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Photography Tips 5 – All The Gear, Some Idea

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This is the fifth in a series of articles discussing some of the photography techniques I’ve learned and employ when I’m out on a shoot.

I used to wonder why photographers always seem to lumber around with heavy bags full of equipment when all they do is point a camera at things and take pictures. I mean, you can buy a point-and-shoot digital camera the size of a credit card and it’ll take amazing shots. Why all the kit? Just to look cool? Well it turns out that it’s not. Here’s a picture of the kit I bring with me wherever I go:

My photography checklist

  1. A sturdy tripod – you can’t take landscapes without one – I don’t care how steady you think you can hold a camera. An essential piece of kit.
  2. A plastic bag – if it rains, put it over the camera (which is of course attached to your tripod), saves it getting wet.
  3. A cokin P filter holder with circular polarizer – it attaches to the front of your lens via an adapter ring (not shown) and allows you to attach such items as ND grad filters (my favourites).
  4. A flash gun with diffuser – forget about the in-built flash, it’s useless. You can use one of these to take all kinds of photos – even outdoors and in daylight, or produce soft, natural-looking light indoors by bouncing the light off things (like the roof). Although it’s a skill all of its own!
  5. A wide-angled lens – this is a Sigma 15-30mm. If you want to get a lot of landscape in a shot, or get a super-closeup of a cow, this is a must. I don’t use it that much but there are times when I’d be gutted if I didn’t have it.
  6. A quality camera bag – you’ll need it to carry all this kit around. The one I use slings over one shoulder, has separate compartments for all the lenses, memory cards and so forth and has an in-built all-weather cover. Never leave home without it.
  7. A cable release – when taking a photo on a tripod, a cable release means you can click the shutter without risking moving the camera and producing shutter shake. Also essential for long exposures over 30 seconds.
  8. A flash gun stand – if your friend has another flash gun, you can use one as a master to trigger the other. This lets you do neat things like put one flash on the camera and another on the ground to produce natural lighting conditions outside or inside – or some other clever effects.
  9. Spare batteries for the flashgun.
  10. A long lens – this is a 50-200mm Canon and is handy for taking pictures of things further away when moving closer isn’t an option. You can also use it to shorten the perspective on long views.
  11. A landscape lens – this is my prized Canon 24-85mm lens and is what I use for most of my shots. The range is ideal for landscapes and buy the best one you can – quality counts!
  12. A USB Compact Flash adapter – you’ll need this to speedily transfer your photos to a computer. I always have it as you never know where you’ll find a computer.
  13. A spare camera battery – my camera already has 2 in it, but you always need a spare!
  14. A remote shutter – quite handy for self-portraits and where your cable release is lost / broken / sitting in the boot of your car when it fell out.
  15. A multi-tool – handy for all sorts of random things, like opening bottles of beer.
  16. A lens pen – one side has a brush for removing dust from lenses and the other end has a foam pad for polishing them clean.
  17. A lens cloth – handy for polishing lenses and drying spots of water off things.
  18. Some filters – I only really use ND grads but there are a few others in the for special occasions like sunset filters and tobacco grads.
  19. A digital SLR with battery pack – the battery pack helps as you can rotate it to portrait orientation and there are controls and a shutter button in the right place. Try it, you’ll never go back!
  20. A fixed 50mm f1.8 Canon lens – the best value for money lens Canon makes. You won’t spend Β£70 on anything better! Super sharp and very useful to have in the bag.

So there you go – the 20 things I never leave home without along with reasons why they’re there. So if you want to take photography seriously, I’m afraid you’ll end up spending a fair bit of money on it. Believe me, I started by thinking “right, I’m not buying anything unless it’s absolutely necessary – I don’t want to end up being a gadget freak”. And that’s where I ended up!

The absolute minimum for me, if I had to choose, would be items 1, 3, 7, 11, 17, 18 and 19. All you need to start photographing landscapes!

Next: Change Your Angles.

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

7 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Very impressive. Do you carry a compact digital with you as well in case you need to shoot something really quickly?

    Also, is “cokin” a manufacturer, or is it slang where you’re from for “really good”?!

    Reply

  2. Actually I don’t as I can shoot from the hip as quickly with the SLR. However, there are times when a little compact can be handy (like when you’re in a pub) so maybe I should add it to my list!

    Cokin is indeed a manufacturer, although whether it’s used for slang or not I don’t know! πŸ™‚

    Reply

  3. It would be good if this series covered why you chose the camera you did, what you were looking for, alternatives you may have considered etc.

    Reply

  4. DSLR’s all lots faster than compacts anyway John – no shutter lag at all.

    compacts, by their very nature, have shutter lag 😦

    Reply

  5. Amazing similarity in kit there

    I do also have a 32″ reflector in my bag as well – just in case.

    used it for fun, but was thinking of getting Nige to hold it at your wedding – some crazy shadows going on with the bridesmaids and Rachael… but he was on the ale by then… and so was I πŸ™‚

    Can’t really think of anything else I’d add to your list – I’m just on the constant upgrade path – don’t need anything other than a new cable release

    Reply

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