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7 Camera Bag Essentials for Professional Photographers

If you could only fit 7 total items in your camera bag for a location shoot (other than your camera) what do you bring?

What you carry with you in your camera bag may be the only equipment that you have access to when shooting on location. It is essential to fit as much as you can into that small space. Take for example a location shoot in a busy city. You have no assistant with you – it’s just you, the model/client, and whatever you have in your bag. You can’t take your entire studio with you, because you have to be able to carry it on your person. You also need to keep it with you so that it is safe from being picked up by a stranger. What essentials can you absolutely not afford to leave at home? Here’s our list of the seven must have items which will fit into your camera bag easily.


1. Lenses
Just one lens is not enough to cut it in most location shoots. Even if you scout out the location fully beforehand, unexpected situations may arise. It’s also better to be safe than sorry. What happens when you realise you need a longer lens than the one attached to your DSLR, but you’ve left it at home? Or if the horrifying situation of a broken lens comes into play? Make sure that you have at least one portrait lens in your bag no matter what the situation. Then a longer lens is a good addition in case you need to find a spot a little further away from your model/client. Always being prepared is what separates an amateur from a professional photographer. Spare yourself some blushes by carrying a spare lens at all times.

2. Microfiber cloth or lens wipes
When shooting on location, the conditions are not always ideal. It may begin to rain, in which case water may fall onto your lens. You may find that the air is dusty or dirty. A lens wipe or cloth is a must have item for your camera bag.
Taking away those smudges and dust spots on your lens will save you a lot of time in Photoshop later on. It’s always advisable to do as much work in camera as possible to get everything perfect. Less post production time means more time to go out and shoot again! It’s a good idea to give your lenses a wipe every now and then just in case you haven’t noticed the gradual build up of dust or dirt.

3. Spare memory card, battery, and/or charger
Running out of memory space can cut a photoshoot short prematurely. So can running out of battery – whether on your DSLR itself, or on a flashgun or other accessory. Don’t let these easily avoidable issues mess up your day. It is very affordable to get at least one spare memory card and one battery. If you cannot stretch to a battery yet, bring a charger. For a general rule of thumb, look at the last few shoots you have done and the amount of space they took up. Carry at least double that in memory card space. You never know when you might need it!

4. Reflector
Directing light is one of the main concerns with a location shoot. Unless you have a flashgun, you have no way to control the flow of light onto your subject. Consider getting a reflector very early on, even as an amateur. You can fill in light with this on hand, and your model/client may even be able to hold it out of frame themselves if you do not have an assistant on hand. The most useful choice is a five-in-one reflector. This gives you five different surfaces to bounce the light from, all in one easy to carry package. You get the maximum choice without adding weight to your bag. It’s a perfect must have accessory to your DSLR.

5. Gaffer or duct tape
This one is a key item for anyone with an interest in self preservation! How can we measure the usefulness of strong sticky tape in your camera bag? It’s probably the most essential item there is, right behind your camera. There are so many situations in which gaffer tape can come in handy. Fixing a break in your equipment temporarily, or crafting your own DIY equipment, are two great examples. What about putting props together or fixing them in place? Covering over cables in the studio to prevent health and safety issues? Holding that one loose connection in place so that your light trigger cable stays connected to your camera? The potential is endless. Never leave home without it.

6. Lense Filters
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. DSLRs can be heavy, and I’ve seen more than one person drop their camera lens first. The filter is always the first thing to smash. So, that might be a little bit of money gone down the drain when you have to replace the filter. You know what costs more? Having to replace the lens itself if it doesn’t have that protective layer to smash first. Some filters can even produce some awesome effects before you even get into Photoshop. You can use them to shoot day for night, filter out certain colours, or just increase contrast. A UV filter is good for everyday use.

7. Waterproof cover
Again, if you’re shooting on location, this will become necessary sooner or later. The trick is not to wait until it becomes essential and you have no choice. A waterproof cover that fits over your entire camera bag is ideal. Some camera bags will have their own built in cover, so be sure to look out for this when you are buying. In emergency situations, carrying a spare plastic bag around with you could make a difference. You can also get a waterproof cover for your camera, though this is only necessary if you think that you will be regularly shooting outside in heavy rain. Most DSLRs these days are fairly robust, so long as you look after them well enough, so light showers every now and then may not be an issue that warrants buying a cover. Do consider it if you shoot outside often, however.


What about your camera bag? Is there anything else that would make your list of essentials? Let us know in the comments!

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