So, I’ve been meaning to make this list for a while. There’s a bunch of banal stuff in my bag that I carry “just in case” that aren't cameras or lenses, or specific accessories for them. Some of it might seem strange, but if even one of these items helps you out of a fix I’m glad!
You can consider this post sponsored by the phrase “You’ll thank me later”.
Audio Recorder (NOT a phone)
Interviews, ambient audio, short soundbites - having something like this in your kit is invaluable for the photojournalist in everyone, even as a backup for whatever your writer owns. I have the Zoom H4n which is stunning, it’s since been replaced with an even fancier model but I picked it up second hand off a friend. It records up to 96khz 24bit WAV files which IS rather rediculous, and it’s not small, but there are plenty of smaller ones available for under $100. Even if you get the most basic model, it’s handy - the last thing you want during an emotional interview is a phone call, and if your phone dies you can still do that job.
A Good Wallet
Seriously, get a nice fucking wallet that carries a few cards and notes. Learn to tip coins to the charity buckets and ditch the 746 Boost Loyalty cards.
Notepad and Pen
As well as the audio recorder, writing shit down NOT on your phone is fast and reasonably permanent. It’s a backup if your phone dies and pretty much everyone can write. On occasion I’ve embarrassed someone when asking them to type something in to my phone as technology is still a barrier for some. One less thing for a nervous subject to deal with is a blessing.
In QLD it’s not such a thing, but in the cooler states (Victoria + Tasmania I’m looking at you) keeping your lips from looking like The Monstrous Thing can be a daily mission. Buy two, keep one in your toiletries and one in your camera bag.
For the alcoholic in all of us, or the guy who always just want’s to be that dude who can lend a hand - for the purposes of this article, the latter. Even if once a year you are the saviour, it’s worth it.
A Good Pair of Sunnies
Just get a good pair of sunnies. I don’t know a photographer who doesn’t own them and use them every day. Just do it. Cheap lenses are shit for your eyes. Your eyes will thank you in 50 years.
Spare Cables for ALL THE THINGS
“Hey, has anyone got an AUX cable so I can play my shitty playlist?” is the call. You don’t have to like what they’re listening to, but anything to keep you on side. Also a spare for whatever charger your phone needs, as every USB port is a wall socket these days.
Black Electric Tape
For the time you drop your D750 on the tiled floor at the reception and the mode dial mechanism busts and you just need it to stay in Aperture Priority for the rest of the night. Or for the next 6 months. And really, anything else. Try actual ‘leccy tape - gaff isn’t as smooth and looks even worse on your gear.
Buy a bunch of boxes of the store brand and put one in every single bag you use regularly.
Good In-ear Headphones
I like good sound.
Buy HEAPS and put them in every conceivable bag you’d have on you at any given time.
Small, inexpensive and charges via micro USB. There’s nothing like a bit of music to relax people in a portrait session or wedding prep.
Little things like this are really handy to keep on camera bags to hook keys and other things to. I use them all the time to keep my lugs from my Holdfast camera strap when I need to use a tripod.
UHF Radio x2
Have you ever done a crazy epic location shoot? Instead of screaming or signing to a bride/groom/model/assistant to move their ass from 500m+ away, give them one of these and you’re set. They don’t need mobile towers either, and they’re great for communicating quickly between vehicles. This pair take AAA batteries and cost about $100 for the pair from Dick Smith.