It will probably come as no surprise to you that there are certain "must-have" items that photographers don't really need in their lives. Before making your next purchase or business decision, check out this list.
You don't have to look too hard on the Internet to find lists of "must-have" items all photographers should own. I have to confess that I have added to this noise by writing such articles myself. While I hope these pearls of wisdom were always helpful, your house could easily start to resemble a photo store if you bought every single item ever recommended to you. Not only would this be bad news for your bank balance, but it could slow down your progress as a photographer, as some of these unnecessary items will just act as a distraction.
In no particular order, here are 10 things you probably don't need as a photographer.
For many years, Photoshop was one of the few places to edit your work. This has changed in recent years thanks to free Photoshop clones such as PhotoPea and GIMP. Photoshop is unquestionably one of the great editing programs out there, but unless you are using a lot of Adobe's fancy tools, the cost of a subscription could be spent on something else.
2. The Latest Camera
Keeping up to date with the newest camera releases will not make you a better photographer. While it's obviously nice to buy new gear, the incremental improvements the manufacturers make are not worth the thousands of dollars you would need to spend every few years. I still occasionally shoot on my backup Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which was released back in 2008. I personally believe it's better to master the gear you have and use that camera money elsewhere.
3. Camera Straps
This may seem like a petty one, but I don't think you need to spend money on additional camera straps when your camera probably came with a perfectly good one at purchase. While I can see the merits of some of the fancy quick-release options out there, the traditional camera strap has never failed me, and the 50 or so dollars saved could be used on a couple of inspiring photobooks instead.
4. A Light Meter
Being able to measure light is obviously a useful thing for photographers to be able to do. Saying that, I don't think in this day and age a dedicated light meter is worth having on most occasions. Not only is it something extra to carry around in your camera bag, but a decent light meter will cost a good few hundred dollars. Instead, I prefer to trust the meters built into the camera, or if I need a rough idea of what the light is doing when I'm shooting on film, I use a light meter app on my phone. It's not going to be as good as a purpose-built light meter, but my iPhone and the Pocket Light Meter app have always done a pretty good job of getting me in the right ballpark.
5. Film Photography
While I must confess to shooting on film from time to time, I don't think the majority of photographers (including myself) should be working in this medium. It's expensive, there's a greater risk of losing images, and it's a much slower way to learn photography when compared with the instant feedback of digital. If the most interesting thing about an image is the fact it was shot on film, then the photographer is in trouble. Worry less about the camera and the medium and more about the images and stories made. An amazing image taken on a smartphone will always trump a mediocre one shot on a film camera. Film photography is one of the biggest distractions for photographers trying to learn the craft and hone their style.
6. Branded Photography Cases
There are some amazing hard photography cases out there that are water-resistant and seemingly bomb-proof. They also cost a small fortune if you need several to house all your gear. Instead, search for "hard tool case" or "waterproof toolbox" online to find similarly rugged storage options for your camera gear. I own a few of these tool cases, and they are just as tough and waterproof as the ones that cost five times as much. By sidestepping the dedicated photography cases, you can avoid the higher premiums that seem to be placed on most photography equipment. For those worried about looks, these tool cases look just as professional as anything you can buy from the camera store. With the money saved on buying several of these cheaper tool cases, you could treat yourself to a nice lens instead.
7. Bought Presets
It feels like every photographer with a presence online has a set of presets to sell these days. You may have guessed from that last sentence that I'm not a fan of presets. More specifically, it's paying good money on a preset that will make your work look like someone else's. By all means, use presets to help speed up your workflow, but it's better if you make your own, not just so you understand what is happening to your images, but also so your work doesn't look like everyone else's.
8. Teams of People to Work With
If you were to believe the many behind-the-scenes photoshoot videos online, you’d think it was crucial to have a big team of people with you when you make your pictures. I’m here to say it isn’t necessary. Of course, it’s great having a team of stylists, makeup artists, and assistants with you on a shoot. But you’d be surprised how much you can do on your own. Remember, it’s the final image that counts and not the numbers in your entourage. The reason I wanted to make this point is for those photographers who are reluctant to pick up the camera because they don't have a team of people to work with. This kind of mindset will just slow down your growth as a photographer.
9. A Fancy Website
Having a home online for your work is always going to be important for photographers, and a personal website is still the best place for your images to be seen by customers and clients alike. That being said, this website does not need to have every fancy new plugin or widget you can possibly throw at it. Please don't waste your time and money trying to have a website do something special when it's your photography that should be doing the talking for you. Instead, opt for an off-the-peg template that best suits your style and branding and works flawlessly on all devices. You'll waste thousands of hours and dollars on websites and web designers trying to keep these features working correctly if you try to do anything too fancy.
10. Having 100 Amazing Images in Your Portfolio
The biggest mistake I see photographers making is that they think they need a massive body of work to get clients. Of course, it's important to have a collection of well-rounded images in your portfolio, but you don't need to have made 100 killer pictures for clients to start calling you. The number of images you actually need in your portfolio will vary from industry to industry, but 10 to 15 great pieces will show most prospective clients and customers that you're capable of doing what they need. The biggest pitfall with trying to amass hundreds of amazing images for your portfolio is that by the time you get even halfway to that magic number, the older work will no longer meet your standards and you'll want to remove it. If you wait until you have made 100 amazing pieces before touting your wares as a photographer, you'll never actually get there.
So, there you have it, 10 items I don't think you need as a photographer. While I'm sure some of my suggestions will ruffle some feathers, I do truly believe that less is more when it comes to making great work. Carrying too much, both physically and metaphorically, is never going to be a healthy place for a creative person to be. By minimizing what you need as a photographer, you can cut through the distractions and use your time, money, and energy on things that will actually make a difference to your career.
Over to You
Any items you think I missed off the list? Anything I mentioned you disagree with? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Paul Parker asked,
"Any items you think I missed off the list? Anything I mentioned you disagree with? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below."
What a great way to finish off an article! Inviting reader participation by asking a question is a great way to get us to engage with the content and generate more "clicks" for the site.
One item that always seems unnecessary to me is a white balance card, Can't people just "see" what true white is, and adjust the tint and color temperature settings accordingly? I mean, if someone doesn't have a great natural eye for fine shades of color, then I guess a white balance tool may be useful, but for many of us, this is our livelihood, so we are supposed to be really good at assessing color subtleties very precisely with our naked eye, right?
Hi Tom, I recently shot a friend’s wedding in extremely difficult indoor and outdoor light and committed way more time and effort than I could afford in post to ensuring the exquisite shade of white in the bride’s dress was replicated authentically across the shoot - only to hear back that I hadn’t nailed it and she was disappointed.
A white balance card may have saved me hours and made the bride happier.
The card is mandatory equipment. BTW, if you were shooting Nikon, the gray batteries are neutral gray.
Just accept that you won't make her happy. If the main feature of her wedding is exquisite shade of white of her dress - then there is not too much you can do...
"One item that always seems unnecessary to me is a white balance card, Can't people just "see" what true white is,"
Tommy, why do you think the photography industry has so many in camera white balance devices/cards on offer? The only shooters that can "see what true white is" are the rank amateurs.
Although I would agree with many of the items you've listed, I believe it to be rather presumptuous to state who needs or doesn't need what. Best leave that decision to the photographer I should think. As for me, I may need a camera strap at any given moment, and I do need (well I do have) a light meter which I do use for my film photography via Fuji GX680 and Hasselblad 500 CM. That is my choice. My decision which....I DO need. Thank you very much. Everything else...not interested.
May want to reread/read.
Yes, I just did. Then I went and 'reread' the title. My comment still stands. Regardless of what you may want to tell me (us) or believe, each person has the right to choose what they need, as per the title of this article. If the contents of this article are contrary to any meaning implied by its title, then.....CHANGE THE TITLE.
PS: second to last paragraph; "So there you have it, 10 items I don't think you need as a photographer. " I do believe I've addressed both this sentence and the title itself.
Ditch PhotoShop for Gimp et al: Bwaaaaaahahaha....! ! ! !
Camera strap: Sure, I want to run around and advertise which high dollar camera/lenses I have around my neck, in my bag and in my car. Besides that, "came with camera" straps suck and look stupid. What part of "I'm an idiot fanboy and want to be robbed." don't you understand?
Boy. This pandemic really made people salty and rage filled. Or maybe it just showed their true feelings. Did you know? Camera straps can be turned around where the logo doesn’t show? Do you also realize I doubt any rocket doctor thief’s are smart enough to research what cameras costs are or what body/lense brand is “high dollar.” A thief is going to take what they want. Period. Pro tip. Don’t keep your gear in your car.
I have never seen or know anyone in the business using a factory logo emblazoned strap. Thieves are well aware that fences pay more for certain brands. Ebay is an easily available and accurate database for what anything will sell for. Turn the strap around? C'mon, Zac, that's a lame suggestion; those straps are crap; betting you don't use one. BTW, that strap is the only thing the thieves won't steal.
You are correct. I use straps with no logo or any type of identification, well maybe small ones which you have to look for. It's nonsence. Trivial. Belabored
Yeah, that guy who responded to your earlier reply was not being nice at all. More concerned about being "right" than being friendly. But the point you made about maybe wanting to actually read the article before commenting was a solid point that needed to be made.
I loved the strap that came with my Nikon d800 because it stayed on my shoulder, I did take a black marker to tone down the logo.
Lenses you rarely use. I sold thousands of dollars of lenses and now if something comes up (rarely does), I rent
No Photoshop? If you run a business the cost of renting photoshop or even the entire creative bundle is just nothing. Photoshop is your lab, and your entire darkroom. Might as well go with no camera.
I think a good camera strap that can quickly attached and detached is a very handy tool. Sometimes u need it, sometimes you don’t . The ones that come with the cameras are quite difficult to remove or reattach. for me it is really a worthy investment.
Let's be fair to the author by noting that he never said that we don't need camera straps. He said that the strap that came with the camera will usually suffice, and that we do not need aftermarket 3rd party straps. Totally agree.
Sometimes it seems like some people make comments before reading every word of the article.
It seems like YOU replied to Viktor without understanding what he said. Viktor also didn't say we don't need strap. He said "a good camera strap that can quickly attached and detached is a very handy tool" Viktor understood the OP perfectly and responded intelligently.
OK I guess if one is taking the word "need" very literally but having a camera strap that makes your work go faster and more smoothly is smarter and more cost effective than the terrible vendor strap. Same for Photoshop, same for newest camera sometimes. You got the clicks so good for you I guess but many of us know that being cheap isn't always being smart.
Personally I feel that there have been a few border snarky comments from some writers lately to kind of dissent readers critics, especially in the last month or so. This article comes perfectly to show that critics from readers are more often than not justified. I think that with magazines, people would just stop purchasing a title if they felt that the info published wasn't too accurate or looked like a commercial. But magazines didn't publish 40 to 60 articles a week, so may be it's not the readers who are always at fault.
Correct. I am under the impression that some writers (who knows, maybe all?) do write for any type of comment they can get just to generate clicks. That said, the article has provoked some types if interest as the comments do declare. My comment(s) are not intended to border the 'snarky', but to inform the author as to who has the right to decide what is or is not 'needed'. There have been times when I have given snarky comments, but again I go back to your initial wise statements. Good of you to point it out to everyone.
Two minor disagreements. Film can approached as a different medium with different aesthetic rules. To say it isn’t needed to capture a meaningful image is true but to say it isn’t needed is to say watercolor painting isn’t needed since you can capture images using oil paint.
Photoshop isn’t needed but it is bundled with Lightroom, and there simply isn’t a good alternative to Lightroom for categorization of images.
For a beginner and even for most people not earning a living with photography, I would argue more than three prime lenses (or two zooms) isn’t needed for 95% of photography.
I have found that the content aware functions and the shake reduction filters (under sharpen) are worth the full $10 monthly rental cost of PS. However, Adobe just got rid of the shake reduction filter so I kept an older version of PS to keep the filter. While located under "sharpen", it is not a sharpening filter. When shooting, there is often a small amount of movement and the filter actually adjusts the pixels appropriately to account for this movement. There are other programs that appear to do this, but not really.
A new camera strap may not be completely necessary, but It would be great if the strap you get with your camera came with clips so you can easily remove or put on the strap when needed. I use some very good and useful 3rd party clips and glad they are available.
The only one I disagree with is Photoshop. It is literally bundled with Lightroom Classic for €12.29/mo. If you just want Lightroom, you have to pay €24.59/mo for a single app plan. As much as perhaps I wouldn't "need" Photoshop, it's literally cheaper to have.
Film (remember microfilm) and tape is used massively as a data storage solution as digital storage fails way earlier. A bit of homework would not hurt before publishing things…
The author never said that film is not at all useful. He said that we may not need it. And he is right! I have absolutely no use for film as a digital storage solution, and neither do 99% of the photographers on the planet. Just because something is used in a certain way does not mean that the layperson has an actual need for it.
"It's expensive, there's a greater risk of losing images". It's factually wrong. That was my point.
I come from film and just can't agree with this. It is expensive can be lost or damaged many ways. Proper archiving alone is expensive and takes lots of space over the years. Add to this that the process from exposure to actually being able to use the images is extremely slow, that most people do end up with digital images anyway after scanning and that labs can screw your rolls and scratch them. Any handling of film can result in damages, from blowing dust off to moving in and out a strip of frames from its protective sleeve.
The tapes you are referring to do not get handled by hand and are all in some form of protected environment. In photography, the closest to those long spools of tapes you are referring to are the spooled rolls of exposed film and paper rolls that get developed in huge batches. But that's the kind of lab if any of them still exist, that you want to stay 100% away from.
Lenses....Too many of them. This is after I have purchased six. Don't use four of them often. One can start with a all in one. Progress to a speciality prime. And that's it. Unless you are a professional.
ND Filters....if you are a hobbyist then you do not need them except maybe one of adequate filter rating.
I disagree on the strap. Buy a comfy large strap. It helps you keep clicking without worries.
I never use manufacturers' camera straps is simply because they're useless.
I've yet to find one that doesn't become uncomfortable after just a short time. And speaking of 'short' they're never long enough to be used in any way except hanging your camera around your neck. Which I never do.
Bizarrely, the best manufacturers' strap that I've got and actually use, is the one that came with one of my OM10 film cameras. And yes, despite your insistence to the contrary, I still enjoy shooting with film.
Most of these I've either never had and some I've even never heard of, like presets. It is painful to think of not having a hand held meter, but your right, I'm on an extended trip and left it behind for the first time. My work is fairly straight, but every image has passed through Photoshop for some type of edit. I'm an early Linux user but never thought much of Gimp.
Great article - Thanks. For me, I could not live without Photoshop. And the "cost of a subscription [that] could be spent on something else" is nothing compared to my cable bill, which is much less important to me.
I know people who can't even use PS and do a tremendous job editing just in LR, so I acknowledge I may be an outlier.
The best lenses.
You don't NEED the 2.8 Trinity AND f/1.2 primes AND an 800mm f/4 AND to cover everything from 12 to 1200mm
Just chill out and think about what you actually need instead of going crazy and building a kit of the 12 best lenses, of which you'll end off using 2-3.
yep! I have six good to high quality prime lenses (don't like zooms) and rarely use three of them.
I think that some photographers will use more than 2-3 lenses with regularity.
I currently have 6 lenses, and use 5 of them a LOT. I also had a 400mm f2.8 that I used a lot, but I was desperate for money a couple years ago, and had to sell it so I could pay my car insurance and buy gas and food. So if I still had that 400 f2.8, I would be using 6 lenses with great regularity.
I used to have a 400 f5.6 prime lens that I used a lot, but when the newer 100-400mm came out, it outperformed the 400 prime in every way so I sold the prime.
The only lens I have and don't use regularly is the 50-200mm Canon L series lens from 1988. The range is extremely useful, and the optics are great, but the autofocus is very slow, clunky, and not completely reliable, so it only gets used sparingly.
Well - mostly right. I shoot street photography and had a black and white darkroom for almost 20 years and abandoned it for digital as soon as the digital gear produced images as good as 35mm film. Only people who have never returned home from shooting an event with 60 rolls of film to develop will sing the praises of film photography. And burning and dodging prints as the $1 sheets of print paper accumulate in your trash can as you try to get the print right. And the mixing chemicals and cleanup after a printing session. I do not miss it at all. If you don't have a darkroom shooting and processing a roll of 35mm film is what - $20? And you need a scanner to get them online. Yeah film sucks.
And photo blogs. I gave up on them after a commenter criticized a photo of mine for the lines not being straight. That photo had appeared on the cover of a magazine and in an exhibition. He was right. The lines were not straight. So what!
I don't add or remove objects from my photos and try to create images reasonably true to what I photographed so don't need Photoshop. Lightroom suits my needs fine. Frankly I seldom visit photo sites like flickr anymore. Viewing one perfectly composed, perfectly exposed, perfectly sharp with perfect colors image after another is boring. They just lack authenticity to me. Might as well just use the smartphone and let AI handle the processing.
LIghtmeters: I often shoot events in a certain place at a certain time of day where the subjects are backlit. A handy small $200 Sekonic L308x-u in my shirt pocket makes life easier. I rely on the camera for street photography.
What do I do with my photos? I share them with photographer friends via email and we critique each other's work.
Oooh, did I live to see the day hating on film is in vogue?
ha ha! I hated film back in the 1980s and 1990s when there was no alternative. I shot it, but I didn't like it. The medium always frustrated me because of its lack of ability to produce the results I wanted of fast-moving subjects in very low light, and crystal sharp portraits in low light when handholding supertelephoto lenses. Was a Godsend when digital came along and advanced to the point where my shooting preferences could actually be done with sharp results.
I guess I shouldn't say that I hate film, because it does have its place. I just hate film for me and for the things I shoot and the way I prefer to shoot them.
An artist should not have to change his/her style and preferred way of working to fit a certain medium's abilities. An artist should instead find a medium that fits his/her style. I want my mind's eye to guide my creative choices, instead of a medium's strengths and weaknesses guiding my creative choices.