I remember when I was looking at what camera I should buy, I came across a video of Trey Radcliff showing off his gear bag for a trip. He pull out a fairly decent sized bag and went through a series of cameras, lenses, tripods, SD cards, Batteries, gizmos, and gadgets that he would take with him around the world. Of course I was impressed, the value of all that equipment must have been tremendous. However, after spending some time shooting street I know that you really do not want to bring a big heavy bag full of gear with you when you go shooting. So here is my take on what to take when you shoot street photography.
One Camera, One lens
I’m an absolute believer in “One camera, one lens” for street photography. Sticking with one camera and lens helps you to know it inside out and be fully prepared when you are out shooting. You don’t have to struggle to remember how to access the flash, or kick yourself for missing that detail in the corner of the frame which was cropped due to the wider view angle.
It also helps you to learn to see the frame and perspective, helping you pre-see the image. Sticking to one focal length will also give you a distinct style and finally it helps you to travel light and move around quicker without having to worry about switching lens. When you only have one lens, it is always the right lens, when you have two options, you’ll be amazed the number of times you choose the wrong focal length.
Don’t get me wrong, in the course of your career you can change focal length and switch to a different style (just look at Joszef Kouldeka) but sticking to one focal length is great in the short term and long run.
Camera strap of choice
If you don’t like camera straps, that’s fine, but I always like that little extra security and option to rest my hand for a while. A camera like the Fuji x100t isn’t the easiest to firmly grip in your hand for long periods of time. On a long day shooting, I welcome the option to hang it from my neck and fiddle around with my bag.
A notebook and pen/pencil
A notebook is essential on the streets, sure you could use a phone’s notebook app, but I find a paper notebook is nicer for me and other people. A notebook lets you record ideas and thoughts as you go out shooting. Maybe you see a spot that isn’t right at this time or you hear about an up coming event you would like to shoot. Take a note.
Also if you take someone’s photo with their permission you can take down their details and then send them a copy of the image. A great way to build connections.
A bottle of water
I’m a big believer in drinking lots and lots of water. I find that I feel more awake and have better ideas when I’m really hydrated. On a hot day, a bottle of water is essential, but even on a cold day you can loose a lot of water due to wearing warm clothes.
A light snack/energy boost
When you eat, you aren’t shooting, and when you go into a shop to buy a snack, you aren’t shooting. If you add in the price of food in big cities, it really makes a good case for bringing along a snack or quick energy boost of your own. My guilty chocolate pleasure are snickers as they seem the most filling.
Backup battery and SD card
Don’t run out of power or storage on the street, take at least an extra battery and SD card. If you can, you should take one more than you need for the amount of time you are out shooting and change battery as soon as you see the little red warning come up. You don’t want to suddenly find your camera dies at the perfect moment.
I also recommend changing SD card midway through the day. That way you can avoid loosing all your photos if the SD card develops a problem AND you will still have some of your photos if you get robbed.
A little bit of money
Traveling around, buying snacks, grabbing a drink with someone you meet along the way. All these things require money so take a bit with you. In general it makes a good case for using a card so you don’t have change banging around in your pocket.
The smallest bag you can get away with
I don’t think there is such thing as a good bag for street photography. All the major camera bags seem to focus on carrying lots of gear and making it easily accessible. But if you have a one camera, one lens mentality, you should have everything you need at hand. Sometimes I shoot without taking a bag and love the freedom of movement I have. Having said that, forcing too much stuff into my small pockets [try carrying a bottle of water!] is also inconvenient so I have a pragmatic mindset of having the smallest bag possible.
The cosoplay camslingers seem pretty good (I have no personal experience of them yet) as you can fit a bottle of water, sd card, battery and then put your camera away later. Plus they are discreet and won’t get in the way. However, a much cheaper alternative is just your average 10ltr bag. That should be enough for a bottle of water, snack, batteries, SD card and some of the optional extras below.
Of course, depending on the climate and situation, you may want to take a few extra items. These may include:
- a coat [rain, it happens]
- A jumper/sweater [the cold, it happens, especially late at night]
- an Umbrella [keep your pricy camera dry and lens clean.]
- A flash [some people love flash]
- tripod [useful for longer shutter shots]
- ND filter [great for removing crowds]
- Phone with remote shutter app [again long shutter shots]
- iPad and SD card reader [if you are out with another photog, this can help show of the photos you took]
Things you shouldn’t take
- Multiple lenses
- A huge bag (unless you are traveling and have no option)
- A big obvious camera [dslr’s..urgh]
- A laptop [wait till you get home]
What do you take when you are out shooting street photography ?