Stacey Leasca
September 24, 2017

Those perfectly crafted shots of exotic landscapes, colorful destinations, and sublime portraits of people living in far-flung countries don’t happen by accident.

Not only do the images lining the pages of Travel + Leisure (along with the plethora of stunning accounts populating Instagram) take hard work and a lifelong dedication to learning the craft of photography, but they also take the right equipment.

On a recent journey to Cuba, I was lucky enough to spend a little time with a few professional photographers as we roamed the streets of Havana.

There, Renan Ozturk, photographer for the likes of National Geographic and other prestigious publications, gave us a glimpse inside his rather heavy-duty photography backpack and spilled a few secrets on which pieces of equipment are key for every skill level.

Related: How to Make Thousands of Dollars Off Your Travel Photos

“My bag’s a little disorganized right now,” Ozturk said as he unzipped his behemoth of a bag, which he later explained is actually only his mid-weight pack.

“I’d call this mid-range for me,” Ozturk said, estimating that his camera backpack, an F-Stop gray and black bag, weighs in at around 25 pounds. “For me, a heavy camera bag is somewhere around 40 pounds plus and lightweight is five to 10 pounds.”

Here’s what else Ozturk lugs around as a professional.

Carbon Fiber Tripod

Ozturk explained he prefers to keep it light when he travels by paring his bag down to the basics, which for him includes a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod (amazon.com, $680). And although it’s a big-ticket item at nearly $700, it’s truly worth the cost when you consider the traveler model only weighs in at two pounds.

Two Camera Bodies

For our adventure in Cuba, Ozturk brought two camera bodies along: Sony’s A7R II (amazon.com, $2,698) and its new A9 (amazon.com, $4,498), which again comes in as ultra-lightweight at just under two pounds. Both camera bodies are the perfect tools to help you increase your photography skills, especially if you pair them with a Sony 24-70mm F/4.0 lens (amazon.com, $1,198) like Ozturk.

Extra Batteries and Memory Cards

Ozturk certainly came on our trip to Cuba as the most prepared person of all with what he called a “treasure trove of batteries.” But really, as any pro will tell you, having a few backups is key as the last thing you’d want is to miss a perfect shot because your camera died.

Cleaning Supplies

Inside Ozturk’s bag is basically a pharmacy's worth of camera cleaning supplies so he can ensure a photo is never ruined by a pesky speck of dust on his lens. One of his favorite products is a simple air blower to blast away dust, which you can pick up for about $10 on Amazon. Ozturk also swears by moist towelettes and microfiber cleaning wipes (amazon.com, $9) for those grimier excursions.

The Right Clothing

Ozturk dresses to impress as a photographer, always carrying an extra pair of flip-flops in his bag just in case he needs to kick back on a photo session. He also always packs his Revo sunglasses, which he calls “ND filters for my eyes,” and a giant floppy hat to protect himself from the elements. On colder shoots, the adventurous photographer said he packs a few pairs of E-Tip gloves by North Face (amazon.com, $27) so he can shoot and keep his fingers toasty warm at the same time.

But there’s one thing you’ll never, ever catch Ozturk without no matter the climate: a great pair of socks.

“Having the right socks is pretty important,” Ozturk explained with a deadly serious tone. “I usually wear really fancy ski socks because they don't smell as quick and they last forever.”

But what about the average Joe or Jane who simply can’t lug all this stuff on vacation? Ozturk says all you really need is your smartphone — and this is coming from the guy who helped shoot Apple’s 30th anniversary video for the Mac solely on his iPhone, so he should know.

Related: How This Amateur Photographer Travels the World for Free

“All they need is their smartphone. Just their smartphone and a willingness to shoot in good light or look for interesting subjects and shoot with a little intention instead of just a happy snap,” Ozturk said. “The cool thing about shooting with your phone is that it is simple...That’s the whole reason why I’d shoot with a phone in the first place...it’s always there and you don’t miss a shot.”

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