Why do I always carry bags of heavy camera kit?
Clients often comment on how heavy my camera or tripod bags are and some ask why I need to bring so much equipment to a shoot. The reason I bring a bag full of equipment is that I need to be prepared for any eventuality. Believe me, before stepping out of the house I have pared to the minimum what I’ll be taking with me, especially when I have to lug my camera bag up and down stairs and I am no longer an automatic pick for the GB Olympic athletics squad*.
Experience has taught me that if I had taken camera kit specific to a particular brief and nothing else, inevitably I would face a sudden change of venue or be asked to take ‘just one more shot’ for pictures to accompany a press announcement that would require different lights, stands and lenses. So, to be on the safe side, I bring with me equipment that can – within reason – let me photograph anything, anyone and anywhere. This is important as even with the best intentions clients feel let down if a last-minute request cannot be met by the photographer.
Studio Lighting in a Bag
Now you understand that lighting and stands are needed no matter what, what do I choose? I could take small battery powered flash units which are low weight and inexpensive but they don’t provide consistent power or colour temperature, where the colour or warmth of white light can be measured on the Kelvin scale. Nor do the batteries last that long, so over a full day there could be consistency issues which will take a lot of post-production time to iron out. Instead, I use the professional Elinchrom flash system which has enough power and consistency to last a full day. It has also proved to be utterly reliable for years now, so it’s a no brainer, its only snag is that it is moderately heavy.
I also use a soft box diffuser, and here bigger is always better, giving a more even, more attractive light distribution. So again, I carry the biggest soft box that is still manageable in an office setting. Yup, you guessed it, it is heavier but it does pack down to a neat package.
Robust Camera and Lenses
I always carry a minimum of two cameras, just in case. I have never had a camera fail in nearly 30 years of professional photography but come that glorious day I spot Lord Lucan riding Shergar down the High Street I wouldn’t want to lose the shot because my shutter suddenly locked up and I had no backup option.
I also need robust equipment for working outdoors. I’ve been to Bosnia to document extensive landmine clearing operations, travelled through Finland to record some of its unique power stations, and stood long hours in the rain waiting to photograph Xi Jinping the Chinese leader at St James’s Palace. All these require resilient, high-quality cameras and lenses but these are never particularly light and are certainly not cheap. On the plus side, they do last for years.
Laptops and Backup
I need a laptop for every photoshoot. This allows me to monitor my shots in real-time. The laptop needs all the attendant power supplies and portable backup drives and has to be ready to process client files, at speed, when travelling. Professional laptops are more powerful for processing images but are heavier than non-pro versions.
All in all, my kit weighs in at around 30Kg. On the plus side, this saves me a fortune in gym membership and has taught me how to fake looking cool, calm and collected even after heaving my bags up three flights of stairs.
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