yellow maple leaf amid dried brown leaves on pavement

The Case for Always Taking Your Camera

In all of the photography advice I have ever received, the most common is to always bring your camera. You never know when you might come across something that you want to aim your camera at, and the comfort of having a camera around your neck or tucked in your pocket or bag is joyous. I love the spontaneity of being able to take a picture anywhere. You can find small or substantial moments and you never know when they will pop up. It could be a cloud formation or the way that a shadow hits the sidewalk as you are walking to the mailbox. It might be a bird in mid-flight or your child running. That “decisive moment” that Henri Cartier-Bresson described is much easier to find when you have your camera with you.

Bright cloud, blue sky, sliver of wire

I am particularly a fan of small cameras, that are easy to carry with me every day and everywhere, that allow me to take pictures even when I wasn’t planning on it… I have an old tiny digital camera (that fits right into the current digi-cam trend) that arrived in a jumble of mostly film cameras that I bought cheaply on an online auction site. That little camera was an unexpected bonus. It’s smaller than a pack of cards, very thin, and it really does fit squarely in the palm of my hand. Yeah, it has a tiny sensor, but I don’t care about that. I have loved the images that come out of the camera as much as any other, and I barely notice its presence in my pocket, hand, and even the little pouch in my running tights that seemed utterly useless until this camera. I don’t feel self-conscious with this camera when I’m out on neighborhood walks. Mostly, though, I just love having any camera with me.

an orange traffic cone to the left of pile of logs in street

Pretty much all of the cameras that I have gravitated to are smaller, way before I had a mirrorless one. Even my first “real” camera, while it was a DSLR, was touted for being small and light. When I am using a film camera, I love an almost pocketable SLR with a 50mm lens attached or even a newer plastic reusable point-and-shoot no bigger than a paperback book. I also love an older model of the digital camera beloved by street photographers, and it is an almost constant companion. Just because I have a camera with me doesn’t always mean the images are immortal or amazing. In fact, many of them are not. I often just pull out my camera by instinct or whimsy. I look at the pictures later when I get home or after my film is developed. A lot of them aren’t “bangers”, but I appreciate the practice, the opportunity, and my hands and eyes operating quickly. Sometimes these are snapshots, even a reminder to go back later in different light, a funny juxtaposition, a pop of color on a dreary winter day, or just the discovery of a fleeting moment.

black and white image of an old pickup parked near sidewalk in distance, and near front of frame part of a post with a part of a sign saying "we buy junk cars"

row of newspaper boxes near sidewalk with a bit of snow on ground and trees in background

If you have a camera slipped in your pocket, strapped to your hand, looped around your neck, or in easy reach in your bag, it can free you up to be creative. If you’re not lamenting that you forgot your camera, you are ready to find those shots that you might have missed otherwise. We often have cameras with us for big events like a family reunion or a long dreamed about vacation, but sometimes we leave out the smaller moments like shopping for groceries or going out to dinner. I have seen some of the most beautiful skies while walking in a parking lot on a Saturday of errands. Having it with me reminds me that any moment can become a photographic moment. It helps me to see beauty in things I used to ignore when I didn’t have a camera with me. It helps me to realize that life is full of these small moments that can be just as or even more life-altering than a view from a scenic vista.

small tunnel with light at end, yellow stripe down middle of frame

Photography and our cameras can teach us to appreciate, to look into the shadows, and to find the ignored. Always having a camera helps us to really see what we find along the way.

By Kary Schumpert

Kary keeps a blog at and can be found on Instagram at @running_into_life. She teaches, writes, runs, plays with cameras, and spends her time in New Mexico and Colorado.

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22 thoughts on “The Case for Always Taking Your Camera”

  1. I guess, like most people on the planet, we do carry a “camera” with us all the time, the ubiquitous cell phone, considered by many to be a camera.
    There are differences of opinion of course there are. Is a cell phone camera adequate for the majority, yes probably.
    For me however, cell phone cameras, despite their impressive specs, or seemingly impressionable specs, are not real cameras. I’ll probably get a battering for saying that.
    I carry around a Canon SX120is, it’s probably 10 years old (or more), but the results I get from it are way better than any cell phone. The 120 is small, well built, a great Canon zoom aboard, Canon colour science, and with real camera controls.
    What I don’t understand is why people object to real cameras in public areas, while every one else, and probably those who do the objecting, are wandering around with their cell cameras, snapping away with no problems, sorry I don’t get it!. And I agree, always carry a camera, just leave your cell phone in your pocket.

    1. Rob, I completely agree with you that a cell phone camera doesn’t feel like a camera. I loved how you expressed the impressive or impressionable specs of a phone camera. 🙂 Sounds like you found the perfect little every day camera. It’s amazing when you have that with you and you can relax into finding those great shots! You bring up an important point that doesn’t often get discussed, why people object to cameras, but not to cell phones in public spaces. I will admit that I sometimes feel self-conscious about having a camera in public, and still trying to get over that! You bring up several important points that could all be great articles for 35mmc! Thanks for your comment!

  2. I always try to carry a small camera with me. How many wonderful shots have been missed as you say “wow”, open the bag, extract the camera, change the lens, grab the light meter (just to check) and then say “oh”? In my case, loads. As I say, I now try to have a camera with me, or just relax, enjoy, and file the scene away in my memory.

    1. David, having a small camera with you always is wonderful. I love that you also find the moments to just “relax, enjoy, and the file the scene away in my memory.” That is a lovely line and a beautiful reminder to be in the moment. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Thanks Kary, for both sides!

    I love light, and I love God’s creation revealed in that light. That is the base for my photography. From that love of creation we try to capture and preserve moments. This is noble, we want to share and relive those moments. But the capture part requires a camera, and the camera requires skill and knowledge. And the flaws in each capture lead us down the road for a better lens or film or camera or digital imaging algorithm. And we forget why we took the image in the first place! So like you, I often leave the “best I can afford” kit at home and just pocket a simple camera or my cell phone. Just to snap something interesting… but mostly so I can enjoy the light and the creation directly!

    1. Jalan, that’s a beautiful sentence and sentiment, “I love light, and I love God’s creation revealed in that light.” It is amazing how in our photography we’re seeing things in a different way, maybe in a way that no one else has seen. I think you’re spot on that we end up in the hunt for gear to improve our photography, and then leave that gear at home. You’re on to something when you can take a snap and enjoy the beauty directly! Thanks for your comment!

        1. Wow. thanks! Not an original sentiment – The third sentence in the bible is: God said “Let there be light” and there was light – and God saw that it was good! There are dozens of creation stories and many (most?) begin with going from darkness to light.

  4. An enjoyable companion to the other.
    Thank you!

    Related to my other comment on the companion post – people often pull their smartphone out for an instant unplanned snap of something.
    Though I don’t and seldom have done – it just doesn’t feel like a camera!
    So I totally get the small digital camera – I’ve been on the look out for something like this myself. A small slim digital camera which is very small compact and which is very quick – and which won’t cost me over $50

    1. Ibraar, you’re so right that a phone doesn’t feel like a camera, and that’s definitely a huge part of the appeal of photography. The perfect little camera can be elusive, but the search is also part of the fun, like looking for our favorite images. When you find that under $50 beauty, I hope you’ll write about it and share your experience with it. Thanks for your comment!

    1. Fred, you’re right, those smaller photo opportunities have their own beauty and it’s cool when you can find them every day, and not just in those epic spots! Thanks for your comment!

  5. Does the phone qualify as a camera? Most of us always have it within reach .In the old days I spent years looking for an Elvis/UFO camera (I think the last one was some kind of APS Elph) Now the phone does the job far better than I could have imagined. When I get a ‘real’ camera out I have a specific goal or task in mind.

    1. Kurt, the phone totally counts if you want it to! 🙂 What’s the saying that the best camera is the one you have with you? Yeah, I agree that the phone has come a long way, and it’s amazing what we can get with them. It is nice to have that ‘real’ camera as you mentioned when you have a specific goal or task. Thanks for the comment!

  6. Nice write up. I misread the title at first and read “The Case for NOT Always Taking Your Camera”, I wait for the turning point until the end 🙂

    1. Phil, didn’t mean to trick you! 🙂 I had these polar opposite thoughts on the same day, so I sat down to write both of them. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out or if it would make sense. Thanks for the comment!

  7. Damn I am a fool, you really wrote both. Kudo’s to you. I learned through the year that less is more, and through going back to simpler cameras is liberating, quality after all is relative. And as an amateur, nobody will miss the picture I did not take. So yes reminding to leave the camera home is somewhat refreshing.

    1. Phil, it was a little funny with the articles coming out together, and that was kind of my point when I wrote them. I sent them to 35mmc together, not sure if they’d publish one or both, and I liked that Hamish put them out together. You’re right that leaving the camera home can be a little freeing. I think sometimes we pressure ourselves when we have our cameras, even as amateurs, so cutting ourselves some slack is also welcome. Thanks for your comment!

  8. You are one of few that reply to commenters. I, too, use my phone camera when I see something woth remembering, by taking pictures of it. I have professional cameras, but all tucked away like mummies. I will challenge myself by taking one of them, & put in a backpack, while on my daily 1-hour bicycle ride. I have taken beautiful sceneries along the way, using my phone camera, & sharing the videos/photos to others. No one cares what I used to capture the moment, as long as it is a beautiful picture/video.

    1. Abe, I bet you see great stuff on your one-hour bike commute!! Wow!! That would be a cool piece for 35mmc you could write and share. There’s something so cool about having always having a camera, even it means you will go back with another camera on a different day! I’m with you, the phone can be a great tool, and it’s nice to have it with you. You’re so right that most don’t care what camera was used, only about the image that you’ve created!! In terms of responding to comments, I figure if you have taken the time to comment on something I wrote, yes, I will absolutely respond. Plus, it’s fun to connect over 35mmc to see what people are thinking. I spent 2-3 years lurking on the site, reading, but never commenting or interacting and realized that I really love the interaction and that’s part of the fun of this 35mmc community! Thanks for the comment, and happy trails to you on your bike commute. That is impressive!

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