You’ve covered the basics, a camera body (or more) and a lens (or three). What else do you need? In this article, we’re going to cover what else belongs in your photography gear bag, in addition to those all-important camera bodies and lenses.
Your first acquisitions should focus on how you can best care for your gear investments. Yes, even if you have a camera body that’s weather resistant and a lens rated as rugged, they still need care. Here are the pieces every photog should have in their bag to capture the best possible images.
Camera and lens cleaners
Depending on where and how you purchased your camera body, it may have come with a cleaning kit for DSLR specific needs. It often includes a blower (a blub with an air concentrating nozzle on the end), a soft brush (for larger pieces of debris), and microfiber cleaning pads (to remove smudges and fingerprints). Often these kits also have lens cleaning supplies, like liquid cleaner (spray or drops) and a sheaf of cleaning tissues.
Before you stalk away, yes, you need all of this. A camera or lens that isn’t cared for will eventually malfunction, probably at the same moment when you’re ready to capture that once-in-a-lifetime shot. I clean my gear before every major outing, even if it’s only in my own backyard.
Did you buy an ultraviolet (UV) filter for each of your lenses? While they protected film from harmful rays in days gone by, we now use them to keep the lens surface from becoming scratched. A filter is much less expensive than the repair or replacement of a favorite lens; just make sure you buy the correct millimeter size for each lens.
I never want to be without a circular polarizing filter (CPL) to minimize glare and reflections, particularly in a direct shot of the sun or over water. Other popular items include neutral density filters to adjust the amount of light hitting your sensor, and color filters to enhance a shade in the spectrum of visible light. Consider adding a filter accessory kit to cover a breadth of image-capture techniques to cover all your filter needs.
Before you buy, make sure you know the correct ring size of your lens. If you have an array of lenses, this might mean you need the same kind of filter in multiple sizes. Think about how you might use each type of specialty filter before buying the whole selection, since filters take up space and weight in your gear bag but might not be necessary often.
Notebook and pen
In this day of handy note-taking apps in cellphones, this might seem like overkill, but you never know when you’ll be in a place where mumbling into your phone or tapping on a lit screen won’t be discreet. You can scribble in the dark on a small notebook and still understand what you wrote the next day if you make the jots large enough.
I note the image number when I’m in a new location, making major wholesale changes to camera settings, or saving the name of a particularly difficult to spell feature or landmark. There’s nothing worse than returning from a long adventure, only to become confused about which church or castle or beach this particular shot came from. A little journaling goes a long way toward helping you stay on track.
Nice to Have Add-ons
Depending on the kinds of subjects you shoot and the general conditions under which you grab your images, some of these items might not be all that important. Over the years, I’ve accumulated ‘stuff’, and strangely enough, I always seem to use them at least once on a major shooting trip. It will be up to you to see how much of this you want to carry.
The average flash resident in your camera body has a range of less than ten feet. I’m guessing that for most of us, that is not enough. In addition, it does a less than stellar job of filling in shadows and highlighting subjects in uneven bright backlighting conditions.
That’s why I carry a hot-shoe mounted external camera flash to supplement what my camera body offers. I am partial to Speedlite models because of their quality, durability, and engineering. There’s a flash for every budget, with a range of features from integration with your camera’s commands too stand alone settings to supplement with moody lighting effects.
We could just as well say stabilization systems because these are much more than the traditional tripods. They include monopods (one leg instead of three), miniature flexible tripods (legs that contort to wrap around things) and bean bag sacks (you get the idea). Anything that you can use to rest the camera and steady it for the shot will help you take better pictures in extreme conditions.
If you’re going for a full size tripod, two tips – make it a lightweight one (unless you have a cart to wheel things around) and make sure it rises to a height where you feel comfortable working. There’s nothing worse than setting up your tripod, only to find you need to twist your neck and back to peer through the viewfinder or at the rear LCD screen. See our articles on travel tripods and tripods for shooting video with your DSLR for more info.
Many DSLRs have the capability to attach an independent shutter release you can hold in your hand. Why use one? Extreme shots, those at the edges of the camera’s spectrum of possibility, rely on precise adjustments on your part, often including fine focusing and intense zooming.
You don’t want the act of pressing the shutter release button to change the way you’ve framed the shot. Likewise, you might want to take a series of photos, like a fast set of fireworks images or sports action. In effect, you can keep the camera focused in the same place and have the action move across your series.
Lens hoods attach to the far end of your lens and shades the glass from glare and flare from your light sources. They allow you to extend your capabilities to include more direct-at-the-light shooting without strange ghosting on the resulting image. They can also protect the glass of the lens from scratches and rain.
A round lens hood is typically used for standard and telephoto shooting, while a petal shaped hood is used in wide angles. Many will store easily in your gear bag by turning them toward the camera (backwards) and screwing it into place. I like the soft flexible ones because they can be folded back over the lens for greater protection too.
Final Thoughts on What to Carry in Your Gear Bag
Clearly you can shoot great images without most of these items but having them available makes your photography expedition more flexible and fills it with greater possibilities. At a minimum, attach that UV filter to each lens you plan to carry and make room for that lens camera and lens cleaning paraphernalia. Check out our comparisons on gear bags for travel and the outdoors and sling backpack styles.Back to Top