What’s in Your Bag?

November 14, 2012

By David J. Carol

In an up-and-down economy, nothing is certain. In the photo industry, though, one thing remains steadfast and ever-present: a photographer’s gear bag. I asked a diverse group of professionals (myself included) to each take a picture of the contents of their camera bags—be it the one they use for work, carry for fun, or take along on personal shoots; it could be anything they wanted. The only stipulation was that it had to be their own bag with the contents visible. While we only see each bag and its objects here, its easy to see how photographers’ personalities are reflected in their most-trusted carry-ons.

“Most of the time I go out just grabbing one camera and one lens, but this is the full street bag. Usually one of the cameras will be out on one shoulder or in my hand, with the satchel across my body. The little notebook [upper left]has been useful when being questioned suspiciously about what am I taking pictures of. In an emergency it can be given away as a mollification, i.e. bribe. It works.”

—Richard Bram, Street Photographer, In-Public Collective,

“This is my personal camera bag. It’s always with me on weekends, road trips and vacations. If I’m only walking around city streets, I carry one Leica M6 with either a 24mm or 21mm f/2.8 aspherical lens. I always have a bunch of rolls of Tri-X, extra batteries, a notepad, fine-line sharpies and a Lumix digital camera with a 20mm lens. I also throw a pair of Zeiss or Leica binoculars in my bag, but I never use them. Go figure...”

—David J. Carol, Photographer/Writer, Director of Photography, CBS Outdoor,

“Double check. Triple check. And have back-up equipment!”

—Rachel Barrett, Food Photographer, The New York Times,

“What transpires in the photograph is from what’s inside your heart, not the bag. I don’t like to be weighed down by my camera bag—the gear is heavy and sometimes (with the 300mm lens and monopod) cumbersome enough. Being a photojournalist requires me to carry around extra batteries, a handheld video camera, a snack, my debit card, paper and pen, and some chap stick. I like to keep it simple.”

—Faith Ninivaggi, Press Photographer, Boston Herald,

“Weddings are unique in that they are fast-paced and present all sorts of different environmental conditions that we have to be prepared for. A few “extras” can be a huge timesaver on the wedding day. Having a crochet hook or a sewing kit on hand for buttoning the back of a bride’s dress or fixing a ripped hem can easily save 20 minutes, which makes for a much-less-stressed bride!” 

—Kimberly Bamberg, Wedding Photographer, La Vie Photography, 

“My camera bag is like my baby. It’s heavy, full of crap, and I’m constantly giving it piggy back rides.” 

—Paris Visone, Rock Band Photographer,

“I haul my gear for most jobs in a Lowe Pro x200 rolling bag. My camera equipment for a football or baseball assignment usually includes a Canon 400 f/2.8, a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 and 16-35 f/2.8 and 24-70 f/2.8 lens, and four Canon EOS 1DX camera bodies. I use the Lowe Pro belt system to carry things like a flash, water bottle, Lexar CF cards, a Sekonic light meter, and a Canon 1.4x teleconverter. I also carry a soft bag with appropriate weather gear, towels and a cushion to sit on when needed. I try to remember all the small things to keep the shoot running smoothly, like a credential holder, gaffer’s tape, kneepads, monopods and a laptop. Carrying the right gear is one of the most vital elements to a successful shoot.”

—Damian Strohmeyer,
Sports Photographer, 
Sports Illustrated,

“My camera bag is a 1996 Toyota Tacoma, and it’s my mode of transportation, my bed to lie in, and my darkroom all the same. Other than my cameras and camera gear, the most important items are my leather boots and my peanut butter and jelly. You never know when you will encounter questionable terrain, or a good song to dance to. And you never know when you might not be able to find protein in the middle of nowhere.”

—Lisa Elmaleh,  Fine-Art Photographer/Teacher, The School of Visual Arts,

“My bag is just big enough to slide under an airplane seat, with enough pockets to separate all the crap, and an inner sleeve that separates my laptop from the main compartment and a side zipper if i don’t want to open the flap. I like the design because it reminds me of a saddle bag. it has all the things to keep me entertained while i wait...and wait...and wait. it’s like having my art studio in my bag.”

—Frank W. Ockenfels 3, Portrait Photographer,

“I used to show up to editorial and advertising shoots with just five Rolleiflex cameras and people would be upset because I couldn’t show them a Polaroid. Now, with digital, that will never happen.
I still love using the Rolleiflex when I can—it’s what a camera is supposed to feel like.”  

—Ken Shung, Fashion/Lingerie Photographer,