You Don’t Always Need a Camera Bag

Like most photographers, I own more than one camera bag. There’s my main bag, my video gear bag, my small bag, my airline travel trolley bag, and this one never-used, back-of-closet camera bag of unknown origin.

A search online for “kickstarter, camera bag” reveals an endless array of new bags being made and offered for sale on a regular basis. These offerings come from both established camera bag manufacturers and new companies entering this competitive arena for the first time. The pitch for each new bag is usually something in the way that particular bag will solve any problems you are having with your current bag. The Kickstarter videos all seem to come from the same storyboard, with obligatory shots of people modifying concept art on a large computer monitor, prototypes being tested, a woman riding up a mountain trail with a camera bag on her back and a yoga mat strapped to this case and a shot of a 16-inch MacBook Pro sliding into a dedicated compartment. Add a narrative about how the bag was made from recycled materials and the Kickstarter campaign is ready to go. It is noteworthy that many camera bag campaigns on Kickstarter exceed their funding goals. Photographers are clearly interested in camera bags.

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I’m not as loyal to my camera bags as other photographers seem to be. Whenever a new camera bag is discussed here on Fstoppers, the post generates a lot of user comments. People point out what they see as a design flaw in that bag, often including the name and model number of their favorite bag. As I type these words, I don’t know the manufacturer of my main camera case, but I believe it’s made by Lowepro. Stepping away from my computer to examine the bag, I find that it is a discontinued Lowepro bag, similar in design to the Lowepro Fastback Pro BP 250 AWIII.

I’ve noticed that many photographers carry their camera bags on their backs when doing event photography. I find it difficult to navigate through the crowd with a bag. Also, at most events there is no place to secure a camera bag and I risk having the bag stolen if I bring it to an event and leave it unattended. For these reasons, I often don’t take a camera bag with me when photographing an event. I live in NYC where I often take the subway to my destination. It’s difficult to transport multiple camera bodies and lenses on the train without a proper camera bag, so I sometimes have to take a camera bag with me when traveling this way. However, when I’m driving to a gig, I often leave the bag at home and travel with the gear on the floor of the car or in the trunk.

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The secret to this minimalist approach is the Domke F-901 and F902 bag. I’ve been using these for decades because I haven’t seen a product better for holding lenses, batteries, power bricks and accessories while you work. I usually carry 2 or 3 of these pouches when I’m shooting events. I use a Lowepro belt to support the weight so the weight of the gear doesn’t pull my pants down. The pouches are great because they have no padding and as soon as you remove a lens the pouch lays flat and seems to disappear.

I recently photographed a back to school book bag giveaway that took place on a crowded street in front of a park in Brooklyn. Since I could drive to this event, I didn’t have a camera bag with me. I carried a Nikon Z6 with a 24-70mm lens on one shoulder and a Nikon Z7 with a 17-35mm lens on the other. I wore the Leica M10 Monochrom with 35mm Summilux around my neck. On my waist were the Lowepro belt and Domke pouches. The smaller bag contained a Profoto A1 and the larger bag contained the older version of the Nikon 70-200mm lens which I ended up not using that day. The larger bag is where I put my M10 and 35mm lens when I’m doing street photography or taking photos at events hosted by my family.

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Working this way, I can easily move through the crowd. And because I didn’t try to hide my bag under a table, I can photograph the event without wondering if someone will steal my bag while I’m working. Maybe this approach will work for you too.

What is your favorite camera bag? When it comes to event photography, do you sometimes leave it at home?

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