A number of years ago there was a television commercial for a well-known credit card that used the tag line, “What’s in your wallet?”. This commercial was very successful at raising awareness of the credit card but, of course, I have no way of knowing how successful the campaign was at attracting new customers. The tag line has stayed with me ever since the campaign and has built within me an awareness of having the right “stuff” to complete the task at hand, whatever that may be.

My preparation of the necessary equipment for various activities has led me to create different checklists for many of the things I do. I have lists for camping, road trips, work, and photography just to name a few. The idea is to be sure that I have the items I need, acting as a backup to my often-faulty memory. By going through the appropriate checklist I can reassure myself that I am as fully prepared as possible. As an example, my photography checklist has all my equipment listed so that I can pick and choose the right gear for the intended photo shoot.

A selection of camera gear. iStock photo.

I always start with the bag itself. Usually there is an idea or plan of what I want to shoot and where I am going, so I can choose between a backpack or one of several shoulder bags. It is almost never necessary to take every piece of gear no matter the “assignment” to complete. And sometimes choosing the bag and camera body are the only decisions to make. For example, my small point-and-shoot camera needs only a very small shoulder bag as it has an integrated lens and body without any accessories, other than a tripod fitting. This is the camera I choose when photography is not my primary endeavor but I want something more powerful than my cell phone’s camera. So occasionally, the choice of bag and camera are simultaneous.

Once a bag and camera are selected, it is time to choose the accessories. Will I be shooting on the fly or will I set up my photos? The answer tells me whether I need a tripod, and often which one of my tripods is required. Then I need to determine my intended subject. My primary subjects are general landscapes, rural architecture, wildlife, and birds. Making this decision informs my choice of lenses and filters. Usually I take a small selection of lenses in case I stumble on something unexpected, something like a short (24mm) and a medium (50mm) focal length plus a longer telephoto lens. Another option may be two overlapping telephoto lenses, like 18-55mm and 35-105mm, to provide a different flexibility. The choice of lenses will let me know which filters and/or adapters I need to pack. There, I have made my most important decisions.

No matter which camera I take, I always make sure that spare batteries (and maybe the charger) are packed. Multiple memory cards are vital to a day of photography as well as the correct shutter release for the camera I choose. Even if the weather forecast is clear, I still pack rain protection for my gear as it is cheap insurance.

Bringing the right gear is easier when you use something like a list. Just remember, you need to actually use the list for it to be effective. Try it for yourself and see if a list makes your photography outgoings go more smoothly.