What to Put in Your Camera Bag
Your camera bag serves as a portable storage locker. It should have everything you need for a particular shoot. What you pack depends on the size of your bag.
Take small bags when your goals are limited and precise.
Take a medium bag when you want more flexibility.
Carry a large bag when you need to keep all your options open.
Make a habit of packing your bag consistently. In other words, pack the same things in the same places every time. Being consistent makes it easier to find and grab what you're looking for.
Carrying a small camera bag
You’re limited to the bare essentials when carrying a small camera bag. Small camera bags are easier and lighter to lug around. You won't be as tired at the end of a shoot, and you have fewer things to keep track of.
|Pack this||Because of this|
|Camera body||Make sure to pack your camera body (most people only need one). Pack it with a fresh, recently formatted memory card and fully charged batteries. If going on a long trip, take those items out of the camera and pack them separately.|
|Lens||With a small camera bag, you’re limited to a single lens ((maybe two). Most times, you should pack the lens you'll be using attached to the camera body.|
|Remote||Remotes are generally very small. You should have no trouble packing one in a small bag.|
|Extra batteries||Take at least one extra battery.|
|Extra memory cards||If you don't have access to a computer during your shoot, you may need extra memory cards. Try not to end shoots because you ran out of card space!|
|Cleaning cloth||Use a washcloth-sized microfiber cloth to wipe down and clean your camera and lens.|
|Lens cleaning cloth or tool||Lens cleaning tissue, microfiber cloths, or a small blower with a brush on it should go with you.|
|Lens cleaning solution||If you like using a lens cleaning solution, make sure to pack it.|
|A lens filter||Small camera bags don't have room for many, but you should be able to fit at least one filter if you attach it to the lens. Make it your go-to filter. Carry a clear protective or UV filter.|
|Pop-up flash diffuser||If you plan on using your camera's pop-up flash, it's nice to have a diffuser. Bring something like Gary Fong's Puffer.|
|White balance tool||If the white balance card is small (like a credit card), you should be able to pack it in your small camera bag.|
|Miscellaneous||You may be able to carry extra glasses (if necessary), the camera manual (in case you forget something), business cards, and model release forms.|
Upgrading to a medium camera bag
If you’re constantly frustrated at not being able to fit what you need in a small camera bag, upgrade to a mid-sized bag — about the size of a small satchel or gym bag. Most people who use medium bags like being able to carry more lenses and an external flash unit, plus a few other accessories.
The goal isn’t to pack everything you have in a larger bag. It's simply to take those things that will make life a bit easier on the shoot.
|Add these things||To do these things|
|A second or third lens||Pack an alternate lens. Keep your main lens attached to the camera body.|
|Additional filters||What you add depends on what you’re shooting. Carry a circular polarizer if you want to reduce glare. Add black-and-white filters if you want to shoot in black and white. Carry ND grad or ND filters if you think you'll need some control over exposure. Pack color, color grad, or special filters if you want more creative options.|
|Medium blower||Carry a mid-sized blower to blow dust out of your camera body.|
|External flash||You should be able to squeeze in an external flash. If things are too tight, you might not be able to carry that second lens.|
|Extra flash batteries||Always carry extra flash batteries.|
|Flash diffuser or bouncer||Space is still limited, so carry a small diffuser (that fits on the end of the flash) or a collapsible bouncer.|
Using a large camera bag
You know you're ready for a large bag when you find yourself taking two or more medium bags to every shoot. Large camera bags can be big and bulky. They have to be. The tradeoff to size and weight is that you have much more flexibility on location.
|Fill 'er up||To add these capabilities|
|Extra camera body(s)||Packing another body lets you instantly switch lenses. For example, put a telephoto lens on one body and a standard zoom lens on the other. You're able to switch lenses by switching cameras.|
|Several lenses||Pack all your favorite lenses and decide which one you want to use on location.|
|Rain cover||Pack one or more rain covers and other protective gear for your camera and flash.|
|A larger number of filters||Pack all the filters you can fit in your bag. You might want to add a range of ND and ND grad filters, more black-and-white filters, different color filters, and more special effects options.|
|Large blower||Fit a large blower in a large camera bag if you like.|
|Additional flash gear||Bring more and different types of diffusers, a collapsible soft box, cords, brackets, gels, and so forth. Gear like Gary Fong's Lightsphere or Snoot will require more space, but are worth it.|
|Light meter||If you have a light meter, consider packing and using it instead of your camera's light meter.|