How to carry camera gear? The question on every wedding photographer’s mind. And it’s something they ask themselves again after each season. Some have their perfect system, others struggle. Let’s discuss some of the many ways how the pros do that after the break.
The way one carry’s their gear depends on the services offered. The ulra-high end photographer’s have many camera bodies and lenses. Not only for themselves, but for their “crew”. Some of them have a crew of 2-4 photogs plus assistants that do everything from hold reflectors, setup lighting gear, and carry all that gear from site to site. But this is the upper fringe of photographers. Pretty much exclusive to the celebrities (repeat business, sorry couldn’t resist), and the social elite. Let’s categorize the rest.
“I need all my gear available” photographer: This type of photographer has to have everything. Every camera body, lenses, rarely used specialty lenses, redundant lenses, lots of shoe mounted flashes, and some will carry studio lighting equipment. This system works by carrying the bulk of everything in huge bags or roller bags. The bags will be pushed out of site or left in the vehicle. The photog will carry what he or she needs for that segment of the wedding and throw that in a small shoulder bag. For example a photog will begin the day by shooting the bride getting ready. All that is typically needed is one camera body, a zoom lens and a macro lens for the close-ups of the rings, make-up kits, etc. For the ceremony, the photog will swap the macro for a telephoto and perhaps a second camera body. After the ceremony, it’s time to get some reflectors and some additional flashes and maybe a lightstand or two with umbrellas. For the reception, everything is brought out. Cameras, shoulder bags, and light stands placed near the dance floor. The roller bags are tucked near the DJ table or kept near the corner and hopefully out of site. Some are willing to keep some of the gear in the bags.
Here is the cons to this. That’s a lot of equipment. Some don’t feel the need for all that. Lot’s of going back and forth, and that takes valuable time. Most of these photogs will have this in mind when consulting the B&G when they agree on the contract. They need time to grab gear, put it away in between locations and setup the lighting for the portraits and to light up the dark reception hall. Also, this is huge security risk. People know how much cameras and lenses cost. And there is a lot of theft involved. A lot are due to the hotel staff, others might be the wedding guest themselves. Some are simply just crashers. They will blend in with the guest, pretend they know them by quickly scanning the program or reading the sign out front. They are pros, and they know where and when to look to make the grab.
“I have a large shoulder bag” photographer: This person will carry one camera around their neck, and have their 2-5 lenses in their bag. They will put it down every chance they get, making a “home base” at each location. When it’s time to change lenses, batteries, memory, etc., it’s time to go back to “home base”.
The good part is that everything can be carried in a large shoulder bag (or even a backpack). Making return trips to car seem anonymous as possible. The bad part is security. The bag left alone has a chance of getting stolen. Also, a lens change and the like aren’t very speedy. Some moments might not be captured as the photographer intended. An alternative is to wear the bag at all times. But this has it’s drawbacks as well. Most traditional bags make it so lens changes involve multiple steps. Some don’t have great weight distribution, making it tiresome after a long day. Also, traditional bags stick way out. Making threading ones way in between aisles and reception tables a real chore. Some new bags have addressed as much as possible. Better shoulder straps, better weight balancing, better top flaps for easier lens swaps, external pockets for flash memory and battery swaps, and so on.
“I have a belt system” photographer: Starting to gain popularity as every season passes. Depending on the system chosen, it can take weight off the shoulders and on to the belt. Some will rely on the shoulders for the second camera body and lens. The rest of the lenses go in individual pouches around the belt. Other pouches will hold flashes, memory cards, and batteries. Photogs with a minimalistic mindset can have everything truly with them at all times. Lens swaps can happen under 5 seconds if one is a pro. A camera around the neck and around the shoulder is possible. For example, I have my primary camera with my normal zoom lens around my neck, my secondary body and a telephoto zoom is around my shoulder. My wide angle is in a lens pouch, my accessories are in others.
The downside to all this. Some people will shy away from this if they use two bodies at once. Carrying two cameras outside of a bag at all times can be tricky. The other bad thing can be the photographer’s extra girth. Again, making yourself awkward in tight places. Another one, I found out is balancing. Unless I am totally upright, my second camera with it’s telephoto is prone to slip off the shoulder. I must try to tuck it behind my back, or if I am sitting down I have to place it in my lap. Eating is a problem. Instead of a bag to be pushed aside, I have to find a place for two cameras and a belt with no bag to put them in. I can get a huge holster that will hold the camera and huge telephoto (they do sell them), but they are really a sight to behold.
As you can see, I am the “belt system” guy. I really like it, I feel like I have everything within reach. But I don’t like looking like a photographer at all times. There are times I want to put everything in a bag so I can blend in. Usually while waiting for the car at the valet, or the occasional 2-3 block walk to the parking lot when shooting in downtown.
After reading up on forums like FredMiranda.com and photography-on-the.net/forum I found the Boda bag. All I can say is, wow. Somebody did a ton of work to get this right. I really think this is my solution. Almost as if they had me mind, or they knew me. “Get out of my head, Charles!” 🙂
Anyway, a link for a short vid on YouTube. Chime in with your thoughts if you’d like.