with Courtney Slazinik
What to Pack for a Photo Shoot

What to pack for a photo shoot via Click it Up a Notch

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From what to wear to what to pack in your camera bag, fully preparing for a photo session is really important. When I was a brand new photographer, packing my camera bag for a photo session was always an anxious process. I wanted to pack everything I owned and was always double or triple checking that everything was packed in its place. I didn’t want to forget anything and overpacking was always easier than not having enough gear. But one year and many photo sessions later, packing my bag is much more simple. I know exactly what I need to put in my camera bag. More importantly, I know exactly what I am going to use during my session versus what stays unused in my bag.

What to pack for a photo session via Click it Up a Notch

Today I am going to share what is in my camera bag. I might even share a secret or two that will help you when interacting with your clients from the moment you meet them to the moment you say goodbye. Since it’s fall, go pour something warm in your cup and grab a pencil and paper. Hopefully I will share something helpful and give you an idea or two.  Let’s start with what is in my bag.

What to pack for a photo shoot via Click it Up a Notch
**You can find the camera strap here**

1. My camera + lenses
I know what you are thinking. You are probably thinking I am crazy for even reminding you to pack your camera and lenses. But bringing the appropriate lenses to a photo session is so important. Not all lenses are created equal. This is where I tend to overpack sometimes. But, if I am being honest, I allow myself to overpack lenses because there is nothing worse than wishing you had a certain lens that would make your shot look that much better. So what are my go-to lenses?

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 
I am just going to be completely truthful and admit that this lens usually stays on my camera throughout the entire session. The low aperture of this lens helps me to achieve a bokeh that I swoon over. More importantly, I find that it works for all types of photography sessions that I provide by simply adjusting the f stop.

Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 
I always tuck this lens in my bag for “just in case moments.”  Remember when I mentioned that I allow myself to overpack lenses?  Well, this is one of those times.  We all need a little peace of mind when we head to a session, right!?  Having a backup lens in my camera bag simply makes me relax.  This lens is also the only lens in my bag that has zooming capability, so I love carrying it just in case I need a zoom option.

Lensbaby Composer Pro Sweet 35 
It has to be said that this lens requires a little practice!  Well, actually, a lot of practice!  It’s a tricky one but, once you figure it out, the Sweet 35 can help to create very dreamy photographs.  I like to include this in my bag and bring it out when I am photographing adults, products, or landscapes.  In other words, I only use this lens on stationary objects.  On subjects that stay still long enough for me to nail my focus and *{click}!  Someday I will be brave enough to put it on my camera during a child session.  But, for now, those little ones are just too quick for me and this lens!

What to pack for a photo shoot via Click it Up a Notch

2. Lens pen
Even though I clean my gear and lenses the night before each session, I always pack my lens pen for little touch ups throughout the session. But here is where I have a little secret. I love to invite my younger clients to help touch up my lenses before I start the session. {Of course, I hold my camera, supervise them, and kindly remind them to be very gentle.} They always get such a kick out of it! I teach them how to use the little brush to wipe away any dust they may see and tell them that it is their job throughout the entire session to make sure my lens is clean.  I call them my little assistant and their smiles just beam!

This really helps when they look away from the camera because I can quickly say, “Hey kiddo, is my lens still clean!? You are my special assistant!” Then they look into the camera and *{click}, I got the shot! It makes the little kids feel important to have such a special job! Plus, it is much smaller and easier to bring than stuffed animals or toys.  And I need it anyways, just in case I need to touch up my lens!

What to pack for a photo shoot via Click it Up a Notch

3. Contract clipboard
While I do email my contract to clients for them to sign and bring to their session, I always carry a copy with me just in case they don’t bring theirs. Let’s be honest here, sometimes getting all the kids dressed and in a good mood on session day is hectic enough and that darn contract sometimes gets left on the kitchen counter. No worries, I always carry a backup + a pen!  Plus, I always like to skim the contract together to make sure my clients are aware of all my policies.  And it has to be said that the mini clipboard is a lifesaver!

Don’t have a contract for your business yet? I wholeheartedly recommend The Contract Shop®. They have a comprehensive contract templates that you can set up in 10 minutes or less. Click here to learn more about their Photographers bundle that covers all your bases!

4. Extra camera batteries + memory cards 
Just in case!  Tossing extra batteries in my bag just takes away any worry that my battery might run low or, *{gasp}, run completely out.  The majority of my sessions rarely go over an hour so I usually only use one battery…but, things can always happen! They are small and take up no room at all, so just pack them!

What to pack for a photo shoot via Click it Up a Notch

5. Business Cards
By the time you snap that final photo of the session, clients are really excited and anxious to see how their photos turn out. To make it easy for clients to understand how they can find their photos in the coming weeks, I love to hand out business cards. It is a quick and easy way for me to tell my clients:
“In a couple days you will see a sneak peak of your collection on my Facebook page and, once all of your photos are fully edited, visit my website to see the rest of your photos featured in a blog post.”

And that is it! That’s everything that you will find in my camera bag! But before you go, let’s talk about what you will find me wearing on the day of a session.  We all know you can’t just put on any color and take pictures.

What to pack for a photo shoot via Click it Up a Notch

If you peek into my closet, you will find a lot of shades of oatmeal, gray, and white. For me, these are the only colors that I wear to a session because they are soft shades that do not reflect on the client’s skin or in the client’s eyes.  When I was first starting out, I was told that staying away from bright colors is really important because it helps to avoid creating color reflections on the skin that are unnatural.  Ever since then, I’ve taken this helpful advice!

It’s also really important to feel comfortable during the session. During a typical photo session, you can find me standing on things, kneeling down and laying on the ground to get a particular shot from a certain angle. Because of this, I find that a nice pair of dark skinny jeans are the most comfortable and I stay away from skirts and dresses. It’s important to me that my clothes don’t restrict my movement and allow me to climb high, lay low, and easily run after my younger clients.

Consider your session and dress accordingly for example a birth photography session you want to be comfortable since it could be a long day or night.

Let’s talk about jewelry real quick. I love a nice statement necklace. Especially when wearing a neutral top and some skinny jeans, a necklace can dress up an outfit nicely to keep you looking professional. Plus, jewelry is simply fun!   As I said before, it’s important to stay away from bright colors but also it’s important to stay away from sparkly jewelry. During one of my earlier sessions, I made the mistake of wearing a sparkly watch. I wanted to keep track of time and didn’t think for a second that sparkles would do any harm. Oh, I was wrong! When I got home and imported my session, I gasped! I saw sparkly reflections all over the faces of my clients from the reflection of my watch! It was as if all of my clients had sparkling freckles! Let’s just say that it was an editing nightmare and I learned my lesson. Now I just slip my watch or my phone in my pocket or camera bag.

So there you have it. Everything from what to wear to what to bring in your camera bag to your next session. Even if you aren’t in business and you simply love taking photos of your little ones, try these tips out when you go on your next photography adventure. Now go create some beautiful memories with your cameras!

  • September 26, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    Great article. I love #2. I do something similar with children. I show them my lens at the beginning of the shoot and tell them that sometimes bugs like to land on it, and if they land on it, they will be in the pictures that we are taking. I ask them if they can be my helper and watch to make sure there aren’t any bugs. Then, in the shoot, if I need them to refocus and look at the camera, I ask them if there are any bugs, and they immediately look. Also, sometimes they like to tease me and tell me there are bugs, and they always giggle after they have “tricked” me.

    • Mike
      September 26, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      Ahhh, another smart idea!! Thanks…

    • October 6, 2014 at 10:00 AM

      this is brilliant! i will have to use this as well! thanks for sharing!

  • September 26, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    I love the way you approach the kids, Beth. Such a great and informative article!

  • Emma
    September 26, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    Great list! FYI, the link you posted for the Sigma 50mm 1.4 lens actually links to a Sigma 30mm. Just thought you’d want to know :)

  • Tina
    September 26, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    Hi Beth, enjoyed your article, have a question… I purchased a new camera in June – body only (per Courtney’s recommendation) it’s a DX crop sensor. I purchased a 35mm and 50mm 1.4 lens so far, I was curious about your Nikon lens, the 24-85 because I think I’d like to get something similar. The price was perfect for me at this time, however I looked it up and I am thinking its for the FX full sensor, am I correct and if so, can You recommend something equal to or similar for my camera. Thank you so much!

    • October 6, 2014 at 10:06 AM

      hello tina! thanks so much for your question! i honestly don’t know the answer to the sensor part of your question, but i can definitely give you my opinion on this lens! one of the reasons why i really like it is that it gives me the capability to zoom. it really was my favorite lens when i was first starting out because it is a good lens, all around. unfortunately, i don’t have any recommendations for similar lenses since i do not have any experiences with anything else. i would recommend researching, researching, researching and also read any and all reviews on lenses. that really helps me when it comes to deciding what to buy and what to pass on. happy lens shopping!

  • September 26, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    Great tips! I love the one about having the kids be your little lens assistant! Such a cute idea- definitely tucking that tip into my back pocket on my next shoot!

    • October 6, 2014 at 10:07 AM

      yay! thank you! definitely use that one! they will love it! ;)

  • September 26, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    Great tips. I will have to try that with the kids! I’m considering starting a photography business but am totally lost on the contracts, insurance, etc. do you have any suggestions on where to start. It would be small as I have a full time job.

    • October 6, 2014 at 10:11 AM

      hello cara! great question! when it comes to contracts, i did a lot of research online on what you should put in them and it really helped me. i then wrote my own contract and personalized it towards my business. although, i have heard of other photographers who recommend hiring a lawyer to draft your contract up for you, so you could always do that as well! as for insurance, i recommend that every photographer must have this. i simply went to my insurance company who covers our car and home and they helped me set up my business insurance as well! have fun!

      • Cara
        October 7, 2014 at 12:14 PM

        Thank you for the response! I was reading a book about starting a photography business and it was talking all about LLCs, and corporations and I was getting freaked out. I only want to do a small number of on location family sessions a month so I’m not wanting to start some huge business. Your suggestions are great and I will talk to my insurance agent and start researching contracts. Thank you so much.

        • October 7, 2014 at 12:18 PM

          you are very welcome! i would recommend doing some research on LLC’s before you decide whether you want to open up your business as a sole proprietorship or an LLC. sometimes it can be difficult to switch once you are in business, so just read through all the info before making your decision! have fun!!!!

  • Jeffrey Sugar
    September 26, 2014 at 8:59 PM

    Love the tips! Do you happen to know if the Lensbaby you suggest works on a FX sensor? A review of that particular lens says that it only works on DX sensor body camera. Thank you.

    • September 29, 2014 at 2:17 PM

      Yes, it works on a FX. I have a D700 and it works great with my camera.

    • October 6, 2014 at 10:12 AM

      oh, so glad that you answered this courtney! thank you!

  • September 27, 2014 at 7:34 AM

    This was AWESOME! I’d love to know where you got your camera strap?

  • Karin
    September 27, 2014 at 7:47 AM

    Great article. Who is the maker of your awesome yellow camera bag.

    • Chanel
      September 28, 2014 at 10:47 PM

      It’s a Kelly Moore bag

    • October 6, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      thank you! it is made by kelly moore and it is called the two sues bag! i love love love it! and i have had it for almost a year and a half and it still looks fab! happy camera bag shopping!

  • McKenna
    September 28, 2014 at 9:02 PM

    I love your camera strap! Where did you get it?

  • September 29, 2014 at 12:42 AM

    Another very useful post for those of us who are learning…thanks for sharing!

    • October 6, 2014 at 10:15 AM

      you are very welcome, jodee! thanks for reading!

  • October 2, 2014 at 9:47 PM

    Another question, Beth… Where do you get your business cards? Where do you get your prints done. Oh, I guess that was two! :)

    • October 6, 2014 at 10:16 AM

      hello heather! great questions! i had my business cards printed through vista print! and i actually don’t hand out prints to customers, i give them a disc of their photo session collection and allow them to choose when and where they would like to print their photos! thanks for asking!

  • December 1, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    The tip about not wearing bright colors is smart, something i probably would have never thought of, but makes a lot of sense now. Great article, I’ll have to keep this on hand when I capture some friends. Thanks!

    • Beth Deschamp
      October 24, 2015 at 4:21 PM

      Yes, and wearing white can act as an easy reflector too! :)

  • Suzie Matula
    October 23, 2015 at 2:45 PM

    Beth do you ever use any lighting? I have been looking to purchase a softbox that I can take to shoots when lighting is awful. Any suggestions?

    • Beth Deschamp
      October 24, 2015 at 4:22 PM

      i am strictly natural light only, both indoor and outdoor, so i don’t use any artificial help. i am pretty sure there are some other tutorials on this site though that can give you some great tips and direction!

  • Epsita
    October 26, 2015 at 8:50 AM

    Wow totally love this post!! Very informative and inspiring..The pics are so motivating that I feel like leaving everything else in my schedule today and start clicking:)


    • Beth Deschamp
      October 26, 2015 at 12:55 PM

      thank you so much! i am so happy this post helped inspire you!

  • Kat
    May 18, 2016 at 12:27 AM

    Nice article , thanks for yours advice i love this blog very helpful and inspirating


    • Beth
      May 22, 2016 at 1:25 PM

      Glad you enjoyed the article, Kat!

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