Picture This: What’s in your camera bag?

Alright my fellow photo fiends! This month we’ve talked about photo editing, depth of field, and taking a photo walk; for our last week in February we’re going to talk about what to carry in your camera bag and taking photos of people we love.

This is my camera bag and all the junk I put in it:

The contents of a camera bag
Items not pictured: chapstick, pens, gum wrappers, and a discarded envelope.

In general, when I go out to take photos, I like to have all my tools with me. I keep my three camera lenses, an extra lens cap (I learned my lesson after losing a cap down the crack of a glacier once), oodles of memory cards, a spare battery, a lens cleaner, and two lens hoods (you really only need one, but both of mine fit nicely into each other, so I just take them both). I sometimes carry my point-and-shoot camera as well a Flip Camera (not pictured) for videos, but less and less these days as my new DSLR has a video function on it.

Small camera bag with three compartments.
Room for a camera but not much more.

But first, what kind of camera bag should I have? My first bag was something like this: but it didn’t fit my things very well. My second bag was pretty much the same but with more room to store things and could carry a laptop. Ultimately, I ended up giving both camera bags away for one big reason: they were too heavy to be carried on my shoulder. Carrying a camera plus lenses plus accessories is heavy. Add a laptop and it’s unreasonable. I suspect my second bag, completely full, weighed something in the field of 25 lbs. I would come home from photo-adventuring and need neck rubs every time (not that getting neck rubs is too bad). So I started carrying everything in my backpack. That wasn’t the greatest solution either because things rolled around, banging into each other, sand got in my bag once, ruining a lens, there was no padding so I had to be very careful putting down my bag, and because it wasn’t organized, I was always digging for stuff. In short, I don’t recommend throwing your camera gear into your backpack. However, there are special camera backpacks you can buy that will fit pretty much everything.

Large camera backpack with room for every camera accessory imaginable.
Where's the kitchen sink?

I looked at a lot of camera backpacks but all of them had problems for me–they were too big, too expensive, and too hard to get into. Also, if you travel a lot like I do, it’s easy to slash and dash a camera backpack and well, I’d like to return home with my camera, thanks. The search continued for something easier to use….

After two years of throwing my camera into my backpack (this is how I know that general backpacks are not a good idea), I finally found the bag I really wanted and I bought the Lowpro Passport Sling for $43 at Costco. This bag distributes weight very, has a padded compartment for my camera, little specially sized and easy to access pockets for my memory cards and my extra camera battery, and the side expands to hold more stuff (i.e., more lenses). It’s not ideal (the expanded side is not padded so I still need to be careful when setting it down) but it’s pretty close and, ultimately, the size and weight distribution of this bag wins against all other features (I can comfortably carry it for hours without experiencing neck pains).

Sling bag with room for a camera and lenses.
It's a simple bag with an expandable compartment!

It took me a long time to find a camera bag that I liked, but once I found it, I was very happy. It pays to keep looking for the one you want. When buying a camera bag, consider the things I’ve written about here: size, ease of use, weight, compartments, padding, and how it makes your body feel. When you go to the camera shop, ask them to load it up with some weight so you can see what it’ll feel like and then keep looking. Try many, many bags so that you won’t end up like me with two that you don’t like!

So here’s my question for you: what kind of bag do you use and what do you put in it? Leave your response in the comments along with your next photo challenge: take a picture of someone you love. Try to capture their personality or their expressions. Tell us something about the person without using words. If you don’t want to post a photo of someone for privacy reasons, then post a photo of something you love – your cat, your running shoes, your favorite chair! Be creative and try to capture why you love this thing. Next week we’ll talk about portraits and how to improve on what you’ve just taken, then we’ll do it again with the same subject!

Don’t forget that the object of this fun little challenge is to use our cameras and not just show our favorite pictures. To learn how to take better photos, you actually have to take photos. It’s not good enough to just read and remember – you need to practice! If you need a break, don’t worry! Just come back to us when you can (I’m falling behind myself with a new job and a new apartment). If you’re new, feel free to join in by posting your photos in the comments.

Okay, let’s go! Ready, set, shoot!

By Thelma

Thelma is a photographer and traveler currently residing in Sydney, Australia. In her free time she can be found with her nose behind a camera or obsessing over koalas.

19 replies on “Picture This: What’s in your camera bag?”

One other kind of bag I should have mentioned is the super secure one for the very careful traveler. Behold, Pacsafe!

Their bags are reinforced with a metal mesh that makes slashing and dashing impossible. I have had this happen to me before so I really do believe there is a market for this kind of bag. (I only lost my wallet–thankfully they missed the camera!) My partner and I use Pacsafe backpack nets when we travel and it really does make me feel more secure.

Oh! You just reminded me that I have two rolls of film I found in some of my boxes deep in my mom’s basement! I should go get those developed today! I’m so excited to see what surprises they hold as I have no idea what’s on them! (One is a super old 110 roll!)

Gah! That bag is TO DIE FOR! I’m super jealous! lol. How exciting to have a new camera, Leah! When I bought my new one last June, I had this permanent bewildered grin on my face for about a month–I probably smiled in my sleep! (That sounds creepy…) Yay!!!! New camera!!! Please post photos soon!!

Isn’t it?? Its beautiful, the leather is so soft and its just perfect! :) (Too bad I cannot stand the smell of leather..)

I posted a few of the kids on FB. Nothing spectacular because we’ve all been really sick all week but…they’re pretty cute :)

That’s the key: getting all your necessary gear in with room for purse stuff. It took a long time to find that magic combination for me! The first one I had (it might even be that photo) had a water proof rain cover that zipped out of the back of the bag. It was super useful and it’s the one thing I feel is really missing from my current bag.

I just got a Timbuk2 bag (they no longer sell it, otherwise I’d post a link). It fits my limited amount of camera stuff (an SLR & lens) and could probably fit a few more things too.  I love my messenger bag from them, and its waterproof, so I figured I’d give their camera bags a try.  So far no problems, but again, I’m pretty new to this, and I also don’t have lots of equipment/experience hauling my camera around.

My camera bag is dinky. It’s only large enough to contain my camera with the lens, the little camera handbook and maybe the battery charger. Oh, and lip balm because I cannot be without lip balm, ever. I like the little bag and it currently makes sense for me because I only have the kit lens (n00b). It sits nicely against my hip, it’s well-cusioned and the camera loads lens-down in the bag which makes for very easy access. Someday I’ll have to upgrade. The sling style one you pictured looks nice.

Yours sounds pretty good! I go back and forth about the order of importance but right now I’m thinking it’s 1. Can it hold everything? and 2. Is it comfortable? Sounds like yours fits the description! I sometimes carry my battery charger too though when I think about it, I’ve never needed it while out and about… Maybe I should take it out and lighten the load?

The sling one I pictured it pretty awesome. It has these really handy side pockets that wrap the whole way around and can hold a water bottle, sunglasses, the little things like keys, chapstick, change, and train tickets. I love that I can access those things quickly without having unzip the bag and dig.

I don’t have a dedicated camera bag yet. I think this needs to change as I carry around too much crap when I go out picture taking and half the time I can’t get to it when I want it. As far as the stuff that goes into my bag, I almost always carry both my Holgas with me on photo trips (135 TIM, 120 CFN). Sometimes I carry the little point and shoot digital camera with me, and if I bring that I usually bring along my Polaroid Pogo printer to share any snaps I take of people with them. And tons of AA batteries. For my flashes and the point and shoot camera. I run into problems when I decide to take my TLR camera out. It isn’t the shape of most cameras and it is very heavy and very fragile. It has it’s own leather case with a handle that I use to carry it outside of any other bag I might be using.  Convenient it is not. Other than that, there is film which I try to keep in a separate compartment of whatever bag I’m using for convineance, but depending on how much I take with me (and what format) I don’t always have a space for it. Also I have a bitty gorilla pod with magnetic feet that I like to take along if there is room in the bag.

Kinda sad that I didn’t get to finish my roll this week, Maybe I’ll get to it this week and have something to share.

Wow, sounds like you have a lot of gear to carry! I’d love to see some photos from your TLR camera–can you post one for us? I once came across a sweet man who took my picture with my bf and then printed it for us. I’ve always been amazed by how thoughtful and convenient that was. It’s way cool that you do that for people. I must remember to do this next time I’m traveling in poor countries (sometimes people ask me for money to take their photo which feels weird for me but giving them the photo might be a good compromise).

Share my photos? Oh well… If you twist my arm about it.

Also, Pogos are way fun, and fairly cheep now too. I got mine off ebay for $30 or so. Most of the places I take my digital camera are conventions, so the people in costume that I snap a picture of are usually pretty geeked to get a little print out.

Leave a Reply