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The ultimate photography kit checklist: 13 items you should have before walking out the door with a camera.

When building a photography kit, a lot of beginning photographers tend to focus only on the camera and lenses. While they are indeed the most important tools in a kit, a lot of people don’t know what else they need to buy when investing in a proper tool set. To help them gather everything they need, we have compiled this ultimate list of items that any photographer, amateur or pro, should own in order to handle most situations. Here they are.

1. Filters

At the very least, none of your lenses should be without a protective UV filter. The top models aren’t cheap, but it sure beats changing one of those instead of an entire lens. From then on, as you will be shooting, you will figure out what types of filters you will need, according to your shooting style. Circular polarizers, neutral density filters, color filters and the list could go on. If you don’t know what to buy right from the start, consider a beginner’s kit. They have most of the essentials.

2. Extra- batteries

Shooting on one battery, the one that was provided with the camera, might be ok for weekend trips and family picnics, but if you plan on working for money or for any type of client, make sure you have plenty of power with you. Modern batteries usually last between 500-1000 shots, depending on conditions and model, but you should always carry with you at least one, fully charged, spare battery.

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3. Memory cards

Be careful with memory cards. It’s not as easy as it used to be five years ago. Virtually any camera you buy today has video, and most of the times it’s Full HD. That means that capacity is not the only aspect you need to look for, there is also speed. The read/write speed of a memory card will determine whether movie captures flow naturally or if they “get stuck”. Be sure to pick out the fastest cards, and instead of buying one, ultra-high capacity one, buy two or three smaller ones.

4. Tripod

Alta-Pro-263AB-100-1Tripods are mostly used by landscape and nature photographers, but other than that, I think they are useful for any photographer. And that is for (at least) one reason: creative thinking. A tripod will literally slow you down and force you to think twice about your composition. It all happens very quickly when shooting hand held, but it’s not always the best solution. Long exposures depend on stability and in such cases, a tripod is the best option. Our tripod recommendation is the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100. It’s one of our favorites for many reasons, one being the multiple angle possibilities created by its Multi-Angle Central Column that allows the photographer to move it from 0 to 180 degrees in variable vertical and horizontal positions. This makes it a great tool for macro photography among everything else. It’s made of high quality aluminum and it has quick-flip legs. The tripod is one of the most important items on this list and it’s also the one that has probably the most potential to improve your photography.

5. Camera bag

It’s basically your camera’s house, so don’t treat it any lighter. Make sure it’s big enough for what you currently own, but also have in mind any future investments. You don’t want to be changing bags each time you add a new item. Also, if you’re the adventurous type, make sure to buy a solid, weather proof bag. They come in all shapes and sizes, so you should have plenty of options to choose from.

6. Cleaning kit

No matter how well you take care of your camera, it will inevitably need cleaning at one point. You don’t have to send it anywhere; it’s something you can do by yourself. All you need is a decent cleaning kit and a steady hand (don’t worry; you don’t have to be a surgeon).

7. External flash

Many of you might think this is not a necessary item for your kind of photography. Think again. A lot of new photographers are reserved towards using flash, mostly because they don’t know how. The basic idea behind buying one of these, or using any source of artificial light for that matter, is that you have the ability to control everything, not just the exposure to whatever type of light nature is providing at a certain time. Photography is light and you need to learn how to work with natural as well as artificial light.

8. Remote

A remote can help you in many situations. It could be a creative self-portrait or an unplanned long exposure when you just found a flat surface to place your camera on. It’s a small item to carry and it’s better to have one on you than to regret it.

9. Editing software

Digital photography is made to go into a computer. Actually into editing software. It doesn’t matter how fancy the camera is, there is always something to improve, even if it’s just the slightest contrast adjustment. It’s a new skill you will have to learn, but in the long run, it’s something that will help you evolve as a photographer.

10. Battery grip

Unless you already have one built into your pro DSRL, you should consider an external battery grip. The advantages are obvious. More power and better grip.

11. External microphone

Well, this is something I wouldn’t have added to a list like this six or seven years ago. Luckily, things change and technology helps us make art. Every new DSLR model on the market today has high quality video capabilities. The only problem is sound most of the times. The built in microphones usually deliver poor sound quality, but buying an external microphone can solve that problem instantly. You don’t have to be a pro videographer to use one, and over the years you probably won’t want to regret the bad sound quality from your kid’s school play video.

12. Reflector

A reflector can greatly increase the potential of natural light. It works by the same principle you used to have fun with when playing with a small mirror and sunlight as a kid. It helps you direct natural light just were you want it, on someone’s face or on a certain object.

13. Printer

There’s one thing I don’t like about digital photography. It has made the habit of printing very rare among photographers. Photography should come to life in a physical form, not just on a high tech display. It is in its very nature to be on paper, to have texture. You needn’t buy a large format printer; a small one should do, but as a word of advice, print your photos!

Image credit: rozum / 123RF Stock Photo

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