How much stuff? Professional photographer kit list

Over the last few weeks, it’s been really exciting to work with so many different clients and on so many diverse projects. But one thing that’s come up a couple of times, certainly with new clients, is they’re surprised when I turn up with as much equipment as I do. So for a headshot shoot, that we may have planned in quite a bit of detail, so I know exactly what we’re doing, they’re surprised when I bring extra equipment or as many bags as I do. And I obviously get in a conversation about it. 

For me, it’s about what could happen, not what’s going to happen. So, I have enough equipment with me, on a normal shoot, in case the weather changes, or we get the opportunity to do something extra, or one of my bits of equipment fails. I’ve got redundancies within my system to cover me if something goes wrong. Now, how many times has this happened? It’s happened a couple of times, where I’ve had failures on equipment and had to do some workaround. But that’s fine because I’ve got a system, I’ve got a backup. And this isn’t just a spare camera, which obviously I have two or three cameras with me depending on the situation. 

It’s different lighting set-ups, so for example, driving down to York to shoot Louis Alexander, an ultra-marathon runner, who’s doing 17 marathons in 17 days, I have my lighting set up, which is a three-light set-up, to get some cool lit shots. But I might end up doing most of it in natural light, just for the weather conditions and things, I don’t know. But I want that light in there, I want the opportunity if I’ve got a little window to get some of those really cool shots. 

But I’ve also got a couple of small strip constant lights, LED lights just in case, because if the wind’s too bad and I can’t get that shot, I can get two people to stand either side of Louis and I can still get a really cool shot, just with natual light, because I don’t need the light stands and the flash and any other things going on. 

Just those built-in redundancies within my system mean that I’m covered for those eventualities. Now, do I often leave the car in a car park around the corner from my shoot and feel the pain, feel the burn, as I arrive on-site, whether that’s with things over my shoulders, or on trollies, or on whatever else? Yeah, of course, I do. But would I risk turning up to a job with only a camera and shooting only natural light for the vast majority of commercial jobs? No I wouldn’t. I mean, if it was an event, maybe, you know, 99% of it would be with just the actual light that’s in there and play with the shadows, but if I’ve got a light with me, I can mix it up and I can do some different stuff as well. 

Having that opportunity, being able to capture exactly what was asked and then an extra 10% of something a bit different, something a bit intriguing, something a bit of an interest, that you may or may not use, just adds that into the mix and keeps clients on their toes and it means for the next shoot, they might turn out to say, “Well actually, oh can we do this next time? Ooh, I’ve just seen you did that, can we do something like this, next time?” That, for me, is the bit that always strives for, it’s not always having all that equipment there for the shoot that I’m on, it’s having all that equipment there for the next shoot that I might be on, with the same client, because of the ideas that we’ve done on the shoot that we’re doing. 

Now that obviously sounds a bit of a convoluted way and partly the way that my mind works, that I’m always 17 steps ahead of myself. But I know that there are clients that I’ve worked with and I have mixed stuff up with and I’ve gone, ‘I’ll tell you what look, seeing as I’m here, I’ll do this.’ And they go, ‘Wow! I really like that, I’ve got an idea for that for a project,’ and I’ll not necessarily get extra work out of it, but on the next shoot, we look at it differently and we react differently, again, creating something different on that next shoot. 

Is that something, as any photographers reading this, is that something that you’d do? Or is it something that you’re very much driven by the clients’ wishes and that planning process that you have, you’re not overly committing yourself with the amount of equipment and time and space and health, to get all this extra equipment to site? Are you happy just doing so many things like natural light? There are a lot of really good natural light photographers out there that are making loads of money. Or are you like me? I’m surely not the only one that goes overboard with the thought process of the justification for it. And as a client, how would you react to that? Does it feel like you’re getting extra value? Does it feel as though it’s overkill for the things that you’re doing? You’ve heard my logic as to why I do these things. Am I overdoing it? Would you rather a photographer just turned up with the bare essentials and delivered what was asked, as the bare essentials, but it was a lot cleaner, easier, smarter process? There you go. 

Let me know your thoughts.

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