What’s in Your Photography Bag?

What’s in your Bag?

Every time I head out the door for a photoshoot, it feels like balancing on a tightrope.  On one hand, I want to make sure I take everything I think I’ll need during the shoot – but on the other hand, I don’t want to have so much I need to hire a Sherpa to follow me with my gear.

To help resolve the issue, I keep a quick and dirty checklist to run through before heading out the door.  Here’re a few considerations for pulling together your own list. If you don’t have your own, consider hiring equipment. Soflo Studio offers AV rentals.


Obviously, you won’t be shooting without a few of the basics, but even these can be variable depending on the type of shoot you are going on.

  • Camera body(s) – If you have more than one, consider where you are shooting to help you decide which to take.  In some places, discretion is needed – so leave the DSLR at home and take a smaller bodied point and shoot.  Other places may be physically harsh, so take one with a tough body. Worried about theft or loss?  Do you want to shoot stills and video?  All issues to consider.
  • Lens – Lens choices are discussed below, but I try to take the minimum number of lenses possible.  Think about what you are looking to shoot. For example, BTC Photography (Portaitfotografie in Köln), will opt for a 50mm when shooting portraits. Map the one or two lenses that cover your intended range if possible.
  • The memory card in the camera – Check to make sure that the card in the camera has the capacity to shoot what you have in mind – and then add 50% or more to that number.   At a minimum, check that there is a memory card in the camera!  Know if you want to shoot RAW and/or video when calculating how large a card to take.
  • Fully charged batteries in the camera.
  • Flashlight – This has come in handy so many times it is now a basic requirement no matter when or where I’m shooting.
  • Harness/Strap/Backpack/Tote – Here it is important to balance easy access to camera versus easy ability to carry and manoeuvre with the camera.  I like a strap or tote when shooting in urban settings, a harness when hiking or otherwise doing a lot of physical activity and a backpack when shooting from one stationary location.


My general rule of thumb for back-ups is directly relational to where on the accessible/exotic/once-in-a-lifetime scale the shoot falls.  I don’t want to take tons of extra stuff if I can go back and reshoot a location easily, but I take multiple redundancies if it’s someplace I’ll never get to again.  This includes

  • Back-up Camera body
  • Extra batteries
  • Extra memory card(s)


  • Weather can be unpredictable, so at a minimum I take
  • Plastic bags to protect the camera from conditions and humidity.
  • Lens hoods to block out precipitation and harsh sun.
  • Lens cloths to clean lenses if needed.
  • Static-free shammy cloth to wipe camera body
  • Depending on climate and forecast, I may also include
  • Sensor cleaner
  • Hand warmers to keep the lens condensation free.
  • Rain hood
(c) Karenfoleyphotography | Dreamstime.com
(c) Karenfoleyphotography | Dreamstime.com


  • Lens choice is very much subject related, but I choose from the following
  • Fisheye for effect.
  • Prime for quality.
  • Telephoto for nature or sports subjects.
  • Wide Angle for architecture and street scenes.
  • Any speciality such as macro or ultra-telephoto.


  • Filter and gel choices are as individual as the lenses themselves.  My favourites to pack along include
  • Haze for landscapes and cityscapes.
  • Polarizing for shooting reflective surfaces.
  • Neutral density for waterfalls and landscapes.
  • Colored for light temperature balance or effect.
  • Speciality: star, macro, etc.


  • If not planning on shooting with just natural light, what combination of
  • Speedlight (with batteries and extra batteries) with or without coloured gels.  Also softbox, snoot or umbrella for modifying light.  Light stand for hands-free operation
  • Reflectors: white, silver or gold for augmenting light.


  • I always take some way to stabilize the camera on a shoot.  What you take will depend greatly on how much you want to carry versus how much stability you think you’ll require.
  • Gorilla pod – Gives a lot of benefit of a tripod when a sturdy surface can be found.  Can also be handy to hook onto moving object when it’s impossible to handhold.
  • Monopod – Good for hiking or walking in urban settings.  Folds up nicely when not needed.  Great for public places where tripods are not allowed.
  • Tripod –  A must for night shooting, video, or when you want to include yourself in the image.
  • Bean bags – Great as an extra balance when shooting from moving transportation or when adding just a touch of steadiness.
(c) Karenfoleyphotography | Dreamstime.com
(c) Karenfoleyphotography | Dreamstime.com


  • Then there are always one-off situations to consider.
  • Macro lens and light for nature subjects or textures.
  • Remote timer or release for bulb shooting or multi-frame images like star trails.
  • Battery chargers when going on overnight trips where you can recharge.
  • Model and Property releases if you are looking to use the images in commercial applications.
  • A laptop is great to have to review images while on a shoot and to provide a back-up while travelling.

A final note, whether you’re shooting fine art photography, street photography, or stock photography I highly recommend having a business card, which identifies you as a photographer with your contact information.  You can create one using printer-ready cards available at a stationary store and free software if you don’t already have one made.  This has come in handy on numerous occasions when I’ve been stopped for taking photos in certain area, and you never know when you may uncover your next great model or professional collaborator on the road.

African Wildlife Photos

The Editor of African Wildlife Photos (Photography Blog)

Blog Comments

I like using a photography backpack since i find it easier to carry but in terms of convenience definitely the strap or tote will have to be the winner. But as you mentioned, it will depend on the context. I dont have a monopod but I can see how and when that would be useful, do have a tripod and it has definitely come in handy especially during family gatherings so everyone can join in the picture. Just doing photography as a hobby but it’s great to always learn more! Thank you for the information and tips. Much appreciated.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: