A camera bag: the photographer’s lifeline, the center of their universe, the ultimate tool belt. Each bag tells a different story of who the photographer is, the journeys they’ve taken, and the moments they’ve captured… but what tools have been essential in helping them along the way? What are the must-have items you’ll find in-tote with any professional photographer? Keep reading to discover the top 10 things you neverwant to leave behind when heading out for a shoot, big or small.
1. Lens Cloth
When shooting on location and in any situation, the conditions are not always ideal. From rain, to dust, to mud, to… whatever else, a lens wipe or cloth is a simple but necessary item for your camera bag. Trust us when we say that taking away those smudges and dust spots on your lens will save you a lot of time in post production, and less post production means more time to go out and shoot again! Plus, it’s always a good idea to give your lenses a wipe every now and then even if you haven’t noticed the gradual build up of dust or dirt.
2. Rain Covers
Whatever you do, NEVER trust the weatherman. It’s always better to be over-prepared and protect your gear than under-prepared and have to suffer the damages. There are many options for keeping your camera dry, from gallon-size Ziploc bags to fitted rain covers made specifically for your gear. Some camera bags also have their own built in cover, so be sure to look out for this when you’re buying.
Obviously, flashlights aren’t essential for EVERY shoot. The key here is to NOT wait until it’s absolutely necessary to start packing one. No one likes feeling their way around a camera bag in the dark or leaving gear behind because they didn’t see it. All you have to do is pack a small, powerful LED model that you can recharge via USB and you’ll be prepared for any nighttime shoot or situation that calls for a little bit of light.
4. Spare Batteries
Yes, we know — DUH. Batteries are the lifeline of a shoot and youshould always have at least one spare handy in your bag! It’s easy to say, but much easier to forget or overlook. If your battery runs flat, there’s nothing else to do but pack up and go home! Never assume that one battery can last a full day of shooting, especially if you haven’t mastered conserving power. Always have a backup ready and charged, and keep in mind that turning your camera off and on repeatedly uses a lot of juice.
5. Backup Card
At one point, every photographer has lied to themselves about the storage on their card and paid for it during their shoot. Even if you have 64GB of storage and say, “I won’t shoot through all of this!” that card could still become corrupted and fail. They weigh virtually nothing and take up little to no space, so you don’t have an excuse for not carrying a backup! For a general rule of thumb, look at the last few shoots you have done and the amount of space they took up. Then carry at least double that in memory card space — you never know when you might need it!
Just as you can keep your lens clean with a cloth or wipe, having a filter on top of the lens itself can protect it from all kinds of harm & also produce some cool effects. A UV filter can protect your lens if dropped and help keep it clean and scratch free, while polarizing filters are great for reducing glare and handling reflections on water, clouds, and glass. They’re also the perfect tool to manage the contrast of the skyline in landscape photography. You can use filters to shoot day or night, single out certain colors, or simply increase contrast.
7. Gerber/Leatherman Knife/Tool
Stuff breaks on a shoot, it’s inevitable. Sometimes you need to loosen a tight screw, other times there’s a thread hanging off a model’s top. It’s always good to have a multitool with you for all those unexpected little needs, and a solid Gerber or Leatherman tool is a camera bag essential for all of the above. It’s something we don’t recommend skimping on, as you’ll probably end up buying multiples until you get a quality, long-lasting version.
8. Shutter Release (cable or wireless)
It’s nearly impossible to press a shutter release button without nudging a camera and possibly spoiling a moment. Keep a cable or wireless shutter release in your bag so you can plan ahead for photographing a subject under high magnification or when using slow shutter speeds. Some instances it will come in handy include using telephoto lenses, shooting macro photography, shooting multiple exposures, using slow shutter speeds due to lack of light, and using slow shutter speeds to create the illusion of movement.
9. Notebook & Pen
Putting pen to paper before, during, and after your shoot can make a world of difference for a photographer. You can write out your route and make plans for the shoot, and reflect on issues and successes when it’s over. Field notes are also great and writing down everything that isn’t in the EXIF, such as the filters and the lights you used, will make your cataloging and post-processing much better!
10. Snacks & Water
Look, we’re not talking about multi-day wilderness treks here, but photography can be a physical pursuit! There’s no need in risking the sacrifice of photo quality or quantity for hanger or thirst. A couple snack bars and some water (reusable bottles are the best way to go) for youand anyone else on your excursion will go a long way.
So now that you’ve got a solid foundation of essentials, it’s time to start personalizing your own bag of tricks! Stop by Schiller’s any time to find the best products on our must-haves list, or to find anything else for your arsenal — we’re always eager to talk about our favorite gear!