The Street Photographer’s Photowalk Kit
The kit surely matters, so here's what I have put together
Of all the genres of photography, the one that I enjoy the most is street photography. The freedom of being able to walk around (alone or in a group) the streets and capture what’s happening around me is a wonderful experience that not just feeds my passion for the art, but also calms my mind and works brilliantly as a stress release mechanism. In the early days however, I hadn’t done too many photowalks and very often, I used to find that I don’t have something that I should have had with me on the walk. Even something as simple as a piece of dry cloth for the camera can be the most important thing when it starts raining during a photowalk. Over time and the experience of countless photowalks, I have put together my own list of things that my “photowalk kit” generally would have. And for the benefit of all the aspiring photowalkers out there, I am sharing the list below. Hope it helps. Do note however, that the kit explained here is a more elaborate set. If you are doing a single lens walk or just don’t want to carry too much stuff with you, you can choose to leave out a lot of stuff from this list and carry only what you KNOW you will need.
1. The bag: When I began, I had a standard single camera case that I bought with the camera and that worked great as long as I had just one lens. The moment I added a second lens, I knew I needed a new bag as well! So I upgraded to a nice Lowepro Fastpack 250 backpack that was just perfect for me (at that time at least). The backpack is light weight, compact and had adequate storage space to fit in my camera, lenses and other accessories. (Now however, my equipment has outgrown this bag and I am on the hunt for my next upgrade!) The key points when choosing your bag are:
* Storage space: The size of the bag will depend on how much stuff you have. So buy a bag that can comfortably hold what you currently have and also have just a bit more for any additions you are likely to make in the near future. It’s always good to have a bag with dedicated camera storage partitions for your camera and lenses and multiple pockets and pouches for the smaller stuff. External pouches for a bottle of water or your tripod are really convenient. If you some times carry your laptop or tablet, a back panel with padding provides the ideal space to put in your device safely.
* Comfort: This is critically important. I tried out at least 20 bags on my shoulders to check which fit me the best and was the most comfortable on the shoulders and my back. Photowalks are usually quite long and you would be expecting to walk with a heavy load on your back for several hours (if not days). So the bag you carry must be able to carry your stuff safely and also be as comfortable as possible.
* Protection: Again… absolutely critical. Your equipment is likely to be quite expensive, so your bag should be strong enough to take good care of everything. Protection from bumps, falls, rain and the ability to tolerate some rough handling are basic requirements from the bag you buy.
2. Tripod: If you expect to do some night photography and try out long exposures, carrying a tripod is an absolute must.
3. Camera: It’s completely up to you what camera or cameras you wish to carry. I usually carry 2 DSLRs. The reason why I carry 2 is that I have a different kind of lens on each one of them so that I can move around quickly without having to swap lenses on a single camera. On one, I usually have a medium wide or standard lens (prime or zoom) of 24mm/50mm and on the other I would have a 18-200mm or 70-300mm zoom. Sometimes, I would even put my ultra-wide 8-16mm on one of them. I also usually have a simple point-and-shoot with me for those casual party shots or selfies and stuff like that. :) The point-and-shoot has a 8GB Eye-Fi SD card so that I can transfer the photos on to my smartphone or tablet wirelessly and immediately (for sharing on social networks!).
4. Lenses: Again, like the choice of camera, you can carry whatever lens
you want or need. I usually have the following:
50mm prime lens
5. Camera accessories:
* Filters: ND filter, polarizing filter, etc.
* Flash (if you need to shoot in very low light conditions)
* Shutter release cables or remotes (essential for long exposures or remote trigger shots)
* Camera straps: I have padded neck straps but the one I like and use the most is my Blackrapid shoulder sling. It’s perfect because it pushes the weight of the camera to your shoulder instead of your neck and makes long walks a lot more comfortable.
* Extra SD cards/ Flash cards
* Blower (to get the dust off your lens)
* Extra batteries for the cameras (I have 2 batteries for each of my cameras)
* Rainsleeves (basically a plastic rain cover to protect your camera when shooting in rain or snow. I have seen that these covers are helpful even in extremely dusty conditions where there is a risk of fine dust particles damaging your camera)
6. Other Items:
* Tablet: Optional, but useful. Comes in handy for navigation, general browsing or just when taking a break to catch up on the news or on what your friends are up to on the various social networks.
* Smartphone or mobile phone
* Pocket WiFi: This is an extremely handy device that those of us in Japan are in love with. They provide very high speed connectivity (100 mbps or higher) for up to 5 devices and has excellent battery life. Effectively, because your smartphone can stay off the SIM based 3G or LTE and connect to the WiFi device, the phone battery life is vastly extended as well.
* Power Brick and USB data/charger cables: That’s what I call the external power banks because they are quite heavy! I have a 11,200 mAh power brick that can easily charge my smartphone 4 to 5 times, or my tablet twice or my wifi device 4 times. I carry at least 3 USB data/charger cables as well. Basically, I don’t have to worry about any of my essential devices running out of juice while on a long day out taking photographs.
* A Swiss knife: Not essential, but often very very handy for various reasons. You never know when you may need one, so having one with you always helps.
* A pen: Not essential, but sometimes comes in handy.
* Tissue paper and small towels: Moisture (rain, snow, humidity) is a camera’s biggest enemy and when you are out shooting in conditions where your equipment is likely to get wet, you must have tissue paper and a dry towel to wipe of the water as quickly as possible. Most modern cameras are very well built and can handle some torture, but considering how much money you are going to burn for repairs, it always makes sense to keep your gear dry an clean.
* A strong plastic bag: Just in case… has multiple uses.
7. Besides these, I always have a small bottle of water, some chocolates (for a burst of instant energy) and local currency. Of course, if you are in a foreign country where you need to carry your resident card or other mandatory identification, you should have them with you as well.
So that’s an overview of my photowalk kit. You will, of course, have your own stuff and I would be happy to hear from you what else you carry. So do feel free to add your thoughts by commenting on this post.