10 camera bag essentials

What do you keep in your camera bag beyond a camera and lenses? With numerous pockets, pouches and sleeves, camera kit bags are perfectly designed to carry the all gear you need regardless of the subject you’re shooting. 

The accessories photographers carry in their bag will vary from photographer to photographer. Of course some items will be similar if not identical, and others will depend entirely on what types of subjects the photographer shoots, but below are some of the most useful (and sometimes forgotten) accessories every photographer should consider having in their bag.

1. Manfrotto Pixi

This tiny tripod can be a lifesaver when you need to position your camera and don’t have a standard tripod with you. It’s so small it may need to be positioned on a wall or table, but the built-in ballhead allows you to get your camera at just the right angle. Plus, it’s great for getting ground-level shots. The Pixi weighs just 190g so you don’t even notice you’re carrying it, and it offers a maximum payload of 1kg.

Giottos Rocket Air Blower

A simple cleaning item I always keep to hand is a Giottos Rocket blower for blowing dust and fluff away from the lens without making physical contact. It’s also useful for doing the same with filters that have picked up dust in transit. These really are the only uses we find for the Rocket Blower, but it weighs virtually nothing and takes up very little space in your bag - it will prove itself to be invaluable.

Domke F-34R 11-inch Protective Wrap

Sometimes the best accessories are the most simple, and the Domke Wrap fits perfectly into this category. They’re simply square pieces of non-scratch material with a hook and loop knit on the outside to secure them around cameras, lenses and other accessories. They're great for protecting compacts or mirrorless cameras when carried in non-camera bags.

Sun-Sniper The Pro II

Camera straps that are permanently attached to the camera can be super useful but there are times when they just get in the way. And with the strap that comes with your camera it can be a faff to take it on an off. The alternative is something like a Sun-Sniper sling style strap that’s more comfortable than a standard strap over long periods of time, and most importantly quickly attaches to the camera via the tripod mount at the bottom.

Hoya Variable Density Filter

Shooting with a prime lens wide open is great for outdoor portraits and for achieving differential focus effects with other subjects. The only problem here is that on bright days, even at ISO100, the fastest possible shutter speed may not be fast enough to shoot at f/1.8 for instance. By using a variable ND you are able to control how much light is blocked depending on the conditions, and can continue shooting with the aperture wide open.

Hama Lenspen

When you’re out and about shooting it’s all too easy to suffer dirty marks on your lenses and filters. It’s always best to carry a lens cloth and cleaning solution, but a lenspen is such a quick and easy way of removing light marks with minimum fuss. This is perfect when you’re working quickly or you’re in a location where a traditional clean would be a hassle. A Lenspen won’t remove grease, but it will get rid of most other marks.

Hoya Revo SMC Circular Polarising Filter

Many landscape photographers will nearly always shoot using a filter holder with a polarising filter and drop-in ND grads. The only problem is that they can take up quite a bit of space, so you might not always carry them, particularly when you're not expecting to shoot landscapes or cityscapes. The alternative is to always carry a screw-in polarising filter because it takes up no room in your  bag and can improve blue skies, remove reflections and glare from glass and water, while it can boost saturation, too.

Hama Two Axis Spirit Level

Since most cameras these days have a virtual horizon feature built into Live View, you’re probably wondering why you'd bother with a traditional spirit level. When shooting with the camera on a tripod at awkward angles or low down, it can be so much easier to use this rather than try to look at the LCD screen. It can also help save power when batteries are running low.

Lastolite 30cm Reflector - Silver/White

A reflector is a photographer’s best friend, and it’s common to own several at different sizes and with varied surfaces. If you can only have one though, a silver/white reflector can be used to soften shadows in portraits, and throw light back onto foreground interest in landscapes. Lastolite by Manfrotto produces 30cm reflectors that fold down super small for transportation.

TriggerTrap Dongle

When going out with the intention of shooting landscapes and cityscapes you will probably carry a standard remote release to save on phone battery power, but for those unexpected shoots the TriggerTrap Dongle is ideal. This is because the smartphone app is packed with modes including time-lapse and HDR making it quick and easy to shoot when using up phone battery isn’t a problem. Teamed up with the Manfrotto Pixi and polarising filter, it’s the perfect emergency combination.

James Abbott

James Abbott is a professional photographer and freelance photography journalist. He contributes articles about photography, cameras and drones to a wide range of magazines and websites where he applies a wealth of experience to testing the latest photographic tech. James is also the author of ‘The Digital Darkroom: The Definitive Guide to Photo Editing’.