Let me begin by saying that camera bags nowadays are huge. They're usually lined with a dark interior fabric, covered with outrageous amounts of buckles and hardware, and contain an obscene number of micro pockets, designed to hold what I can only imagine would be SD cards and spare change. For all of the bells and whistles crammed into the design of these behemoths, they often miss the point of what they were initially designed to do—ensure a positive shooting experience and protect the contents inside!
After a lengthy cycle of purchases, returns, and good old fashioned trial and error, I have discovered that the most effective way to protect precious cargo is to employ the use of multiple inserts and a simple bag, or as I like to put it, the "bag within a bag method. Read on!
Organization + Protection
Organization + Protection:
When packing for a shoot, there are a significant number of items that must be accounted for and an even greater number of things that could go missing. Storing these items in multiple color coded bags as opposed to pockets, allows the equipment to remain in your line of sight even when contained and protected, up until the very minute everything is placed into the larger bag. The most delicate items can be stored in bright colored pouches with additional padding, visually alerting you to its contents. Additionally, it is much easier to ask someone to “ grab the fluorescent orange bag," instead of "can you rifle through my bag and look for something you’ve never seen or would not know how to identify? They both look the same, but one is curved on the top.” Color coding significantly minimizes the chances of mishaps and damage to your delicate equipment and with a watchful eye, prevents important items from being left behind.
Knowing what item is stored in which pouch, allows you to focus on the task at hand—making pictures! Fumbling through every pocket or pouch in a camera bag is incredibly distracting for photographers and subjects, alike. In the instance of working with a live model, that African safari through your camera bag could cost you the shot, so know where your equipment is before you reach for it—your camera and your model will thank you for it!
Storing equipment in multiple bags and pouches, further pads the items and prevents unnecessary movement. I have often found that in most “professional” camera cases, there is little to no option for where certain items are stored— there is simply, “the slot available.” Using individual bags and pouches to house your equipment allows you to pack important items towards the center of the larger bag (with additional padding), with less less worisome items towards the outer edges of the larger bag, ensuring that no camera body or lens rests on an unprotected edge.
The “Bag Within A Bag Method” is especially effective for housing photo equipment, on the go. It not only protects the contents of the bag, but allows the wearer to remain somewhat low key, while shooting. When you pull a camera from a bag that does not resemble a camera bag, people do not really notice. Additionally, when they do, the presence of the camera is so casual that they don’t seem to care. The absence of loud zippers, snaps, and velcro allow the photographer to go unnoticed, so be sure to avoid velcro at all costs!