Here are 10 things every photographer or videographer should consider getting to upgrade their setup.
#1 Something to put accessories in.
You’ll need a place to put all the stuff I’m about to list off! As much as I like camera bags I have to admit I prefer camera backpacks. They’re just that much easier to carry around all day long. If you have a lot of gear like extra cameras and lenses a rolling hard case such as a Pelican case might be an even better investment. Basically you need something that will offer some protection for your gear but also offer a lot of space for storing important things and the odds and ends of your kit.
#2 A camera shoulder strap.
For photographers who spend time in nature a shoulder strap is an absolute must have in my opinion. I really like the Peak Design shoulder strap because it can quickly adjust to different lengths. This is super helpful if you encounter an area on trail where you need both hands free to stay safe. I have used this feature of my Peak Design strap many times when climbing over rocks and stuff where I want to secure my camera in tight to my body so I can freely use my hands to get to where I want to go.
Shoulder straps are basically a must have for every photographer but not everyone uses them. I often see pro’s who shoot without them and just hold their camera’s in hand. Personally, I don’t do that but I can see why a pro might try that. I don’t like accidents so I never freehand my camera unless I’m moving it to a tripod or off a tripod. In fact, I saw a videographer once knock his camera straight onto the ground breaking his lens in the process. I often run into videographers with broken lenses, lol. (And they keep using them broken for some reason.) Video guys think they don’t need camera straps but the truth is anyone holding gear in their hand should secure it with a strap. People don’t realize how hard it is to stay 100% focused for 10-12hrs of shooting until they break something expensive in an absent minded moment. For that reason I always use my Peak Design camera strap even when shooting video.
Now, if you’re using a gimbal, it might seem impossible but the beauty of Peak Design’s strap is how they attach to the camera. They use a nifty little looping mechanism that can attach to just about anything, including camera gimbals. It might be a minor inconvenience but what is worse, breaking your gear or being slightly inconvenienced?
#3 A UV lens filter of some kind.
Protecting your lens is of the utmost importance. Keep that glass safe and sound by using a UV filter. Some UV filter’s will actually increase the apparent sharpness of your lens especially when used outdoors in bright sunlight. As a professional photographer it looks unseemly to leave junk on the front of the lens. It’s quite possible that your subject may notice and they may say something… How embarrassing. And with how sensitive today’s camera’s are, a mere fingerprint smudge can produce unwanted distortions in your images. If you use a UV filter you can feel a lot better about cleaning your lens off if it gets a smudge on it and you don’t have to have paranoid delusions about ruining your expensive glass. When it comes to UV filters some are better than others but I’ve found that good one’s don’t have to be ultra expensive. I use them all the time whether indoors or outdoors solely for protecting the lens and rarely notice artifacts due to the filters such as internal reflections or flares. But it should be noted that most filters will cause some amount of reflecting/flaring when very bright light sources are near or in the frame of your image. I’ve tried a large number of filters and never found a single one that was 100% invisible when it comes to internal reflections. For that reason I wouldn’t bother with extremely expensive lens filters. Just get a cheaper one that is multi-coated and made of optical glass.
#4 Lens cleaning cloth and air blower.
Keeping your lens and camera sensor clean is important for anyone especially professionals. As a pro, anything you have to remove from your images is a pain so having dust on the sensor is a no go. Therefore you should always have an air blower on hand to blow stubborn dust particles off your sensor before starting your workday.
Since they’re so easy to carry might as well keep a cleaning cloth in your pocket or backpack for the inevitable dust or fingerprints that may get on your lens. I have several all over the place because I hate searching for them. I put them in my camera bag, my backpack, my pelican case, my pockets, you get the idea. If you use a UV filter as I mentioned in the previous tip most of them are easier to clean and have a “nano-coating” that helps repel dust and moisture. One or two swirls with the cleaning cloth should be enough to remove dirt and grime from nano coated lens filters.
If the glass is really dirty a small drop of tap water will usually help release the dirt from the glass. I also keep my cloths in zip lock containers so they stay clean. Remember that every time you touch a lens cloth the oils on your fingers rub off and will get onto the glass via the cloth. Once a lens cloth is used a few times it needs to head to the washing machine so those oils can be removed and it’ll be ready to clean lenses again.
#5 A PD capable USB wall charger with USB-C cable.
A lot of the latest generation of cameras will charge batteries in the camera if you can plug the camera in using an appropriate charger. These chargers are called PD chargers which stands for “Power Delivery”. Unfortunately, the camera companies aren’t big on supplying such chargers but they can be found at Wal-Mart and Target. I picked one up that has been super reliable for me and seems capable of charging just about everything, including cellphones. I use it to charge my gimbal, my wireless receivers, cameras, cellphone and pretty much anything that is capable of being charged by USB. I think it will even charge a Macbook. If you’re the type who occasionally forgets to charge something a PD charger can be a life saver.
#6 Extra Batteries.
While I always bring a PD charger and cable with me I never plan to charge anything during a trip or event unless it is multiple days long. I always recommend that anyone who shoots all day events bring enough batteries to shoot all day because it’s impossible to predict if you’ll have the opportunity to charge up a battery to a usable state. Plus, it’s not good for the batteries to start using them before they’ve finished charging which is what most people who do this end up having to do. It’s a common sense thing but it really is a lot less stress when you know you have enough batteries to make it through the day.
#7 Extra Memory Cards.
I was once hired to shoot video at a wedding and then when I got there the photographer told me she had to leave at 6pm and that I needed to shoot the rest of the night’s photography & videography. Needless to say I generated a LOT of data that day and filled up two 512GB CFExpress cards. But I still had more cards!! On top of that I also have 2 128GB CFExpress cards. Thankfully I didn’t have to go to those extra till the very end of the night but I did have too which is kind of scary when you think about it as it’s a monstrous amount of information but I was just like a Boy Scout, “always be prepared”. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen and what are you going to tell your client? Sorry, ran out of space on my cards? I guess you could say that but the client might be angry. A lot of times clients are fine about things at the event but a soon as it’s over the claws come out.
#8 Memory Card Holders.
Don’t just throw memory cards loose in your bag and definitely don’t stick them in your pockets for the love of all that is holy. Sure you can use those weird little cases the cards come with or you can get a nice big case to hold them all in one group together. I use two card holders, one for my SD cards and one for my CFExpress cards although there are also card holders that hold both in one. It’s just more convenient in the long run to keep all the cards in once place and keeping the cards secured in a holder also keeps them safe and sound.
#9 Battery Containers.
With today’s penchant for custom Lithium Ion Batteries finding an appropriate battery case is next to impossible so a plastic box with dividers in it where you can put all those different batteries is probably the best bet. Of course you can just chuck the batteries in a pocket of your backpack or a slot in a hard case but they can be easier to lose track of like that. I keep all my batteries in a plastic container that has dividers in it that can hold the batteries I tend to use at events. Flash batteries, camera batteries, and AA’s are what I typically keep in this case. For larger and heavier batteries such as large external battery packs and full sized strobe batteries I just keep those in their respective cases with the gear they’re supposed to work with.
#10 Portable Wagon.
Not everyone needs a wagon for their gear but if you have strobes with light stands you definitely need to get a wagon. It took me awhile to cave and get a wagon for hauling my gear around in but I’m glad that I finally did it. At a recent event shot in a very large city park there was a huge festival going on and parking was nearly impossible. I had to park like a half a mile away and walk my gear over. Damn was it nice to have the wagon that day. I try to be smart and use sandbags for my light stands so they won’t fall over and knock someone on the head. Boy would it be a pain to have to carry 40lbs of sand bags half a mile. Without the wagon I probably leave the safety equipment behind. I also like that with the wagon I have a place to put all my stuff so it’s organized together and not just strewn about with everyone else’s stuff. I shot with a video guy once who had like ten bags of gear, I was like what is all this stuff? Well, he brought like an entire studio on the shoot which was cool but it also created a huge pile in the corner of the room. It ended up being kind of a nightmare to look at so it’s another reason to consider a wagon just so there isn’t a big mess of cases and bags sitting on the floor.
I hope you appreciate this list of items that I personally use on every wedding that I shoot. This is the stuff that I have found that really helps relieve stress and worry from the day. Whether you’re shooting weddings, doing family photography, or even doing a movie shoot, I think all these accessories can help you out although some of them may need to be scaled up a notch or two depending on what you’re doing. The basic concepts are the same regardless, you need power, you need storage (for gear and data), and you need a way to move gear. Good luck!