Photography Equipment – Everyone is a little different but these are 10 things that I feel have been the most crucial to have in my gear bag. I am not going to discuss what type of camera you should have or what type of lens you should own. This will mostly just concentrate on key things that are important to have with you. This is definitely not a complete list, but just simple suggestions.
Photography Equipment – Top 10 List
#1 – Extra Batteries
An extra camera battery. How many times have you gone out to shoot and realize you forgot to charge your batteries the night before? So I feel this should be at the top of the list. If you do not have a full charge and your camera’s battery dies, what are you going to tell your clients? Always pack an extra, fully charged battery with you. Check it often. Think of it as a spare tire for your car.
#2 – Memory Cards
This one is a no-brainer really like the extra battery. If you’re going to be packing an extra battery, why not also pack an extra memory card. This is great thing to have with you. You can never have too many memory cards on hand. I normally buy the larger 64GB Sandisk Extreme cards. You might have another favorite. You might prefer to spend a little less and go with a 16GB or 32GB card. There is nothing wrong with having a little more space however. If you are shooting RAW or RAW + jpg you will want as much extra room as you can afford. Images these days shot at full size are memory hungry and will fill up a memory card faster than you can put them in your camera. Buy them larger if you shoot a lot.
Hard drives are also becoming more affordable all the time so why not. Why you should have an extra card or two in your bag is obvious. Maybe you totally forgot to upload all the pics on the last shoot to your computer. I have done it before when Ive been in a huge hurry. So rather than worrying about it, just put your spare card in your camera and go to work. If you are shooting a wedding, or an event like a concert etc having extra memory cards and spare batteries is crucial.
#3 – Backups
This leads us straight way into the third important thing you should own. Assuming you already have a good working laptop or desktop computer you need Need, NEED!!! BACKUPS!!!!! Don’t forget to back up your files or you might be sorry at the worst time. Hard drives crash all the time so don’t be caught off guard. I just had a hard drive fail on my laptop. Luckily it was an older laptop that I never use much anymore. I didnt have anything I needed on there but it still failed and it could have been a disaster. Be sure you are backing up your work with onsite and offsite copies! There are many services online that offer back up services and I highly recommend them. Buy a portable hard drive, back up often and worry less.
#4 – Model Release
A model release is something that is always nice to pack. Depending on the type of photographer you are you may not need one. If you are doing work with models or things such as property you could need one. The world is full of legalities so why not protect yourself and your business. Depending on the contracts that you are using the wording may need to be different in each release. For anyone you take a picture of that is not in a public place you should have a copy of their license and a signed release. If they are under 18 years old you need a signature from their parent or guardian. This simply gives you the ability to use the images you took of them with no worry of legal issues in the future. This is common practice but often over looked by new photographers. If you are hoping to sell stock images on sites such as Shutter Stock or Getty Images you will generally always need a signed release for them to be accepted.
There are some handy photo release apps out there for iPhone, iPad or Android devices. If you left your release at home, technology has you covered. You simply let your clients read the release, sign with their finger and take a copy of their license. Its super easy to send yourself a copy to send out copies to yourself and your client after that.
#5 – Lens Filters
Whether you have one lens or a whole bag full of them, lens filters are very useful. If you simply want a UV or a Haze filter you can have this one on your lens all the time. If nothing else you have some added protection for your glass. If something happens and the filter breaks, it is usually cheaper to replace that than the entire lens itself.
Im not going to go into great detail here but learning about circular polarizers, gradient filters, ND or neutral density filters can be valuable info. I simply bought a set of 77mm filters as the majority of the professional glass is 77mm thread. For those other lens sometimes a step up ring can be added. Say you have a 67mm filter thread, you can put on a step up ring to 77mm rather than having a bunch of 67mm filters also. There are filters built into software such as Photoshop but why not get it right the first time in camera?
#6 – Lens Cleaning Kit
Nothing is more annoying than getting out and realizing you have a dirty lens. You know what I mean, theres that speck of something on the image. Well grab yourself a lens cleaning kit with some good lens safe solution, and some wipes and always be ready. A Giottos rocket blower is also super easy to pack and a great way to blow air safely on your equipment.
Sometimes its more than just a bit of dust on the lens. Often it can be dust on the sensor. If you can not get the dust spots off by cleaning your lens than have your camera professionally cleaned. If you feel brave enough to clean it yourself make sure you have a clean dust free area and use one of these kits below. The visible dust sensor swabs I have used myself and they work great. Just make sure you look for the one that matches the sensor size of your camera for the most effective cleaning.
#7 – Camera Bag
Depending on how serious you are you may have 3 or 4 bags. Maybe a couple pelican cases full of gear. If nothing else you should get yourself a comfortable backpack that you cam keep 1 to 2 camera bodies in plus your main lenses. Also you want some extra room for possibly a laptop and a few accessories like spare batteries and memory cards. =)
There are many options and brands out there like Lowepro, Ruggard, Think Tank, Crumpler, Domke, Kata, MountainSmith, Tamrac and many others. Just make sure it has a waist strap and room for what you need in case you wear it around town or hiking in somewhere. You can always buy a lighter weight bag for short treks.
#8 – Foldable Reflectors
In several situations you will find yourself in need of a little more light. If you are shooting natural light you can always make use of reflectors. They are common to find them in silver, gold or translucent for softening harsh light [diffuser]. They fold up into much smaller sizes than they are making them ultra portable. Reflectors are sold as round discs, ovals or rounded rectangles.
Depending on the color of the reflector you can warm the skin tones of the subject or fill shadows that would otherwise be underexposed or uneven. Since you can not always hold the camera and the reflector hire a friend. You can also buy light stands with clips to attach your reflector to on those less windy days.
#9 – Gaffers Tape + Duct Tape + Card Board + Ball Bungees
Yes I said it, Duct tape. These four things can came in very handy. You can make quick flags or shoots with some pieces of thin cardboard for your flash setups. Put some black duct tape on the outside and inside and your done. It doesnt look that pretty but not bad. Plus the best part is it works and if you lose it than its not a big deal. Gaffers tape is another thing that is very useful and should be in your bag. Having tape in your gear bag can help you make minor repairs, secure wires or many other uses. Ball bungees [bungee cord with a loop and ball on one end] can serve a similar purpose.
#10 – Tripod + Monopod
You may not think you need it if you have a lens with IS/VR but you might think again. It’s great to be able to turn that image stabilizer on and Im definitely not saying to stop using it. There are some occasions though when its nice to have a quality tripod. You cant always find a ledge to set your camera on and may thank me fore convincing you to buy one. Say you want to take some pics and the light is low. You want to use a longer exposure but if you shoot it hand held you will get a blurry shot pretty much every time. Pull out your tripod and the problem is solved. No one likes to carry around a bunch of gear but if you want a sharp in focus image, shooting handheld doesn’t always cut it.