Camera bodies, lenses, tripods, filters, bags, etc. – how much of this do you need? Are there other pieces of equipment that you absolutely should have? It depends on who you ask, but here are the ten pieces of photography equipment that I feel are the most important for ensuring consistently good portraits of your children, families, and anything else that catches your eye, as well as protecting your gear:
So you just dropped (insert $$ here) on a lens, but you couldn’t spend an extra few bucks for a UV filter? Egads! Lenses can last for a decade or more, if you treat them well, and the first step is ensuring that your front glass element is protected from dust, dirt, and damaging UV rays.
For just a few dollars you can add a flash diffuser to your on- or off-camera flash unit to create softer light and more even lighting (as well as letting your kids enjoy having their photo taken, rather than worrying about premature blindness). While natural light is best, there will be times when you’ll need some help from flash to get the child photo you want.
You know when you’re outside on a nice sunny day and can’t seem to get even light on your kid’s faces? This is where a reflector comes in – it lets you bounce light back from overhead sun to even out the shadows. Not sure if you need or will use one? Make a DIY version with a piece of cardboard and some tinfoil or white paper.
If carrying a full-sized tripod cramps your style then a tiny Gorilla pod may save the day when you want to be part of the photo, or are taking long exposures. If that’s not your style, carry two bulldog clips and use them to stabilize your smartphone.
These super-cheap cards let you set a custom white balance, so no matter what the lighting conditions you can get accurate colors. Simply place them in the scene, take a shot, and set your camera to a custom white balance setting! If you’re finding that your photos have a “hue” then these might just save the day.
If you only have a single memory card you’re putting yourself at risk of missing shots when your card fills up or decides to take a sick day. Get a backup – they’re pretty affordable and don’t take up any extra space. You won’t know you need one, until you do.
The same goes for a spare battery – you may not need it very often, but when you do it will be in the middle of taking the most interesting photos of your life. Also, as your primary battery ages you may find that it doesn’t last as long as it used to (the same goes for child photography in cold weather).
Although most photographers are not much of a fan of flash, eventually we all find that having a portable, small extra light source can sure come in handy, even on sunny days. An external flash that can be triggered off-camera (with a diffuser, of course), can come in really handy, particularly for indoor portraits in low light or outdoor photos where you’re working with back lighting.
A Good Camera Bag (Or two, or three…)
Having a comfortable bag that can carry the necessities (plus your wallet, phone, and kid stuff) will encourage you to take your camera out more often so you will have more opportunities for taking photos of your kids. Don’t like those utilitarian models? Check out Kelly Moore for some gorgeous bags! For a frugal option, check out local thrift stores.
A Good Portrait Lens!
If you love taking portraits of your kids then a good portrait lens is key. A great budget model is the 50mm f/1.8 which performs really well in low light and is usually around $100. A step up from that would be a 50mm f/1.4 or the wider 35mm f/1.4 – the 35mm would be a better option for close indoor portraits. Some photographers prefer the 85mm models. Remember that above all, a good lens gives you a major tool towards creating awesome images, as long as you learn to use all the tools you have available to you, particularly your camera.
Finally, get some help! A photography class, course, or workshop can go a long way towards improving your child photography skills, so you can get the most out of all of your equipment and create some memorable images.