Packing Up for Location Photography

While we were unpacking for a recent location photography session for a tech manufacturing company, one of the subjects we were working with commented on the gear we were bringing in. Specifically, how much gear was coming out of my car. “It’s like one of those clown car shows!”

It got me thinking about how I pack up to leave the studio. I generally don’t have a super anal check list of every piece of photography gear in the studio, since that would take weeks. I do have a clear path of thought that makes sure we have what we need when we get to the client’s location, whether it be around the corner or in another state.

There is always an expectation of what we are going to be shooting, even if the shot list is just a general idea. From that expectation, I can build a theoretical set and extrapolate what gear needs to be brought.

And then, I just follow the path of the photo.

The Path of the Photo

Start at the back of the picture. Do we need to bring a background? No, it is outside or environmental. Or, yes. If so, which one(s)?

What kind of lighting are we doing? Natural light? Okay, that needs reflectors and, possibly, scrims. And, a small strobe kit for back up. Or, bring the full strobe kit. Or, hot lights, etc.

Which dictates which stands, sandbags, and gear bags get pulled and packed.

The picture goes to the camera. Which bodies? Which lenses? Any filters? What about the backup? What about batteries and chargers? Even on short days, a dead battery will destroy a shoot, if you aren’t prepared. My first digital shoot, 7 years ago, I had a rental body with only one battery. And it flaked. Luckily, we were able to “acquire” another one and finish the day.

What is the camera sitting on? Hand held? Nah, bring the tripod, just in case. Don’t forget the tripod quick release plates.

From the camera to the laptop: tethered? That means at least 3 cables, just in case. Shooting to card? Bring 2 card readers. Just in case.

And then an external hard drive for additional back up. Just in case!

Got your password for uploading to a server over wireless? Job jacket with directions and extra model releases?

Good. Now, the last thing to consider is, how are you going to get this pile of gear from the studio to the car, the car to the location and back again. Pack the rolling cart.

Do I really need all that gear for a “simple” shoot? Well, since the success of the shoot, my client’s happiness, my own piece of mind, and my reputation are riding on it: Yes!

Remember, proper preparation prevents poor location photography!

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