Top 10 things I don’t Want to Shoot Without

Listing off the photography gear you feel you need is subjective at best. What is and isn’t on your list depends on what type of photography you do and your personal tastes. If everyone’s list was the same there wouldn’t be hundreds of thousands of options out there to consider. That said I still think it’s worth discussing our most (and least) favorite photography items. Here’s mine. It’s primarily a studio photographer’s list since that’s a lot of what I do.

1. My camera with lens.

Currently a Nikon Nikon D300, often with a 28-75mm f/2.8 on it. If your camera isn’t number one on your list I’m not sure what you’re capturing your images with.

2. Battery grip

My grip is virtually always on my camera and the only reason it wouldn’t be is if I upgraded to one of the D3 models where it’s permanently built in. I do a lot of portrait work and use it for ergonomics. It’s much less stressful on my body to use the vertical shutter button.

3. Light meter

Sekonic Light Meter

Sekonic Light Meter

An essential for studio photography. Your camera doesn’t know what your strobes are going to do when they fire. Trial and error is unreliable and gets old fast. Light meters are also useful for particularly sensitive situations, for example when you have to expose a small portion of a scene carefully and the camera is reading other areas as well, or for situations where the light is too low for your camera’s meter. They’re several times more accurate than the meter in your camera.

4. Spare cards and batteries

Don’t cut the day short because you don’t have enough power or space for the day. Cards and batteries are relatively inexpensive. Make sure you have enough to get through the day (or week depending on your situation).

5. Wireless triggers

Pocket Wizards

Pocket Wizards

The less cables the better. It’s easier to move around. It’s also safer, both from trips and falls but also for your camera. Arcs can not only ruin your pack and lights, it can travel up a sync cable and fry your digital camera. A safe sync adapter can help that, but the safest prevention is wireless.

6. A great case.

The right case will keep your camera gear safe, dry and clean. It can also protect your body from injury. My two favorites are my Pelican 1510 and my Crumpler Customary Barge, depending on what I’m doing and how much gear I need to bring.

7. Strobes and modifiers

Profoto kit

Profoto kit

It doesn’t really matter to me what kind I’m using, they all basically work the same way. My own gear comprises of a Speedotron brown line kit with a variety of softboxes, umbrellas, grids and more. I’d rather be working with Profoto gear for many reasons including much greater control over light output, built-in wireless sync (in some), beep on recharge etc. Either way, I like to have a lot of light and a lot of control over it.

8. MacBook Pro

Whether it’s to show the client an image, play music, preview images during various stages of the shoot or check my email while I’m waiting for hair and makeup, I like to have my laptop with me on shoots. Even if I don’t use it during the shoot for any of these things I generally have it with me to back up my images at the end of the day. It makes me nervous to travel with images from a shoot on nothing but a CF card. I would add a card reader to this as well so that I can download images from one card while shooting with another.

9. Toolkit

Clamps, gloves, Knife, flashlight screwdrivers, Pliers, gaffers tape and other things. I don’t know which ones I’ll need so they always get thrown into my bag.

10. Journal and Lead Holder

All the information from the shoot will be written down here. Names, addresses, phone numbers, concepts – anything I need to remember for the day. Things can get hectic and I don’t want to try to keep it all in my head. Further I never know what I might need to write down during the day.

As you can see, a day where I have to travel for a shoot can be a pretty heavy day. The amount of gear I could be lugging around to any given shoot can get pretty intense, especially if the studio I am shooting in doesn’t provide lights.

And now, for some things that I own but rarely use:

1. Tripod

I have a really great Gitzo tripod with ball head. It’s heavy and sturdy and when I need one it’s an outstanding tool.  However I rarely use it and often leave it at home. I’d rather let my body be the tripod. The only time I tend to use it is when doing product photography where I need a whole series to be consistent and for long exposure shots.

2. Camera strap

Boy, do I get flack from other photographers for the fact that you will rarely find a camera strap attached to my camera. I find them annoying and constantly in the way. My strap has sturdy clips attached to it so that when I do need it I can put it on quickly but it doesn’t happen that often. I like to point out that in 15 years shooting the only time I ever dropped a camera was when it was around my neck on a strap and the strap broke.

3. On camera flash

I hate the look of a photo taken with an on-camera flash whether built-in or external. If I have to I’d rather bump the ISO or drop the aperture than use a flash. If I do use a flash it will most likely be in a situation where I can’t use strobes (eg. on location) and held by an assistant or a stand somewhere off camera. This is purely a personal taste issue and one the other Phoblographers disagree with me on, I just don’t like flat lighting that having a light source that close to the camera creates.

Chris swears by his flash modifiers.

4. Filters

I have a set of Tiffen closeup filters and a few others. They usually get tossed in the bag because they’re small but I can’t remember the last time I used one. For wedding photographers and nature photographers these are essential but for my work they’re mostly just a waste of space

5. Barn doors and snoots

I don’t know why I almost never use these light modifiers. It’s not that they’re not useful and they’re virtually always in my kit but I will choose a grid or other modifier over these 99% of the time. On the other hand I haven’t seen them used in many other professional shoots either, so is it just me or do people find these useful?

So there you have it – my Top Ten and my Bottom Five. What are yours?

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