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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.