Top 10 Items in a Photographer's Bag

by Nate Henderson of Open Light Studio
(Savannah, Georgia)

The entire set of goods

The entire set of goods

1. Nikon D700 D-SLR
2. Nikon 35mm f/2 AF-D
3. Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-D
4. SanDisk Extreme III Compact Flash Cards
5. Interfit 48? 5-in-1 Bounce/Diffuser
6. Nikon SB-28 Speedlight
7. (2) PocketWizard Plus II Wireless Transceiver
8. Tiffen Lens Cleaning Papers
9. Lens Cleaner Liquid
10. Open Light Studio Business Cards

A little explanation about why I chose those particular lenses:

the 35mm is a great walk-around lens that is so very freeing, and the 85mm is such a fantastic portrait lens, along with even being able to use for product shots or other general closeups (we’ve utilized it instead of a macro lens on many an occasion).

Personally, I love prime lenses because of their ability to open up to a wide aperture, along with being lighter, simpler, and more lower priced than zoom lenses while having better optics.

We could go and buy the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED lens instead of these two fixed lenses, but it costs $1800 and is so dang heavy that I don’t even really want to carry it on my camera. You can get both of these lenses for less than $1000 (and they open up a full stop or more than zooms), so it makes sense on every level to me.

On another note, I didn’t put a 50mm only because I feel like the 35mm provides that extra field of view that makes it much more useable as a main walk-around lens.

The diffuser and bounce disc is such a great invention that I pretty much would always carry it around because it is so beneficial in any situation where you’re needing to soften harsh light, or fill in the eyes of a subject with the reflector.

I love it, and I wish I could always carry around an inflateable assistant to hold this for me, but alas, those haven’t been invented yet! If you’re a portrait photographer of any kind, it is amazingly important that you shape the light, and a bounce/diffuser disc is a simple, light, inexpensive way to acheive this.

The PocketWizards along with our SB-28 is the only way to utilize a flash when you don’t want some blaring fill light (especially when utilized along with the bounce disc).

They’re great because of the freedom and creativity you’re allowed in shooting and lighting. We bought the SB-28 flash because it has the transceiver plug-in built into the flash, plus it’s heavy duty, and we could buy it used from B&H Photo for less than $100.

I personally think the lens cleaning tissue and liquid is just a safe backup to always have because I want to ensure top optical quality.

Generally, I don’t want to be using my shirt and spit to clean off debris, finger smudges, etc on the lens.

Finally, I think you should ALWAYS carry around business cards if you’re actually serious about your work and building your business, whether it’s wedding photography, architectural photography, pet portraiture, or food photography.

You never know who you may run into on the street or need to make some contact of some sort.

It’s interesting to note that I didn’t include any sort of tripod; this is because as a wedding photojournalist, I rarely use one; VERY RARELY do I use one on any wedding or portrait session.

Just a note on our D700: it’s a great camera. Fantastic low-light capabilities on it’s 35mm-equivelent digital image sensor make it a no brainer for wedding photographers like us.

I won’t go into detail on why we shoot with Nikon instead of Canon because I don’t have time, and in the end, it seems to me mostly a matter of personal decision because both companies make amazing cameras/lenses.

I wouldn’t recommend spending the money on the D700 when starting out as a photographer because of the cost, but it is a good improvement once you’ve been able to add a few lenses to your bag and are on your way to making decent money as a photographer.

Lastly, I’ll just highlight the 85mm as THE LENS that you should have if you’re shooting portraits. It’s so amazingly crisp and clear, and it actually is very very sharp even when opened nearly all the way open to f/2.2.

I usually have this lens on my camera over 50% of the time at weddings because it is so gorgeous.

When you’re a wedding photographer like us, gorgeous images are key.

Well, now that I think about it, beautiful images are always key. So I’ll restate it one more time: if you’re a portrait, wedding, documentary, product, family photographer, you should get this lens.

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