Documentary wedding camera bag: shoulder or rolling?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by david_carson, Mar 19, 2004.

  1. In the past, I've used a shoulder bag for documentary style wedding photography. I pack my Domke F-2 full to bursting and have spillover stuff (like film) in another Domke F-802, and set them down when I shoot. Since most weddings move in a pretty predictable pattern, I can get back to them fairly easily. I haven't used an assistant yet, and I suppose that would help, but I like being alone.
    Since my F-2 is too full, especially if I rent an Xpan, I'm looking at big shoulder bags: (nice zipper on top) or a Domke F -1x
    or going the rolling bag route, for example one of these Lowepros or Tamracs (or Tenba?):
    I also am planning on using a Domke F-5xb around my waist. For gear, I shoot Leica M's for all the candids, and an Eos setup with 3 lenses (50, 17-35, and 85) for the general 'scene' and formals.
    My sense is the rolling bag might be the way to go, but it would make me more immobile with stairs and such, and it's heavier. Maybe others have luck with a small backpack? That strikes me as off-putting to clients, however.
    I'd like to hear more experienced people's opinions on the matter.
  2. My take on this is simple. I shoot documentary wedding photography, it is the only style that I do. In order to be successful at it, I need to be inconspicious. Therefore, I carry the smallest camera bag that I can get away with. For me this is a Lowepro Nova 5. Most of the time though, I get away with a Lowepro S&F belt and a couple of pouches which are really inconspicious.

    I have a Lowepro Pro-roller 1, but that is just for transferring kit from the studio to the car. I then transfer what I need for each part of the wedding to the Nova 5, and belt pouches. The Pro-roller shouts 'photographer' to everyone, and I'm not really into that, even though it is a very good case.

    Incidentally I shoot with three Leica bodies and 5 lenses, an Xpan with 2 lenses, and a Canon with one lens just for any close up pics.
  3. Like Jeff, I tend to favor documentary style work and use Leica Ms for many of the B&W candids. Normally I carry a small 3 lens kit using a Low-Pro Omni Sport (shown below), or Omni Trekker if carrying 2 bodies and a 4th lens. Which bag is determined by how dominate I think the Leica's will be in the specific wedding coverage. Small with easy access is the criteria I used in selecting these bags. I usually have this kit with or near me at all times. Even when shooting with a bigger camera like a EOS 1Ds or Contax 645, I have a Leica slung over my shoulder. However, with the growing influence of digital in my business, I also use a rolling bag to carry the comparatively huge Canon EOS or Contax 645+digital gear. No way am I slinging that "spine compressing" equipment on my back. I just roll it to a corner of the church or reception and stage each selection right out of it. The rolling bag I have come to favor (I have just about all of them) is the beautifully designed Delsey Pro... IMO the best made, most well designed rolling bag on the market.
  4. Here's the Delsey rolling bag I mentioned above. The front pocket is a padded one in which I sometimes carry my 15" Mac G4 lap-top to download CF cards as I go.
  5. I've wondered about the acceptability of a backpack too, so I'd
    like to hear from anyone using one. Lowepro makes some really
    nice backpacks in either all black or black and some other
    subdued collor. It seems to me that this might be more
    inconspicuous than a rollie or belt/pouch/butt bag sort of thing.

    I suspect though that the backpack may really end up like an
    overburdened shoulder bag; slung over one shoulder only until it
    can be put down on the floor.

    You know what would really solve your problem? I'll trade you all
    that Leica/Eos outfit for this wonderfully compact Nikon FM2 3
    prime lense outfit that I've got. Just think of how much better your
    back will feel. Alright, just kidding; apparently I'm suffering from
    gear envy this morning. There's just something about the sight of
    Marc's bags full of Eos and Leica that makes we want to run up
    credit card debit.
  6. "You know what would really solve your problem? I'll trade you all that Leica/Eos outfit for this wonderfully compact Nikon FM2 3 prime lense outfit that I've got. Just think of how much better your back will feel."
    I was at a wedding recently where the pro had one FM2 around his neck with a 28, another on his shoulder with a 50, with a little Lowepro waistpack that carried his flash and film. At the end of the 12-hour affair he was still energetically running about like it was the beginning of the day, and I think it had something to do with the fact that he was carrying almost nothing! The work was awesome. I think you guys are carrying way too much stuff, and setting it down anywhere is just asking for something to grow legs and walk off.
  7. Interesting, Al. Any idea if said un-encumbered photographer's
    work is on the web anywhere?
  8. Hundreds of weddings and nothing has "walked off" yet.

    I do agree that you don't need all this stuff to shoot a great wedding. I've shot an entire
    wedding with just my M7s, 3 lenses and a bag of film. Yet, it wouldn't be the best choice
    for the formal work that I usually have to do in addition to the fun candids.

    Frankly, I like all the versatility my outfit provides. I use different lens draws to flatter
    different types of people's faces just like with portrait work. And while it is a monster to
    carry, I wouldn't trade my Canon 85/1.2 for any other SLR lens (except maybe the Contax/
    Zeiss 85/1.2).

    Making the shooting day mondo-comfortable for me isn't at the top of my priorities list.
  9. Rolling cases are the way to go for transporting equipment. I use a Lowepro Roller 1 for cameras and a Roller 2 for lights and lighting related gear. A big advantage of rollers, beyond being much easier to move stuff, is that your gear is laid out, in small compartments, right infront of you. No digging around for a sync cord or filter. This can save a lot of time. Once on site I use a small waist pack with things I will need for that portion of the affair.
  10. I'm lucky enough to have two assistants with me at all weddings so I don't have to carry anything. However, I've worked alone and would not use a rolling camera bag...Too many steps, fields, etc. I guess it depends on your venues. I worked 10 years in Vermont and we had hills and fields and lots of running. Wouldn't want a bag with wheels there. I've worked for 4 years here in DC area and now I'm dealing with multiple venues for shooting and lots and lots of stairs. Again, no wheels for me. <p>I use a shoulder type bag that has extra lenses, extra batteries, used film, stain remover, pins, sewing kit, shot list, filters, the wedding parties makeup bags etc.. <p>We use a small very light shoulder bag for the unshot film and some extra batteries. One assistant has a fanny pack for used film which is later transfered to the larger bag at various points of the day. <p>When we're running...the large bag is tucked away somewhere safe so we don't have to lug it around everywhere. I have three cameras with us at all times. Each assistant holds one and I have the third. When I need a film or battery change or if I want to shoot black and white or use my 70-200 for a close up...I just switch cameras and they load. <p>Everyone has the way that works the best for them and depends on how strong you are, depends on the typical places you shoot and if you have assistants or not. I have a bad back so my way works best for me.
  11. First, let me say that this forum is very interesting to read. I appreciate the contributions from Mark and everyone else. It really helps to "hear" first hand how others do it.

    I decided to think about transporting my equipment to an event in two ways. Kit one deals with all of my formal photo equipment, backup equipment, and extra film. This includes my Hasselblad gear, my qflash lighting gear, and backup candid equipment. I got tired of having all of this stuff in separate little bags. I hated the multiple trips back and forth lugging each separate bag and I kept forgetting what equipment was in which bag. So, I store everything in kit one in a large Pelican rolling case. During formals, my photography partner rolls this Pelican thing around with me. Everything is right there. I use the Pelican case with velcro/padded dividers and re-aranged it to hold everything neat and organized. Once formal photographs are over, I store this case in a central location at the reception and it becomes kind of a home base for our work during the rest of the event.

    Kit two is what I carry around. I hate carrying around stuff when I am shooting candids. It completely gets in the way of me being effective. So, I don't carry a bag. I shoot primarily with an EOS 1V non HS on a rotating Custom Bracket with a 550 flash. I have drilled holes all over my custom bracket and run velcro straps thru the holes to cary along extra film. I can carry around 5 rolls of film all strapped to my Custom Bracket. I always start with a new battery for an event, so do not carry an extra one with me. My lens is a Canon 24-70 L. Maybe not quite as sharp around the edges as a prime, but it is much faster than swapping lenses and much more convenient. I don't miss shots swapping lenses. I don't drop them either. Sometimes, for short periods of time, I also carry over my shoulder my Leica with either a 50 or a 90 and 3200 speed film.

    I don't think this will change much when I switch to the 1Dmk2 body soon. Also, I am always team shooting with my photography business partner...we decided to shoot events and only do events that could support two photographers. So I don't have to think about switching from color to black and white. If my partner is shooting color, I shoot b&w, etc...

    I work out a lot, which helps with dealing with the weight of my bracket/camera/lens/flash/extra film contraption, but I just could not do an event if I knew I had to walk around with a bunch of stuff in my pockets, hanging around my neck, strapped to my back, etc. I have tried it and it makes me hate it. I will post a photo of my bracket/candid setup some time if anyone is interested. It is kind of funny looking.

    Thanks again for everyone's contribution. I have read many of your interesting posts for a long time now, but I seldom post myself.

    Jonathan Russell
  12. Hi David,

    I like to use a waist bag for film and have two 35mm around my neck- each with
    differerent lens and film. I carry an extra camera, flash and lens in the Tamarac
    Daypack Pro- which I love. It is big enough to fit everything including a sweater,
    batteries, water bottle but I don't plan to have it on during the wedding. It is perfect
    for throwing on my back between the different locations but once I am settled I store
    it in a safe spot but close spot while I move freely around with my gear.

    Mary McHenry
  13. Halliburton cases are the way to go for weddings. I use the largest size, and I have caster
    wheels bolted with air frame nylon ring bolts. The wheels are soft
    rubber so that this outfit is silent anywhere. <p>
    I use a black photographer's vest to take the most immediate items: flashmeter on safety
    cord, extra battery for my Norman 200b s, film, info sheet, etc.
    Therefore, I actually use my suitcase as a "skateboard" to take a ride down any hills. As I
    ride down the hill or driveway, I am towing the other suitcases.
    Therefore, I can easily take in loads of equipment in one trip. Each suitcase is not very

    Moisture cannot penetrate the cases
    even though they do not have rubber seals (which can age). <P>
    I like the largest cases because they are the most stable with caster wheels.
    I do not like storing equipment in cloth fabric material. If it gets wet, fungus could be
    generated. <P>

    Since my cameras each have a dedicated camera bracket and flash head per camera, the
    whole rig fits into the case whole. I do not change cameras on one bracket. This takes
    too much time.
    I can strap my tripod, stands, to the top of the case. You can use sticky velcro to have all
    kinds of extra "hands" to carry in stuff.
    By not using an assistant, I save about $100 or more for each wedding.
    I oftentimes wear 2 Norman 200b packs around my waist for about 640 effective watts
    output given I made a few custom changes to my packs.

    Timber Borcherding timberborcherding
  14. Leica M users, do you use a flash bracket with your M? How's the little SF-20 for group
    shots, indoor and outdoor? I'd like to leave the Stroboframe Pro-T bracket at's
    tough to pack.
    Anyway, thanks for all the responses. Great forum.
  15. Al, thanks for the link. That's a great photographer. Is that other
    wedding being done on the top of a tour bus? Anyway great stuff.

    Marc, you know I was just joking about the gear, right? I only wish
    I had enough stuff to cause back pain. OK, maybe not that much
    stuff. I'd settle for the leicas.
  16. David, I shot last summer with an all-Leica wedding kit and the
    one real limitation it has is outdoor flash. The 1/50 flash sync is
    no problem indoors as I'm normally dragging the shutter to get
    the background light anyway. The SF-20 is a fine, compact flash.
    Anything bigger than that kinda dwarfs the M body and defeats
    the whole point of a compact, documentary camera, IMO.
  17. It is really interesting to hear what other photographers do to carry their gear around but in the end, you've got to determine what will work best for you based on how you like to shoot, with a lot of experimentation. I shoot both medium format and 35mm and carry around a lot of stuff on my neck/shoulders and arms all day long. I work alone and carry one hard, roller case with lighting gear and "absolutely necessary" backups. I have a tripod/lighting stand bag as well, and a shoulder bag and wasit pack. I can't be called an "all documentary" style photographer, part of my work is traditional, so I do carry the extra lighting used in traditional work. Additional backups are in another hard case cabled to the inside of my car trunk. The reason I'm posting is to speak up about theft. I've had a case full of gear stolen from a hotel where I was photographing--some of my gear ended up at a flea market in Southern California two weeks later. I have an associate whose 4 Hasselblad lenses were stolen from another hotel. There was, at one time, a ring of thieves operating in the area, ripping off photographers at good hotels and even churches. And it didn't help to put your gear near a cake table or DJ station, as gear was stolen as soon as your back was turned and even out from under the noses of assistants and DJs who promised to watch the gear--also from the backs of churches. In my case, the thieves even cut through fabric handles to get at my gear. The thieves were even videotaped on the hotel security cameras but of course, the quality was so poor, no good identification could be made. That's why I use a hard case--they can't cut it, it locks and I have a cable alarm that I cable the case with--to an immovable object. I figure the tripod and stand case, which is soft, is expendable. If it is stolen, I won't cry about it too much and I don't use the ultra expensive tripods, stands and ball heads, either. I never go into my car trunk unless absolutely necessary and I never let my gear out of my sight--that means taking the stuff you carry to the bathroom with you. Seems extreme, but think how sorry you'll be if your expensive Leica or other Canon digital gear was stolen, especially along with exposed film--one roll of my exposed film was taken. Photographers I've talked to seem to be in denial about this--just because it hasn't happened to you yet doesn't mean it won't next weekend. Whatever cases, bags etc. you get, think about how you will manage them against theft--if doesn't have to be a professional ring, the casual restaurant worker who has an interest in photography could just as well lift gear. I've even heard of hotels in New York where the catering manager (or whomever) would lure photographers into putting gear into a "safe room" and then steal the gear. It is a good idea to have insurance and photographers are somewhat cavalier about this. I've heard photographers whose gear had been stolen say, "Well now I can afford to buy the newest gear, so I'm not sorry." only to find their insurance cancelled as soon as the claim was fulfilled. I know this sounds very pessimistic but once your gear is stolen, it is usually gone forever, with exposed film being an even greater loss to your reputation. On another bag topic and getting back to the question, I have heard of some photographers packing a bag for the reception separately from the rest of their gear, similar to what another poster has described, so that you just grab the bag/case you need for each part of the event. Of the options you posted, I'd go with the large shoulder bag, setting it down when you shoot--of course, keeping it in your sight at all times. If you get a roller case, I would opt for a hard case, for the reasons I've already described. Backpacks are all soft, so I wouldn't go with those.
  18. Statistics will most likely prove that your car or truck is more apt to be stolen out of the
    church or reception parking lot than having your camera gear lifted. So, should I take a
    cab everywhere? : -)

    There is usually someone near my gear at all times. But, if they're professional thieves,
    they'll get it even if they had to take it right off your arm. A pal of mine was stripped of his
    gear at gun point.
  19. Marc:

    That's true--if someone held a gun to me I'd admit there was nothing I could have done to prevent it, but if it doesn't cost me much to take the few smaller steps or precautions to prevent my gear being ripped off, not to mention any exposed film, I do it--and why not? You have nothing to lose but your gear/film/reputation.
  20. "There is usually someone near my gear at all times. But, if they're professional thieves, they'll get it even if they had to take it right off your arm. A pal of mine was stripped of his gear at gun point."
    Well, I suppose that could happen at certain weddings.
    (Play "The Godfather" theme)
  21. Al, I'd hate to be the thief that ripped off a Mafia wedding. ; -)

    Anyway, to each his own. My preference is to be cautious up to a point, and carry good
    quality insurance.

    Which is a whole other topic because many part-time wedding shooters believe a rider on
    their homeowners will protect them... which it will not.
  22. "and carry good quality insurance."
    The best advice yet, regardless of the amount of gear you schlep and how you schlep it.
  23. Al - don't worry about the Mafia weddings.
    Only guns there are the "escorts"...and they won't allow anything
    to get stolen, been there...did that...another story ;{)

    Interesting, cross sections on approaches, thanks for the great read people !

    Interesting how things have grown out of control. When I started doing
    weddings you carried a camera, strobe, battery pack, a pocket full of film, and an extra film back... that was it !
    Now-a-days you pack the studio into the 4x4, load the cavalry, pack for a weekend.

    I think I like the old way....

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