You asked, I answered! Here's my guide to the vlogging equipment you need to get started and then some guidance for when to upgrade. It's the toolkit I use for professional shoots, Facebook Lives, youtube channels, twitter and instagram videos and more. A youtube iphone kit and heavier duty options.
And if you're short on time, you can check out the handy amazon list over here. If you do decide to buy anything, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Cheers!
Let’s cut to the chase: what kind of vlogging equipment and blogging paraphernalia do you actually need? I’ve written this list in response to friends, colleagues and readers asking me about the kit I take with me when I travel the world.
It’s part of my job and so it’s something I take pride in – but I’m also well aware that tech and kit talk leaves a lot of people cold. So, if you’re looking for more on travel instead, then head to the destinations page here.
Then there are others. Those who fall in love with the machines and forget what the purpose is behind it all: to capture moments, perhaps forever, and share them with the world.
As Chase Jarvis famously said “the best camera is the one you have with you” and that principle can really be expanded to what we're talking about here.
The best equipment for vlogging is the kit you have with you. The best vlogging camera is the one you have with you that you aren't afraid to use.
Don’t get lost in the pursuit of the perfect kit: it doesn’t exist.
That said, don’t skimp on things that will make life much, much better, for both you and your audience.
So. If you’re interested in learning more about vlogging equipment, travel photography, blogging tech and so on, read on. I promise not to make it any more boring than it has to be ;-)
Top Tip: the first place to upgrade is with sound. Buy a microphone. It's nearly impossible to fix bad sound. You can fix a myriad of problems elsewhere.
A lot of travel vlogging equipment works just as well for all types of situations, but not always.
The most obvious difference is that with travel, you need to carry your gear.
All of it. A lot.
Around and around, up stony staircases, down slippery muddy paths, through sweaty, sticky jungles and into ice-cold air conditioning so fierce it seems as though a power-crazed polar bear has seized control.
But also, since travel is about being in the experience and reacting quickly to things around you, it's better to go with less. Seriously.
In fact, I think it makes it more fun as you learn to make the most of what you have with you at any given time.
One final note: don’t fall into the trap of being so worried about your equipment that you never use it. Yes, some of this is expensive and it would be annoying for it to break or be stolen. But keeping it your hotel room or, worse yet, at home for fear of ruining it defeats the purpose of having it in the first place.
Don't flaunt it or leave it lying around. But don't forget to use it.
I’ll talk about each of the pieces of equipment I use in detail further on. But first of all, let’s have a quick run through of the vlogging essentials.
A GoPro – this is just another camera with a record function but it’s designed for active use. You can buy a range of accessories to help you attach it to your head, your chest, your dashboard… You can swim with it, operate it by voice and lots more. It’s also useful for wide angle views inside buildings.
You can buy as many or as few of these as you like. I decided to buy a big batch like this when I was starting out as I wanted to experiment as much as possible and it was far more economical to buy in bulk.
I find the following really useful:
This sounds trivial to begin with but gets really important really quickly. In my experience, the biggest obstacle to publishing good work is managing to keep on top of it all. To stay organised and move files from A to B seamlessly before firing them off into the alphabet soup of social media, backups and everything else online.
A card reader is a small piece of equipment that plugs into your computer. You put the memory card from your camera into that instead of fiddling around with wireless connections or wires. The files transfer much fast that way.
BUT. Obviously, it has to fit the attachments on your computer and the size of your memory card. Double check which you need before you buy.
Vlogging eats up storage and power. When you work in travel (or just want to have a beautiful record of your travels,) you’ll find video gobbles up both pretty quick.
When buying a main camera (DSLR or mirrorless) always buy at least one spare battery at the same time.
You can buy these almost anywhere but they’re so useful when on a working trip. Some hotel rooms have plugs in awkward positions or possibly just the one. Plug in one of these and charge all your devices and spares at the same time. Ta da!
These are bendy tripods with fittings that you can attach to tiny iPhones or chunky big goliath cameras. The first tend to do a little better, though, as the heavier the lens, the more the limbs of the tripod struggle.
I also use these to extend the length of my gimbal during Facebook Lives.
This almost comes within the category of cameras but you can buy them separately.
Camera remote controls, whether for phones, GoPros or cameras, make it far easier for you to film yourself and cut down on edit time later. They are also essential for taking photos in very low light when the pressure of your finger can blur the image.
Really, the biggest obstacle to developing a career in vlogging is not the equipment. It's the getting started and keeping going, learning as you go. Honestly!
Plus, smartphones these days take incredible video.
The iPhone X, for example, can record in 4K at 60fps (make sure to check your settings as it defaults to a lower quality file to save space.)
You NEED to pay close attention to lighting and audio and need a gimbal or tripod most of the time.
But start with those before splashing out for a bigger, better camera. Please?
Mirrorless DSLRs are now what most blogging and vlogging professionals use. They’re big but not too big (the mirror has been removed) and you can still use interchangeable lenses.
That said, most travel bloggers and vloggers I know stick to one lens most of the time and a few they keep in reserve. It takes time to switch lenses and it’s awkward to carry them around. Since so much of travel photography is spontaneous, it doesn’t make sense to miss the shot while fiddling around with your equipment.
I use the SONY alpha 7 R III for its 42 MB image processor, with this SEL24-240 lens. Check it out, it is a great camera, but you don't need it to start with!
Again, with travel, you need to balance up weight and stability against portability. I love my Neewer SAB264 tripod because it’s tall (18" to 65") lightweight (3.7lbs) and very quick and easy to use. I’ve tried several other cheaper ones over the years and they’ve all broken like a false economy bin bag on its sad march through the house. False. Eeeconomy. Don't skimp here!
The first thing to fix is your audio. Learn how to soundproof a room. Listen out for wind. Look out for building works. And then buy a microphone. There are two main types for when you're on the move.
A lav mic, which clips to the lapels of the person you're interviewing (or you.)
And one that plugs in direct to your camera (or phone - I have the iPhone X so use this plug in SHURE microphone. I used to use lav mics a lot but this works better for me on the go as it's faster to set up.)
Microphones can get very expensive but they are probably the first area to address when it comes to upgrading your vlogging equipment.
Don't forget to take headphones with you so that you can check the sound without annoying everyone around you. I mean, there is more to it than that, but that's the place to start!
Nothing gets more attention on the road than travelling around with a gimbal! Out of the box, people are fascinated. What does it do, how does it work?
Inside the box, well it looks like a cross between the world's smallest violin and an oddly unashamed dildo.
What it actually does is smooth about your filming so that viewers don't get seasick. You used to need to spend hundreds of pounds and lug around a lot of kit to achieve this with a steady cam. Now, you can buy a handheld device for the price of a return trip for your luggage with Ryanair.
This has probably been the game-changer for me when it comes to video. It's given me so much more confidence and I get to do lots of different creative things. It also does the very basic job of letting me move around without making youtubers seasick.
Yes, just do it. Get a firm one with a tripod base and a bluetooth remote control. I've tried several and I'm still looking for my perfect match.
I love the Blitzwolf selfie stick because it's so light and quick to use. But it only works for my phone, not my GoPro nor my bigger camera. I've tried other interchangeable ones but the quality hasn't been that great. So I'm still searching. If you have any recommendations, let me know!
Personally, I think it's best to start with the smartphone you have and introduce a tripod, gimbal and microphone before getting anything too fancy.
You can buy dedicated "vlogger starter kits" on Amazon but they tend to include more things than you need and the quality isn't always worth it.
No! You can vlog for YouTube just as easily as for anywhere else. Camera, tripod, microphone.
What is a vlog?
The word comes from video log and the trend began as a video diary affair. Now, vlogging refers to just about any video for social media. It's accessible, informational and entertaining (or at least it should be!) but it doesn't typically require a full crew.
You can buy a range of mobile and fixed lighting devices to make your videos look brighter. I haven't found any I love yet that make the price worthwhile. But I'll keep you posted and add them here when I do.
Yes I can! Stretch up to the iPhone X if you can and then grab the iPhone microphone, selfie stick and tripod from this amazon list here. If you plan on doing any travel vlogging at all, then I strongly recommend you buy the gimbal as well.
I personally don't get on with them very well, perhaps because I'm in front of the camera so often. But many other vloggers swear by them. So see if you can borrow one for a test run and see which works best for you.
What have I missed? What else do you want to know or what else would YOU recommend?
Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.
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