10 Kit Bag Essentials for the Light-Traveling Photographer

It’s entirely possible to fill an entire car full of photography equipment and related gadgets. Sometimes, however, you just want to travel light and actually spend time taking photos rather than spend an hour packing, followed by further hours of incessant fiddling with an array of gizmos while on shoot.

So let’s get back to basics! Assuming you’ve got a good primary and secondary lens ready to go (alongside the camera and kit bag itself, of course), let’s look at the ten basic essentials you’ll need for to cover most—if not all—eventualities. And be sure to check out our guide to the seven essential camera hacks every photographer should know.

1. Filters

An example of a lens filter

As discussed when talking about how best to shoot moving water, filters are a hugely important part of your arsenal… but of course, you don’t always want to have a hundred different filters to fumble with while you’re out on a shoot.

Lighten the load by paring it down to two: An ND filter, and a polarizing filter. Not only will this see you through most situations, but it’ll also encourage you to become more familiar with your camera and shutter settings to achieve the same effect you would have done by otherwise digging through a big kit bag full of filters.

2. Bean Bags

Or a bag of rice. Basically, anything pliable that will allow you to sit a camera snugly on an otherwise uneven surface, and can be a makeshift replacement for a tripod if you’re really looking to travel light.

3. Foil

Man wearing foil mask

A role of aluminium foil is almost essential for interior photography, and particularly when live models are involved. Don’t lug around extra lighting; simply wrap some foil around a board or wire frame and make better use of the natural light you’ve got.

4. An Extra SD Card

Assuming you’re relying on memory cards to store your shoot, it’s always best practice to carry a spare. Not because you might run out of space—with increasingly larger and cheaper SD cards, that’s not much of an issue these days—but if your sole card throws up a glitch, you’ve lost your entire shoot.

5. Tape

Black and orange gaffer tape

The importance and usefulness of a humble roll of gaffer tape cannot be understated, especially since it has proved to be a lifesaver to more than a few photographers who have found themselves in a sticky situation.

You don’t need a gigantic, sixty-yard roll of the stuff taking up bag space—just a thin and small eight-yard roll of gaffer tape will suffice for those occasions when you need to secure something to something else (which, as you know, happens all the time.)

6. Miniature Color Checker

X-Rite produce a wide selection of color calibration charts that fit snugly inside a camera bag, ensuring that you get perfect color correction and white balancing every single time.

7. Camera Jacket

Roof tiles in the rain

It goes without saying that high-tech cameras aren’t best friends with water, so be sure to pack a waterproof camera jacket (especially if the weather can get a little unpredictable where you are.) Try to get one specifically designed for your camera model to ensure a snug fit.

8. Compact Cleaning Kit

Nothing fancy needed; simply a small bottle of cleaning fluid and some swabs that won’t get fibres all over the lens as you’re cleaning it. A compressed air blower is also a savvy addition to your kit bag too for the off chance you get dust on the sensor in between changing lenses.

9. Batteries

The top of a camera

For the love of all things holy, pack a spare battery. The necessity of this shouldn’t need stating, but it’s surprising how many photographers still get caught out when the battery they thought was fully charged turns out to be as flat as a pancake (or they misjudge the effects of the cold weather on the battery drain.)

10. A Plan

Want to shoot efficiently? Figure out exactly what you’re aiming to achieve and where you’ll be able to do that. Because a plan won’t take up any space whatsoever, but will save you a whole lot of time.

Got any other must-have photography essentials that you never leave the house without? Let us know down in the comments below!

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