When I show up to a photo-shoot, it’s not uncommon for the client to think I’m moving in for the next few months. An understandable thought, given the amount of equipment I travel with and a lot of times I’m asked if it’s really necessary to have all this “stuff”… yes… yes, it is. I know not every photographer shares my passion for kit but here’s a little insight into why I don’t have a “pack light” mentality.
– PROFESSIONALISM –
We all know that there is a proper tool for every job and unfortunately in photography, there are both a lot of different jobs and many different ways to do said jobs. I would say about 80% of the time I’m walking into a situation not knowing how I’m going to shoot my subject. Sometimes I don’t even know what the subject is prior to shooting but as a professional, I need to be prepared to deliver a product that meets both the client’s standards and mine. I mean, could you imagine hiring a professional photographer to shoot something and when they got there they took a look around and said: “Nah, can’t make this work” then left!?!?
Now having the right equipment is one thing but being prepared for anything also speaks to your professionalism. That means packing extra batteries, extra memory cards, extra business cards and especially extra camera bodies! I think we can all agree that you never want to be the poor bastard who has to tell a bride that you missed the last half of their reception because uncle Jim got drunk and broke your camera because he spilled a beer on it. Trust me, it’s more likely to happen than you might think.
– CREATIVITY –
Some photographers put a lot of their focus on “capturing”; capturing a moment or an emotion, but I’m far more interested in creating. I shoot marketing material and product photos for brands that are looking for something that will tell their story and help build their brand. Creatively speaking there is a lot more that goes into a shoot like that. I’m using lighting to set a mood and show texture, depth of field to draw focus, staging to add context and pulling everything together in post to reflect a thought or idea I had cooked up in my mind.
When you’re working backward from an image you created in your mind the old saying “gear isn’t everything” loses all meaning. If you disagree then your imagination just hasn’t outgrown your gear… give it time… You’ll get there. There is nothing more aggravating than envisioning an image but not having the lens, light or modifier you need to achieve it.
Once you get to a point that you’re making money with your photography you can start investing in gear that isn’t really 100% necessary but it makes your life so much easier that it’s worth the investment. That investment for me was my Palette Gear system. If you’re not familiar with Palette Gear, it’s a physical interface of sliders, dials, and buttons that you can assign your digital interface editing tools to. This cuts down on editing time by eliminating a huge portion of mouse navigation in your creative suite. Is it necessary to have? Not even close. Am I glad I have it? You have no idea.
I also have a new lighting system on my wish list. I already have lights and they work well but this upgrade will pair down a few pieces of kit and help with setup times. It will add another bag to my travel kit but it will also make my lighting more versatile, giving me that next step in quality. Which brings me to the most important reason I don’t pack light.
Bringing it full circle I want to go back to my first point of there being a proper tool for every job, but instead of applying that to preparedness I want to talk about how it affects quality. A photographer’s biggest contributors to image quality are their lenses. There is no shortage of lens selection out there and you can buy a lens with just about any focal length you want. So why don’t I buy one lens with a large focal range and call it a day? Because there is no single lens that checks every box.
If a lens has a huge focal range then there is a lot of moving parts typically resulting in a softer image so spreading the focal rage across multiple lenses will often time yield a higher quality. Prime lenses (a lens with no zoom capability) are usually the pinnacle of sharpness making them a go-to for most photographers. Prime lenses also offer a wider aperture making them perfect for those low light situations and shots requiring a shallow depth of field, but they can make composition a little more cumbersome by forcing you to physically move. In run-and-gun situations like a wedding, you might not have the time or be in a position to make that happen so zoom lenses allow you to compose quickly and easily without missing the shot.
Sorry, that got a little technical, but if you made any sense of that you can see that even though a 28-70mm zoom lens has a 50mm focal length in its range that doesn’t mean It will be the lens I use when I want to shoot at 50mm.
SOOOOOO in conclusion if I show up to your place to do a job, don’t worry I’m not moving in, I’m just ready to do the job right.