You Need to Pack These 10 Crazy Items in Your Camera Bag

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Sometimes people are surprised at the crazy things I pack in my camera bag. The truth is every professional photographer has a few must-have items that they can’t live without stuffed in their bag.  “What do I pack in my camera bag?” is a common question for many beginner photographers. 

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It All Depends Upon What or Who You're Shooting

The most critical detail to take into consideration is what you will be shooting.  I pack different types of equipment when I’m shooting portraits than I do for landscape or sports photography.  Photography equipment is only part of the puzzle, though, and we’ll get there in just a minute.  But first, let’s talk about the things I carry in my bag that SEEM to have little to do with photography and why they are so important.

Some things I Carry Have Nothing to do with Photography

#1 - Baby Wipes

Perfect for the kiddo with a little shmutz on the face or a crusty nose before pics, but they are also very convenient if you get your hands dirty while out and about shooting, or even need a little equipment cleanup on the run.

#2 - Lip Balm

This one is relatively self-explanatory.  Dry lips are so distracting.  Pays to have them comfy and a little Chapstick only takes up a tiny bit of space!

#3 - Water Bottle

I always, always, always get thirsty while shooting.  There’s usually some walking involved in getting to the location, and it’s essential to stay hydrated.  Bonus tip – I like to keep a case of water bottles in my trunk, just in case I need a refill – or if anyone in the photoshoot needs a drink.  It’s a great way to take care of your client for just a few pennies.

Sometimes they are the most important

#4 - Spray Bottle

Have you seen those tiny spray bottles that hold just an ounce or two of water?  My bag has a special pocket just for this little tool.  A spray bottle has come in handy so very many times.  Most often, I use it to spritz on some leaves or spiderwebs to give a little character to a shot.  Nature shots are so much better when there’s some moisture involved, especially when you can control the amount.

This water bottle is perfect to tuck into a pocket in your camera bag….

#5 - Bug Spray

If you are shooting near woods or water in a climate where there are bugs, then you will be so thankful that you thought to throw in a small, sample-sized bug spray.  I love tiny-sized items, and I really, really detest bugs, so this is a win-win for me.  Nothing takes the sting out of a great photoshoot more than the sting of a bug bite.  Ya know what I mean?

Nothing takes the sting out of a really great photo shoot more than the sting of a bug bite!

(Okay - it was a stretch, but you get the point!)

#6 - Microfiber Cloth

These little buggers are priceless.  They work great on all your camera lenses, as well as glasses and sunglasses.  I have been known to loan one out to a client as well.  Nothing is worse than trying to edit out smudged, fingerprinted glasses in a family shot or a beautiful headshot.

#7 - Extra Batteries

One can never have enough batteries on hand.  My off-camera flash uses them, as well as my radio trigger.  I keep a spare pair of fresh batteries in my bag, ready to go at all times.  The hardest part of this is remembering to replace them with a new fresh set when I use them.

#8 - Small Light

A small pen-sized flashlight or a strap-on headlamp is a great tool to have on hand in low light.  You can shine it right on your subject to catch focus.  It also comes in handy to shine a small amount of light onto your subject if you dabble in nighttime photography or Astrophotography. 

If you want to look really cool, and go hands-free, this is a really nice little headlamp to keep tucked in your bag.

#9 - Cell Phone

Safety first! – Just in case anything dastardly ever happens while you’re out and about, it’s great to have contact with the outside world.  I know this wasn’t a luxury we’ve had in the past, but hey, this is the modern world we live in, and we might as well take advantage of modern convenience, right?  Since we’re talking safety first, now’s a great time to read Safety Tips for Meeting New Friends from Social Media.  There are plenty of options out there for inexpensive cell phone service if you don’t already have one.  I use a simple, prepaid phone plan through Page Plus Cellular.  You can get service for as low as $12 per month.  

Now for the Good Stuff!

#10 - Camera Gear

Last, but not least – every good photographer needs to carry some camera gear!  Of course, if you have more than one lens, you will need to decide which is the most important to pack.  When I’m shooting portraits, I prefer my 50mm prime lens with a 1.8 aperture.  That is until I eventually purchase a 70-200mm lens, which gives excellent background compression and makes lovely portraits.  Goals are always good!  UPDATE!  Since writing this post, I have added that delicious glass to my collection, and it’s every bit as wonderful as I could have hoped!  I also carry my 85mm prime lens for when I want a little bit of a closer shot or have more room to back away from my subject some.  ANOTHER UPDATE!  Since writing this post, I have replaced that 85mm with the 70-200 in my bag.

What is most important here is to know that no matter what lenses you have, you will want to assess what you’re shooting and pack accordingly!

I’ve been shooting landscapes lately, and I am having a bit of a love affair with my Sigma 18-35 Art f/1.8.  That little baby is sharp as a tack, and that makes me smile.  I recently added a Tamron 10-18mm lens to my bag, but honestly, it’s not as fast (aperture doesn’t open as far – questions?  Check out Ten Need to Know Photography Terms for the Beginner).  It works great in bright light situations, and it is lighter than the Art lens, but it doesn’t perform as well in lower light.

ANOTHER UPDATE!  Since writing this post, I have upgraded to a full-frame camera body and have replaced both lenses above with a Tamrom 15-30 f/28 lens.  Again – perfect for some situations, but not others, so pack accordingly!

As I type this, I realize that I could talk for days about what lenses I love and why I love them and carry them, but we’ll save that for a longer post on another day.  For now, you get the idea.  In short, I carry a couple of longer lenses for portraits and a couple of wider lenses for landscapes (I talk about “long” and “wide” lenses in Ten Need to Know Photography Terms for the Beginner).  Make sure you have a bag big enough to carry your essentials, and you’re all set to get out there and get shooting!

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