Bag-aholic–No Longer Anonymous

How I traveled in West Africa. This is the Tramrac backpack.

I’m not the only photographer who has a closet full of camera bags.

Once you have more than one camera, one lens and one flash you need a bag. You need a backup camera and several lenses.

I carry the Nikon SB-800 that lets me fire my flash off camera. When I am not using the flash, it’s in the bag.

For a business situation I use the ThinkTank Uban Disguise.

If I shot the exact same type of an assignment all the time I could, perhaps, find the one perfect bag since the equipment would be the same all the time. However, I like most professional photographers, I shoot a variety of situations that call for different equipment. So I end up with small, medium and large camera bags to use on different jobs.

One of the greatest inventions is the photography vest. You can carry a couple lenses and a flash and evenly distribute the weight on your shoulders. The problem with those vests – they are too hot.

Now modular belt systems are available. ThinkTank designed one of the most popular systems. Small pouches of varying size fasten to a belt and allow you to pick which equipment to carry. This is more efficient than the vest, and it’s much cooler.

There’s another factor to consider when choosing a bag — fashion appropriateness. Wedding photojournalists do not dress the same way as news media photojournalists, but they are generally using the same equipment. From a practical standpoint it makes sense to use the belt system for the photojournalist. From a fashion standpoint the wedding photojournalist can’t wear the belt. They usually work out of a large shoulder camera bag they put in the corner of a room. Photographers need to blend in with the crowd to catch natural moments and looking like a suicide bomber with all the gear strapped to them isn’t the best way to blend in at a wedding.

This is the ThinkTank Modular Component System
. You can look like a suicide bomber in this one.

Some wedding photographers minimize the awkwardness of the fashion by putting just a couple items on a belt or they may just have a lens on a belt.

The good news for the camera bag manufacturers is that photographers need more types of bags than they do cameras or lenses to be able to be appropriate for any situation.

Digital photography has the double edge sword when it comes to camera bags. We no longer have to carry all that film. Just a few flash cards can be sufficient for most photo shoots. The downside – many photographers need to carry a laptop to process those images at the time of the shoot. Wire service photographers, for instance, need to transmit those images as quickly as possible. They need a camera bag with space for a laptop.

Flying with your camera gear is another issue. Many times camera gear will not fit as carry-on luggage. Turning over to the baggage handlers $20,000 of gear is scary. If they drop your bag on the tarmac, you may end of with a smashed lens or camera. They are not responsible for damaged goods, just lost ones.

You need a case that will protect your gear if it is dropped. The distance from your car to your seat on the airplane requires a case with wheels.

I have used the Domke F2 bag for the past 25 years. This is my latest one that isn’t worn out yet.

One of the hidden costs in buying new gear is the impact it can have on your camera bag system. Once you have more than one bag and you add one more piece of equipment, often this will force you to upgrade a bag or two to accommodate the new purchase.

Are you a bag-aholic? Here are the stages of becoming one:

  1. Realizing that your present bag will no longer carry the equipment necessary for a job—so you buy a new bag
  2. Realizing your back is suffering and you need something that is easier on your back—so you buy a new bag
  3. Acknowledging that the funny expressions you get on photo shoots are caused by how you look carrying your gear—so you buy a new bag.
  4. Seeing another photographer’s camera bag and thinking that will work better than your system—so you buy a new bag.
  5. Final Stage – Being aware that your camera bag system is and most likely will be imperfect for all situations and therefore you find yourself in camera stores or online searching for a new bags.
This is the ThinkTank Urban Disguise® 60 which has room for a 17″ laptop.

Once you have acknowledged you are a bag-aholic you can then move from the stage of acceptance to embracing that you must have more than one bag. Now, you to no longer able to let this be a hidden cost in doing business, but just like the need for a new lens or camera, you need to budget for new camera bags.

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