Simplifying My Travel Photography Setup

Confession- I heart photography gear. My shopping cart on Amazon is perpetually filled with camera gear I desire (and can’t afford), and DP Review is kind of like my virtual candy store.

Normally when I travel I bring an SLR, a point and shoot, a smart phone and a whole bunch of tech gear. But no longer!

These days, as smart phones are endowed with such impressive photography skills, there’s really no point in a point and shoot. This year on my big trip to Europe I’m taking along only my SLR and iPhone.


My new set-up!

One weak spot in my camera set up is that I don’t have an underwater camera- I’d love, love the GoPro HERO3+:Black Edition but can’t really justify the $400 price tag.

(Also my little brother said, “Why do you need a GoPro? You can’t even do any cool tricks.”) Ouch, little bro.

iPhone 5s


Instagrams of my snowy life in Michigan… all courtesy of my new iPhone 5S!

 I upgraded to an iPhone 5S from an iPhone 4 this Christmas and am so impressed with its photographic capabilities. Now I actually enjoy using Instagram!

Photo editing apps really amp up iPhoneography- I’m particularly a fan of Snapseed.

In Europe I’ll use my iPhone on days when I don’t feel like lugging my SLR around and for nights out.

Accessories: Case and screen cover

Favorite camera apps: Snapseed, A Beautiful Mess, Afterlight


Canon EOS Rebel T2i with Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens

While someday I’d love to upgrade to a full-frame SLR like the Canon EOS 5D Mark III for now I’m more than happy with my Canon EOS Rebel T2i. Plus, it’s way lighter than the Mark III.


I love my new lens’ bokeh!

And after my beloved Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 started malfunctioning in Asia (I accidentally bumped it into a tiled wall, ugh) I upgraded to its big brother, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4.

I absolutely adore this lens. It takes such crisp, quality images with the creamiest bokeh (that’s photog-speak for a blurry background)- I can’t wait to try it out in Europe. Thanks Candace Rardon for the recommendation!

The only problem is that it’s a 50mm so I can’t capture wide shots. For wider shots I use the Canon kit lens, the Canon EF-S 18-55. While I’m not a huge fan of this lens, I can’t afford an upgrade right now. Someday.

Accessories: extra battery, LCD screen protector, camera bag


BlackRapid Metro Camera Strap

I love this accessory so much I had to write a whole blurb about it. Anyone who uses an SLR NEEDS to get this strap.

While a normal camera strap goes around your neck, resulting in neck soreness and limited motion, the BlackRapid Metro Camera Strap goes across your body and allows you to access the camera in a fluid swinging motion, much like a rifle strap.

Camera Post

Me demonstrating how the strap works. Putting these pics on the internet is proof of how much I love you guys!

I will never, ever go back to a regular camera strap.


Editing Programs

Photo editing goes such a long way. Last year I invested in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 when it was on sale for $100 and I LOVE it. While the learning curve is steep, once you get the hang out it it’s a cinch. And the editing capabilities are worlds away from Picasa, the photo editing program I used for years.

And I actually do still use Picasa for organizational purposes. With Picasa I can quickly access my photos in an easy to use format (Lightroom can be confusing for organization because photos seem to “disappear” easily.)

Take a look at the magic of Lightroom:





Photo Backup

I have lost so many photos in the past because I never backed up. Don’t make that mistake!

I use Time Machine on my Mac to back up my entire computer, and I bring an external hard drive when I travel. I also have another external hard drive at home just in case I lose the other one traveling.

One thing I probably should start doing is cloud backup– though some places I travel to, like Southeast Asia, don’t usually have fast enough wifi for that.

What’s your travel photography setup like? I’d love to know!

Note: None of the companies listed paid or perked me in any way for mentioning them. And the Amazon links above are affiliate links for which I will get a small commission. Thanks for supporting Ashley Abroad!

Follow me!

Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is an American travel blogger and freelance writer who moved to Paris at 21, traveled the world for a year and now lives in Denver. She's usually in pursuit of skiing, languages and perfectly ripe cheese. Her writing has been featured in National Geographic, Viator and Jetstar Australia.
Follow me!

Latest posts by Ashley Fleckenstein (see all)


  1. Something geeky in me loves this post! I’ll probably be upgrading my SLR soon… the Canon Rebel is what I’ve got my eye on (especially for its video properties). Glad to see the great review you gave it! I’m going to look into that camera strap. I could see it coming in super handy!
    Vanessa recently posted..Why Korea is So Safe: My TheoryMy Profile

    • I seriously couldn’t live without it! It’s SO much more comfortable.

  2. Well it makes sense that you adore photography and equipment, as all your photos are ALWAYS amazing!!! (Hence your Amazon cart makes great sense)!!! Fun to read! Cheers!
    Leah Elisheva recently posted..On The Eve Of March 4th…My Profile

    • Thanks so much, that means a lot! I really enjoy photography so travel gives me a great opportunity to dabble in it :)

  3. I had to laugh at your little brother’s comment. Sounds like something mine could have said. I want an underwater camera too- but they are expensive. I have an olympus pen camera and I love it. I need to start getting into editing my photos though- I never do! I completely agree with you about phone cameras these days- they’ve really come a long way.I still have an old iphone 4 and definitely need to upgrade!
    J in Beijing recently posted..A Vineyard in Myanmar?My Profile

    • I’ve heard great things about the Olympus Pen, I think that’s what Jodi from Legal Nomads uses! And photo editing goes a looong way… as I said I’d highly recommend Lightroom!

  4. This is such a great and informative post! I finally delved into the DSLR world a couple of years ago and love how my photos look when compared to point & shoot cameras although I do find carting it sometimes to be a pia. And I so hear you on the camera strap! That’s where my h comes in handy though ha :)

    On a non-anything related note-is Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor? I remember seeing it in a movie but wasn’t sure if it was the same one.
    Julie recently posted..Clearing ImmigrationMy Profile

    • I know what you mean, it can definitely be a pain carrying a huge SLR around… oftentimes I just bring my iPhone- it’s just so much easier. And yes, Zingerman’s is in Ann Arbor! Even though it’s super expensive it’s much beloved both in Ann Arbor and in Michigan in general :)

  5. My gear is listed here

    I’d love to have a full frame Nikon or Canon but backpacking with it would be a pain. Instead I’ve got a micro 4/3 setup with 4 lenses that all fit into a daypack with a laptop and ipad so it works for me at the moment.

    You should give Lightroom a go as a file management system. I rely on it so much to tag photos and keep track of where everything is at. I’m pretty anal on the backup side of things. I use time machine on one HDD as well as keep duplicate copies on two other separate drives. I’ll get around to setting up a smugmug account to upload my pics…but I’ll get around to that sooner or later.

    Are ypu shooting RAW? You’ll notice the huge difference in quality in Lightroom.

    • Thanks for sending the link, I love reading other people’s photography gear lists! And actually I don’t shoot in RAW… I find it takes up wayyyy too much memory. Maybe someday when I have more money to pay for data!

    • I have 2 x 1TB hard portable drives and a 500gb one for photo backups. A bit OTT but worth it in my opinion to shoot in raw.

      re the panorma shots, I do prefer a 35mm or a 50mm equiv lens and to stich them as you don’t get as much distortion. I used to use a free program called hugin. I switched to Photoshop cc recently though as they have a subscription offer for Photoshop and Lightroom for $10 a month. Well worth it I think as they are constantly bringing out new updates and the panorama function is pretty easy (two click from lightroom export) to use
      Jimmy Dau recently posted..Scootin’ around Bokor Hill StationMy Profile

  6. I loves your brother’s comment! Mine would have said the exact same thing! I’ve been considering upgrading to a SLR, but haven’t bitten the bullet quite yet. My cousin is selling her used one so if the reviews of it check out, I’ll be getting one. I’m also upgrading to an iPhone 5S, so I’m glad to hear the camera on it is a definite upgrade from the 4.
    Mike recently posted..My Upcoming Travel PlansMy Profile

    • It’s a HUGE upgrade, you’ll love it! And if you don’t have an SLR already I would definitely look into the Sony NEX 6… those cameras are apparently amazing and so much lighter.

  7. Reading this gives me a headache. Let me explain- I want to upgrade to an iPhone 5, and still use a point and shoot as my BIG camera! I only know how to use picassa (barely… like really barely). SO MUCH TO DO. But hey, last week I learned the rule of 2/3rds and I’m liking that so far! :)
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..Best Food in Singapore: A Foodie’s HeavenMy Profile

  8. You mentioned not being able to take wide shots. You could use a stitching program and take a few photos on manual setting and use a software to stitch them together. That way you do not have to change lenses. This is what I do since my lens is the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens, which is wider than yours but not as wide as the kit lens.
    Angela Travels recently posted..Traditional Paella in El PalmarMy Profile

    • Thanks for the tip, Angela! What would you use to stitch photos? I have no idea but would love to know!

    • PTGui is a great software that allows you to do this and pretty easy to use. However, I think other software have plug-ins or options for stitching. Photoshop’s more recent versions have it, but I use what I am used to.
      Angela Travels recently posted..The AlhambraMy Profile

  9. Sorry, but I have one more comment. I think they make underwater cases for iPhones that you could splurge on if you want that capability in lieu of a GoPro.
    Angela Travels recently posted..Traditional Paella in El PalmarMy Profile

  10. As I have small kids (2 and 5) I have sadly had to give up my beloved DSLR for ‘travel’ type trips (still OK to take on trips when visiting family though). There is just too little space for a DSLR when carrying kids, nappies, spare clothes, and not enough time to compose a shot when trying to yank the kids out of the way of traffic, motorised and pedestrian!

    So I went down to a point and shoot, which I hadn’t owned for about six years, and I bought the Canon S110 – a point and shoot with decent manual settings so I can exercise a lot of control over the photo I want to shoot. It also has HD video recording. For me, while the iphone is good in theory, the battery just never lasts long enough on a trip – if I use it heavily for pics and video, as well as occasionally looking at maps and the odd tweet here and there when travelling, I will plough through the battery before I return to my hotel/accommodation in the evening, so it’s not a viable option for me!
    Brooke recently posted..The yoghurt bounty: Yoghurt almond cakeMy Profile

    • That’s true actually, if you’re using your iPhone a lot it’s better to have a separate camera! I never have my data on traveling (no international sim card) so it tends to last all day. I was looking into buying the Canon S110, I used to have the Canon s90 and really liked it.

  11. Thanks for sharing! I get emails asking me about my photography setup + honestly, I’m reluctant to share, sometimes (don’t wanna give away ALL your secrets, right?)

    But right now I’m still using my iPhone 4S and some photoediting programs (I am obsessed with VSCO.) I started using my old Nikon d40 (so, so old + crappy!) and a free lens that my uncle gave me from some random German company; that’s been working out okay so far.

    I wanted to invest in Lightroom (and eventually, the VSCO plug-ins!) but I haven’t gotten the $$ yet; so I started just using the photo editing system in iPhoto and that’s been working out just great so far; you should really look into it! I don’t feel like I even need to upgrade just yet; I’m so satisfied with it.
    Stephanie recently posted..Cafe Review: Fabrica 椅子My Profile

    • Well thanks for sharing here! :) I used to have the Nikon d40 at the time and loved it but am glad I upgraded two years ago to the Canon T2i! Oh and I didn’t know there were VSCO plug-ins, I’ll have to download those when I’m home and have my laptop again :)

  12. Great choices here! It must feel so much better to not be lugging around so much!

    Also- you´ve just reminded me how desperatley I need to back up my photos. AAH!!
    Jessica Wray recently posted..Young, Alive & Present in GranadaMy Profile

    • Girl get on that! Your photos are too pretty to lose. And Time Machine is the best in my opinion :)

  13. I’m completely revamping my setup now that my site is live! I’m trying to slowly migrate from Picasa to Photoshop so appreciate you acknowledging the steep learning curve. Your photos always look beautiful Ashley.
    Wee Wanders recently posted..1 Million Reasons Why You Should Travel the WorldMy Profile

  14. I never leave my home country without my DSLR. I am using a Canon EOS 600D and recently bought a 18-250 mm F3,5-6,3 DC Macro OS HSM lens which replaced my 18-55 mm and my 70-300 mm lenses to make my travels more easy and comfy. After getting robbed out in Hanoi in October 2011 (before that I had a Canon EOS 1000D which isn’t sold anymore) I invested in a Sun Sniper Camera Strap to prevent my current camera from burglaries and robberies.

    I also take my Samsung Galaxy S3 Smartphone.

    I recently started to use Adobe Photoshop Elements which is great for both, editing and organizing my photos. To save my photos I am still carrying on two 16 GB USB memory sticks.
    Vanessa @ The Travelling Colognian recently posted..Weekly Photo Challenge: AbandonedMy Profile

    • Oh no! That’s horrible your camera was stolen :(. And I also have Adobe Photoshop Elements, I mostly use it to add text to photos once in a while :)

  15. It is so hard to limit photogear on the road! I upgraded recently to the Canon SL1; even though I wanted a fancier version, I knew the lighter weight one was a better idea. The 50 mm is my favorite too, thank goodness it is light! Love that bokeh, ha!
    Britney McSweeney recently posted..The Expat BluesMy Profile

    • Lightweight is always nice! And yes, that bokeh is the best! :)

  16. I think we see eye-to-eye (lens-to-lens?) on photography gear! :D Like you, I’ve just got a minimalist setup of a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS + kit lens from ~5 years ago, a year-old iPod touch (with VSCOCam like Stephanie above), and the latest version of iPhoto. Simple, yes, but it meets my needs and I don’t feel like I need to “upgrade” to something more expensive and complex at the moment. Great, informative, honest list you’ve put together here!
    Trevor Huxham recently posted..3 Warm Spanish Stews (& Recipes!): Callos, Fabada, LentejasMy Profile

    • Thanks, Trevor! :) It sounds like great minds think (and photograph?) alike.

  17. I’m planning to upgrade my camera equipment before moving to Europe in a few months (eek!) and this information is very helpful. Thanks so much for sharing!
    Heather recently posted..Becoming a Celebrity in ChinaMy Profile

    • Enjoy your trip to Europe! Glad you found the tips useful :)

  18. I just recently made the jump to full frame (So excited!!!) with the Sony A7 mirrorless camera. There’s no way I could travel with one of the big full frame cameras. With the A7, it’s super portable with ridiculous image quality. Probably 90% of my pictures are with the 35mm prime lens, but I travel with a 50mm manual and a 14mm wide angle as well. I’m with you on not being able to make the jump to a Go Pro, but I picked up a Lifeproof case, which will at least work for snorkeling. Trying it out in 2 weeks so we’ll see how it goes. If you’re interested in checking out my first photos with the A7, my photo page is at:
    Josh @ I Ran So Far Away recently posted..Photo Essay: Kuala LumpurMy Profile

    • I really wanted the A7, it looks amazing and is so light! Thanks for including your smugmug page :)

  19. Hi Ashley, recommendation for your underwater camera, but you just bought your iPhone 5s, maybe next time you can consider for Sony Xperia Z series, it’s a water resistant phone with a great camera, I myself currently using Xperia Z1 and very satisfied with it, it’s an android phone. Keep posting great travelling blogs ;p really enjoy your post about Bali!

    • Hi Emily, I upgraded mainly because my 50mm 1.8 broke when I was in Southeast Asia! While I love my new lens, I wouldn’t have upgraded if my 1.8 was still working. The difference is notable but isn’t huge so I’d stay with your current set-up! Hope that helps :)

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge