Camera Tips & Suggestions

As I had discussed before, I started traveling overseas in 1990, and all the trips that I have ever taken were with a 35mm camera, lenses, and flashes. As a photographer, I want to make sure that I have the right lenses for each possible subject that I might have an opportunity to photograph.

During my photographic career, I progressed from being a general photographer to specializing in photojournalism and environmental portraiture. For me, travel photography is a mixture of landscape photography and photojournalism. That requires a different way of thinking about capturing images and what gear I think about bringing.

I know that being a professional photographer working as a travel photographer is about capturing the images needed for a client to tell a particular story. As a teacher traveling with students, my focus is on helping capture memories for the students and capturing images that they can share and tell their travel stories.

We live in a world that has made photography a standard and expected occurrence. When I first started as a photographer, it was a very specialized and costly profession because the cameras, lenses, flashes, and accessories were expensive. Then you added the cost of buying film, processing, and printing.

Today's photographers use digital, so processing and printing isn't always the goal. People who take pictures today are happy to put the images on their computers and share them on social media. I always encourage students to think about creating at least one image they would want to print and put on their walls.

I am a firm believer that images that get put on the computer become forgotten memories after posted. Occasionally, getting revisited and reposted, but mostly they are lost to the files hidden in the Cloud. A well-composed focused and exposed print hanging on your wall is a constant reminder of your trip and the fantastic things you saw, ate and did. It's a reminder of friends you met and bonded with.

So my goal is to encourage students to create at least one memory that they want to print and frame at least one 11x14 or larger to put on their wall. The average cost of a quality 11x14 print is less than $15, and a quality frame is around $20. Creating a lasting daily reminder of your trip for less $40 is priceless, and when friends and family visit, it's a great conversation starter.

Since photography can be expensive, I am going to identify three different types of cameras outside their cell phone students and parents should look into investing. Please don't get me wrong today's smartphones take amazing pictures, but when it comes to printing, they don't give you the tonal quality you need for a print larger than 8x10. You can print larger, but you will start to see the image begin to fall apart, and the color separation isn't as amazing as you will remember. Smartphones are designed for users to keep copies digitally.

I get a lot of questions from parents on purchasing their student a camera for the classes I teach. The first question I ask is, "what is their budget?" This question identifies how to invest in the correct gear for the budget. Not everyone needs to spend thousands of dollars on a 35mm camera, lenses, and flashes. You also have to ask yourself if this is going to be a long-term investment.

I started with a Polaroid Land Camera, and it was pretty cool until I discovered the world of 35mm, medium, and large format cameras. A great point-and-shoot camera with the right controls and megapixels can create stunning travel images.

After you decide a budget, your goal is to find a camera with the right balance of sensor size and manual control. A smartphone sensor is tiny, for instance, an iPhone 11's sensor size is .4 of an inch diagonally while a Samsung Galaxy's S20's sensor size is .75 of an inch diagonally. What you need to keep in mind is the larger the sensor, the more dynamic color range it has.

I use an iPhone 8 mainly because I don't like all the changes that come with the iPhone 11, and for the purposes, I use the camera, it works just fine. I can live with the images for posting to social media but would never think about using it if I want to make a print. That's where carrying a camera for me is crucial.

I almost exclusively purchase camera equipment from B&H Camera mainly because I get an education discount. Students can also register with B&H Camera and qualify for a student discount. Most people soon discover that there isn't a significant mark-up on camera equipment, and discounts are rare. What I also like about B&H Camera is if I have questions about a particular piece of equipment, they have someone who can answer complex questions.

35mm DSLR

While I exclusively shoot with Nikon cameras, for students, I usually recommend starting with Canon. B&H often offer suitable camera kits at reasonable prices. The purpose of travel I would suggest looking at Canon EOS 77D DSLR Camera with 18-135mm Lens Deluxe Kit. This kit has everything a starting travel photographer needs for around $965. I know that sounds like a lot, but this is an investment and if taken care of will last for years.

The camera has excellent reviews and offers a single lens that is a perfect general telephoto lens for taking wide-angle (18mm) landscape images of buildings and a portrait lens (135mm) for taking great portraits or zooming in on something that is a further away.

The camera has a 24.2MP APS-C Sensor and DIGIC 7 Image Processor. That is a lot of technical jargon for the average person. What it means is this camera will take quality photographs and videos in a variety of lighting conditions. The ISO for this camera is 100 (great for portraits and bright days) to 25,600 (great for night and low-light photography). The camera can also shoot around 6fps, so capturing moving objects is easier.

The camera also offers built-in WiFi, so uploading images and video to a mobile phone is easy. With the Bluetooth feature, students can also connect to the camera and remotely take a picture. Perfect for a selfie-portrait or group picture, so they are in the picture and not behind the camera. The camera also gets around 800 images per charge—more than enough for a day of exploring.

The camera kit also comes with a two-year extended warranty from defects. Accessories include a 32GB SD Extreme SD card, a camera bag, Wireless Remote shutter release, screen protector for the LCD screen, lens cap keeper, so they don't lose their lens cap, a cleaning kit for cleaning dirty lenses.

There are many different 35mm camera kits to select from, ranging from $400 - $1,500. It's best to do your research and ask questions. I always like answering questions about camera purchases. This particular camera kit was in the middle of the road and under $1,000. I don't recommend spending more than on a first camera because most students don't know how much they are going to love photography, and it's best not to invest in something that might be a phase.

Nikon Point & Shoot Camera

If you are going to invest in a quality Point & Shoot camera, you should research a waterproof camera and take photos and videos, whether they are trekking through a museum or swimming in the ocean. The Nikon COOLPIX W300 Digital Camera Deluxe Kit is an expensive investment that will survive rugged use. The cost for this kit is around $450.

What makes this camera kit good is its tough exterior that is reinforced and is waterproof to depths of 100' as well as it's shockproof from falls from up to 7'9", it's freezeproof to temperatures to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. This camera is a good year around. The camera comes with a 2-year drops and spills warranty, a camera pouch, 32GB SD card, a floating wrist strap, and a spare battery.

The camera is designed with a 16MP BSI CMOS Sensor so you can record high-resolution stills and capture 4K video with low noise and high clarity. The sensor range is ISO 100 (great for portraits and sunny days) to 6,400 (good for low light). It also offers built-in WiFI/Bluetooth so you can wirelessly share images with a linked mobile phone, and you can remotely control the camera so you can take a great selfie without using your arm.

Other features include the 5x Optical Zoom lens with vibration reduction. The lens spans from 24mm to 120mm, so it will take useful wide-angle (24mm) landscape and building images and take good portrait images (120mm). The vibration reduction technology helps keep the camera steady when handholding images and videos.

The last notable feature that I like about this camera is the GPS feature—allowing you to geotag your images and videos. The camera also features an eCompass, altimeter, depth gauge, and barometer to record the environmental data. If you are shooting off the coast on coral reef, you can register your depth, or if you happen to get a chance to climb the Swiss Alps, you can record how high and how cold it was.

Ricoh Point & Shoot Camera

The Ricoh WG-6 Digital Camera with Accessories Kit point and shoot is what I consider an excellent entry-level travel camera. It is rugged and comes with a 32MG SD card and a camera pouch. The minimum items needed for a good travel camera. It doesn't take up a lot of space, and the price is reasonable at $297.

The camera offers a lot of features that you will want in a good travel camera for the price. It's an all-weather camera and has a rugged design. The camera is waterproof to depths of 65.5', it's shockproof from heights up to 6'6" and its freeze proof up to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Added features include boasting that it's crushproof, dust-proof, and resistant to chemical disinfection.

The camera has a 20MP BSI CMOS sensor enabling high-resolution images and offers an ISO range from 125 (Good for portraits and sunny days) to 6,400 (good for low light). The camera is also capable of shooting 4K video and has imaging stabilization technology to help keep your images and video from camera shake.

The 5x optical zoom lens offers flexibility with its 28mm wide-angle good for landscapes and photographs of buildings to 140mm zoom lens suitable for portraits and bringing a subject closer if you're not able to get closer.

A unique feature of this camera is the built-in LED ring light. Perfect for filming close up objects or shooting well-lit videos for Vlogging. The camera also features GPS so you can document exact locations within your image files. You can also copyright and date stamp your images.

Memory Cards

Selecting the right SD card is extremely important because this is where you are putting your memories. I am an avid champion of SanDisk memory cards. I have never lost an image using these cards. I have lost images using other cards. I have put these cards in the ocean and washing machine and was able to still pull pictures. I don't suggest doing either of the above.

If I suggest what card to purchase for a trip, I recommend spending $19 on buying the 64GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC and SDXC UHS-I Card. This card comes in various sizes. I always like to have 2 or 3 with me at all times. It's better to have a backup and not need to have a card fail and not have another card.

What makes this card great is its write speed of 90MBS, so if you are shooting video, you're not buffering, or if you are shooting 6+ frames a second, your camera isn't trying to catch-up. When you go to transfer to your computer, the transfer speed is 170MBS.

These cards are rated for extreme weather conditions, waterproof, shock-proof, and x-ray proof, which are essential when traveling through airport security. But the best feature about purchasing this memory card is the software RescuePro Deluxe 2 data recovery software. It lets you restore images that you accidentally deleted and, in some cases, fixes files that might have been corrupt.

Mobile Tripods

Sometimes having a small tripod is perfect for capturing long exposures or doing a cool creative selfie. I don't recommend traveling with a large bulky tripod. That's just no fun. And, trying to prop your camera at just the right angle is sometimes near impossible.

The Joby GorillaPod 1K Kit ($50) is a small compact tripod that isn't heavy and doesn't take up a lot of room in your carry-on. The flexible tripod stand & ball head can hold a point & shoot camera. If you bring a 35mm, you need to get the 5K kit ($180).

This tripod has flexible legs and a ball head that secures your camera gear allowing for 360-degree panning and 90-degree tilt for vertical images. The rubberized footing provides a solid grip, and the flexible legs will enable you to wrap them around a pole or tree branch.