When hiking and camping in the wilderness every experienced outdoorsman packs their “10 Essentials“, the basic necessities required to survive in case of an emergency. For photographers I would like to recommend the following 10 Camera Bag Essentials. In addition to my camera, lenses, and flash, these are items that I keep in my bag at all times so that I can “Be Prepared” for any situation.
1. Extra Batteries
I always carry an extra camera battery, AAs for the flash, and “button” batteries for my intervolumeter.
2. Extra Memory Cards
Got a few smaller 2GB cards that you don’t use much anymore? Keep them in your bag for the rare occasion you might forget your memory card case.
I prefer a headlamp since it allows me to work with both hands in the dark. I also prefer the type that offers a “red lamp” option. It offers enough illumination to work in the dark while still preserving my night vision.
I own a bunch of these, but my black anodized Leatherman is my favorite. Crucial for field repairs and adjustments.
5. Remote Release
It makes no sense to mount your camera on a tripod only to trigger the shutter by hand because you forgot your remote release. Keep it in your bag. (Hint: If you don’t have a release, use your 2-second timer to trigger the camera. This works great for landscapes, but not so much for action.)
6. Polarizing Filter
A circular polarizing filter is absolutely essential for every outdoor and landscape photographer. It enhances photos by reducing unwanted glare and reflections allowing the underlying colors to appear. It separates the amateurs from the pros and you can not replicate it’s effect in Photoshop.
7. Business Cards
If you’re a pro, semi-pro, or even just an avid enthusiast, carry some business cards with your contact info. You never know when a potential buyer might inquire about viewing your work. Be sure to include your phone number, email, and website.
8. Microfiber Cloth
I keep several microfiber cloths in my bag and one in my pocket at all times. They’re great for cleaning my eyeglasses, lenses, and smartphone screen.
9. Wide Rubber Bands
I always carry several #84 rubber bands in my bag since they are 1/2″ wide and very handy for a myriad of uses. Here are few examples:
Mounting attachments to a flash | Bundling cords and cables | Removing stubborn filters from lenses| Securing a Smartphone to a tripod | …and snapping inconsiderate photographers who walk into my frame…
10. Office Supplies
I use a small notepad, pen, pencil, and a Sharpie to record contact info, location notes, and reminders. Yes, I know, smartphones can do all that; unless the battery runs out.
I carry a pencil in case the pen runs out…
Bonus Item: Gaffers Tape
In the photo above you’ll notice that the pencil is wrapped with a length of Gaffer’s tape. I also have several short strips taped to the inside of my camera bag flap. Gaffer’s tape or “Gaff” is invaluable since it is very strong, can patch up just about anything, and most importantly, it leaves little, if any residue. DO NOT USE duct tape for photography. Trust me, spend the extra money for real gaff.
These are the items I consider essential for every photographer’s camera bag. Later, I will provide another list of 10 not-so-essential-but pretty-darn-useful items for your bag.