Travel Photography – 3 Lenses to Bring With You

Toledo Spain, travel photography

Summer is in full swing. Time for fun, sun and vacations. But how much fun is it when you have to carry a heavy bag full of photo equipment? I deal with this problem all the time. My camera is pretty heavy itself. The next heavier objects are the lenses. I have quite a few and it’s not easy to choose which ones to bring. A few years ago I went through my travel photos to see which lenses I used the most. Based on this exercise, I decided that from now on, I will bring a maximum of three lenses with me.


In my experience, the following 3 types of lenses will cover a wide variety of shooting conditions and will ensure that you come back with great vacation photos.

1. A good zoom lens. I like to bring my Canon EF 24-70mm f/4.0L. This lens is pretty versatile and covers a good zoom range. For this reason, it stays on my camera most of the time. It’s not a very fast lens but its Hybrid Image Stabilization is quite impressive. It has up to 4 stops of stabilization, compensating for both angular and shift types of camera shake.

Ghent Belgium, travel photography

One added bonus: this lens also has a macro mode, which allows you to get very close to your subject and take great macro shots. When you travel, macro photography may not be a priority. But once in a while you could come across something that is worth a close-up shot. I took the picture below in York, England in the back yard of the beautiful York Minster.

Flower York UK, travel photography

Keep in mind, if you have a cropped sensor camera (like Canon EOS Rebel T5 ), 24 mm will not be wide angle anymore. The 24 mm focal range will become more like a 38 mm due to the crop factor (Canon has a 1.6x crop factor). In this case you need to look for a range that starts around 17mm (e.g., Canon EF-S 17-55mm).

2. A telephoto lens. Not absolutely necessary, but definitely helpful. I love my Canon EF 70-200mm. It’s probably my favorite lens due to its image quality. Telephoto lenses have a few advantages.

First, they compress your image and reduce the space between objects giving you a different perspective for your shots. Take look at the image below. In reality, there is quite a large distance between the walls of Avila, Spain. The telephoto lens compresses the distance, creating interesting patterns.

Avila Wall Spain, travel photography

Second, they allow you to take more candid shots and capture the atmosphere of the moment, without being too obvious.

Bruge Belgium, travel photography

3. A prime lens. The main advantage of prime lenses is that they force you to move around. Since they have no zoom, you have to zoom with your feet. They enable you to be more creative. Prime lenses are typically smaller and lighter than zoom lenses. I didn’t use to bring a prime lens with me until I discovered Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 Pancake. You can read my reviewhere. This lens is small and light weight. It’s also very affordable when compared to the two lenses mentioned above, which are both L Series high end lenses; they are pretty expensive. The Canon 40mm lens is so small and light that it makes the camera almost invisible, so you look less touristy. It’s also pretty fast (f/2.8), which definitely helps with shooting in low light. I shot the image below in the beautiful Grand Place Brussels, Belgium.

Brussels Belgium, travel photography

This lens goes on my camera mostly at night when I don’t feel like bringing the big camera bag with me. The quality is pretty impressive for a lens so small and especially at this price.

I hope this article will help you decide which lenses to bring on your next trip. Don’t forget to share it with your friends.

Pack up and enjoy your vacation. Happy shooting!

For more photography tips and ideas, check out my latest photography book, Picture (Im)perfect Photographynow available at Amazon.

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2 Responses to “Travel Photography – 3 Lenses to Bring With You”

  1. Adi | July 21, 2015 at 9:31 AM #

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  2. Maggie G | July 29, 2015 at 11:09 AM #

    Very helpful. I have such a hard time deciding which lenses to take with me. What other gear do you bring? Tripod, flash, extra batteries…. I hate carrying a heavy bag with me. Thanks

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