I’ve heard from several new photographers lately who are getting ready to shoot their first wedding/family/newborn/whatever, and they’re all making lists of “must have” gear: camera bodies, lenses, flash cards, lighting, etc. Obviously, you can’t leave home for a shoot without all that stuff! But I’ve also developed a small collection of “must have” essentials of my own — items that are totally unrelated to the actual shooting itself.
So here’s my Boda bag and Canon 5D Mark II, blah blah blah. But what we’re really looking at is all the peripheral stuff that I seriously canNOT shoot without!
1 – My Square credit card reader! If you don’t have a Square account, GET ONE! It’s easier than PayPal, cheaper than most credit card solutions, and you can swipe a client’s credit card right from your smartphone! You don’t have to have been in business forever-and-a-day, or fill out tons of paperwork, either. Just sign up online and request your FREE card reader in the mail! I’ve been using Square for the past couple of years, and I LOVE it.
2 – Business cards! I printed these little guys through Moo. They fit perfectly in the side pocket of my bag, and I hand them out CONSTANTLY. I actually prefer having a stack of these inexpensive cards rather than fancy embossed cards, because I can just pass them out willy-nilly without my frugal brain thinking “they’re just going to throw that card in the trash later. I’m basically throwing a $3 business card down the drain!”
3 – A comb, hair ties, rubber bands, and bobby pins! I use the comb mostly for myself. My hair gets crazy after I’ve been shooting in the heat for a while, and it’s nice to be able to smooth it back into place — more or less! The hair ties are kinda obvious, but the BOBBY PINS are my biggest lifesaver! I never use them for myself, though. I’m always using them to tuck back a strand of hair for a bride whose updo is coming loose. Bobby pins also double as button hooks when all the bridesmaids are breaking fingernails trying to button one million buttons on the back of a wedding gown! Rubber bands are great for shooting at bad kids. (Just kidding.)
4 – Lip balm. I’m addicted.
5 – Excedrin Migraine. I realize everyone has their drug of choice; this is mine! I don’t get migraines often, but when I do, they can kick my a$$. Excedrin Migraine gives me the little “oomph” I need to make it through a shoot. If you have any sort of recurring medical issues, be it allergies, stomach troubles, or back pain, be sure to have handy whatever medication will help you push through the discomfort.
6 – Sewing kit. Several years ago, Dan tripped over an abandoned wine glass in the middle of a dance floor, and he managed to rip the seam of his pants in a very inconvenient place. Ever since then I’ve carried a little sewing kit with me. You can pick one of these up at most dollar stores. You may even wind up sewing button or two back onto a groom’s suit…
7 – Mini tripod. Okay, so this is technically “gear”, but I’m so obsessed I have to include it. I won this little Giottos Mini Ball Pod a few years ago from Photoinduced, and it has been SO useful! All of my long-exposure shots are taken with this little guy, who slips nicely into the front pocket of my camera bag and weighs next to nothing.
8 – iPhone! Almost all the info I need for a shoot is in my smartphone: phone numbers, addresses, names, dates, times, GPS, maps, etc. My 2nd shooter and I text throughout the day to coordinate, and I occasionally sneak an Instagram photo. I’m sure it’s possible to shoot a wedding without a smartphone… but I wouldn’t want to do it!
9 – Lens cloth. When I won my Giottos tripod, Photoinduced also sent me this little clip-on lens cloth, that tucks neatly into a tiny bag. I’m ALWAYS losing lens cloths, so having one attached to my Boda is pretty awesome! In a pinch, a lens cloth can double as a tissue, a bandage, a drool cloth… (Of course, I recommend replacing it after any of these uses!)
10 – Cash, credit card, and ID. Because you never know when you might get arrested or need to bribe someone. (Probably not in that order.) Seriously, though, don’t shoot without some form of identification and money on you!
11 – Tissues. Not just for noses – also good for blotting makeup/sweat on your client! (Or snot, in the case of kiddos!)
12 – The timeline! I build a VERY thorough wedding day timeline for each couple I photograph (more on that later), and I would be lost without it! Make sure you have whatever details you need before you arrive at a shoot. The more information you have, the more confident you’ll feel, and the better you’ll be able to control the flow of the day and achieve the best results for your client.
13 – Pens. Because everyone should have a pen. Always. And I am my mother’s daughter.