Some people will make it sound like you need an armful of gear to do photography, but unless you’re a professional there are a lot of things that you don’t really need. So I thought I’d pull together a practical list of essentials for bloggers and photo hobbyists who are looking to get some nice photos without breaking the bank. Note that this list is customized specifically for photography done while you’re out and about, rather than those who are looking to get into flat lays or product photography.
- Camera – Please don’t run out and buy the first camera someone recommended. If you wanted to make tomato soup, having the best frying pan in the world wouldn’t help you in the least bit. Start with your phone camera or a point and shoot and figure out which functions you enjoy and which leave you wanting for more. Consider what type of photography you enjoy: do you enjoy taking photos of people or architecture? Or maybe you want to do landscapes or starscapes? Will you be taking your gear in the back of your car or will you be carrying everything in your backpack? Are you ok with carrying a heavy camera or do you want the lightest option? There’s nothing worse than spending hundreds of dollars only to have buyers remorse, so don’t be lazy and forego the research!
- Lenses – If you decided to get a camera with interchangeable lenses, don’t rush out to buy the lens your friend raved about. Instead, spend some time on Flickr or 500px and start observing what kind of photos you tend to gravitate to. Do you like those wide scenic shots or do you prefer a more intimate shot of something closer by? Do you like the blurry bokeh effect or do like photos that are completely sharp? The great thing about looking on Flickr or 500px is that you can see which lens they used. Pretty soon you’ll start to notice that you really love a certain look and that’s when you want to start thinking about getting that lens. That’s how I picked up my 24mm lens and it is my favorite out of the four lenses that I have. When I know I’m going to be shooting architecture I pack my 10-18mm as well.
- Small Notebook & Pen – Whether you’re reviewing a location or out doing street photography, it pays to have a small notebook and pen on hand. Jot down field notes, contact information, sudden blog post ideas, and especially any limitations you had while taking a photo. Thoughts are fleeting so get them down on paper.
- Chapstick & Snack – With all the sun and wind in your face it’s easy to get chapped lips, so it’s nice to have some chapstick while you’re walking about. I also like to pack a granola bar just in case I need to refuel my energy.
- Spare Batteries – I was doing a photo walk last year in Chang Deok Gung Palace when I ran out of battery. This had me pulling out the battery and shaking it to see if I could squeeze out one last photo. So by the time I went on my Europe trip in 2014 I had two spare batteries; they served me well during the trip. After switching to my Canon 100D, the first accessory I bought was a spare battery. When I go on my next international trip I’ll be sure to pick up another.
- Memory Cards – If a camera dealer tries to lure you with a free tripod, tell him you want memory cards instead. Cheap tripods are more likely to fall and break your camera than be of any use, but extra memory cards are always nice to have. I decided to buy micro SD cards with converters because at the time of purchase they were cheaper than the regular SD cards. I was actually going to buy 64GB cards but found out that my previous camera (Nex-3) did not support anything higher than 32GB. Luckily for me, the salesman at Samsung Digital gave me a refund for the 64GB micro SD cards and let me take home the 32GB ones instead. It worked out great because while I was traveling in Europe, I was able to leave the ones I filled at my hotel. That way if I lost my backpack or had my camera stolen, I would only lose the photos in the current memory card rather than the whole trip. When I’m hanging out with friends a 16GB is more than enough, but I easily fill it if I’m on a photo walk alone. When I was traveling for 2 weeks in Europe I filled every single memory card that I had, but I was also on a mission to document the whole thing and shooting in RAW format which takes up more space.
A lot of people include tripods and remote controls on the essentials list, but to be honest, unless you’re shooting scenery during the golden hours, doing night photography, or have to shoot products with little to no natural lighting I would say it’s not essential. Camera bags can be nice, but they’re not absolutely essential either. I usually take my camera in whatever bag I decide to carry at the time, and the only time I use an actual camera bag is when I’m going to be doing an all day photo walk and even then I stick it inside my backpack and only use it for padding my extra lenses. I think carrying a camera bag that looks like a camera bag is like walking around with a red target on your back for pickpockets. So I prefer to use pickpocket proof backpack or just throw my camera into whatever bag that goes with my outfit that day. If I’m carrying a scarf or cardigan I’ll use them as extra padding for my camera.
Your turn ♥ What are your camera essentials?