Ten Things Which Most Photographers Don't Have, but Probably Should

Ten Things Which Most Photographers Don't Have, but Probably Should

It doesn't matter if you're a professional or amateur, there are certain items which will make your life as a photographer so much easier. Do you have everything on this list?

I have worked alongside various professional photographers over the years and have quite often been surprised by the number of times they have asked me to borrow stuff while shooting together. Things I personally think are essential pieces of kit have either not been brought along by these people or were never purchased in the first place. While many of the items mentioned in this list may not make or break a shoot, they all do help the photographer in some shape or form.

A Gray Card

The humble gray card is not just for studio-based portrait photographers and if you don't own one you are missing out. Can you get by without one? Yes, but they really do make life so much easier. In the commercial world getting accurate colors is a must and a gray card really is your best friend for doing this. Regardless of what industry you shoot in, having a gray card will help you to get most of the way there with your color correction. Anything that saves you time in post-production can't be a bad thing, right? I know on the occasions that I have not used my gray card I always end up spending additional time tweaking colors. If all that hasn't convinced you to buy one then the fact that clients always seem to be impressed by the use of one can't be a bad thing either. 

Monitor Calibrator

Hands up how many of you actually calibrate your monitor? Out of everything on this list I'm more than certain that this is the one item that is most neglected. If you live in a photographic bubble and you are the only one who enjoys your images then maybe you could get away without having a calibrator. For the rest of us, being able to accurately see how our images look is essential. While you can't control how the world sees your pictures on their screens, you can and must make sure everything is right once it leaves your computer. If you print images then a calibrated monitor is absolutely necessary. I know early on in my career I blamed the printers I used for making my work look terrible when in fact it was probably the screens I used and the lack of a calibrator which was the problem. I've used various Spyder calibrators over the years for my screens and since adding them to my workflow the number of reprints or client based headaches has been massively reduced as a result.

Back-up Camera

Image by Free Creative Stuff, via Pexels. Used under Creative Commons.

While I appreciate a second camera could seem overkill or a bit of a luxury, it really is essential for important shoots. Your back-up doesn't necessarily need to be the latest or greatest camera to have been released, but as long as it can take pictures you'll have something to use if your main body goes down. Personally, my back-up camera is the Canon 5d II which is well over 10 years old but is still more than usable. The good thing about this camera is that the batteries, memory cards, and lenses are compatible with the more recent full-frame Canon bodies. This means that if the worst were to happen then I could do a straight swap of camera bodies and carrying on working. When a second full frame camera body was not within my budget I still brought along a spare compact camera as something would have been better than nothing.  

Lens and Camera Cleaning Kit

We all know that keeping our kit clean is a good idea but how many of us actually do it? I must have lost count how many photographers I have seen use the sleeve of their jumper to clean a lens. Making sure your gear is free of dust and dirt is obviously a good habit to get into. These cleaning kits aren't overly expensive and will pay for themselves a million times over in the time you'll save editing out sensor dust or marks or in extreme cases having to reshoot something.

Camera Strap

Most of you will have got a camera strap with your camera but many will have decided to not use it. I understand how they can get in the way but they really can be an integral part of your camera equipment. Personally, I tolerate the strap at all times as I like to wrap it around my tripod head as extra security when I'm shooting in a fixed spot. It also gets wrapped around my wrist in situations where there might be a risk I might drop the camera. The strap also allows me to keep the camera out when walking around as I can sling it over one shoulder. You wouldn't believe the number of times I've shot something interesting as a result of having the camera at hand rather than it being buried in a bag. If all that wasn't enough of a reason to use one, the camera strap can also be used to give extra stabilization to your shots when shooting handheld which is something I use when I'm fighting the light and needing to shoot at slower shutter speeds. If you have an unused camera strap collecting dust I highly recommend you start using it. If you don't possess one, there are plenty of interesting designs that can be bought if the standard ones don't float your boat.

Multiple Memory Cards

While the ever-increasing capacity of memory cards is great for those trigger happy photographers, it can lead to people keeping all their eggs in one basket. If you're guilty of shooting with just one memory card you could eventually find yourself in trouble if said card was to suddenly die on a shoot. It's for this reason, that I regularly proclaim to anyone that will listen to own multiple memory cards. Not only does this minimize possible image loss but it also reduces the chances of forgetting to bring cards along in the first place. One time I was shooting with another photographer who lazily kept his one high capacity memory card in the back of his camera. On this particular occasion, he had forgotten to put this card back in the camera after removing the contents from a previous shoot. With multiple cards, you have much less chance of forgetting them all. 

Spare Batteries

I have lent many a photographer a spare battery while on shoots over the years. Some of them may have just been forgetful with their packing while others may have usually got away with just the one battery when shooting. I have to admit that under the right conditions it is possible to last on one decent camera battery all day. Problems arise when the temperatures are extreme, you're using the LCD screen a lot, or the battery is a good few years past its best. If you shoot solo then you're not going to have the luxury of lending supplies from a fellow shooter so I highly recommend you invest in a few spare batteries. There is literally nothing you can do if your camera powers down. It could be the very moment the picture of lifetime land in front of your viewfinder or you could be halfway through a job with a client and have to tell them you can't carry on. Don't leave your power situation to chance.  

Reflector

The photo reflector is something of a staple of the old school traditional photographer but it's not a piece of kit I see on shoots as often as you'd think. Maybe some shooters prefer using other methods or fixing things in post later. The reflector is a truly useful piece of kit which is why I highly recommend photographers to add one to their arsenal. Personally, I own a medium size 5 in 1 reflector which has a black, white, gold, silver, and a diffused side to it. I have used all those various incarnations at some point to solve a problem for me while on a shoot. The great thing about them is they are reasonably light, fold down small, and don't require any electricity. They really are the Swiss army knife of photography kit and something I always take on a shoot.

Lens Hood

Photographers that I meet tend to fall into mostly two camps. Those who have lens hoods and those who don't. I have to admit that only half my lenses have them but this is something I plan on changing soon. Not only do they help to keep unwanted lens flare from ruining your shots, but they help to minimize the various other elements like rain and dust which love to land on the front of your lens. I'm more a fan of the collapsible lens hood as it can be moved in and out of place more easily than the rigid ones.

Business Cards

The humble business card is still the most reliable way to get your contact details over to someone else. They are useful for all levels of photographer and can be made easily and cheaply so there really is no excuse to not own them. I really hate the merry dance of exchanging social media handles and contact details while on a shoot and would much prefer to hand them a business card instead. It's more professional, saves times, and gives the recipient a little something to take home with them.     

So there you have it, 10 items which many photographers don't have but probably should. While you can most definitely make great pictures without a lot of the items on the list, most of the things mentioned will help to make the life of a photographer so much easier while shooting or editing. The good news is that the majority of these suggestions won't break the bank or take up too much space in your camera bag either. If you don't own some of these pieces of kit then now may be a good time to stock up on a few of them.

Over to You

Any useful items you think I missed off the list? How many of these suggestions do you already own and regularly use? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Lead image by Lisa Fotios used under Creative Commons.

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72 Comments

Previous comments
Terry Waggoner's picture

Sorry, but your advice is a little late...............just ask my wife.......... :)

C Fisher's picture

Your wife might have a problem with you trying to lure in pretty girls with wine in the woods 🤣

Terry Waggoner's picture

Hmmmmmm.......not sure why I would be sitting in the woods with a bottle of wine?!...........the beach maybe..........a street cafe maybe..........maybe when I'm sitting on the ground at a fireworks display.
Even if I was lucky enough to attract a pretty girl........I would have to call my wife to find out what to do next..........:)

Steven Nicholson's picture

.

Ripped abs.

Timothy Gasper's picture

Check check check check and check. Also....have inventory of all equipment with serial numbers and insurance.

michaeljin's picture

1. Gaffers Tape
2. Speedlight
3. Wireless Shutter Release
4. Model Release Forms
5. Written Contracts for Work
6. Tripod
7. Bear Spray

Mosts photographers don't have more than one memory card?

Tim Gallo's picture

"For the rest of us, being able to accurately see how our images look is essential. While you can't control how the world sees your pictures on their screens, you can and must make sure everything is right once it leaves your computer. If you print images then a calibrated monitor is absolutely necessary."

Nope. Having decent and reliable monitor is enough.

Also title is misleading
Ten Things Which Most Photographers Don't Have...

yeah? photographers dont have lenshoods, straps and peace of cloth to clean there cameras? most of this stuff comes with their cameras and lenses lol
no spare batteries ;). who are you talking about?

Michael Jin has better list. Gaffers Tape is a must.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I'd say that a correctly calibrated and accurate monitor is possibly the most important thing in a kit list if we're delivering electronically. Without a guarantee-able reference, we have no idea what we are pumping out. The world may kill our images later, but they will kill it in different ways - so we need a "middle ground" which a reference grade viewing experience.

Tim Gallo's picture

What "guarantee-able" are we talking about? If we talking about printing house than its more important for them to have calibrated monitor, than for photographer, and the common ground would be "test print" that you provide, or checking there test print after. if you provide a photo to designer, than you do it in adobe rgb, which he is probably going to change to cmyk of their profile tastes.
If we are talking about web - almost nobody has a "calibrated" monitor... so no matter what you do, you end up changing profile to srgb for creating "common ground", and in jpg.
both of which are not the best things to provide proper color.
i believe middle ground is adobe rgb. so reliable adobe rgb monitor is enough.
if we are talking about archival, super-printing quality production - than you do it in a lab, and tweak it there according to paper you are going to print on.

i see a lot of photographers loosing their mind about this, spending money on too expensive monitors and calibration and still end up with "average" prints :). just know how the process work and tweak accordingly. old hd monitor with 90 percent of adobe rgb will probably be more close to real "look" on paper, than your super-duper calibrated too-bright 4k-6k monitor (btw, i have one just for this, to see if the picture is not over-retouched or if i am seeing colors that probably wont be even printable)
if you work for web have two monitors with different profiles, test your files on different phones (iphone and android) and create middle ground according to what you see on them, not on your monitor.

After judging a local photo competition I should add:
A sense of composition
The ability to focus on the subject rather than the background
Patience

James Friesen's picture

How well does a white-balance card work in a scene with multiple colours of light? I have one but i tend to not use it. Especially when it's such a procedure to reset white balance, and auto gets it right(-ish) more often than not. I just wish cameras had a function to lock the white balance you get in live view, which is righter even more often!

(Also remote shutter is often amazingly essential.)

I agree with a majority of what you recommend, but the Camera strap-is the one I especially agree with. I see so many people walking around with 7500 to 8000 dollars of camera equipment without a strap. It only takes a split second of inattentiveness to drop and destroy ones hardware (or someone bumping into you). A $15 to $20 strap to keep from making a devastating financial mistake/accident. There are somethings that are out of ones control but not using a strap I think you temp fate.. Insurance is a good idea but doesn't help when you are the middle of nowhere, on vacation or a shoot and there is no way to make a claim to get new hardware...

C Fisher's picture

It's like people that don't put a case/screen protector on their $1000 phones. Even worse now that they're making phones with glass back plates 🤦‍♀️

Petr Svitil's picture

I used to believe that straps are a necessity and that they protect your camera. But since i dropped my 6,000 usd set up once, naïvely being dependent on the strap which slipped, i decided to not use it.

For me a strap is one more thing that can go wrong. Without it, im more conscious about where my camera is and that i hold it properly or store it.
Again, its a subjective thing, and depends on your workflow as well as beliefs

Not subjective or a belief, its what I have experienced especially working with other photographers over the years. Fortantly the only cameras I've destroyed because I didn't use a wrist strap where Point and Shoots. My DSLRs I use a Strap, no ifs, and or buts.

Petr Svitil's picture

Did you really just say that its not subjective, and then go on to talk about your own experience?...
The people who had a strap fail on them probably dont agree with you. Me included

https://petapixel.com/2014/09/17/peak-design-strap-failures-causing-drop...

Sorry about the subjective remark but I still stand behind my remark about using camera straps. Never used peak design straps but I’ve heard of them. Yes I have had straps fail because of wear and tear. Fortunately nothing got damaged. Tarmac used to be my strap company. Now op/tech.

My most expensive piece of gear totals under $1000 USD so I choose to "self insure," BUT I have ALWAYS had a strap on evrey camera I have owned, even a wrist strap...I am talking 50+ years...

Paul Lindqvist's picture

A good tripod and head.

Carel van Huyssteen's picture

I hate camera straps, that is why I got the Peak Design strap that you can remove easily

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Yeah there are plenty of straps you can remove easily, they are still camera straps though. I have a few peak design straps that collect dust...

You're right, Paul, apart from business cards I don't carry any of these! My camera shop hasn't got any spare batteries for my Lumix S1 yet and I could never fill a 32MB card with just one charge... I use a wrist grip instead of neck strap which I find useless for heavy cameras and believe that a "spare" camera is borderline madness. My "other" camera is infrared converted. The t-shirt I am wearing is handier than the cloth in my bag and taking the lens hood off and on to get at the polarising filter is a nuisance. If my expensive state-of-the-art computer-camera needed a grey card to get a correct exposure, I would think about suing the manufacturer. But I think it all comes down to personalities rather than essential gear. I simply can't be bothered to make lists or worry about "correct" colour. Of course, that may be because I mostly shoot b&w!

Stuart Carver's picture

L Bracket, Insurance, cheap point and shoot to chuck in your bag (preferably same lens mount as your main camera), one of those mini tripods, led panel, USB hub and dual usb charging dock, cheap wired camera remote... all things i have found super useful since buying them.

Gil Aegerter's picture

I would like to have a Cosina film camera that uses SD cards.

What sort of list is this? What "photographer" in their right mind would make this list, and never mention once, any form of light or modifiers? Good god. Speedlight anyone? How bout a simple reflector? The whole point of photography is controlling light, and this list makes absolutely zero effort to include any form of light control in it. Ridiculous.

Robert Briggs's picture

Spare lens and body caps!

My top items:

Wet cloth lens cleaning wipes, and defogger lens wipes. Excellent for when moving from indoors to outdoors vice versa on hot humid days

Lenshood: This is my front glass protector in many scenarios.

Camera Strap: Black rapid shoulder strap. Best upgrade IMO for all purpose shooting

Large ziplock plastic bag for when the weather gets rainy and I'm outdoors. Use it to cover my camera:

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