The biggest element of being successful in many kinds of photography is simply showing up ready to shoot – with your camera.

Whether you are a freelance photojournalist working for a local newspaper, a stock photographer looking for the money shot, or simply shooting pictures of your kids if you don’t have your camera, you won’t get the shot.

In my classes that I teach on basic photography skills, my first point is always to have your camera with you.

I have missed so many incredible shots that were only there for a few minutes. My latest miss was just a few weeks ago. There was an incredible sunset and I wanted to get the reflection off of an office building for my stock portfolio. Of course I didn’t have my camera with me. I was only a few blocks from my home so I thought I would run home and get my camera and sneak back and catch my shot.

I learned that the real color of a sunset is only available for a few minutes. By the time I made it home, got my camera, and got back out to the car, the color of the sunset was gone. I had missed the money shot because I didn’t have my gear with me.

I bought my wife a point and shoot digital camera for that reason. She has a digital SLR, but she doesn’t like to carry it around unless she is planning on shooting a specific event. She carries a Nikon Coolpix camera in her purse for the cute spontaneous pictures of my kids.

It works well for her – now I just need to get one to carry with me.

The phone on your camera will do in a pinch, but not for any real quality and you certainly won’t be able to enlarge the picture to any real size – maybe someday as camera phones will get better.