As someone who makes money by taking photos and videos of other people, I often find myself packing the same essential items into my backpack. So to help you decide what to bring with you on your assignments, here’s a guide (with pictures) on how I organize my camera bag.
I’ve never wanted to have a traditional camera bag because, living in Los Angeles, a thief can spot a “camera bag” a mile away and is more likely to go after its contents than if you just have a backpack. Also – having a backpack allows me to pack many things in whatever configuration I want, which is extremely useful for big items like my reflector and Gorillapod. My current favorite backpack is a Wenger Swiss Army padded laptop backpack I bought at a thrift store. To house my lenses and camera, I also own a Clik Elite Small Capsule. It holds my camera and all three lenses very well, along with their lens hoods and filters.
I don’t have a preference between DSLRs and mirrorless cameras or brands. I firmly believe that the best camera is the one you have. However, I did chose the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 for a few specific reasons, all of which are outlined in my previous blog post. One of the main draws (packing-wise) is its small size, flip-out screen, and long battery life. I also carry a charger and 2 Clearmax batteries.
Because I switched from Canon to Micro Four Thirds and Metabones have yet to release an EF-m4/3 Speedbooster, I am satisfied with just the Fotodiox EOS-m4/3 adapter ring. It’s sturdy and made of solid metal.
Good glass is almost more important than the camera you use it on. In my case, I hardly ever have the need for autofocusing (I either shoot video or I employ focus peaking in my photography). Therefore, it made sense for me to buy Rokinon primes straight off the bat. I currently own the Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 (my pride and joy) and the Rokinon 14mm t/3.1 cinema lens. I also own a zoom lens (not pictured here) – the Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6. I recently purchased the Canon 50mm f/1.8 as well because sometimes I want to carry just one lens and I won’t feel bad should something happen to my “Nifty Fifty.”
I always travel with my Zeikos glass cleaner pen. One side has a retractable brush and the other is loaded with very fine carbon – a perfect way to clean your glass without liquid chemicals. I also carry a small microfiber cloth.
I always carry plenty of SD cards with me, and all of these work exceptionally well because they are Class-10 cards. If, however, I want to record in 4K, only my 64GB U3 card can record the footage without dropped frames. I intend to purchase a Sandisk Extreme Pro in the future.
I only need filters when I am shooting video (because I’m limited in my shutter speed). And since I only shoot video with my Rokinon glass, I only need one size of filter – 77mm. Both this UV filter from Hoya and Variable ND filter from Promaster fit onto my Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 lens. The other lens – the 14mm – is so convex that it cannot fit a filter. For that, I’d have to attach NDs to a mattebox, and that’s too much for my everyday needs.
I’ve owned by Gorillapod with Joby Ballhead for years and it’s always been my go-to tool for practical stabilization. It can wrap around any pole or fence and instantly become a tripod. It can be bent into position and act as a steadicam or shoulder rig. If I pull on wool glove fingers (literally – the fingers I cut off a glove) to each of the legs and slide it on a smooth surface – it becomes an excellent slider.
Because I’d rather not shoot anything than have poor sound, I have three options with me at all times. The first is a Rode SmartLav, which connects to my iPhone’s RodeRec app. The second is a cheap “backup” lav that feeds directly into my camera. And the third – the most flexible option – is my Aputure V-Mic D1 Condenser microphone. I also carry a wind screen and extra batteries.
I will often not carry any sort of light panels for run-and-gun shooting and photography. They are often too heavy and require their own stands or an assistant to hold them. Instead, I go for my trusty 43-inch 5-in-1 Reflector/Diffuser. It was actually the very first piece of film equipment I ever bought and I still heavily rely on it for almost every shoot.
I always carry a few mini clamps, a clothespin, tape (not pictured), an Eddie Bauer multi-tool, Sabre pepper spray (I do work in Los Angeles), a power stick to charge my iPhone and transport a small amount of data via USB, a first-aid kit, and high definition anti-gloss powder with a brush. You never know when one of these things may come in handy (hint: almost always)!
I often use my iPhone as a way to record audio, so it is always by my side. With the phone wallet, I am able to keep spare change and credits cards in one place. I also carry my earbuds to monitor audio (with some pink gaff tape attached to differentiate them from other people’s). An important thing I never leave the house without is my business card holder. I get a lot of customers when I am shooting outdoors and people come up and inquire about my services. It’s nice to have a sturdy card to give them.
I also bring a few things that I find essential – like sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat (mine folds up into a tiny space). It’s important to have a screw-on water bottle, because I don’t want to risk water spilling anywhere near my camera. I also carry a small notebook with a few pens and a Sharpie as well as a fanny pack to put batteries and memory cards in while I’m on the go. Yes – I carry a fanny pack. No – I don’t think it’s “lame” to wear one. It’s incredibly useful, especially when you have limited pocket space.
THAT IS ALL! Thanks for taking a trip through my camera “bag.” What sort of camera/lenses do you bring on your shoots and why? What other items do you think are essential to bring that I’m missing out on? Let me know!