How 7 Travel Photographers Get Their Perfect Shot

Pete Halvorsen

Home base: Los Angeles
Favorite camera: I switched over to the Leica systems four years ago and haven’t looked back. With the amount of traveling I was doing and the size of the cameras/lenses I had been carrying, I needed a change. Leica’s size and sharpness gave me the ability to streamline my workflow and not “look like a tourist photographer” while traveling in other countries. There is also a gravitas to shooting with a Leica — historic photographers paved the way — so shooting from them allows for a feeling of importance every time you raise it to your eye.   

While traveling through and airport, bus, train or just walking through a city, the ability to have your camera ready at all times is essential to capturing the moment. Sometimes that’s your point-and-shoot, sometimes it’s your mobile phone. The old adage that the best camera is the one that you have on you rings especially true for travel photographers.

My favorite Leica is the Q, a 28mm lens that’s wide enough to shoot landscapes and close enough to comfortably cover street/portraits.

Favorite photo-editing apps: Thanks to data becoming faster and cheaper, utilizing WiFi to upload while on the road has also given me the ability to edit raw images via Adobe Lightroom Mobile, which will sync with my laptop.
But in terms of good strong phone editing apps with good UI I would recommend Snapseed, Darkroom, and Retouch as three that I dial up on a regular basis for quick tweaks before sharing.

Favorite gear to bring on the road: A six-foot threaded USB cable will change your life. And on some assignments I’ll bring extra USBs and power strips, plus at least one phone case charger and battery brick.

Unless I’m spending time in the deep backcountry, I like to save space and carry smaller tripods (like Joby) that have grip arms, which give you the ability to wrap them on trees or fences and still get stability. An optional “mobile phone” adaptor is a great way to mount your phone on the tripod and capture video/steady photos while traveling. And no matter the camera system you carry, it’s always good to have a variety of focal lengths. Depending on the assignment I’ll carry some form of these three DSLR lenses:

16-35 or a 21mm for wide angles, landscapes, and architecture
28/35 or 50 for street photography and portraits
70-200, 135mm, or 90-280mm telephoto lenses for the ability to reach out and capture new perspectives on far-away places

Favorite tips and tricks: Get out of the hotel room! I only sleep between 4-5 hours a night when traveling. The adventure is out there, but you need to go find it. You’ll be much happier when you get home going through the images you captured because you decided to not sleep in. I also love to edit in restaurants or bars or cafes; to be surrounded by the energy that you’re capturing translates into the images you take and the way you edit.

Good things also happen when you’re out and about meeting the locals. I can’t tell you how many times I have been given great tips on places to shoot — or eat — just because I made the effort to start a conversation and be in the public eye.

Back up images daily. If the hotel has strong wifi, I’ll upload raw images to Amazon Photos (unlimited storage if you’re a Prime user) overnight. Otherwise, I usually have three backups to protect the images I shot: the SD Card where the image was captured, a copy on an external hard drive, then another version saved on my iPad or Laptop.

One of my most important tips while traveling is ABC: Always Be Charging.