Bring a spare!

If you are shooting an important event (and ALL paid shoots are important), take some basic precautions, and bring spares.

Here is my advice:


  1. Format memory cards before you shoot.
  2. Bring spare memory cards.
  3. Ensure that your camera batteries are 100% charged the night before. Check this!
  4. Bring spare camera batteries. At least one spare per camera.
  5. Bring a charger too, just in case.
  6. Bring a spare camera. This can be a starter camera or an old camera – just something you can grab when bad things happen.
  7. Bring a spare lens (what if your one lens’s aperture blades gets stuck? You need an alternate!).


  1. Bring a flash – but also a spare flash of the same type. Canon TTL shooters, unless they use a 7D or a 60D, must use an IR transmitter or a 580EX flash on the camera: when that fails, your entire system is down since you can no longer remote-fire the other flashes. My 580EX II failed recently… good thing we had lots of spares.
  2. Bring charged (ideally, conditioned, i.e. discharged-then-charged) NiMH flash batteries.
  3. Bring lots of spares of those. No, I mean lots.
  4. Also, always keep a few (8?) Alkaline batteries in your bag as emergency backup. These do not cycle as fast as NiMH batteries, but they will keep their charge for many years.


  1. If you use big lights, bring more than you need. You know that your light’s flash tube will die during a shoot, not when the light is in a bag!
  2. Bring a spare photographer, if you can. If you cannot, then at least bring headache and tummy-ache pills just in case.
  3. Bring a charger for your cell phone.
  4. Here’s one most photographers forget: Bring spares for each type of cable you use. USB if you are tethered. Remote flash cable if you use that. Flash X-type. And so on. Whatever you use – bring a spare. Cables break, or go bad, all the time.

During the shoot:

  1. Change flash batteries before each segment of a shoot, even if not empty.
  2. Change your camera’s memory cards every now and then in case a card malfunctions. On some high-end cameras, like my 1-series Canon bodies, you can write to two cards at once.

These simple precautions will not only save your hide sometimes – they will. But more importantly, every shoot you do will involveless stomach acid and headache. Although of course you carry pills for those.

Final bit of advice: make a personalized checklist for shoots. This too gives you peace of mind.

One thought on “Bring a spare!

  1. A spare photographer, good one! so true about the rest of the list though, even unpaid jobs need a backup plan–if only to loan to others you take pity on. Murphy was an optimist.

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