If you ask me, one area that many beginner and amateur photographers neglect is their camera bag.
And I mean this in two ways…
First, some photographers get any old bag, thinking that it will be “just fine,” only to find later that they’ve gone through three or four lesser bags when they could have just gotten a quality bag right off the bat.
Second, it seems to me that there are a few items that photographers should carry in their bags, but don’t.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a short list of essential gear that will help any photographer be more prepared for whatever obstacles they might encounter.
Get a Good Bag...Seriously!
When I started out taking photos, I carried my gear around in an old backpack.
It wasn’t even a camera backpack!
Part of my reasoning for doing that was budget - I just dropped a big chunk of change on my camera and new lens, and I didn’t want to shell out a bunch of money for a fancy bag.
The problem with that line of thinking is that over the course of a few years, I went through several low-cost camera bags. Aside from the frustration that caused, it also ended up being a pretty big investment, even though that’s what I was trying to avoid in the first place.
So, take it from me, a good bag is as good of an investment as a good lens. It’s something that will last you for years to come and will accommodate changing gear as you acquire new equipment.
When it comes to a quality bag, I’d challenge you to find one better than the Holdfast Sightseer, pictured above and below.
There’s a lot to appreciate here: not only is it a gorgeous bag that’s durable and made of high-quality materials like waxed canvas, American Bison leather, and Aztec flannel fleece, but it’s also a modular system that can expand as your collection of gear grows.
That means you can start out lean and mean with just the Sightseer bag by itself, and then add additional pockets and pouches as needed to protect small, medium, and large lenses. There’s even add-on pouches for small and large phones!
Better still, each lens pouch has a false bottom so you can carry your spare batteries, memory cards, or other odds and ends with ease. That means you can carry three pieces of gear inside the bag (i.e. your camera body and two lenses) and then add several more lenses or other accessories to the outside of the bag via the add-on modular pouches.
Take it from me - you’re better off in the end if you invest in a top-notch camera bag like the Holdfast Sightseer right from the start. Don’t fumble around with ineffective and poorly constructed bags. Get something that’s purpose-built for photographers that looks good and performs well too.
Obviously, having a few cleaning items in your bag is essential for cleaning your lenses and camera.
The usual suspects come to mind - a blower, a lens brush, a microfiber cloth, and lens cleaning solution. To say that these items are necessary in your bag is a huge understatement because the quality of your photos depends in part on the cleanliness of your camera’s sensor and your lenses.
Granted, you aren’t going to be cleaning your sensor while you’re on a photo shoot, but if you’re traveling, it might need some attention when the day is done and you’re back at the hotel.
Cleaning your lenses, on the other hand, could be a common task while you’re out shooting, particularly if there are environmental elements causing your glass to become dirty. Snow, rain, sand...you name it, it will find a way to dirty your lens. That’s not to mention the smudges that occur throughout the day.
That’s why having the items listed above - a blower, a lens brush, microfiber cloth, and cleaning solution - is so critical. You never know when some water drops might splash onto your lens or when you might accidentally touch the glass with your oily fingers. Don’t be left having to correct your images in post-processing because you have a dirty lens - take care of it in the field!
A Mylar Blanket
I know that this might seem like an odd addition to your camera bag, but just hear me out…
Say you go to the beach to get some shots of the incoming tide and want to position your camera low to the ground to capture some interesting foreground elements.
So, you plop yourself down on the sand, work out the shot, and take the photo.
The problem is that when you get up, you’re covered with sand, which could easily find its way onto (or into) your gear.
The solution? A mylar blanket!
These emergency blankets are quite large, so they’re great for using as a barrier between you and the ground. They will keep you clean and dry, so no matter the conditions, you can be more confident that you can keep yourself and your gear clean.
The bonus here is that the silver mylar makes for a great reflector too!
Another item that many photographers just don’t think to carry is a garbage bag.
Like a mylar blanket, a garbage bag can fulfill many needs.
Use it as a quick rain cover for your camera if the weather turns while you’re shooting. Along those same lines, you can use it as an emergency poncho if you’re out without your usual rain gear. It might look silly, but hey, you’ll be dry!
Additionally, a garbage bag can be used as a white balance card if you find yourself in a pinch, or, if you forget your mylar blanket, you can use one to lay on or sit on without getting dirty.
Garbage bags weigh next to nothing and collapse into almost nothing as well, so adding one or two to your bag won’t take up much space and won’t add to the weight you have to carry around.
So there you have it, a few odd items that, if you add to your camera bag, can help you meet the challenges you face while you’re out shooting. Get yourself a solid, well-built camera bag and add cleaning supplies, a mylar blanket, and a garbage bag or two, and you’ll be better prepared for whatever you might find out in the field.