addicts like me!

Check Price For GoPro 6 Here

GoPro Hero Session ($200)

GoPro Session Travel Camera

GoPro Session

The GoPro Session is GoPro’s smaller & cheaper model. Without a screen, this tiny cube can fit just about anywhere — you’ll barely notice it. If you aren’t an action sports junkie, this will do for most people. Connect to the GoPro App on your smartphone to frame your shots.

Check Price For GoPro Session Here

Travel Photos from Hawaii

Best Mirrorless Travel Cameras

Mirrorless Cameras

Larger than a point & shoot, but smaller than a DSLR, mirrorless digital cameras are all the rage right now. Even professional photographers are starting to switch over due to their small size and ability to produce high-quality images.

I use a mirrorless camera as my main travel camera. They offer more features than a point & shoot, like the ability to use interchangeable lenses, and a larger sensor with better low-light capability and detail.

Sony A7 Series ($1300 – $3200)

Sony A7 Travel Camera

Sony A7ii

The Sony A7 II is one of the best travel cameras money can buy. Sony is on the cutting edge of camera technology lately, and other brands are having trouble keeping up. There are a few different models available.

The Sony A7S II is geared towards videographers, with extremely good low-light capabilities and 4k video. The Sony A7R III is geared for professional photographers who want super-fast focusing and a giant full-frame sensor.

Highlights

  • Full Frame Sensor
  • Internal Stabilization
  • 4k Video (A7S & A7R only)
  • High Dynamic Range
  • Weather-sealed Body

Issues:

  • Lacks swivel screen for vlogging
  • No built-in flash

Check Price For Sony A7ii Here

Fujifilm X‑T2 ($1500)

Fujifilm X‑T2 Travel Camera

Fujifilm X‑T2

The Fuji X-T2 is a popular competitor to the Sony A7 mirrorless camera. I’ve used it before, and the Fuji is very well-made! My favorite part about it is the rugged all-metal dials that control this camera’s settings. However it has a smaller APS-C crop sensor rather than being Full Frame.

Highlights

  • APS-C Sensor
  • 4k Video
  • Weather-sealed Body

Issues:

  • Lacks swivel screen for vlogging
  • No built-in flash

Check Price For Fuji X-T2 Here

Sony A6500 ($1200)

Sony A6500 Travel Camera

Sony A6500

The Sony A6500 is an even smaller version of Sony’s awesome A7 mirrorless camera. The big difference is a slightly smaller APS-C cropped sensor, and less weatherproofing to protect against rain.

The A6500 also shoots 4k video, shoots faster photos than the A7, and has a touch-screen. For a more budget friendly version, the older Sony A6000 is almost just as capable, for almost $700 hundred dollars less!

Check Price For Sony A6500 Here

DSLR Cameras

Digital SLR Cameras (DSLR) wouldn’t be my first choice for a travel camera. Because these cameras use a physical mirror instead of an electronic viewfinder, the body is larger than on a mirrorless camera.

Personally I think most people would be better off with a mirrorless camera system these days. Especially if you’re trying to minimize the weight and size of your travel gear.

Nikon D3400 ($400)

Nikon D3400 Travel Camera

Nikon D3400

Check Price For Nikon D3400 Here

Canon 80D ($1000)

Canon 80D Travel Camera

Canon 80D

Check Price For Canon 80D Here

Using Your Smartphone

Can you use your smartphone for travel photography? Of course you can! You’ll sacrifice a bit of quality due to the super small camera sensor in phones, but if you’re only publishing to the web, most people won’t notice.

Another downside is lack of a physical zoom feature (digital zooming doesn’t produce great results).

Some smartphones can even shoot in RAW format these days though. I travel with an iPhone 7+, but the Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel 2 also take amazing photos & video. Smartphones are also great backup cameras too.

What About Camera Lenses?

You honestly don’t need a million different camera lenses. When I first started, I only used a single general-purpose lens while I was learning.

If you have money to burn, then get two: a wide angle zoom and a telephoto zoom.

These two lenses will allow you to capture a mix of landscapes, portraits, and wildlife from a distance. However lugging around multiple lenses and changing them back & forth can be annoying if you’re new to photography.

To keep things easy, I’d recommend only one lens at first. Something with a decent focal range, around 18mm – 55mm or 28mm – 70mm.

When looking at a lens aperture, the lower the number, the better it will be in low light. F2.8 or F4 should cover you for most situations. If you want to shoot star photography, go with F2.8 or lower.

Hawaii from the Air

Flying my DJI Mavic Over Hawaii

Drones For Travel Photography

Drones are incredible tools for capturing images & video in a totally different perspective. But this probably isn’t the most important travel camera for the average person.

Many places have restrictions on flying personal drones, for example US National Parks, and even entire countries. So you need to do your research to avoid heavy fines or confiscation.

If you REALLY want a drone, I’d recommend the DJI Spark for beginners. It’s tiny, pretty affordable, and very easy to use.

If you eventually want to make money from your drone photography, and have a larger budget, than you’ll completely fall in love with the more professional DJI Mavic Pro. You can see my review video here.

Travel Photography Camera Gear

All My Camera Gear

What Travel Cameras Do I Use?

I actually travel with 4-5 different cameras on my adventures around the world. This is a bit overkill for most people.

However travel photography is how I make my living, so I invest in gear to help me accomplish my job. When I first started 7 years ago, all I used was a Canon 7D and a GoPro Hero.

  • Sony A7Rii – My main travel camera.
  • Sony RX100 V – This is my backup camera.
  • GoPro Hero 6 – Action camera for extreme sports.
  • GoPro Session – Backup action camera & B-roll footage.
  • DJI Mavic Pro – Drone for aerial photography & video.

The camera backpack I use is called a LowePro Whistler 350. It’s got room for a 15″ laptop, jacket, and incredibly fits all 5 travel cameras, lenses & some accessories if I need it to — great as an airplane carry-on.

Travel Photography Tips

I want to let you in on a little travel photography secret. Even if you have a top-of-the-line $10,000 camera, your photos aren’t going to be spectacular if you don’t know how to use it.

And I don’t mean pressing the shutter — I mean:

  • Learning how to shoot in manual mode
  • How to expose images properly
  • Adjusting your white balance
  • Framing shots for maximum impact
  • Paying attention to light
  • Post-processing your images with software

You don’t become a good photographer because you have a nice camera, your photography improves over time through practice, patience, and skills you learn from others.

So sure, invest in a new travel camera if you think you need it, but remember to invest money & time into learning new photography skills if you really want to create those jealousy-inducing images for your Instagram feed!

Here are some of my favorite beginner travel photography tips.

Travel Camera Giveaway

Who Wants to Win a GoPro?

Free GoPro Session Giveaway!

If you don’t have a GoPro action camera yet, but want one, here’s your chance to win a GoPro to use on your next travel adventure!

I’m giving one lucky reader their very own GoPro Hero Session 5 (along with some accessories).

I love my GoPro, and travel with it everywhere. It’s great for capturing water sports, hiking trips, epic selfies, and hands-free video from my travel adventures around the world.

I’ve been traveling with a GoPro of some kind for the last 7 years!

Here’s an article I wrote about my favorite GoPro accessories for travel, along with examples of how you can use it to capture amazing footage.

OFFICIAL RULES

ELIGIBILITY: Ages 18+
Promotion is open and offered to residents of any country. However the winner will be responsible for their own country’s customs fees.

CHOOSING A WINNER:
A winner will be selected at random from the list of entries, and notified by email on December 3rd. If the winner does not respond within one week, an alternate winner will be chosen at random.

PRIZE:
The winner will receive (1) GoPro Hero Session, (1) GoPro Backpack, and (1) GoPro Selfie Stick. Prize value worth $450. Prizes are shipped to winner’s chosen address. Local customs fees are not included in the prize.

TERMS & CONDITIONS: Click Here For Details

How To Enter Contest

Enter your name and email address below and follow the instructions.

You’ll have the option to earn extra contest entries (and more chances to win!) by completing certain tasks.

Good luck, and I look forward to congratulating the winner! ★

Pin This!

How To Choose The Best Travel Camera. More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE TRAVEL TIPS

Ultimate Adventure Travel Gear Guide
How To Start A Travel Blog
The Best GoPro Accessories For Travel
DJI Mavic Pro Drone Review

Have any questions about travel cameras? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

DJI Mavic Pro: Best Drone For Travel? (Plus Tips & Tricks)

DJI Mavic Drone

DJI Mavic Pro Drone Review

Gear Review

Drones are incredible tools for capturing images & video in a totally different perspective. With the new DJI Mavic Pro, we finally have a drone that’s easy to travel with too!

The other day I was kayaking at a stunning blue lagoon in Mexico. To capture its beauty, I brought along a daypack filled with camera gear — my Sony A7Rii, GoPro Hero5, and the new DJI Mavic Pro.

All of this gear, including accessories, fit neatly inside a single camera backpack that I use as my airline carry-on!

The ability to pack a drone, along with the rest of my camera gear, into a single bag has been a dream of mine ever since I first started flying drones in my travel photography and video workflow.

But it just wasn’t possible until now.

DJI Mavic Pro Size

Small & Lightweight Design

DJI Mavic Pro Drone Review

Sure, there are small drones out there. And more powerful ones too. Unfortunately you couldn’t have the best of both worlds — until the new DJI Mavic Pro came along.

The Mavic has all the features of the original DJI Phantom 4, but is half the size and weight.

Folded up, the Mavic is about the same size as a Nalgene water bottle!

To make this possible, DJI really put a lot of thought into the Mavic’s design. It has four “wings” that neatly fold up when not in use. You no longer need to remove the drone’s propellers either, they fold up too.

Even the Mavic’s remote controller is about half the size as previous models. Yet DJI’s new drone still boasts about 21 minutes of flight time, speeds up to 40mph, and a super impressive 4 mile range.

With the ability to shoot 4k video and capture RAW photos, the Mavic is just as powerful as its predecessor (DJI Phantom 4). It also has front-facing optical sensors that help you avoid obstacles and prevents the drone from crashing into things.

DJI Mavic Unfolded

Powerful Portable Drone for Travel

DJI Mavic Pro Specs

Video Recording: 4K in 24/30p or 1080 in 60/30/24p
Pixels: 12 Megapixels
Max Resolution: 4000 x 3000
Lens: 28mm
Memory Card: Micro SD
ISO Sensitivity: 100 – 3200
Max Speed: 40 mph
Average Flight Time: 21 minutes
Max Distance: 4 miles
Weight: 1.62 lbs (734 g)

DJI Mavic Review

Flying the DJI Mavic

Flying The Mavic

The DJI Mavic is surprisingly easy to fly. It feels a lot like a video game. If you let go of the controls, the drone simply hovers in one place.

But drones are complicated machines too — you need to be aware of your surroundings in multiple dimensions, something most of us aren’t used to.

Before you do anything, make sure to watch all of the Mavic tutorial videos here. Then, practice flying the drone simulator on the DJI GO app.

When you finally think you’re ready, I recommend practicing with the Mavic in a wide open field until you get the hang of how it handles. Then practice some more.

The Mavic has a beginner mode that forces the drone to fly a bit slower, and limits height and distance. Use this mode while you’re learning.

Lowe Pro Camera Backpack

All My Camera Gear in One Bag

Launching & Landing

Unfolding and preparing the Mavic for flight takes less than 2 minutes. First I start the DJI GO App on my phone, connect the phone to the remote controller, turn on the remote controller, then power on the drone.

The Mavic will attempt to lock on to GPS satellites, which keeps it stable during flight.

Before you fly in a new location, remember to calibrate the compass (aka do the “drone dance”). It’s an easy process that takes less than 20 seconds

One of the drawbacks to the DJI Mavic’s compact design is that it has much less ground clearance than the Phantom 4, meaning the belly of the drone is closer to the ground.

This can be a problem if you want to launch or land in tall grass. So try to find a wide, flat base to launch it from. I actually launch it from the back of my LowePro Whistler Camera Backpack most of the time.

If you run low on battery power or lose your connection, the Mavic will automatically “return to home” using GPS.

Cameras on the bottom of the Mavic take a photo of the launch site, helping it land in the same exact spot once you’re finished. Pretty impressive technology!

DJI Mavic Drone Photos

Shooting From a Different Perspective

Image Quality

When the Mavic was first released, there were a bunch of videos saying the image was fuzzy. This is because the camera wasn’t in focus — users didn’t realize they needed to touch the screen and focus the camera first.

However this issue has been resolved, as the latest software update gives the Mavic an autofocus mode, which you can turn on or off depending on your preference.

Both video footage & still photos from the Mavic are crisp and clean, sharp enough for most video applications, especially on the web.

If you want to make high-end movies, drones like the new DJI Phantom 4 Pro and DJI Inspire 2 boast larger camera sensors which can pick up more detail in lower light. The caveat is these drones aren’t nearly as portable as the Mavic.

Battery Life

Battery life for the DJI Mavic is solid, averaging 21 minutes on a typical flight (that’s with 15% battery remaining). I travel with 3 batteries to maximize my flight time in each location.

It takes about 60 minutes to re-charge a battery, about 2 hours to re-charge the controller.

DJI recommends deep-discharging (cycling) your intelligent flight battery after every 20 re-charges, to maximize battery life. You can view how many cycles a battery has gone through in the DJI GO App.

DJI Mavic Settings

4K or 1080?

Actually, neither. After doing a lot of research on this subject, it appears that the best footage on the DJI Mavic Pro comes from recording in 2.7k at 30p.

It’s complicated, but basically true 4k video footage needs a bitrate of 100mps. The Mavic can only handle a 65mps bitrate, meaning the footage gets compressed, and doesn’t look as good.

The sweet-spot seems to be recording at 2.7k, which you can then downsample to 1080 for web, and it will still look better than shooting at 1080 directly from the drone.

Also, while the Mavic can technically shoot video at 60 frames per second, it doesn’t look very good in practice. So make sure to keep it at 24p or 30p for the best looking footage.

DJI Mavic Profile

Setting Your Camera Profile

Camera Profiles

If you aren’t planning to color-grade your video footage the default color profile settings work fine. However if you use color grading techniques or LUTs with software like Color Finale, you’ll want to adjust the color profile.

These are the settings I’ve found work best for me.

  • Profile: CINELIKE
  • Sharpness: -1
  • Contrast: -1
  • Saturation: 0

If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say color grading or LUTS, here’s more information explaining the process.

DJI Mavic Gimbal Speed

Reducing Gimbal Speed

Gimbal Tilt Speed

The default gimbal tilt/pitch speed (aiming the camera up or down) was moving too fast for me, so I slowed it down to 20 in the remote control settings. This helps you get smoother, more cinematic camera movements for your videos.

YAW Speed

The drone’s YAW is what controls its rotation left or right. I prefer to slow this down a bit, again for smoother footage. You can do this in advanced settings under “rudder control”. I changed mine from 0.25 to 0.20.

DJI Mavic Flight Modes

Intelligent Flight Modes

Intelligent Flight Modes

The DJI Mavic drone has 11 cool intelligent flight modes, software that helps fly the drone for you, to get different kinds of unique shots that are difficult when flying with full manual control.

To activate them, you need to go into the flight mode settings. You can then pause or stop the program when necessary and go back to manual control. Here are some of my favorites.

Active Track

Active Track visually locks onto a person or object, and tracks their movement while keeping them in frame. It automatically follows the subject, or you can even fly circles around a moving subject. It’s great for following bikers, kayakers, people walking, and even cars (as long as they aren’t driving faster than 20 mph).

Gesture

This is the Mavic’s “selfie” setting. Send the drone up into the air, put down your remote control (or hide it out of frame), wave your hands to get the Mavic’s attention, then gesture with your hands in a frame around your head, and the drone will lock on and snap a photo after 3 seconds. You need to switch from video into photo mode to make this work.

Cinematic

Cinematic Mode is available with the new DJI Go V4.0 App. Basically it slows down certain drone movements, smoothing out the flying for more cinematic looking shots. But it’s important to note that this function slows down braking speed too, so the drone no longer stops on a dime if you let go of the control sticks. It “drifts” to a stop — so you need to be careful near objects like walls & trees.

Tripod

Tripod Mode is very cool. It drastically slows down the speed of the drone, to about 3-4mph maximum. It too is wonderful for slow, smooth, cinematic shots. It holds as steady as possible, but still stops quickly unlike cinematic mode. It’s great for maneuvering in tight spaces like narrow pathways or around trees. I use it when I’m afraid of running into something.

Course Lock

Another favorite mode of mine is Course Lock, where the drone will fly in one direction no matter which way the camera is facing. So if you wanted to fly parallel with a moving car, but change the direction of the camera angle as you fly alongside, you can do that without altering the course of the drone’s path.

Point Of Interest

Say you wanted to fly around a particular building or monument. With Point Of Interest, you hover over a stationary object, lock on, then adjust the diameter and speed you want to fly at, and the drone will then circle your chosen subject keeping it in frame. Manually flying perfect circles around something is very difficult, this mode does the hard work for you, so you can focus on filming.

Terrain

Terrain Mode is great for flying low over a rough landscape, or up the side of a hill. The Mavic’s bottom sensors track the changing ground features, and keep the drone at a certain height over it. So you don’t have to worry about adjusting it’s altitude to avoid running into the side of a hill, it takes care of that for you.

DJI Mavic RAW Photos

Photos From the Sky

Shooting Photos

The Mavic’s 12mp camera can capture great still photos too, in DNG RAW format for those who like to post-process their images, or normal JPG. You can also shoot in manual mode for adjusting ISO, exposure compensation, and shutter speed.

There are options for bracketing images, a self-timer, and rapid fire shots.

The image sensor is the same size as the original Phantom 4, however DJI’s newer Phantom 4 Pro has a much larger sensor, about 4 times the size as the Mavic’s. This means images from the Phantom 4 Pro will come out better in low-light situations, with less sensor noise.

DJI Mavic Tips & Tricks

Press Record!

As stupid as this sounds, when I first started flying drones, I’d forget to start recording video. Maybe it was because I was so excited to fly the thing, or because I was mesmerized by the beautiful scenes it was showing me. Remember to hit record and capture that beauty!

Full Screen View

The tiny DJI Mavic controller is pretty slick, displaying flight details like speed, altitude, distance, and battery level. This allows you to switch your phone into full-screen mode (swipe up for IOS), removing the information overlay so you can concentrate on framing your shots.

Slow & Steady Movements

Racing around at 40mph in sport mode is fun as hell, but doesn’t make for great video footage. The best drone videos are smooth and steady. Small input changes can have a big effect — you don’t need to jam down on the control sticks full throttle. Plus, you can always speed things up later with editing software too.

Return To Home

It took me a while to realize the benefits of this feature. Why engage return to home when I can fly back myself? Well, the software is much more efficient than humans are. It takes the shortest path back, flying at optimal speed, saving you precious battery power. If you really want to land yourself, you can cancel it at the last minute and take control.

Catch Landing

If I’m attempting to fly from uneven ground (rocks, tall grass, sand) I’ll generally launch the Mavic from my camera backpack, and catch-land it in my hand. However I do not recommend catch-landing a drone until you have a LOT of experience flying in all kinds of situations/weather. It can be dangerous if it goes wrong.

Recovering After A Crash

Everyone crashes their drone eventually. Everyone. I’ve crashed 2 times now, once in water! If you do crash your drone, the best way to get it back is using the GPS information stored on the DJI GO App. Click on the map, zoom into where the last signal was sent from, then head over and start searching. It’s crazy how accurate it is.

Facebook Live

Did you know you can broadcast live video from your DJI Mavic to Facebook & YouTube? The video feed comes from the drone, while the audio comes from your phone. This lets you tell a story, or describe what you’re seeing, as you fly the drone live. It’s possible with a strong 3G signal, but wifi and 4G connections work best.

DJI Mavic Drone Accessories

Controller Sun Hood

DJI Mavic Accessories

Sun Shade Hood

The DJI Mavic Sun Hood helps you see your phone’s screen in full-on sunlight, cutting out the glare. Especially if your eyes are sensitive to the sun like mine are. It makes flying in sunlight much more enjoyable, so you can actually see what you’re recording.

Car Charger

The DJI Mavic Car Charger can plug into a vehicle’s cigarette lighter and charge your battery while driving. It’s super helpful during travel photography road trips, so you always have fresh batteries for flying.

ND Filters

These Polar Pro Mavic ND Filters are a bit like sunglasses for your drone’s camera. It gives professional videographers the ability to shoot video at slower shutter speeds in bright sunlight, creating a more cinematic look.

DJI Care Refresh

Like I said earlier, everyone crashes their drone eventually. It’s best to be prepared and purchase the DJI Care Refresh insurance, so when you do crash one day, you can get back to flying as soon as possible at minimal cost. Drones are expensive machines! It would suck to lose one.

Summary

With the DJI Mavic Pro, I can now fit all my camera gear into a single airplane carry-on bag. It’s also far easier to bring my drone hiking in the mountains, snowboarding, on a boat, or on other kinds of adventures.

Not only is it much smaller and lighter than earlier drones, it’s still just as fast, stable, and easy to fly too.

The convenience of the Mavic’s super portable design means I’m more likely to take my drone with me — giving my travel photography and adventure videos a big-budget WOW factor that was previously only possible from an actual helicopter.

While traveling with a drone is probably overkill for most people, if you make your living with photography or video (or want to eventually), nothing can compete with the DJI Mavic Pro for its combination of power & portability. ★

Watch Video: DJI Mavic Pro Review

(Click to watch DJI Mavic Pro – Best Drone For Travel? on YouTube)

More Information

Product: DJI Mavic Pro (click here for price)
Useful Notes: Even with a few downsides like less ground clearance and crappy 60p footage, the DJI Mavic Pro blows away the competition with its powerful features and extreme portability. It’s definitely the best drone for traveling photographers at the moment.
Suggested Reading: Remote Drone Pilot Test Prep Handbook

DJI Mavic Pro review for travel photographers. More at ExpertVagabond.com
DJI Mavic Pro review for travel photographers. More at ExpertVagabond.com

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Have any questions about the DJI Mavic Pro drone? Are you thinking of getting one? Drop me a message in the comments below!

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17 Useful Travel Photography Tips For Improving Your Photos

Travel Photography Tips

Useful Travel Photography Tips

Photography

Looking to improve your travel photography? I’ve spent the last 5 years shooting photos in exotic locations around the world, and these are my favorite travel photography tips.

Some people collect souvenirs when they travel, I prefer to collect beautiful images with my camera. Travel photography is like a time machine, freezing memories from a journey that you can look back on and enjoy for years.

Every travel destination has its own look, culture, history, people, feelings, landscapes, and stories. Learning how to capture these subjects through photos helps convey the spirit of a place to others, giving them a glimpse of what it might be like to venture there.

I never went to school for photography. And yet here I am now, making my living as a professional travel blogger & photographer who regularly licenses images to tourism boards, brands, and occasionally glossy magazines.

I’ve slowly learned the techniques of travel photography over years of reading books, watching online tutorials, and regular practice to improve my craft. You can learn this way too — if you put in the effort!

Here are my favorite travel photography tips to improve your images.

Travel Photography Tips

Early Morning Blue Hour in Norway

Wake Up Early, Stay Out Late

The early bird gets the worm. I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase. Well it’s also very true for travel photography. Light is the most important ingredient for great photography — and soft, warm, morning light creates amazing images.

Waking up early also means you’ll have to deal with fewer tourists and other photographers. Want an epic postcard shot of a famous landmark like the ruins of Chichen Itza or the Taj Mahal? Just get there early right when it opens and you’ll pretty much have the place to yourself!

Sunrise isn’t the only time to catch good light. Sunsets are also great. The hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset are nicknamed “golden hours” because of their soft, warm tones and eye-pleasing shadows. “Blue hour”, is the hour after sunset (or before sunrise) when the sky is still blue, but city lights are turned on.

In comparison, shooting photos at noon on a bright sunny day is probably the absolute worst time for travel photography! In fact sometimes I’ll just take a nap during the middle of the day so I have more energy for early morning and evening photography missions, when the light is best.

Travel Photography Tips

Famous Postcard Location in Scotland

Pre-Trip Location Scouting

Read travel guidebooks about your destination. Scour the internet for articles and blog posts to help give you ideas for photos. Talk to friends who have been there. Reach out to other photographers. Become more knowledgeable about which images will capture the essence of a place.

Some of my favorite tools for travel photography research are Instagram and Google Image Search. I use them to learn where iconic locations are. Actual postcard racks are also a great tool for helping to create a “shot list”.

Once I know the names of potential photo locations, I’ll do more research. Which time of day has the best light? How difficult is it to reach certain vantage points? What time does an attraction open, and when will tourist traffic be low? What will the weather be like?

Wandering around with no plans has its place, but being well prepared with research beforehand saves time so you can fully commit to producing amazing travel photography once you’re there, and maximize your time.

Travel Photography Tips

Shooting Portraits in Afghanistan

Talk To People

Photographing local people in a foreign country is tough for many photographers. What if they don’t understand you? What if they say no? Will they get offended? It took me a couple years to get comfortable shooting portraits of locals, and even now I still get a bit nervous.

But I’ve learned the key is to talk to people first. Say hello. Ask for directions. Buy a souvenir. Compliment them on something. Chat for a few minutes BEFORE asking for a photo. It’s far less invasive this way.

Always ask permission for close-ups too. Spend 15 minutes learning how to say “can I make a photograph” or “can I take your portrait” in the local language before you arrive. People really appreciate the effort, and it’s a great way to make a new friend.

Some people will say no. Some will ask for money (I sometimes pay, but that’s up to you). It’s not the end of the world. Thank them for their time, smile, and move on to someone else and try again. Actually the more you get rejected, the easier it gets to ask!

Travel Photography Tips

Composition with Rule of Thirds

Rule Of Thirds

One of the most basic and classic of photography tips, understanding the Rule of Thirds will help you create more balanced compositions. Imagine breaking an image down into thirds horizontally and vertically, so it’s split into different sections.

The goal is to place important parts of the photo into those sections, and help frame the overall image in a way that’s pleasing to the eye.

For example, placing a person along the left grid line rather than directly in the center. Or keeping your horizon on the bottom third, rather than splitting the image in half. Remember to keep that horizon straight too!

Composing using the Rule of Thirds is easily done by turning on your camera’s “grid” feature, which displays a rule of thirds grid directly on your LCD screen specifically for this purpose.

Now, before you compose a travel photo, you should be asking yourself: What are the key points of interest in this shot? Where should I intentionally place them on the grid? Paying attention to these details will improve the look of your images.

Travel Photography Tips

Setting Up my Tripod in Mexico

Use A Tripod

I think more people should be using lightweight travel tripods. A tripod allows you to set your camera position and keep it there. With the camera fixed, you can then take your time arranging the perfect composition.

You can also adjust exposure settings, focus points, and really spend time paying attention to the image you want to create. Or use advanced techniques like HDR, focus stacking, and panoramas.

Tripods give you the ability to shoot much slower shutter speeds (waterfalls, low-light, stars, etc) without worrying about hand-held camera shake. You can keep your ISO low (for less sensor noise) and use smaller apertures, so more of the image is in focus.

You’ll have greater creative control over your camera’s manual settings when using a tripod. This doesn’t mean you have to lug a tripod around with you absolutely everywhere. I don’t.

But for tack sharp landscapes, low-light photography, self-portraits, flowing water shots, and sunsets/sunrises, a travel tripod makes a huge difference.

Travel Photography Tips

Get Low For A Different Angle

Experiment With Composition

You can almost always come up with a better photo composition after some experimentation. Sure, take that first shot standing up straight. But then try laying on the ground for a low angle. Maybe climb up something nearby and shoot from a higher angle.

Along with different angles, try shooting from different distances too. Start with a wide shot, then a mid-range version, and finally, get up-close and personal. Never be satisfied with your first idea for an image!

Try to include powerful foreground, midground, and background elements too. If your subject is a mountain range — find a flower, river, animal, or interesting rock to include in the foreground. This gives images a 3-dimensional feel and helps convey scale, drawing a viewer’s eye into the rest of the photo.

Focal compression is another great compositional tactic in travel photography. Compression is when a photographer uses a zoom lens to trick the eye into thinking objects are closer than they really are.

Travel Photography Tips

Shooting as a Storm Approaches

Make Photography A Priority

Attempting to take quick snapshots as you rush from one location to another will leave you with the same boring photos everyone else has. Make sure you plan “photography time” into your travel schedule. Good travel photography requires a solid time commitment on your part.

If you’re traveling with friends who aren’t into photography, it can be difficult to find the time necessary to create amazing images. You need to break off on your own for a few hours to make photography your priority. I often prefer to travel alone or with other dedicated photographers for this reason.

Good luck trying to explain to a non-photographer that you’d like to wait around for an extra 30 minutes until the clouds look better. It doesn’t go over well. For organized tours, try waking up early to wander alone for a few hours, getting photos before the tour starts.

Even better, splurge on a rental car for a travel photography road trip. This allows you to control when and where you stop for photos. There’s nothing worse than being stuck on a bus while passing an epic photo opportunity, powerless to stop and capture it!

Travel Photography Tips

Contemplating and Complimenting the View

The Human Element

People like to live vicariously through human subjects in photos. Especially if the viewer can pretend the person in the photo is them. It adds more emotion to an image, you feel like you’re experiencing the location yourself.

How do you accomplish this? By posing the subject in such a way that they become anonymous. Not showing the subject’s face. This is why Murad Osmann’s “follow me to” Instagram photos went viral. Viewers felt like they were the ones being led around the world by a beautiful woman.

The human element also gives a better sense of scale. By placing your subject in the distance, you can get a better sense of just how big those mountains really are. It’s why photographing “tiny” people in large landscapes does well.

Adding a human element to photos helps tell a story too. Images seem to be more powerful when people are included in them. You can completely change the storyline of a particular photo depending on what type of human element you decide to incorporate.

Travel Photography Tips

Waiting For the Aurora in Iceland

Patience Is Everything

Photography is about really seeing what’s in front of you. Not just with your eyes, but with your heart & mind too. This requires dedicated time and attention. Slow down and make a conscious effort at becoming aware of your surroundings before pressing the shutter.

Pay attention to details. Are the clouds in an eye pleasing spot? If not, will they look better in 15 minutes? Sit at a photogenic street corner and wait for a photogenic subject to pass by. Then wait some more, because you might get an even better shot. Or not. But if you don’t have the patience to try, you might miss a fantastic photo opportunity!

When shooting the Northern Lights in Iceland, I spent all night camping in the cold at a perfect location, simply waiting for the magical aurora borealis to appear. When it finally did, I waited a few hours more to capture the brightest possible colors.

Good photography takes time. Are you willing to spend a few hours waiting for the perfect shot? Because that’s what professionals do. The more patience you have, the better your travel photography will turn out in the long run.

Protect Against Theft

Ok, this one is slightly off topic, but I think it’s important too. Cameras are small expensive products. As such, they’re a prime target for theft while traveling. I’ve heard many sad theft stories from other travelers. Luckily I’ve never had my camera stolen, but I also take precautions against it.

First of all, buy camera insurance. This is the best way to minimize losses if your camera gear does wind up in the hands of a criminal. Homeowner or rental insurance might already cover you. If not, organizations like the Professional Photographers of America offer insurance to members.

Keep your gear secured when not shooting, like in a hotel safe or hostel locker. Never check expensive photography gear under a plane, always take it carry-on. Try not to flash your camera around in sketchy or poverty stricken areas, keep it hidden in a nondescript bag until ready for use.

Register new gear with the manufacturer. Copy down serial numbers and save purchase receipts to help speed up insurance claims. Include your name & camera serial number on image EXIF data, so if your camera is stolen, you can track it down online using StolenCameraFinder.com.

Travel Photography Tips

Long Exposure Waterfall Shot

Shoot In Manual Mode

You’d think that modern cameras are smart enough to take incredible pictures on their own, in AUTO mode. Well that’s just not the case. While they do a pretty good job, if you want truly stunning images, you need to learn how to manually control your camera’s settings yourself.

If you’re new to photography, you may not realize all the camera settings that need to be adjusted. These include ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. If you want the best images possible, you need to know the relationship between them, and how to adjust these settings on your own.

To do this, switch your camera’s dial into Manual Mode. This camera mode gives you much more control of the look of your images in different situations. By manually adjusting aperture you’ll have more control over the depth of field in your image.

By manually controlling shutter speed, you’ll be able to capture motion in more creative ways. By manually controlling ISO, you’ll be able to reduce the noise of your images and deal with tricky lighting situations. Here’s a good free online tutorial about Manual Mode.

Travel Photography Tips

Prepared for Wildlife in Greenland

Always Bring A Camera

There is a saying in photography that “the best camera is the one you have with you”. Be ready for anything, and always carry a camera around, because luck plays a pretty key role in travel photography.

The difference between an amateur photographer and a pro is that the pro is planning in advance for this luck, ready to take advantage of these special serendipitous moments that will happen from time to time.

You never know what kind of incredible photo opportunity might present itself while you’re traveling. Maybe while out walking you happen to stumble upon a brilliant pink sunset, a rare animal, or some random street performance.

While hiking in Greenland I kept my camera ready and within easy reach with a 70-200mm lens attached. This helped me capture great shots of reindeer, rabbits, an arctic fox, and musk oxen. If the camera had been packed away in my bag, I would’ve missed these wildlife opportunities.

Keep your camera on you, charged up, and ready for action at all times.

Travel Photography Tips

Lost in the Streets of Granada

Get Lost On Purpose

Ok. You’ve visited all the popular photography sites, and captured your own version of a destination’s postcard photos. Now what? It’s time to go exploring, and get off the beaten tourist path. It’s time to get lost on purpose.

If you want to get images no one else has, you need to wander more. The best way to do this is on foot — without knowing exactly where you’re going. Grab a business card from your hotel so you can catch a taxi back if needed, then just pick a direction and start walking.

Bring your camera, and head out into the unknown. Check with locals to make sure you’re not heading somewhere dangerous, but make a point get lost. Wander down alleys, to the top of a mountain, and around the next bend.

In many places, locals tend to avoid tourist spots. So if you want to capture the true nature of a destination and its people, you’ll need to get away from the crowd and go exploring on your own.

Travel Photography Tips

Some of my Hard Drives…

Backup Your Photos

Along with camera insurance, I can’t stress enough the importance of both physical and online backups of your travel photos. When my laptop computer was stolen once in Panama, backups of my photography saved the day.

My travel photography backup workflow includes an external hard drive backup of RAW camera files, as well as online backup of select images and another online backup of final edited images.

Sometimes, for important projects, I’ll even mail a small hard drive loaded with images back to the United States if the internet is just too slow for online backup of large RAW files or video. I use Western Digital hard drives for physical backup and Google Drive for online cloud storage.

Travel Photography Tips

Improve Your Photography with Processing

Post Processing

There is a ridiculous myth out there that editing your photos using software is “cheating”. Let’s clear that up right now. All professional photographers edit their digital images using software like Lightroom, Photoshop, or GIMP.

Some do it more than others, but basically everyone does it.

Post processing is an integral part of any travel photographer’s workflow. Just like darkroom adjustments are a part of a film photographer’s workflow. Learning how to process your images after they’re taken is FAR more important than what camera you use.

Learn how to improve contrast, sharpen image elements, soften color tones, reduce highlights, boost shadows, minimize sensor noise, and adjust exposure levels (without going overboard) using software.

If you are going to invest money somewhere, I’d recommend spending it on professional post-processing tutorials before you invest in the latest camera gear. Post processing knowledge can really improve your travel photography.

Travel Photography Tips

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem

Don’t Obsess Over Equipment

Want to know what photography gear I use? Well, here you go. But if you went out right now and bought all that stuff, not only would it be super expensive, I guarantee it won’t improve your photography skills.

Why? Because the gear you use is not what makes a great photographer. Just like the type of brush a painter uses doesn’t make them a great painter. It’s knowledge, experience, and creativity that makes a great photographer.

Camera companies are much better at marketing than paintbrush companies. That’s why you think you need that $3000 camera. Trust me. You don’t.

Professionals use expensive gear because it allows them to produce a greater range of images. For example, extremely low light star photography. Or fast-action wildlife photography. Or because they want to sell large fine-art prints.

Instead of buying new equipment, spend time learning how to use your current camera’s settings. It’s a far better investment, and cheaper too!

Travel Photography Tips

Getting my Fortune Read in South Africa

Never Stop Learning

Enroll in some online photography tutorials. Invest in a travel photography workshop. Go out and practice on a regular basis. This is how you get better – not because you have the latest gear or use popular Instagram filters.

Even though I’ve been earning money with my photography for the last 5 years, there’s always something new to learn. I regularly invest in online courses and books about photography to improve my craft. You should too.

Think you know everything about landscapes? Then go out and challenge yourself shooting portraits of strangers. Stalk animals like a hunter for a taste of how difficult wildlife photography is. Stay up late experimenting with long-exposures of the Milky Way.

You’ll become a more skilled and resourceful travel photographer when you take the time to learn new techniques and skills from other genres of photography.

Travel Photography Resources

To go along with my top travel photography tips, here are some of the tools I’ve used to improve my photography over the years. I hope you find them as useful as I did! Remember, never stop learning.

Post Processing

  • Adobe Creative Cloud – Powerful suite of editing programs (Lightroom & Photoshop) used by most professional travel photographers.
  • JPEG Mini – Reduces the size of images by up to 80% without loss in quality. Amazing plugin for faster upload speeds and faster websites.
  • Google Nik Collection – Free photography plugins for polishing your final images. Noise reduction, sharpening, color filters, etc.

Photography Tutorials

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Have any questions about travel photography? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.