You probably don't need someone to tell you to pack your camera, lenses, and a few spare batteries (if you do, we need to talk). But there are some little accessories and non-photography items that can make your shooting life vastly easier and often save you a lot of time. Here are 15 such items to keep in your bag.
1. Hair Spray
Retouching hair is my eternal nemesis, and because I normally work outside without solid backgrounds, I hate it twice as much. I keep a travel size canister of hair spray in the side pocket of my bag, and it has drastically cut down on my time spent retouching flyaways and the like.
2. Zeiss Lens Wipes
They cost less than a dime a piece, they don't streak, and they're effective. I always keep a few of these in all my bags, particularly when I'm flying my drone, as it always seems to come back with a smidgen of gunk on the lens. They're also great if you need to quickly clean a lens (wedding photographers) and get back to work.
3. Blower and Lens Brush
You don't want things to get on your lens. Therefore, per Murphy's Law, things will get on your lens. Be sure to keep a small blower and brush handy, and use them before you use lens wipes, so you don't rub any grit into the glass. An additional tip: I keep my blower and brush in a Ziploc bag so they don't accumulate any dust that could then be sucked in and transferred onto my lenses.
4. Shine Control Powder
A lot of people have naturally oil skin that can create shiny hot spots in photos, which can be a bit tricky to retouch. A bit of shine control powder can give the skin more of a matte finish that's generally more flattering in photos. Use it for women or men.
5. Travel Mirror
If you're doing portraiture work, your subject is going to be naturally hyperaware of their appearance. Having a small mirror ready to hand to them not only ensures they look the way they want, it puts their mind at ease during the shoot, which makes your job easier.
6. Bug Spray
I used to always forget this, and I would always regret it. Depending on where you live and where you like to shoot, you may be dealing with a swarm of flying bloodsuckers. Whether you're a landscape photographer hiking through the woods or a portrait photographer shooting at sunset, this stuff can save a lot of irritation and itchy limbs.
7. Clamps and Clothes Pins
You've got to hold backdrops and reflectors up. The model's clothes don't quite fit right. What can help you in both these situations? Clamps. Grab some large and small A clamps to solve both problems.
Remember what comes after sunset? Night. No one like trying to feel their way around a camera bag in the dark, nor does anyone care to leave gear behind because they didn't see it (ask me about the time I did that with my truck keys). Flashlights have come a long way since the days of keeping a bunch of D cell batteries in your cupboard for the giant, not-so-bright light you needed when the power went out. Most are small, powerful LED models that can recharge via USB. Grab one and keep it in your bag.
9. External Battery
No one likes a dead phone when you hiked up that mountain for that sunset engagement shoot and forgot how to get back down. On the same token, I hate carrying around extra cables and the like, which is why I absolutely adore my Anker PowerCore Fusion 5,000. It's a 5,000 mAh external battery with a built-in wall plug that folds away when not in use. So, you can use it like a normal phone and tablet charger, then drop it in your bag as an external battery. It's awesome.
10. Extra Lens Caps
It's probably going to happen at some point: you'll be working furiously, not paying attention, and you'll realize you have no idea where you put your lens cap. Rather than risk scratching that expensive glass when you transport it, keep a few spare lens caps in your bag. Just be sure to purchase the correct size.
11. Lint Roller
You never really notice how much crud people's clothes pick up until you're in Photoshop, cursing at your screen while cloning out every little bit of it. Grab a travel lint roller from your local pharmacy and throw it in the side of your bag; you'll be glad you did.
Stuff breaks on set. You need to loosen a tight screw. There's a thread hanging off the model's top. No one brought a corkscrew for the post-shoot wine! It's always good to have a multitool with you for all those unexpected little needs. It's one piece of equipment I don't recommend skimping on, as you'll probably end up buying multiples ones until you get a quality version.
13. Gaffer's Tape
There might not be another item more useful than gaffer's tape. You should always have some of this with you, whether to secure cables, make a quick repair, label equipment, or quiet that assistant who won't stop talking.
14. First Aid Kit
Whether you're spending a lot of time in the sun and getting burnt, you trip over a rock while out shooting landscapes, or your client simply won't stop pestering you (aka "omg, where is the Advil?"), having a first aid kit for any little mishaps that might occur during a shoot is always a good idea. They're cheap and will cover you for most of life's minor incidents.
15. Food and Water
Look, we're not talking about multi-day wilderness treks here, but photography can be a physical pursuit, and if you're anything like me, physical exertion makes you hangry, and I'm not a pleasant person to be around when I'm hangry, nor do I do my best work. A couple snack bars and some bottled water for both you and your talent will go a long way.
Do you have any little necessities you keep in your gear bag? Let me know in the comments!