It happens to us all. The light looks great, we rush out the door with our camera bag and start to shoot. Only then do we realise we are missing something. It might be a minor inconvenience, it might be a show stopper. To help eliminate that risk, today we are going to look at some items you should always have in your camera bag.
Spare Memory Cards
Perhaps one the easiest things to do if you shoot a lot, is to leave your memory cards on your desk next to the card reader. It's easily done, you return home after a long day's shooting, upload the images to your computer then grab a bite to eat or a beer. The next morning, in front of the best shot you have seen in months, your camera flashes those painful words, “Insert Memory Card.”
We all have a section of our camera bags for memory cards but a little trick here is to have a second compartment containing one or two spares. These never get touched unless the unthinkable happens.
Fully Charged Spare Batteries
If you shoot a lot and often, you will undoubtably have spare batteries. Problem is, remembering to keep them recharged. Like memory cards it is easy to forget to charge up your batteries. If possible try to have one or two more than you are ever likely to need and make sure you make charging the biggest priority when you get home. If you travel to shoots by car, a neat idea is to have an in car camera battery charger. These plug in to the cigarette lighter socket and will get you out of a hole if needed. Also its worth packing your charger in your camera bag just in case. If the worse case scenario happens you can always persuade a local to let you plug your charger in for a while.
By this I mean a proper cleaning kit, not a small pack of cheap lint free tissues. Sensor dust, fingerprints on lenses, sand and grit are an inevitability to any photographer working outside. A good camera cleaning kit will consist of a good quality powerful bulb blower, one or two lens pens, a high quality lint free lens cloth and decent lens cleaning fluid such as Eclipse. A small blower with a brush is also useful for cleaning grit and dust from the camera body and lens areas.
Reflections can be the bane of a photographer’s life, yet the simplest solution is a polarising filter. A good quality one is going to be expensive but if your budget is tight, buy one for the largest diameter lens filter you have then get step down rings to enable it to fit on your smaller lenses. Not only will you be able to reduce reflections but also create those beautiful deep blue skies. Another often unmentioned benefit of a polariser is when shooting foliage. Leaves are notoriously reflective as anyone shooting parkland and countryside in a bright sunshine will testify. A polariser will dramatically cut down the glare come from trees and give you much clearer more saturated rural shots.
Sometimes things break and in photography, more often than not, its a tiny screw falling out. Carry a small set of tools will help you overcome problems like this. The ideal kit is a set of jewellers screwdrivers and a Leatherman or Swiss Army Knife. These two will cover most bases in the mechanical emergency stakes.
If you shoot from a tripod, a spirit level is an essential. Although a lot of tripods have them built in, in my experience they get damaged pretty easily and lose their function. For a few dollars you can buy a hotshot mounted spirit level that will work on the horizontal and vertical axis and give you a quick and accurate reference to the attitude of your camera. They also come in useful when shoot handheld video using the LCD screen.
Water and Snacks
If you are going to be away for a long period of time a small bottle of water and a non chocolate based snack bar will help maintain you through the day. Even if your are shooting in an urban environment, carrying these can increase your productivity as you will not need to go in search of a shop to stock up.
There are of course other items that could be classed as essential, depending on what you are shooting. The above is a good representation of items to consider if you are going to be away from home or hotel for several hours.