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Camera, lenses, flashes, batteries. Check. There are some obvious essentials you need when packing for a photographic shoot. Most of these are ingrained in our memories to the point we pack them automatically.
There are however numerous other items that are worthy of space in your camera bag. They may not enhance your shooting but someday they will get you out of a situation.
Let's take a look at 9 essential items for your camera bag.
1. Spirit Level
Yes your camera probably has a horizon indicator built in, but a proper spirit level will give you an extra dimension, that dimension being the vertical plane.
This can be very important especially if taking panoramic images or perhaps architecture where you are trying to avoid converging parallels. Cheap and small they sit in the hotshoe adapter of your camera and should be a vital part of your kit.
2. SD Card Holder
Most camera bags have little pockets for SD cards. Nearly every one I have come across, is fiddly, only takes one or two cards and is more of a hindrance than an asset.
Fortunately, there is a simple and elegant solution SD card holders. Bought from Amazon or eBay for a few dollars these little devices allow you to store your SD cards in an easy to access holder making life just that little bit better for the busy photographer.
3. Pocket Torch
The hardest thing about shooting blue hour or evening photography is seeing the controls of your camera. The small white markings might jump out of the black camera body in good light but as the light fades they become increasingly difficult to see, especially for us “older” photographers.
A small directional torch such as a Maglite can make the world of difference when trying to change settings in the dark.
Its a fact of life that things work loose or break. Usually, this happens at the most inconvenient time, which for a photographer is in the middle of a shoot.
A multi-tool or Swiss Army knife might be just the thing you need to make a temporary repair in the field. Knives, mini saws, even a corkscrew for the lunchtime wine, multi-tools have multi-uses for the photographer.
5. Jewelers Screwdrivers
Whilst a multi-tool might be considered a blunt instrument, there is also the need for more delicate repairs. Here is where a good set of jewelers screwdrivers will come in handy.
It's not unheard of for the tiny screws on cameras and lenses to come loose. Most commonly I have found the ones that loosen are the small Phillips screws on the mounts of lenses but also the really tiny screws on camera bodies are prone to come loose.
6. Gaffer Tape
Gaffer tape is a very useful item to carry. It's great for quick repairs, taping down cables to avoid a trip hazard and even securing extra lighting poles in windy conditions. Although heavy, it's cheap and can get you out of a hole with the minimum of fuss. Be prepared for some extra time to scrape off the glue after use though.
7. Silica Gel
There is a reason our precious electronics come packed with a little packet of silica gel. It protects them from humidity. If you are a photographer working in a humid climate then its well worth packing some silica gel sachets in your camera gear. As well as the camera’s electronics, lenses are very prone to getting mold when left in a humid environment. Don’t forget, silica gel does not remain effective indefinitely so replace it regularly.
8. Mini Tripod
It might be a solid mini tripod such as the Cullman, a Gorillapod, or even something as simple as a beanbag. Any of these will give you that extra support you might need when the light fades and shutter speeds slow.
Well worth a little weight and space in your bag, especially for the photographer that prefers to travel without a full-sized tripod.
9. Lens Pen
We probably all carry a camera and lens cleaning kit but that can be time-consuming and should be something you do before leaving for a shoot.
In the field, it's easy to get fingerprints or other smudges on the surface of your lens. This is where lens pens come in handy. A gentle swipe over the lens element with the soft pads of a lens pen will quickly remove any blemishes without the need to resort to lens fluid and lint free cloths.
None of the items above are needed to shoot pictures, however, all of them at some stage during your photography career may help you to continue shooting if something goes amiss. For that reason, they can be called essential items for your camera bag.
If there is something you can't live without in your camera bag, but we haven't covered here, let us know in the comments