Your camera bag is packed full of lenses, a good body or two and even a hot shoe flash, but are you missing something? Often, it’s good to keep a few items on hand that you won’t find in a photography store, but can make a huge difference nonetheless. Some of these items simply help you go farther to take better photos, like wearing good shoes, and bringing bottled water, bug spray and sunscreen. Others are for all those what if? scenarios, like what if the bride’s dress rips, or what if it rains? And then there’s a few items that can save you a whole lot of time in post processing, like a lint roller and hair brush.
You probably can’t fit all of these items in your photography bag, but depending on what you’re shooting, these items are often invaluable to have quick access to, even if you have to keep them in your car so your bag doesn’t weigh 500 pounds. Here’s a few non-photography items that can make a big difference in your shot.
1. Good shoes
The best photos are often the ones that are snapped from hiking a little farther or staying a little longer. Don’t miss out because your feet hurt too much to keep going. Comfortable shoes are a must. For wildlife and landscape photographers, that means getting a good pair of hiking boots. For wedding photographers, find a dress shoe that’s just as comfortable as a pair of tennis shoes (and that doesn’t make noise when you walk) and leave the stilettos at home.
2. Ladder or step stool
No, we’re not recommending carrying a ladder around on your back. But, leaving one in your car may come in handy. Why? To get a higher perspective, or a different perspective. Sometimes, if you’re taking a portrait of a person who’s six feet tall and you’re five feet tall, a step stool is necessary to get on their eye level.
3. Emergency kit
You never know when a few band-aids may be needed. Maybe you need one yourself, or maybe your portrait subject tripped and fell. Whatever the case, it’s not a bad idea to have a first aid kit on hand.
4. Comb and bobby pins
Fly away hairs are a pain to edit in post. Save yourself some time and bring a comb and a few bobby pins to make sure the hair stays in place. For sanitary reasons, disinfect them after each use.
5. Gaffers Tape
Sometimes, you just need tape. Maybe the backdrop isn’t staying in place. Maybe that prop keeps moving on you. Tape will often fix many snafus that can happen during a photo shoot. Gaffers tap is generally preferred over duct tape, because it doesn’t leave a sticky residue and it’s black.
6. Mini Flashlight
Ever try to swap out a lens in a dark auditorium? A flashlight comes in handy when you encounter such scenarios. It’s helpful for adjusting your gear when you can’t see, or taking notes, or a number of other things. You could use a full size one, but a mini version will do the trick without adding much at all to the weight of your bag.
Sure, the corner of your shirt will work in a pinch, but it’s a good idea to keep a towel handy. If water droplets get on the front of your lens, a dry towel will wipe them away (and chances are your shirt may be wet too). It doesn’t need to be expensive, any old rag will do.
8. Lint Roller
Have you ever tried to edit lint off of clothing or a backdrop? It’s not fun. You can save yourself a big hassle by instead keeping a lint roller handy. It’s almost always easier to get it right before the shot, rather than fix it in processing later.
9. Safety Pins
Fix wardrobe issues, backdrop malfunctions and more with a simple safety pin. These are great to have on hand when photographing weddings or portraits, and they’re lightweight, so it’s no big deal to toss a few into the outer pocket of your camera bag.
10. Pocket Knife
Sometimes, you just need a knife. Maybe a bridesmaid forgot to take the tag off her dress. Maybe there’s a snag that needs to be gently removed from a sweater. If you pick up one that has a screw driver built in, that may come in handy too. They’re also small enough to pack into your bag without much of an issue.
11. Oil Absorbing Sheets
If you photograph portraits, oil can be tough to tackle in post processing. Fix the issue by using an oil absorbing sheet or oil blotter. Alternatively, you could use a translucent matte powder, but guys may be a little more okay with the idea of a wipe versus a makeup, even if it doesn’t show.
Don’t get caught out in the rain with all your expensive gear. If your camera and lenses are weather-sealed, you may still want something to keep yourself dry. If you can’t hold the umbrella and your camera at the same time, you can always make a make-shift camera poncho from a garbage bag. As an added bonus, umbrellas make great props too.
13. Insect Repellent and Sunscreen
Don’t give in too early because you can’t stand the elements. For shooting outdoors, keep sunscreen and bug spray handy. Remember the best shots often come when you’ve gone a bit farther or stayed a little longer, so don’t let bugs or sunburns send you home too early. To keep your pack light, you can keep these in the car and apply them before you head out.
14. Water and a snack
Sure, photography isn’t necessarily rigorous exercise, but it often involves carrying heavy gear for long distances or long periods of time. Don’t get dehydrated. Keep a water bottle in your pack. Misery tends to chase away creativity, so it’s a good idea to bring something to eat along on longer shoots too.
Just because it doesn’t come from a photography store doesn’t mean you can’t use it for your photos. Consider what type of photos you do, then make sure you have what you need to get the shot, even long after everyone else has gone home.
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