Do you think about taking your camera out to shoot and then dread carrying the camera bag? Do you fall back on your iPhone because it’s so much easier to carry? In this post, I’m going to help you simplify your life by talking about the camera gear you really need when you are heading out to shoot.
A quick Google search of this subject will result in exhausting lists of gear and gadgets. If you follow their suggestions and carry this stuff, you’ll need a wheelbarrow! Let’s make it easy and give your iPhone a break! 😉
You can own the additional gear, but just don’t carry it all! In this photo of Skip and me in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, you’ll notice that my camera is not very obvious. My bag of Seven Essentials in tucked into my purse.
Let’s start with your camera and lens
If you have a zoom lens for your camera, you probably don’t need to carry a second lens. Of course, there may be exceptions, depending on what you are shooting and where you are. Most cameras come with a kit zoom lens that goes up to 55mm, and that’s fine much of the time. I have a zoom that extends from 24-105mm. That includes wide-angle shots and some telephoto shots as well. I carry this lens about 70% of the time.
If you know you will be taking shots in the distance and won’t be able to get close to the subject, you may want to put your zoom telephoto on your camera instead. But, only carry two lenses if you must.
I needed my telephoto for this shot of the New Point Comfort Lighthouse. The yellow grass in front of me is a salt marsh. The blue is the Chesapeake Bay. I was standing on a viewing platform. There was no way to get closer without a boat.
Okay, so you have a camera with a lens and are set to go. Is there any other camera gear you really need?
A lens hood
I always have a lens hood on my lens. Yes, it will help keep the sun from entering the lens when you are shooting towards the sun, which is good, but I think the most important thing it does is to protect your lens.
I’ve tripped and fallen upstairs at the Oudong Buddhist Temple in the Oudong Monastery complex, near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, banging the lens into the stone steps. My camera has slipped and crashed off the table of a train in Switzerland, as the train suddenly started. I wrote about both of these incidents in my post, 7 Quick Tips for Keeping Your Camera Safe.
There are more embarrassing moments I could recount, but the good news is that my lens has never been damaged! That inexpensive piece of plastic is scratched and dented, not my lens.
When you order one, be sure to order the correct one for your particular lens. They come in different shapes, depending on whether your lens is a telephoto or wide-angle one. In the photo at the end of this post, you’ll see me wearing two cameras. On the left is a telephoto lens with a long lens hood. The lens on the right is a wide-angle lens and the lens hood is really shallow.
A protector filter or UV filter
Taking it a step further, I always have a filter on my lens. I use a Protector Filter from B + W. There are also UV filters that work just as well. If you buy a good glass one, it won’t affect your photos. It will simply protect the glass. Replacing one of these is much less expensive than replacing a lens! Quick note: don’t buy a cheap plastic filter. That will affect the quality of your photos! And remember to measure your lens before you buy the filter. They come in different sizes!
A Black Rapid (or similar) camera strap
Finally, I would include a different camera strap to the list of camera gear you really need.
I have used a Black Rapid strap for many years, and there are other brands that work in a similar way. This strap takes the weight of the camera and distributes it across your back. I’m wearing one in the photo of Skip and me at the beginning of this post. You’ll be amazed at how light your camera will feel! You can carry it for hours.
Another advantage of these straps is that they are a more discrete way of carrying your camera. They don’t serve as an advertisement for your camera brand. If you are doing any street photography, traditional camera straps make you stand out as a photographer. This means you’ll attract attention and won’t get the shots you want. You may also be a target for theft. I wrote about my experience with this in my post, Shoot Better Night Photography.
Seven Essentials for Photographers
Finally, you’ll need my Seven Essentials for Photographers. You can get my checklist and video guide to them by clicking here. They can fit in a Ziplock snack bag and weigh almost nothing. Always carry them!
What I didn’t include
Now, here’s what I didn’t include in the list of camera gear you really need. These pieces of gear are optional and should only be brought along if you know you will need them!
I rarely carry one of these when I’m out shooting. I wear my camera and carry the Seven Essentials in my purse or pocket.
However, I do love my ThinkTank roll-aboard for travel. I’ve just ordered a new ThinkTank backpack for travel as well.
You will need one of these for some types of shots, such as night or low-light photography. But, don’t just carry one because you own one. 😎 It’s extra weight. Do bring along a cable release if you are using a tripod.
I shot this photo of The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico during the blue hour, with a shutter speed of 8 seconds. I definitely needed a tripod for this shot.
If you think you might need one while you are out shooting, there are smaller, lower-weight versions for the occasional shot. Gorillapod and Platypod are two easy solutions to carry, but only bring one if you think you might really need it.
One additional piece of equipment you should have with you if you are taking a tripod is a neutral density filter. This will allow you to take shots with a slower shutter speed when there is too much available light to use that speed. It’s like sunglasses for your lens. I used a neutral density filter to smooth the water in this shot of Multnomah Falls, in Oregon.
Now it’s your turn
That’s it. Keep your gear light and simple and you’ll find yourself carrying your camera more and more!
Okay. I admit it. I love camera gear. And I’m certainly not a minimalist, as you can see from this photo, taken by my friend Dan Longacre. I’m wearing two cameras and holding a DJI Osmo for shooting video. We are in a Masai village in Tanzania. But Safaris are an exception for me! Quick note: that’s a BlackRapid double strap. One more quick note: you can clearly see the different lens hood shapes on the two lenses.
When I’m walking around with my camera, I definitely follow my own advice!
What do you carry when you are out shooting? Is there anything else that you think is essential?