What equipment do we use?

What equipment do we use?
  • Manfrotto compact tripod
  • Canon GX7 Mark II camera
  • Canon 5D Mark IV camera
  • Canon 24-105mm f4 lens
  • Canon 35mm f1.4 lens
  • Canon 16-35mm f2.8
  • Gopro Hero 5 black
  • SHOOT 6 inches dome
  • DJI Mavic Air drone
  • Iphone 7 and Iphone X

Believe it or not but the question that we probably get asked most often – after ‘how do you guys earn money’ – is whether we bring a private photographer with us on our trips! Oh, how we wish that was true! 😊

We thought we’d write this blogpost to give you some insights on what equipment you need to take pictures like us. You will read that we started off with very basic equipment in the beginning, which was enough to hit off our account. So there’s really no need to invest thousands of euros if you want to take beautiful pictures. Of course, like with all things, once you progress and you want to get more out of your camera like taking pictures in low light conditions, you will need to invest more. We break it down for you below!

Note that the pictures you see on our Instagram and our blog are not the original pictures taken with our camera. All of our pictures are edited with a photo editing software called lightroom – but more about that here!

The Tripod, our best friend when we travel!

We’d love to have a private cameraman following us around and doing all the work for us, but the reality is a little bit different. How do we manage to take pictures of both of us? The answer is very simple! A tripod and a remote control or timer function on our camera.

We bought our very first tripod in a small street market in Kathmandu in Nepal just before starting our ascent to Everest Base Camp for just 30 USD. At that time we only had a small camera so there was no need to invest in a professional tripod – we just needed something that could hold up our camera so that we could say ‘cheese’ together in front of the mighty Mount Everest. Once we acquired a heavier reflex camera however, we had to buy a heavier tripod which could sustain the weight of the heavier camera. We went for a Manfrotto compact action tripod which is currently listed at around 80 EUR.

What are the key elements that make a good tripod? First, the height is very important. You want to make sure you get a tripod that can hold up your camera to the height of your upper chest at least (1.5m high), so that you can take a straight picture without having to angle up your camera. Second, the weight is important because you want to make sure it can hold the weight of your camera (just try it out in the store!) . Third, get a tripod which allows you to rotate your camera 90’ so that you can take portrait pictures on top of landscape pictures. And finally, get a tripod that comes with a bag so that you can easily transport it on your shoulder!

Our Camera: from pocket powershot to a full frame

Whichever camera you use, one thing that was a MAJOR revelation to us is that you have to shoot your pictures in RAW format. If you’re planning to edit your pictures after shooting them, this will make a huge difference in quality. The pictures will be much heavier than the normal JPEG mode, but it’s definitely worth it as you will get much more flexibility in your editing process.

When we started off our Instagram account and up until we had around 40k followers we used a pocket Canon GX7 Mark II for all of our pictures. We LOVED this camera because it fits in your pocket or small bag, and can make pictures of amazing quality. We were very impressed with everything this little camera can do and still use it today when we do not want to carry its bigger sister around. This camera is great for pictures taken in daylight, for steady or dynamic scenes, and it can shoot in RAW format. It’s currently listed at 580 EUR. All of the below pictures were taken with this camera.

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However, once you get more experienced and want to start experiencing with different styles of photography, you will soon have to transition towards a DSLR camera. Fundamentally the functions of a DLSR camera are the same whether it is an entry level camera or a high-end professional camera. The high-end professional cameras will come with superior image quality and video capabilities but entry level cameras will give you everything you need learn photography. The main advantage of higher-end (full frame) cameras is that they come with much wider selection of potential lenses.

We transitioned towards the Canon 5D Mark IV which is a high-end professional camera and costs around 2.400 EUR (yes we had to save up for a looooong time before we were able to afford this one), but if you don’t want to spend that much money we would recommend starting with an entry level/intermediate DSLR camera first (such as the Canon 800D or the Canon 80D). All of the below pictures were taken with our Canon 5D, can you spot the difference in quality, especially in low light?

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The lenses: this is where the magic happens

Lenses are the key to become really creative in your photography. The first thing you need to know when buying a lens is that there are two main types of lenses: prime lenses vs zoom lenses. 

Prime lens (left) vs zoom lens (right)

Prime lenses: offer a fixed focal length (meaning you cannot zoom in or out). They come at different focal lengths e.g. 30mm (the image you are shooting will look closer) or 50mm (the image you are shooting will look farther away). Generally these lenses offer a much lower aperture which means a better performance in low light conditions and a shallower depth of field, which means you can take pictures where the subject is completely sharp, but the background is completely blurred.

Zoom lenses: offer a zoom function (e.g. 16-35mm or 200-400mm) which greatly increases your flexibility when shooting but are generally less performant in low light conditions. These are more all-around lenses that are good to start with because they can do a little bit of everything.

The more advanced you will become, the more different lenses you will want in your camera bag. It’s what all of our xmass and birthday presents go to 🙂 But lenses can be VERY expensive so it is worth breaking down your needs and expectations before you decide to invest in a new lens. We currently have 3 lenses in our bag:

Canon 24-105mm f4: is a perfect all-around lens to have as a first lens but is not the best in low light conditions (retail price around 1000 EUR). It’s definitely the lens we would recommend buying as first one because it’s very versatile. The majority of our beach and nature pictures were taken with this lens.

Canon 35mm f1.4: is our only prime lens and we absolutely LOVE it! Creates outstanding image quality in low light conditions (retail price around 1.800 EUR). You can take pictures after sunset, when it looks like it’s completely dark, but your picture will end up being bright and sharp. The effect is particularly noticeable when you brighten up the image using photo editing software – it stays incredibly sharp!

– Canon 16-35mm f2.8: is a wide-angle lens so allows you to capture big landscapes effortlessly. Also has good performance in low light conditions (though a bit less than the one above). This is our go to lens if we can only bring one lens with us. The main advantage is the wide angle, so if you want to take a picture and capture lots of the surroundings as well this is the one to go for (retail price around 2.000 EUR).

A Gopro for our underwater pictures

For all our underwater pictures we use a Gopro Hero 5 Black (currently listed at 280 EUR). This Gopro has a screen so you can see what you’re shooting, and it can shoot in RAW format (again a HUGE difference compared to the JPEG format). It can only go to 10 meters depth, but if you buy a special casing it can go deeper if you want to use it for scuba diving for instance. It has a wifi function so you can transfer the pictures directly to your phone afterwards.

One tip which was another huge revelation for us: your underwater pictures will look MUCH nicer if there’s no direct sunlight! When the sun shines on the water you will have a lot of white/yellow reflections on what you’re shooting. So the cloudy days are the ones where you have to head underwater 😊

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A dome for Gopro

If you want to take pictures which are half underwater / half above the water surface, you need to get yourself a dome in which you can put your gopro. We use a simple SHOOT 6 inches dome that we bought on Amazon for 40 EUR. We’re not super happy with the quality of this dome because it gets foggy quite quickly but haven’t found an (affordable) alternative yet.

They key to avoid the fog, is that your gopro has to be completely dry when inserted into your dome. Even a tiny bit of humidity will lead to a foggy screen making the picture very hazy.

Huahine island, French Polynesia

A DJI Mavic Air drone with several spare batteries

We LOVE this little drone for taking areal videos! The Mavic Air flies for 21 minutes with a video transmission of 4 km (2.48 miles).  It’s has a 10 km max flight range without wind and has a max height above sea level of 5 km (3.1 mile) which is totally WOW. It’s a foldable device which fits into a small bag so you can easily take it with you everywhere you go. The quality of the video it shoots is amazing and we were very impressed with the resilience of this little machine. It stays steady in the air even when there are strong wind gusts. Also, we (read ‘Jean’) hit a tree once and it fell for several meters before hitting the ground, and we found it completely intact. (Current retail price around 700 EUR). The photos and videos below were taken with this device, can you spot the sharkys?

For pictures, the quality is not great tough so we wouldn’t recommend this drone for pictures. Also, the battery is not amazing so we got 2 spare ones so that you can extend your flight time.

Very important! Before traveling, check if the country where you are going to allows personal drone usage! We heard many stories of people who got their drone confiscated at customs (e.g. in Morocco) because it couldn’t enter the country!

Swimming with Sharks in Moorea

The video version

Iphone X and Iphone 7 with loooooaaads of apps!

We use our iPhones for most of the pictures and videos we share in our stories, but also to edit some of our pictures taken with our camera or gopro if we do not have the time to edit them on our laptop. More about which apps we use and love in another blogpost!

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