8 Tools Every Photographer Needs
Photography is a pretty accessory-heavy field, whether it’s a casual hobby or your entire career. When you’re just starting out, it can be hard to know what you need to buy; when you’ve been a photographer for years, you’ve probably amassed such a large collection of gadgets that you couldn’t possibly bring them all to every session.
Most of the tools on the market are either luxury items or only apply to specific situations, but there are a handful of things that every new photographer should get ASAP and every experienced photographer should always have in their bag.
Camera Bag & Straps
It can be tempting to put off purchasing a high-quality camera bag and replacement straps in favor of just using what you already have. This may work for a bit, but once you do buy these items, you’ll wonder how you managed for so long without them.
A bag that is designed to carry a camera and other photography equipment will fit and protect your tools much better than a regular backpack or shoulder bag. It’s also not a huge expense, unless you really have your heart set on a vintage handmade leather bag (we know, they’re beautiful, but the nylon ones work just as well).
High-quality camera straps are usually way more comfortable than the ones that come with cameras when you buy them. During a long day of shooting, a strap that is comfortable or that doesn’t hang from your neck can make a world of difference.
You should really have access to a tripod at all times. A full-sized one can be good to have, but since they’re also pricey and annoying to transport, we recommend prioritizing one that is lightweight and collapsible. It’ll make your life much easier, especially in situations where you need more than just the essentials and are already lugging around a bunch of extra equipment.
The tripod’s main job is to stabilize your camera, but it can help out with other tasks, too. You can use it as a stand for your lights, backgrounds, or any other accessories that you don’t have enough hands to hold yourself.
Remote Shutter Release
There’s no point in having a tripod to keep the camera steady if you don’t have a remote shutter release, too. Pushing the shutter button can cause just as much shaking and blurring of the photo as holding the camera freehand, so a remote release allows you to take photos without touching the camera.
Some remote releases are wired, and their only purpose is to keep you from touching the camera. Wireless releases, on the other hand, also offer the benefit of getting away from the camera and taking the photo from anywhere (within a reasonable distance).
Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping your equipment clean. Dirt and moisture can drastically shorten the lifespan of your camera when ignored for too long, and even in the best-case scenario, failing to clean your tools will make it so that you have to edit out every little speck and smudge on every photo you take.
There are lots of cleaning kits available, most of which contain at least a blower, a brush, a microfiber cloth, and a bottle of cleaning solution. Some kits may include extra items, but you should be able to get by on just these four.
It’s a good idea to keep extra batteries on hand to fit all the devices you regularly use, instead of waiting to grab new batteries until you think you’re about to need them. If something dies unexpectedly and you don’t have batteries or a portable charger nearby, you’re pretty much done for the day.
For disposable batteries, you should have at least as many as it would take to replace them in all your devices. For rechargeable ones, bring as many fully charged batteries as you have and a charger for the old ones.
Memory Cards & Reader
Having multiple memory cards with you any time you shoot will save you from the heartbreak of having your only card corrupted mid-session. This is normally easiest (and cheapest) if you get smaller cards.
A memory card reader lets you easily review photos on something other than your camera’s display. That way, you’ll have a larger and clearer view and preserve your camera’s battery. It can be convenient to have a memory card reader that connects to multiple types of devices in multiple ways, but one that just hooks up to your laptop will be fine most of the time.
There are a variety of reflectors, and each type allows you to manipulate lighting in a different way. Ideally, you’ll have at least white, silver, and gold reflectors, which change the warmth and contrast of the light. Some kits also have reflectors that absorb or soften light.
Reflectors are pretty lightweight, and there are a ton of collapsible reflector kits, so you should be able to fold them up into a case and add them to your bag pretty easily.
Color Balance Cards
These cards, often called grey cards, give you a reference point from which to make adjustments regarding white balance and exposure. A card that is 18% grey is considered standard, but there are other options and some debate around what is best, depending on the situation. You can research these alternatives if you’re interested, but an 18% card will be sufficient to get you started.
Bonus: Passion and Skills
Owning gear isn’t what makes you a photographer, so don’t think that high-quality equipment will give you a shortcut to being a better artist or running a more successful business.
The absolute most important things to have as a photographer are passion for your work and skills that you constantly aim to improve. If you have these, they will shine through in your photos even when your equipment is sub-par; good equipment will just enhance your work and make the process easier and more fun for you. As long as you’re shopping for them with the right motives, the eight essential tools above will be of great benefit.