This post was last updated on July 24th, 2014
This is the first post in a new series: How To Take Better Travel Photographs. Recently I’ve received a lot of great feedback about my photography (thanks, guys!) with requests for tips and tricks on how anyone can take better travel photographs. Well, you ask…we answer!
Even if you have no upcoming travel plans, you can still benefit from this series.
We’re going to kick things off with the most basic aspect of photography: choosing a camera. It can be a daunting task, but I’m going to help you narrow down your options and find a camera that’s right for you. Let’s get started!
You probably already have a camera that you carry around with you everyday. I’m talking about your smart phone. Surprisingly enough, these pocket-sized cameras may be all you need (depending upon your photography goals). There is an amazing Flickr pool dedicated solely to iPhone photos, and looking at those masterpieces sometimes makes me want to chuck my big complicated DSLR out the window. Photography is about creating a powerful image, which a phone is more than capable of doing, hassle-free. But if you want to take your photography to the next level, then you’re going to want something with a little more flexibility and customization that a mobile device just can’t provide…yet.
Honestly, if you are looking to buy a new camera, a point-and-shoot isn’t going to be much of an upgrade from your smart phone. Sure it’s got more zoom and better picture quality than your phone, but the quality and affordability of today’s DSLR cameras makes point-and-shoot cameras a middle ground you don’t really want to mess with. Unless you’ve got some excess dough laying around to grab a high end point-and-shoot, you may as well go for an entry level DSLR. You may want a point-and-shoot as a backup for your more powerful camera or maybe all you want is something you can pull out of your pocket to snap a selfie at the Eiffel Tower. But then again, you could just use your phone. Before I was brave enough to enter the realm of DSLR photography we used the Canon PowerShot and we loved it. We actually used it for many of the photos taken on our Vietnam cycling trip as it was much more manageable from the biker’s seat.
For all the times we have been in and around water, we wish we had had something like the Nikon 1 AW1; it’s the first waterproof camera with interchangeable lenses.
The DSLR Difference
If you’re really looking to take meaningful and lasting photographs that you can boast about to your friends and family, a DSLR is the way to go. You’ll pay a bit more, but for the quality you’ll receive it’s a wise investment. The only downside to DSLRs is the learning curve. Don’t worry; we’ll be continuing this series with tips and tricks on how to use your new DSLR.
Choosing a DSLR Camera for Beginners
I made the switch to DSLR when we first moved to Taiwan. I knew I wanted to take lots of high-quality pictures to remember our time there. I was recommended the Nikon D3000 (the exact same camera with which our engagement photos were taken) and I can’t imagine the transition from point-and-shoot to DSLR being any easier. Although the D3000 has more buttons than my grandmas sewing kit, it comes with a built in Guide Mode. If you scroll through the menu and hold down the ? button, the camera will actually tell you what the setting is and the ideal time to use it! I’ve heard the newer Nikon D3200 is even better. With 24 Mega-pixels (the little dots that make up your pictures) it has more than enough power to capture every detail, and is currently the most powerful DSLR in the entry-level market. The shutter speed tops out at a rate of 4 photos a second. It’s also got 11 auto-focus points to make sure the subject you want is in picture perfect focus. As a bonus it comes in at less than $500 so you’ll have more cash to take your sweetheart out to a nice Christmas dinner. Don’t forget to bring the camera!
You’ll notice I talk a lot about Nikons. That’s because it’s what I started out on. Canon is another household name when it comes to photography, and although I have not owned one, I have no reason to believe that they are anything less than awesome. (I prefer to stay out of the Canon vs. Nikon debate, as I don’t think one brand is necessarily better than the other.) That said, the Canon EOS Rebel T3i is another good beginner camera at a comparable price, but with the addition of an articulating LCD screen for avid videographers.
What I Use
I’ve sort of fallen into photography—something I certainly didn’t expect to happen. So after a few years using the Nikon D3000, I knew it was time to take my photography gear to the next level. I chose to upgrade to the Nikon D7100. With 24 Mega-pixels, a boosted 6 frames per second and a whooping 51 focus points that calculate everything from light and dark contrast to subject distance, this camera is like the D3200 on steroids. It takes pictures faster, crisper and requires less light than other cameras of comparable price. Some other features I’ve been playing with that take this camera above and beyond are the in-camera HDR (high dynamic range) and advanced movie settings like slow motion and time-lapse sequences. Coupled with the kit lens, this camera also provides sufficient zoom to capture your subject without disturbing it. I’m still learning new things about this camera everyday, which is awesome.
If you’re into Canon they’ve got a similar model by the name of the Canon EOS 7D which also produces amazing quality images. This is another great camera for real enthusiasts or semi-professionals looking for a solid camera that will keep your creative photography juices flowing for years.
I’ve stuck with Nikon and have had no reason to switch, but if you prefer Canon then the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is also getting a lot of positive chatter these days…once you get past the price tag. At a hefty $3,299 for just the body and no lens, it’s really an investment for those serious about getting the best. This camera is in a class all it’s own.
Our Christmas Wish List
If there is one camera purchase we will be making this year it will be the newest edition of the GoPro. If you’re doing a lot of outdoor adventure activities, then this is the camera for you. It pretty much dominates the action market, and for good reason. It’s small, durable, easy to use, and produces great photos and videos. What more could you want?
With Black Friday coming up in just a few days, we hope this list came at a convenient time. As a note: all the above links are our affiliate links. By making a purchase from the links above, we will make a small commission, at no extra cost to you.
While choosing your camera is an important step, it’s only the beginning. Stay tuned- next up we’ll be talking about composing the perfect photograph.
There are tons of cameras out there and this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’d love to hear from you! What camera do you use for your travel photography? Will you be upgrading to a new camera soon?
~ Natural Light: Explains the different qualities of natural light and how to use them to your advantage.
~ The Exposure Triangle: Discusses the 3 parts of the exposure triangle and how they affect your photos.
~ Understanding the Histogram: Learn how this graph can inform you about everything in your image.
~ Composition: An introduction to the artistic side of creating an eye-catching photo.
~ Dan R Moore Photo Shop: Discover and purchase photos from around the world.