5 Pieces of Photography Kit You Shouldn't Leave Home Without

5 Pieces of Photography Kit You Shouldn't Leave Home Without

There are five crucial pieces of kit you should always take with you when heading out with the camera. Read on to find out what they are and if you have them already.

As in any role, there's certain equipment you need in order to undertake the task of photography. The obvious things you'll need are the camera and lens, but as anyone who's walked into a camera store knows, there are plenty of accessories and add-ons that improve the photographic experience. A lot of these accessories are redundant and aimed more at getting photographers' hard-earned cash than improving their photography.

Camera bags are a useful photography accessory, but not every gadget in the shops is useful or necessary

However, there are a few things that you'll definitely not want to leave home without. In fact, there are at least five. These are things that might not come with the camera you buy but that you'll almost certainly want to take out every time you go shoot. They'll help create crisper, sharper shots, help you to expose your scene correctly without the need for editing software to correct clipping, and allow you to shoot for longer.

Bring Your Tripod

One of the most, if not the most important piece of kit to bring alongside your camera and lens is probably the tripod. Overlooked by the amateur, this device is incredibly useful and versatile. In the first instance, it keeps your camera nice and steady. That's great for shooting in low light or at night when exposure times tend to creep up in order to capture a bright enough shot. However, it's also perfect for shooting in the middle of the day for two reasons.

A tripod will help keep your camera steady and allow you to fine-tune composition.

If you're shooting outside in the day, you might think that a fast shutter speed is all you need, hence you'd be inclined to leave the tripod at home (or in the shop), but in order to get high-quality images devoid of noise, you'll want to maintain you ISO as low as possible, roughly ISO 50 or 100. If combined with a narrow aperture, you're probably going to need a long shutter speed to compensate for this lack of sensitivity and rate of light capture, respectively. With a tripod, you'll have no trouble keeping things sharp during these longer exposures.

Another reason for using a tripod is that it opens up possibilities of doing video shoots and making basic video moves, such as panning and tilting. It affords the opportunity to fine-tune composition by holding the camera steady, in position, for small adjustments without losing the composition as you might shooting handheld. It's also easier to use the rear LCD, as your two free hands can now cover it with a loupe or a blanket/coat when reviewing images.

Remember the Filters

Imagine rocking up to a gorgeous vista, with stunning light and billowing clouds, only to get home and realize you've overexposed the much brighter sky in order to get a good balance on the foreground. Well, this is where filters will make all the difference. It might be an idea to try bracketing, whereby you take a series of images of the scene, each with different exposure values in order to attain good exposures for all portions of the scene, but then you have to process it in editing software later.

It's much easier to avoid overexposure in the first place by using filters at the source while capturing. For example, a graduated neutral density filter in the example above would likely solve the issue of exposure balancing.

Pack Spare Batteries

A spare battery or two will help you shoot for longer, especially when you've forgotten to fully charge your main battery or the power is accidentally left on during transport.

It never hurts to have a spare battery or two to extend your shooting time when on location, especially if you're going more than 10 minutes from home or if you're on a job. Just make sure they're fully charged. It's the worst feeling to have traveled all day to a destination only to find out the battery has died. It may be tempting to think that you'll just make sure the one battery you have is fully charged before leaving, but that won't be any good when you accidentally knock the on button when putting it in the bag. Spare, fully charged batteries are a must.

Stock Up on Spare Memory Cards

Although memory cards these days have high capacity, it's a good idea to take some spares in case of corruption or forgetting to empty them before leaving the house.

Memory card capacity is getting enormous now, and we can routinely fit thousands of images on our cards without the need for formatting. So then, it's important to take spare cards with you when you go out, in case you forget to empty them after your last import. I've been guilty of that. I finish a long three-day shoot, do the edits, and then crash for the weekend. Then, I head out on Monday for a little walk around the local English village for some shots and realize I have about three shots left and my spare cards are at home. 

Carry Your Camera Bag

Not only will taking a camera bag make it easier to transport photography kit, but it protects it from the weather and other problems such as sand and dust

The camera bag, as well as being a useful way to carry your kit when traveling around is actually a safety device. It protects the camera, lens, and other accessories from inclement weather, including rain, snow, cold temperatures, and other problems such as dust and sand. Not only that, but it's better to pack your kit away and head to the next location than it is to simply carry it in your hand. You're more likely to damage the camera and lens if you accidentally trip up or fall, as I found out a little while back. The camera bag will pad and protect the equipment but also give you the ability to use both hands when hiking up hills, scrambling over rocks, or doing anything else that requires a little more dexterity.

Anything Else?

Whenever I'm out with photographer friends of mine, I always discover something new. Whether it's a balaclava that doubles as a camera cover in the rain or a squeaky toy to get a pet or baby's attention, there's always more to learn. These are my top five must-have pieces of kit that I wouldn't leave home without. What would yours be? Leave me a message in the comments below.

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Deleted Account's picture

Writes and posts article that he prefers DSLRs. Writes and posts article showing Mirrorless camera. Just saying.....

Vincent Quantinet's picture

Is this guy for real? Aside from the patronising tone, implying once again he’s a seasoned pro, (i.e. “often overlooked by the amateur”) who is this even for? Pass...

Paul Johnson's picture

Figured I'd leave a positive comment...

After looking at tons of bag options, this amateur photographer decided to skip the soft camera bag option. I opted for a pelican case, mostly for the peace of mind that it offers for my camera. I never have to think twice or worry about where I pack the camera for a trip or when I'm out and about. It's a touch annoying for carrying, but I set it up with clips so it has a strap that also clips to my camera incase I want the strap on the camera (I usually use a hand strap).

While it's a little limiting for lenses, I just add a padded lens pouch in case I need something extra. Obviously this is still a light setup, but I'd highly recommend it.

Deleted Account's picture

That's a very nice set up! I have my gear in a backpack and usually set it in the back floorboard when on the road. When I have to put it in the back seat I run the seatbelt through the handle. Never know when you might be in an accident. I was hit head on by a dump truck in 2013 and after that I secure everything.

Deleted Account's picture

Looks like a fine case. But it wouldn't work for me (no space for an 70-200mm f/2.8). I prefer ProTec location bags (got two) such as here:
Scroll down to the "The Outdoor Portrait Kit".

PS: I don't think I will read any more articles by this author. I do not like this attitude ("Overlooked by the amateur") nor the paternalistic tone. About one of his last articles about being a pro I am still not sure if he was kidding or just missing the most important aspects.

Paul Johnson's picture

I could probably put in a 70-200 if I ditched the primes on the left side. But yeah, it's not an optimal setup for everything, but I works for me. And I think the key to remind new photographers (as this article is... apparently targeted at) that you're setup can be whatever works for you.

Deleted Account's picture

Which brings it to the point: Probably it's best to have more than one bag. I also got a messenger bag (Peak Design, wouldn't buy it again, don't use it) and an additional Nikon back pack (wouldn't buy that again too, it is too soft).
What I like about your bag is the sturdiness and its relative small dimensions.

Nic Kuvshinoff's picture

This! When I first bought a camera backpack I thought ok I'm done that's it. But as it turns out, unless you only shoot one type of genre, you basically need a different carry strategy for each shoot type. What I take for birds in flight out at the wildlife refuge is quite different than what I might pack for a glamour model beach shoot...

Malcolm Wright's picture

Hi Paul,
That case looks great and I hadn't thought of using one of those. Are the foam insert surrounds reconfigurable, or is it once configured that way, always configured that way?
The reason I ask is I use both Canon and Olympus systems and just wondered if one case would suffice?🙂

3pco 3pco's picture

LPU article (Least Publishable Unit). I mean seriously, does the world need another article telling people to carry a tripod?

Michael Dougherty's picture

I've seen advertising for a serious photo shoots showing all the participants lined up in a group and only one or two have tripods.

Mu Tru's picture

Tripod: depends on your preferred subjects.
Filters: depends on your preferred subjects.
Bag: depends on your goal. I walked down a downtown street with a single lens and body. A bag would've gotten in the way.
Batteries: the two batteries in my grip give me more than a thousand shots.
Memory cards: I can shoot for many hours on my 64 GB card and 24 mp body. Video, stills, whatever.

Lesson: don't listen to people who tell you what you "have" to do. Take note of what missing items inconvenience you on Trip A, write them down, and when you're in that shooting situation again, take them on Trip B to make it a little better.

Paul Johnson's picture

Agreed. I think the actual big take away is: your mileage may vary. Think about what it is you want and need, and set it up.

Joseph Ting's picture

I am planning to get a Canon SL3 to use my EF telephoto lens. I have a RP with adapter, but switching lenses in the field is a pain. I even carry a G9X mkIi and my cellphone. I can mount these on the flash shoe slot on my Canon RP.
I am an amateur, so I don't carry a flash and filters most times..

Deleted Account's picture

Not a bad idea. I sometimes have my EOS R with my 70-200L f4 IS USM ver II and my 6D with 17-40L around my neck. I thought about getting the RF 24-240 for my R but I'm just not pleased with the optical quality of it and how it works when used at the wide end. Those 2 L lenses have me spoiled. Especially the 70-200. So I'll do the 2 camera deal for now when the need arises. You're probably the only one that won't think I'm crazy!! LOL!!

I had an SL1 and gave it and a couple of lenses to a friend. Nice little camera and the later versions are even better. Grab yourself a 55-250 STM for it if you don't have one already. Excellent lens!! Those little 24mm and 40mm pancakes are very good too!

Malcolm Wright's picture

I got myself a second hand Canon SL2 rather than an SL3. It was both cheaper and the sensor scores far far higher on dxomark. Basically the SL2 appears to have used the sensor out of the canon 80D.

Joseph Ting's picture

Here is a capture from 850 feet using the SL3
1/640 sec. f/5.6 300 mm
ISO 500
389x934 pixels

Karl Riise's picture

What about supplying with a wire / wireless remote shutter device? 😃
A polarizing filter would be a nice extra (and lightweight) addition for adding deeper colour, extending shutter time (for blurring watereffects) as well as removing reflections in water and other shining surfaces 😎

Karl Riise's picture

Remember to keep your spare batteries warm (inside your inner pocket) to prevent them from being discharged due to could weather conditions... 🥶

Ed Sanford's picture

Bring a filter wrench. I was in the Patagonia and one photographer got a UV filter stuck on her lens and we couldn't get it off. Consequently, she couldn't change to a polarizer for the entire trip.

Malcolm Wright's picture

Hi Ed, my UV filters also have a filter thread so I can mount/stack both UV, Polariser, ND, Macro and wide angle converter/filters.
In fact it's only on some of the wide angle and Macro filters that because of their bulging glass that they don't have a thread to take another filter. Even my circular Polarisers have the ability to take another filter.
The only down side to stacked filters (apart from the downside of any filter not being as good as the expensive lens it is fitted too) is heavy vignetting on wide angle lenses, but at least you can crop that out.

Ed Sanford's picture

That's true, but it is still a bit of a risk. Anytime that you add something to the optical path, you risk a loss in quality. Back in the film days, I used to stack. Today, I will only stack a polarizer with a ND filter when I am doing long exposures. Otherwise, I only use one. If you do stack, it is critical to use filters of the highest quality. In my arsenal, all of my lenses have polarizers rather than UV. I switch back to UV only when I am shooting low light. And yes, I keep lens wrenches in my camera backpack.

Jason Parnell-Brookes's picture

Very good tip! I did a short piece on separating filters here: https://fstoppers.com/originals/separate-stuck-filters-and-step-rings-si...

Shoots Twice's picture

I am not sure I have seen so many complaining,, commenters. I found the article just fine. Not everyone agress with everything but there are some decent points here especially for a newbie like my son. I will fwd the article and like a normal reader he will take the pieces that work for him, thank the author for his time and move on. Jeeze yr a bunch of pussies.

anthony marsh's picture

Well this does it! I will be unable to get out to photograph because my LEICA M-3 and BRONICA S2A do not hold memory cards.

Gary WWU85's picture

LOL! Canon AE-1 :-)

Jack Vermillion's picture

I have a camera, prime lens, wrist strap and my iphone. That's plenty. I take a tripod for night, sometimes, and something to carry food in if it is all day.

Alex Zenzaburro's picture

That means that by definition you are an amateur for not bringing a tripod. sad!

Malcolm Wright's picture

With an In Body Image Stabilised camera body, the number of occasions where you need a tripod reduces significantly.

Alex Zenzaburro's picture

Well but according to the article you must be an amatuer.
I, amateur by defintion too, take my medium format for a walk without a tripod so what do i know

Anthony Higgins's picture

An alan wrench is handy for tightening the tripod bracket or tripod legs. A small camel hair brush in a usb pouch attached to neck strap. I always keep the neck strap attached and often put it around my neck while attaching or detaching the camera from tripod, especially on uneven rocks at the side of a river. I don't buy the argument for wind blowing the strap around. I'd hold it like horse reins if it was that windy for fear of the camera blowing over. I usually keep a cable release in the bag. (Wondering how I'll be flamed for this post.)

Alex Zenzaburro's picture

Is this serious?
Or is this written like that on purpose to generate clicks?

So the 5 tipps are: battery, memory card, camera bag, filter and tripod?

Let me guess the four tipps on a road trip are: wheels on you car, gas in your tank, food in your stomache, money in your pocket?

What a waste of time.

Malcolm Wright's picture

Damn, we forgot the camera body and lenses..

Alex Zenzaburro's picture

Of course i forgot, no one told me!!!11

Malcolm Wright's picture

Tripods are must haves for long exposure work on a set up without any image stabilisation. If you're using a set up that has good image stabilisation either in lens, in body or even both, then the times when you'll need a tripod reduces. In fact for very long exposure work (where you'd probably need ND filters) the recommendation is to switch off image stabilisation.
That's a bit bye the bye, perhaps the first thing you shouldn't leave home without is a little forethought and planning as to what you might expect to photograph, where ever it is you are going, in order to minimise the amount of stuff to take and cut out what you're unlikely to need.
Then hopefully you can travel light, arrive refreshed, take many photos and leave happy.
I don't own a graduated ND filter as both my camera systems are set up to show under/over exposed areas on their LCD screens which enables me to tweak the apperture, shutter and if need be iso settings to eliminate/minimise them without the need for one. That's a DSLR system in live view and a mirrorless system ability.

Sanders Antony's picture

always carry a microfiber cloth and clean your lens