10 Important Things to Keep in Your Camera Bag
In theory, all you need to take a great photo is a camera and some inspiration. But there are a handful of things every photographer should keep in their camera bag to help shoots run more smoothly. Over the years I have kicked myself countless times because I haven’t had a particular tool in my bag when it was needed. If figures of speech were literal I would have been black and blue for the first years of my career!
I’ve learnt from my mistakes though, and I make sure I have all the essential pieces of kit in my camera bag. So, without further ado, here are all the extra things I make sure that I carry every time I head out with my camera.
1. Spare Batteries and Memory Cards
If you find yourself faced with an amazing situation that causes you to become trigger happy with your camera, you’ll find you quickly fill up your memory cards. You may also forget to clear a card from a previous shoot, and suddenly find that you’ve gone out to take more photos but the card is full.
Carrying spare memory cards with you eliminates these problems and means you can shoot for as long as you like. The same goes for power and batteries. I actually carry 6 spare batteries with me, which may be a bit excessive, but I rarely run out of power!
A multitool is probably the number one thing that I make sure I ALWAYS carry with me when I go out on a shoot. A multitool has so many uses and is invaluable.
I mostly use it to tighten screws on tripod plates – cameras always come loose fairly quickly and if you can’t tighten them up again it can be problematic. A sturdy multitool from Gerber is a good bet.
3. Lens Cleaning Wipes
One of our contributing photographers – Nikon Ambassador Ross Hoddinott – mentioned in one of our first ever tutorials that he uses Zeiss Lens Wipes and always carries them with him. This year I took him up on his advice and bought a couple of boxes myself.
It’s safe to say that they are extremely good! Each sachet contains a pre-moistened cloth that lifts dust and marks straight off your lens and then the moisture evaporates completely with air. Clean glass is important for keeping your shots pristine and sharp. They come highly recommended by Ross, and now by yours truly as well!
4. LED Head Torch
You should never go out on a day’s shoot without carrying a light. You can easily find yourself running out of daylight and far from your car! A head torch keeps your hands free and will stop you getting lost.
If you’re out photographing the stars at night you’ll find it hard to assemble a camera, adjust the focus and manipulate the settings in the dark. An LED head torch will give you another clear advantage here.
5. Map & Compass
If you’re out exploring, make sure that you take a map with you! Weather can change fast, especially if you’re in at altitude in hilly areas. This has happened to me before whilst walking in the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland, UK – I was heading back down to the base when a thick mist descended. Before I knew it visibility was completely zero, but luckily I had a map and compass and could safely return to my car.
Now, this is probably something you hear over and over again. But a tripod is absolutely essential – you should never really go anywhere without it. Usually weight is the issue that deters people from carrying one all the time, but you never know when it will come in handy.
Luckily, Manfrotto have developed a travel tripod range. Weighing just 1.4kg (less than a laptop) and only 40cm in size when in a closed position, the Manfrotto BeFree Tripod is an excellent choice for strapping to your camera bag. It’ll never weigh you down, and it is easy to carry and use on location.
7. Waterproof Notebook
Taking notes in the field can be really useful. You can record locations you saw things, or types of shot that you want to try in the future. Sometimes I meet people who give me a recommendation of something, or provide me with their contact details, and a notebook is a great way to keep record of this.
But when you’re outdoors, the weather is a problem. Using your phone in the rain to take notes can be a nightmare, and a traditional notebook just gets soaked.
You can get really cheap waterproof notebooks online (the paper is too, not just the cover). This means you can write information down quickly so that you don’t forget.
I used to just use my camera and lens as a pair of (very heavy) binoculars, but this is completely impractical. When trying to track down an animal, if you have binoculars you can quickly check trees, fields and other far away areas for activity.
A compact pair of binoculars is a must-have piece of kit, which you can tuck away in your bag until they’re needed.
9. Waterproof Bag Cover
Another thing that I’ve learnt from experience. Having a waterproof cover for your camera bag is really useful – when rain strikes unexpectedly you can keep your cameras covered and prevent water from seeping into your bag.
Whilst some bags are waterproof, they are rarely 100% waterproof and a real downpour will eventually work its way in. Also, bags absorb water and this can add to their weight. So getting a bag cover can save you a lot of bother – make sure it is a subtle colour though, as you won’t have much luck stalking wildlife with a bright orange beacon on your back!
10. What Do You Think?
What are your essential pieces of kit to keep in your camera bag? Let us know your recommendations in the comments below!