photo of sunset over beach photo of cahateau chenonceaux photo of dutch windmill photo of me sitting on lion statue
Travellers now take more photos than ever before - thanks to digital cameras!


by Keith Lightbody - last updated 15 March 2007
(for other education resources please visit my main technology site)

A clear majority of travellers now carry and use a digital camera on their trips. There are a huge range of digital cameras suitable for travel but for the best results and stress free photos get all your equipment ready and have some practice before you leave home. These notes reflect recent experience by myself and friends when taking 'once in a lifetime' photos while travelling around Europe.

- suitable physical size and camera weight for your needs (keep in mind that small, light cameras are easier to carry with you at all times)
- good quality - higher resolution (6 or more Megapixels) is better for larger prints

- easy to use camera (when traveling you seldom have time to look up the manual)

- fast startup time (while traveling you often have to be quick)
- low latency or shutter lag (short delay) between pressing the shutter and recording the image
- fast recycle time (how long after one photo before the camera can take another)
- easily disabled flash (flash photography is banned in many art galleries, cathedrals, etc)
- good capability of capturing images in low light
- (please email me additional suggestions)
NOTE: In Australia it is possible to buy a duty paid digital camera prior to leaving the country (so that you can learn how it works) and then have the already paid duty refunded at the Australian departure point (overseas tickets are required at the time of purchase).

The big problem with a digital camera on a holiday is often not the camera - it is storage of the photos! Before the end of an exciting first week of a trip you may find all your memory cards are full! Before the trip you need to estimate how many photos you would typically take and buy a suitable number of larger (512 MB or higher, $50-$100 each) memory cards. If you are a 'mad keen shutter bug' or have an 8-12 Megapixel digital camera then consider the larger capacity and higher speed 1-4 GB cards (from $100-$400 each). To avoid needing to buy additional memory cards while travelling consider some other options before leaving home. One option is portable photo storage devices such as compact portable CD burners or portable mini hard drives that accept most common digital camera memory cards. Another option with some music players (e.g. iPod) is to connect via special cable to your digital camera. Most of these devices can be run for a short time off batteries but are best run from a power outlet if one is available. Some models include colour LCD displays for viewing photos (e.g. Epson P-5000 multimedia photo viewer) while others only have an LCD window to confirm file transfer of your photos from the camera - see below for more details and links to a range of models.

photo of portable CD burner
photo of portable photo hard drive
portable CD burner
portable hard drive

For easy and fast emailing home of images or uploading of many photos to a web site consider using one of the new miniature digital cameras or even a mobile phone cam - these generally have smaller file sizes so no resizing is required for email - the picture quality is usually fine for viewing on a computer screen or TV. Although small file sizes usually mean lower print quality you could also take along a compact, relatively cheap traditional film camera for situations requiring high quality prints for the photo album.

No matter what memory cards you buy they can still all be filled up on a long trip! Microdrives are available but are not supported by all digital cameras models, particularly the lower specification models. If you are travelling to major cities then photo kiosks may support the burning of CDs containing all the photos on your memory card - in this case 512 MB cards are ideal as they allow an efficient number of photos for writing to a CD. Some Internet kiosks also allow you to burn your own CDs - make sure you take your digital camera USB download cable and enough blank CDs with you (they can be quite expensive in some tourist locations). Most people preparing to travel have a limited budget so cost is very important. There are many good quality digital cameras available for under $500 but do not spend all of your money on the camera! (all prices shown are in Australian $)

A 4 Megapixel camera will provide very good quality post card sized images - when you print your best digital shots on photo paper they look great - just like a traditional camera. Most 4-8 Megapixel cameras can be set to lower resolutions to fit on more images but still leaving you the option of changing settings for any high resolution 'super poster shots' that you may see on your trip. To conserve memory card space you need to delete any poor photos along the way. CAUTION: study the commands on your camera for deleting photos very carefully - there is often only one or two clicks difference between deleting one poor photo and DELETING EVERY PHOTO! On most digital cameras any great photos can be marked as 'PROTECTED' - this avoids you accidentally deleting images of a magic moment on your trip. If you are staying with friends or in a major hotel then the TV may accept input from your digital camera via the AV cable - it is easier to review photos on a TV than on the usual 3-5 cm LCD screen on the back of your camera.

- good carry bag (quality bags with spare pockets and padding are not expensive)
- long life rechargeable battery (or a very energy efficient camera using AA batteries)
- spare rechargeable battery or spare set of AA batteries
- at least 2 x 1 GB memory cards but as much as you can afford - also consider 1 x 512 MB memory card (easy to 'select all' photos on a 512 MB card and burn to a CD)
- cleaning kit including microfibre cloth
- instruction manual for your camera model
- international adapters, leads and chargers (for charging batteries)
- USB and AV leads for your digital camera
- spare rechargeable digital camera battery (or alkaline batteries for some models)
- the instruction manual (helps you get the best photos and avoid silly mistakes)
- mini tripod or small bean bag (allows positioning of camera for time delay or low light photos)
- infrared or cable based remote shutter release (to prevent camera shake - low light situations require long shutter times)
- (please email me additional suggestions)

After confirming all photos are 'safely' backed up they can then be deleted from the memory cards so you are ready for the next day. In some cases you may wish to keep a few of the very best photos 'PROTECTED' on the memory card. My most recent success in storing photos while travelling has been with a 2 GB Compact Flash memory card and a portable hard drive. Another person on the trip had similar success with a portable CD/DVD burner. A notebook computer with built in CD-R or DVD-R gives greater flexibility with easy editing and backups of your priceless holiday snaps - but notebooks are expensive, bulky, attractive to thieves and can be a bother on some trips.

When you return home you need to organize all your trip photos. If you have been deleting poor photos along the way you can probably just take all of your memory cards to a photo kiosk and print every photo at postcard size. However for greater efficiency copy all of your trip photos onto a computer and scroll through them at full screen size - it is worthwhile spending some time selecting the best photos and then copying them into a BEST PHOTOS folder. Some photos will benefit from cropping but keep the aspect ratio constant (e.g. 4:3 or 3:2). Even your best photos may still benefit from modern software e.g. removal of red eye, smart sharpen, correction of camera lens barrel distortion, adjustment of colour, modification of brightness, shadow or highlight, etc. Make sure you make backup copies of your organized photos!

Family, friends, work colleagues. Also consider sharing your travels with interested people in local nursing homes, seniors centres, etc. (they can appreciate your travel experiences but think considerately about your audience - not too long, good sized images, add some music - make a show that's fun for folks not able to travel).

- show people your photos full screen on the nearest computer (the larger image is much easier to see than a traditional postcard sized print)
- email your friends some sample trip photos (use modest file sizes for friends on broadband or very small file sizes for friends on dialup)
- show people traditional printed postcard sized photos (option of white border can allow space to print key photo details)
- print some of your best photos in colour at A4 or A3 size using a budget printer and good quality white paper (easy to store in plastic pockets in a binder that can be handed around, saves some people looking for their reading glasses)
- use a laptop with a data projector to have a huge slideshow on a light coloured wall
- print any great travel photos at poster size (e.g. 75 x 50 cm) and hang them on a wall
(our family has a set of framed poster sized photos displayed in different houses each month)
- load your favourite photos into a Kodak Easyshare Picture Viewer and show them to others via the 6 cm colour screen


Anytime if you keep your photos handy!

- upload your best photos - either to your own web site using modest file sizes (e.g. 400 x 300 pixels) or using online photo sharing sites (e.g. PBase, Picasa, Ofoto, Picture Trail, Shutterfly, Snapfish)
- keep your best photos with you on a flash drive (can carry trip photos in your pocket)
- burn the best photos to a CD or DVD
- have your best photo prints stored in a post card sized 'brag album'
- set your computer screen saver to automatically scroll through photos of your trip
- frame your best photos and hang them on a wall
- (please email me additional suggestions)

photo of kayak on beach inlet photo of tower bridge in London photo of my wife and I on Mt Pilatus photo of Spanish flamenco dancers

1. Take a portable mini hard drive with you, they typically store 40-160 GB ($200-$1000) e.g. HyperDrive, X - Drive, Image Tank, I/OMagic Digital Photo Library or similar devices. A variety of models can be viewed at Note: if you can afford it some models also have outstanding colour screens that allow close checking of your photos while still travelling e.g. Epson P-3000 or P-5000 Multimedia Storage Viewer (has a 10 cm super high density Epson PhotoFine Ultra liquid crystal display) Look for USB 2 models as they typically allow faster transfer of photos.
- after a busy day download all photos direct from memory cards into the device (use mains power or well charged batteries, some models include a car charging option).
Note1: additional cost, hard drives are very sensitive to bumps - suggest transport in personal luggage only and pack with sponge padding
Note2: remember you need a large enough hard drive to last until you get home where you can transfer all photos to your computer for easy review. An immediate backup at home is recommended (friends had their laptop computer stolen with the travel photos just after returning home - fortunately they had also copied the photos onto another computer).

Take a compact portable CD burner ( $300-$500, typically stores 500-700 MB) or DVD burner ($500-$1000, typically stores 4.5 GB) e.g. Apacer Disc Steno - these special burners accept most common digital camera memory cards - portable photo CD burner designed for photographers and travelers, no computer needed, easy to copy data from memory cards, can also display photos by connecting it to a television. USB 2 devices typically allow faster transfer of photos.
- after a busy day burn all photos direct from memory cards onto a blank disk, some units will automatically sequence (span) your photos over multiple disks if you have very large memory cards full of high resolution photos.
Note: additional cost, CD/DVD burners are sensitive to bumps - suggest transport in personal luggage only, also need to carry blank disks

Use a camera link connecting cable to download all photos to your music player (e.g. MP3 player, iPod, iPod Video)
Note: additional cost, some units do not confirm the successful file transfer of photos

Take a notebook computer on the trip - after a busy day download all photos to the notebook via a memory card adapter, USB card reader or USB cable (and charge all batteries).
Note: weight of notebook, risk of theft, keeping notebook battery charged

Take a USB card reader, blank CDs and visit cyber cafes or friends with CD burners in their computers.
Note: not always available

Take your photos on memory card to a digital photo lab that will print images onto photo paper or CD.
Note: can be very expensive at tourist spots, sometimes restrictions on number of photos that can be copied at once, not readily available in some locations

Use a web based email program to email photos home e.g. Google's Gmail service where users are allowed up to 2 GB of permanent storage.
Note: requires reasonable bandwidth, web access can be costly in some tourist locations, some web email services have low storage limits or only allow temporary storage e.g. one month

If staying in a hotel you can play back recent photos on the TV and delete any unsuitable ones - it is easier to see the real quality of your photos on a larger screen - however practice this before traveling at home on your own TV and also at friends places - not all TVs or VCRs are easy to use - you may need to toggle between TV/AV1/AV2/DVD or similar choices on the remote.
Note: cost of hotel accommodation, unlike homes many European hotel TVs do not have AV connections (restricted or require an RCA converter with an antenna style plug), TVs are not readily available in some remote tourist locations

Buy a camera or camcorder with mini CD or DVD storage (writes still photos direct to disk).
Note: can be expensive, slower between photos than memory cards

Buy a cheap disposable camera or compact film based camera - film is available worldwide.
Note: limited image quality on some models, you pay for processing of your photo mistakes!

Avoid any consumer digital camera that requires special software to upload or process photos - standard jpegs are simplest for travelling. If you are using a Digital SLR camera and wish to use RAW format make sure you practice before leaving and understand the very large file sizes involved.

photo of Lucerne waterfront photo of stained glass photo of pelican over Swan River photo of Pisa buildings

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* Note : please email me if you have any other suggestions for coping with digital cameras while travelling
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cumuluskeith at
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