Three Items of Equipment No Photographer Should Be Without

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By Steve Russell

The title of this article begs for part of the answer to be camera and lens but then I wouldn’t have anything to write about or I’d have to title the article Five Items… In other words, I’m going to assume that the camera and lens is a given and not count them. After those two, what three items of equipment could ruin your day if you don’t have them?

Memory/Media

If I was writing this article thirty years ago I would put film at the top of the list. Before digital photography became mainstream if you didn’t have film you didn’t take photographs. Today, as you know, film has been replaced by media or memory cards of one format or the other depending on the make and model of your camera. All things considered, extra memory is cheap compared to the loss of that special photograph because the only memory card you brought was full. This is even more important if you’re shooting for a client and run out of memory before the shoot is complete. I always carry an empty (reformatted) card in each of my two cameras and an additional eight compact flash cards in my Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket. There are times when I may shoot a few hundred RAW images in a single day and carrying extra compact flash cards keeps me from running out of memory. (Your camera may use a different type of memory card like an SDHC card)

Batteries

Having all the extra memory you can buy won’t help if your battery loses its charge. You should always carry an extra battery or two in your camera case. If you plan to do a lot of shooting you may want to be extra cautious and carry 6 or 8 extra batteries. My Canon 7D and 5D Mark II are both equipped with a battery grip. The battery grip has two functions for me; the camera fits my hand better with the grip attached and it holds two rechargeable batteries instead of the one the camera holds when the grip isn’t attached. I’m not suggesting you buy a battery grip even though I love them, but here is what I do with my batteries and I recommend you consider some form of this approach that meets your needs.

While I have never been able to deplete the charge on two batteries in one day of shooting, it’s always a possibility. Between the two cameras I have four batteries. Since I can really only shoot with one camera at a time, if I deplete the charge of both batteries in one camera, I still have the two batteries in the other. I can move both from one camera to the other, I can move one (even with the battery grip the camera will function with one battery), or I can change cameras. If I’m going out to shoot the next day, I always fully charge the batteries. If I’m on a trip, I always carry two chargers so I can recharge the batteries each evening if necessary.

The battery grip for my cameras also has an insert that holds six AA batteries in the event of an emergency. Yes, I also have AA batteries in my camera case. My flash units use AA batteries and I also carry at least six additional for the camera in the event of an emergency.

Vision

You can argue that vision technically isn’t equipment in the true sense of the word and I’ll give you that. However, the camera equipped with lens, memory and batteries won’t capture any images without someone (the photographer) to point it at the subject and press the shutter release. If the photographer doesn’t have a vision of what she or he wants in the photo, chances are the photo is going to be very average. While it’s true accidents do happen, most of the time really good photos come from a photographer that knows what the photo should look like before the camera is ever pointed at the subject. With vision before you take the photo, you will have a much better chance capturing the story, mood and look that you want.

You may not be able to capture an awesome photo of the big elk on the next ridge without a telephoto lens or a close-up of the eyes of a spider without a macro lens, but these three items of equipment along with the camera and lens are all you really need to capture great images. Making sure you have these three items also helps insure that you don’t miss that once in a lifetime opportunity because you just ran out of memory or battery power.

Photo Credits:

Memory Card Mixture by johnmuk on Flickr Creative Commons
Battery Pile by zorbs on Flickr Creative Commons
Photographer at Work by gwilmore on Flickr Creative Commons

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  • Jeff E Jensen

    Excellent advice.  I’ve only forgotten my battery once, it’s a hard lesson to learn.  And, there’s always at least one spare CF card tucked away in my bag.  Now I’ve got to figure out how to keep some spare vision in my bag. . . .

  • Steve Russell

    Thanks, Jeff.  Please let me know when you figure out how to keep spare vision.