All photographers have the same two problems: How to store their gear and how to carry it.
How much gear you need is another discussion. You may want to read this article about camera gear if you’re new to SLR or mirrorless photography. In this post I’ll share with you a few recommendations for storing and carrying gear and the methods that work best for me and may also work for you.
I’ll start with storage. If you’ve been a photographer for any length of time, you know that it’s easy to collect a lot of gear: some big, some small, some heavy, and all of it taking up precious space in your home. When I started collecting camera gear, I stored it in a glass and wooden cabinet underneath my TV. It was practical and everything was visible. Small items, filters, batteries, cords, etc., were stored in a box on one of the shelves while lenses, speed lights, and small modifiers were on their own shelf. This worked for a while but as the collection expanded and I began running out of room, I started storing some of my gear in a camera backpack. This was okay but it meant I had to look in 2 places for items I needed for a shoot.
When I upgraded to Nikon’s D750 I also purchased new lenses and some additional gear. I really didn’t want a third spot in my home dedicated to camera gear because I find it mentally taxing to have to search different spots to find what I need.
Once I’d had enough of multi-space storage I became a bit creative. While in the process of converting some of my living space to a photography studio, I decided that it made perfect sense to dedicate one huge drawer of my credenza to photography gear. Over a few hours I moved the contents of a drawer that held a lot of craft items and converted the drawer to camera gear storage. That drawer now holds all of my lenses, backdrops, different types and sizes of batteries, tether connectors, extra lens caps, cleaners, filters, MagMod gear speed lights, LED lights, etc.: everything in one place.
In order to decrease clutter, similar items such as USB connectors, lens caps, and cleaners, are all stored in clear plastic bags eliminating the need to search for items. Lenses are kept on one side of the drawer and are cushioned by dropcloths or cushion dividers. This has made my photography life so much easier.
TIP: Store your photography gear is one place and eliminate the headache and panic of trying to find the things you need for your shoots. Make a base station.
Gear on the Move
The one-place-storage is a type of base station. Now we’re going to talk about being on the move.
If I’m photographing an event, or doing on-site headshots, or anything else where settings and circumstances may vary, I load up my Think Tank Airstream carrying case. Short history: I use to carry my camera backpack and my tripod. Then, as shoots became more complex, I added a bag, and before getting the Airstream, another bag. Not only was this hard on my body, I imagine it looked very unprofessional.
The Think Tank Airstream can hold 2 DSLR bodies and 3 or more lenses, speedlights, and smaller gear such as triggers, receivers, light meter, etc. There’s ample room for batteries and filters, and room for a laptop or an iPad. The Airstream is compact; maybe a little too compact. It may have been smarter to purchase the next size up but at the time of the purchase 1) I was in a bind with a next-day shoot and the next size up was not available at the store, 2) I really didn’t want to once again appear like the photo bag lady, and 3) the Airstream was on sale. It’s a very tight fit for all the gear I carry. If you plan on walking with a lot of gear for larger projects, I suggest giving serious consideration to the size of your carrying case.
The best thing about this case is that it’s on wheels and has a telescopic handle.
TIP: Save your back and get an appropriate sized carrying case on wheels with a telescoping handle. If you travel for photography assignments be sure to get a size that meets the requirements for airline carry-on.
TIP: I first saw Think Tank cases at Photo Expo Plus. This is a great opportunity to meet with and speak to a rep in order to find the best case for your gear and for your work. There’s also the possibility that at such a big event discounts are available. While these items may seem pricey, I’ve found that they’re well worth the cost in convenience and reducing body stress.
I keep my Airstream case prepared with items I don’t need to remove such as AA and AAA batteries, business cards, a small foam core board, and an extra SD card. When I’m going on a shoot, I load up the case with the gear I’ll need–lenses, speed lights, small modifiers, etc.
TIP: A day or two before I go to a scheduled shoot, I do a complete set up at home. I mean complete just as if I was in the field, an office, a set, or a studio. This includes stands, backdrops, softboxes, and all modifiers I think I may need. Doing this ensures I have everything I need for the shoot and gives me time to get anything I may be missing. It also allows me to start packing the gear once I start breaking things down.
Gear on the Move: Simple and Personal Projects
For simple or personal projects, I carry the Ruggard Outrigger 45 Backpack and leave the Airstream case at home. Like the Think Tank, the backpack is loaded with a few items that are never removed; batteries, business cards, an extra SD card, etc. The Ruggard has many practical and convenient compartments. It can easily hold a DSLR, a 70-200 mm lens along with other smaller lenses, speedlights, MagMod gear, etc. The thing to remember is that you’ll be carrying that gear on your back and although the weight is evenly distributed, a heavy backpack is still a strain on your back. Of course, once you remove the camera body and the lens you’ll be using the weight becomes significantly lighter.
TIP: When using your camera, reduce the pressure on your neck by using a shoulder strap instead of a neck strap. I use Black Rapid‘s R Strap for right handers. There’s one for left handers in addition to several other types and models of straps that reduce neck strain. These straps are convenient, ergonomically correct, and hold your camera securely. They’re well worth the investment.
Getting back to storage, I store large pieces of gear including light stands and reflector holders, the tripod, soft boxes, ring light, and reflectors in one closed and in as few bags as possible. A few months ago I purchased an LSB light stand bag from B and H. This bag can hold several light stands as well as other larger gear making travel and transfer of these items as easy as possible.
Final TIP: When you return from a shoot, paid or personal, put your gear away as soon as possible. One of the essentials to working as a photographer is being organized. Putting away your gear after a shoot or early the next day ensures that you keep your gear in the same place so that at a moment’s notice you’re able to put your hand on anything. An additional benefit is that you get to examine your gear and clean it if necessary. The worse time to learn that you have a piece of damaged equipment or have run out of something is when you’re pulling out gear for the next shoot.