by Sean Setters
Some photography and general purpose accessories are so useful, so vital and/or so inexpensive that they're worth having in every single camera bag you own.
The first thing you're probably thinking is, "Why wouldn't I simply remove all the items in one bag and put them in another?" And while this practice does work in theory, unfortunately it does not work as well in practice. That's because the purpose of having different camera bags is because they serve different functions. As such, we may not (or simply cannot) put the exact same items in similar places in another bag. That means that it's too easy to miss something when transferring items unless
you are diligent enough to use a checklist every time you switch bags. However, using a checklist and transferring items also takes time which may leave you rushed if the perfect photo opportunity is fleeting.
For these reasons, I prefer to keep duplicates of the most useful accessories in each of my main camera bags (2 backpacks and 2 messenger bags). To be considered for this list, the gear must meet the guidelines outlined in the first sentence of this post.
1. Memory Card(s)
It's a pretty simple concept – without a way to store images, the best camera & lens in the world are not going to help you capture the moment. Memory cards
are an essential part of the digital imaging process (unless you are tethering, and even then, many DSLRs require a memory card).
Memory card capacities have increased substantially over the years with the result of the previous high-to-mid-range capacity cards dropping in price. And when it comes to a backup memory card, you don't necessarily need the highest capacity, highest performance card on the planet. You just need something that will cover your temporary needs in case of an emergency.
2. Microfiber Cloth
Few tools in the photography arsenal are as inexpensive as they are invaluable, but that would be an apt description of microfiber cloths
. They're so inexpensive that they're often given away for free with various purchases, yet I can never seem to have enough of them. Be sure to keep at least one in every camera bag and/or lens case; you'll be glad you did.
3. Filter Wrenches
I'm a big fan of buying filters which fit my largest diameter lenses and using step-up rings
to allow those larger filters to be used on lenses featuring a smaller front filter diameter. However, filters have a way of [seemingly] becoming glued to step up rings. It's difficult for me to imagine how many times I've needed a filter wrench
to aid in separating a filter stuck to a step-up ring or a filter stuck to another filter. A circular polarizer stuck to anything can be especially difficult to remove as there is very little gripping surface to work with. In those cases, a set of filter wrenches can really save the day.
4. Weather Protection
Even if your gear bag is full of L-series lenses and professional bodies which feature a good degree of weather sealing, it's always a good idea keep some type of weather protection
on-hand for those times when torrential rain is on the horizon or wind gusts are blanketing your location with fine dust/sand. One of my personal favorite rain sleeves is the OP/TECH USA 8" Small Rain Sleeve
. It's perfect for a (gripped or non-gripped) DSLR with small to medium-sized lenses. It's inexpensive and easy to pack insurance that's hard not to justify adding to every camera bag you own.
5. Small Rocket Blower
Have you ever zoomed in on one of your landscape images only to find a dark spot in the middle of your clear, blue sky? If so, a Small Rocket Blower
could have likely saved you the trouble of removing the blemish(es) in post processing. The Rocket Blower is also handy for removing fine dust from cameras, lenses and lens elements.
6. Small Flashlight
If you photograph any type of nighttime scene (cityscapes, astrophotography, etc), then you'll need some type of light source for finding your gear (or your way) in the dark. While a smartphone can work in a pinch, it's often best to have a small, dedicated AAA flashlight
in your camera bag ready for when you need it.
7. Camera/Lens Plate & Allen Wrenches
Additional tools that you may find useful on occasion include camera
plates and the corresponding Allen wrenches. For instance, when using a gimbal stabilizer or otherwise mounting your camera in a way where reduced weight is a priority, you may want to remove the camera's battery grip and L-bracket (if applicable) and substitute a standard camera plate for affixing to your platform. And to do that, you'll also need the corresponding filter wrench(es). I typically keep a Multi Bicycle Tool
in my main camera bag and a couple of my most-used Allen wrenches in all of my camera bags. They take up very little room and can definitely come in handy when tripod and/or plate adjustments are required.
8. Garbage Bag
Bryan eloquently detailed the value of keeping garbage bags
in your camera bag in his article, "The 1 Cheap Accessory that should be in All of Your Camera Bags"
. Garbage bags are cheap, versatile and easily accessible. If you don't add anything else from this list to your camera bag(s), there's simply no excuse for neglecting to one of these.
9. Pen and Notepad
While a smartphone may be the ultimate Swiss Army knife of gadgets, its need for constant power to make use of the device means that there's still room for tried and true analog tools in your kit, especially when they take up little space and are so easy to stow away in a pocket. A small notepad and pen are perfect examples. I personally prefer the reliability and versatility afforded by the Fisher Space Pen
and Rite in the Rain Tactical 3x5 Notebook
, a combination that allows for usage in extreme environments (including rain) where I am much less likely to prefer using my smartphone.
10. Business Cards
Have you ever struck up a conversation with a total stranger just because you were spotted photographing with a "nice camera?" One of the best ways to convert a complete stranger into a photography client is to have a business card at your fingertips when the conversation is initiated.
11. Photographers' Rights Reference Material
Police, security personnel or even everyday citizens may have the best intentions, but they may also prove a little overzealous if they decide they do not like you photographing a particular scene. A little education goes a long way, and keeping some sort of reference material
in your gear bag can be advantageous in any confrontation where the law is clearly on your side. Print out the relevant information and keep a folded copy in a camera bag's pocket; hopefully you'll never need it, but you'll likely appreciate it if and when you do.
So that's our 11 small, inexpensive things you should consider adding to all of your camera bags. Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below.