When you step into the world of photography, it can not only be a scary journey, but a true investment. Normally, you immediately prepare, plan, and purchase a camera body with the accompanied glass to do the job well. But when you decide to take your show on the road and begin travel photography, and self-employment, there are are tools you need in your toolbox that will not only sharpen your creative sword, but make your life much more easier and stress-free.

They might be smaller items that people overlook or don’t think about, but they are true essentials for any travel photographer. As a travel photographer who learned through experience, I have done jobs and trips with and without these items, and having them completely changed how I work, organize, and protect my gear.

So here are the essential travel photography gear that you might not know about, but should be added to your kit.

A durable and dependable hard drive

G-Technology 1TB G-Drive Mobile SSD R-Series

Trust me, you’re going to need one — maybe even two. You don’t want to be halfway through a trip with thousands of photos on your memory cards, and have to empty them all onto your laptop, slowing it down significantly, and you’re left with a poorly performing laptop that is unorganized and frustrating to deal with.

Also, most locations I shoot at do not have reliable WiFi or cell service, so any cloud-based storage becomes essentially unusable. Having a trustworthy hard drive with at least one terabyte of storage eliminates that problem and acts like a storage unit for your content before you move it into your “house” or in this case, your laptop or desktop back at home.

However, as most of us know, most hard drives are incredibly susceptible to drops, spills, or damage, and even a small element like dust can destroy it, and, at the same time, all the content you worked so hard to shoot. Owning a hard drive that protects against drops, spills, weather, dust, and other elements is crucial in the field. Invest in a durable, dependable hard drive — like the G-Technology 1TB G-Drive Mobile SSD R-Series () — and it will seriously benefit you and your creative process.

Multiple reliable memory cards

Sony 128GB SF-G Series UHS-II U3 Class 10 SDXC Memory Card
Sony 128GB SF-G Series UHS-II U3 Class 10 SDXC Memory Card

Yes, you need multiple memory cards. Having only one memory card for your camera is like having only one arrow in your quiver. You need several memory cards so you can shoot fast and freely.

But they can’t just be any memory cards. Buy memory cards that are fast and effective. Look for card markings like class 10, U3, and UHS-II (and find out what all those numbers mean in our SD numbers guide). These cards can read up to 300 MB/s and write up to at least 260 MB/s, or even faster.

To explain these terms more simply, reading means the ability for you to browse through larger files quicker on your camera or transfer files to your hard drive or computer with ease. Being able to write information faster means your camera can handle rapid shots, sequential bursts, and shooting in both RAW and JPEG, if you prefer shooting in both file types. In summary, it makes your job much easier as a photographer to have multiple, fast and effective memory cards.

But the best part about investing in memory cards at this level? Most are temperature proof, shock proof, and even waterproof, which again is incredible when you’re working in adverse conditions or extreme environments. Add a few more arrows to your quiver, and invest in some reliable memory cards.

UV, ND, and CPL filters

Hoya HD3 UV Filter
Hoya HD3 UV Filter

I don’t know about you, but if I go on a work trip, I never forget my shades. No matter if I’m by the ocean or in the mountains, I have to protect my eyes. So why would we not invest in gear that does the same for our cameras and lenses?

UV filters

UV filters (like these Hoya HD3 UV Filters) are a must when working in harsh sunlight because they not only block out harmful rays that can damage the coating on your lens, but they guard against dust, oil from your fingerprints, and moisture, that over time, can really destroy your lens and affect its performance or clarity. They might be not-often-remembered items for your kit, but they are very helpful when traveling and working in the outdoors.

Neutral density (ND) filters

Neutral Density Filters or ND Filters (like this Hoya Infrared Neutral Density Filter) are like polarized shades for your lenses, and are best used when light is harsh and you need a few extra stops to not overexpose your shot, especially when you’re wanting to set your camera at a wider aperture or slower shutter speed, which naturally lets more light in. Look for an adjustable ND filter that can add at least ten stops to your lens instead of carrying multiple filters for one job. Again, a piece that is overlooked, but one that increases your usable daylight when shooting.

Polarizing filters

Finally, Polarizing filters or CPL filters (like this MeFOTOWild Blue Yonder Circular Polarizer Filter) are fantastic to have, not only because they protect against harmful rays, but also because they eliminate those pesky sun flares in your shots, and will add much more color and contrast to your photos. This filter can eliminate time in post-production when you’re having to bump up colors or eliminate sun flares, and will really be helpful on your travels.

Weather protection for your gear

Image via Peak Design

If you’re in the outdoors and out traveling, bad weather can strike at any moment. You have to protect your gear, and there are ways to do that effectively without your wallet taking a beating. I know that most professional-grade cameras and lenses are “weather-sealed,” but there’s a reason they don’t call these pieces of equipment waterproof or stake many claims about your camera performing well in wet and stormy conditions. It’s because if you leave your camera out in the rain for too long, weather sealed or not, it will fry, and then you will most certainly cry.

There are camera hoods you can buy, that are made of waterproof material and the seams are taped for extra weatherproofing. These camera hoods (like this one from Peak Design) are like ponchos for your camera, and you can slip one on when a storm rolls in, and still keep shooting. Invest in a weather hood for your camera, and you’ll feel a lot better when the weather turns bad.

A light and trustworthy tripod

Last but certainly not least, you need a light and trustworthy tripod that can hold the weight of your gear but not hold you down. Carbon fiber tripods (like this Benro 5-Section Carbon Fiber Slim Travel Tripod) are better due to their weight, strength, and resistance to wear and tear, but aluminum tripods are much cheaper, and still pack a punch if you are on a tighter budget. It’s always great to have a tripod with you, regardless if you think you’ll need it or not, because it adds so much more to your kit, and allows you to create framework and foundation to your photos and take long exposure shots that are always so wonderful to shoot.

And if you think have the best eyes on the planet, think again. Your eyes will deceive you if you aren’t careful, and you’re going to shoot at a slight angle sometimes. It’s always nice to rest your camera on your tripod every once in a while and guarantee a shot that is straight and true. Get yourself a light and trustworthy tripod, and it will become your new travel buddy that won’t leave your side — unless you leave it in a canyon like I did.

Your travel kit is very important, and sometimes, with all the options out there, it can be hard to pinpoint what to get. While there are other great items to have, I hope this list of essential travel photography gear will streamline your creative process on the road and give you better peace of mind that your equipment and content will be safer.

Feature photo by Elise St. Clair on Unsplash

Nathan Lee Allen

Nathan Lee Allen is a storyteller and photographer from Kentucky. Check out his work on his website peaktopier.com, on Facebook.com/peaktopierglobalstudio, and Instagram @nathanleeallen. 

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