How To Take Better Travel Photographs: Choosing a Camera

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.

travel photography : choosing a camera

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!

Choosing a camera?

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.

Point and Shoot cameras vs Smartphones

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 of today’s DSLR cameras makes point-and-shoot cameras a middle ground you don’t really want to mess with. 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

travel photography : choosing a camera 2

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 something like the Nikon 1 AW1; it’s the first waterproof camera with interchangeable lenses.

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.

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 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 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!

Canon and Nikon

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.

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 enough zoom to capture your subject without disturbing it. I’m still learning new things about this camera everyday, which is awesome.

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, this is really an investment.

Consider GoPro

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?

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.

What camera do you use for your travel photography? Will you be upgrading to a new camera soon?

Lovebirds with a shared want to learn, explore, taste, and give more. Traveling the world together slowly but surely. Currently calling Taiwan home.

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