When it comes to carrying your gear through a fast-paced, day-long event, there’s certainly no shortage of options. Backpacks and shoulder bags have long been the professional event photographer’s staple when they need to keep everything close at hand. In recent years, convenient and versatile belt systems have taken over some of that popularity.
For a wedding professional, accessibility is vital. Missing a key moment while digging around through a backpack isn’t an option. Waist holsters place your equipment on you rather than around you, which benefits the active shooter in several ways. Primarily, your gear is always within arm’s reach. Instead of swinging a heavy bag over your shoulder each time you need a new lens or memory card, it becomes as simple as reaching down to your hip. Belt systems are modular and customizable, easily tailored to your shooting style or assignment. Interchangeable pouches and clips can be added or subtracted to your liking, even on the fly. Designated components on your belt also keep your accessories in separate areas, lessening the probability of memory cards, batteries, etc. from being lost while you’re on the move.
Another advantage of a modular belt system is the unfortunate fact that no photographer is a stranger to back pain. Equipment is heavy, especially so after a long day shooting a wedding. Photographers often wear gear around their neck and shoulders, putting intense strain on the mid and upper back. Several hours in, this discomfort can become unbearable. It can inhibit not only one's mood, but one's professionalism and concentration as well. By wearing your equipment at the hip, the weight is distributed evenly across the sturdiest point on the body—making frustrating, distracting pain less of a burden.
A few samples below will give you an idea of popular choices for wedding and event photographers. Belt systems and their accessories are available in a wide range of styles and selections.
The S&F Deluxe Technical Belt, available in two sizes (S/M or L/XL), maintains a lightweight feel despite its sturdy design. Extra padding and thickness in the strap make it comfortable to wear and easy on the back. The S/M has room for 9 compatible accessories, while the bigger L/XL can fit up to 11.
Lowepro’s lens exchange cases, which can be used alone, are also compatible with S&F belts. The S&F Lens Exchange Case 200AW will hold a 70-200mm f/2.8, typically the longest lens most wedding photographers need to carry. The smaller 100AW is perfect for most standard wide-angle prime and zoom lenses. Each expands into two holding units when opened, allowing you to perform one-handed exchanges efficiently. For an all-purpose pouch, an S&F Utility Bag 100AW will hold a DSLR body or multitude of accessories. It comes with an adjustable interior divider to create separate compartments, adding an extra touch of organization. A proper S&F Memory Wallet 20 can also be an invaluable resource, making sure your most obviously indispensable accessories stay organized and safe. The Lowepro unit will hold up to 12 CF or SD memory cards.
If you’re new to the belt-systems market altogether, you may be interested in a cost-effective bundle to start off your collection. The Lowepro Event Photographer’s Kit, available in small and large, comes with both a belt and technical vest. Included in the set is an S&F Lens Exchange Case 200AW and S&F Utility Bag 100AW, among several other modular components. The collapsible S&F Slim Lens Pouch 55AW stores and protects most wide-angle or standard zoom lenses (such as a 24-70mm f/2.8), while the S&F Quick Flex Pouch 75AW is designed to hold accessories or a large wireless flash (such as a Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT or Nikon SB-910). An S&F Phone Case 20 houses most popular smartphone models, and keeps your mobile devices securely stored on your person while you shoot. Lastly, the kit includes the S&F Transport Duffle Backpack to house all of your modular accessories with gear inside.
Domke belts, which come in black or tan, are simple and to the point. Compatible with the F-5XB Shoulder and Belt Bag and Accessory Pouches, they give you the flexibility to mix and match depending on your needs. Most small to mid-sized lenses (such as your wide angle or standard zoom) fit in the F-505 Small Lens Case, while the F-505 Medium Lens Case is better suited for your 70-200mm f/2.8. Both units offer a padded interior for an extra element of protection. The J-5XB Medium Shoulder and Belt Bag will house a DSLR body with enough room left over for a spare small-to-mid-sized lens or accessory, such as a wireless flash. A divider can be adjusted in the main compartment to break the space up into three separate areas.
The F-945Belt Pouch 7.5 x 6 makes a great multi-purpose bag for accessories such as light meters, battery packs, filters or memory card wallets. It’s available in a variety of creative colors, including the distressed protective RuggedWear with an additional wax coating. Similarly, the F-900 Pouch for your point-and-shoot camera, smartphone, battery pack or other small items also comes in several different colors.
The Pro Speed Belt V2.0, available in a range of lengths from Think Tank, is a highly customizable strap with a simple, straightforward design. It provides just enough padding for comfort without being overwhelmingly bulky and distracting. Buckle stops prevent the belt from loosening over time with heavy use, but allow it to be resized easily as needed. For the shooter who dabbles in other event work besides weddings (such as sports), the wider Steroid Speed Belt V2.0 may be an option to consider instead.
Lens changers for the Speed Belt come in a variety of sizes. The 75 Pop Down V2.0 will hold your 70-200mm f/2.8 with its lens hood and tripod collar attached. For your small-to-mid-sized primes and zooms, consider the 50 V2.0 instead. A multi-purpose pouch, such as the Speed Changer V2.0, can store your DSLR body when it’s not in use, or keep a second camera close by. Like the comparable Lowepro unit, it can also be divided into sections and used to hold flashes, light meters or card wallets such as the Pixel Pocket Rocket Memory Card Carrier. The same can be said for the more compact multi-purpose bag, the Little Stuff It!. The Little Stuff It! stores memory cards, batteries, filters and other smaller accessories easily.
Should you need a designated pouch for your flash, the Strobe Stuff will accommodate one unit with a standard diffuser attached. It also makes use of a pass-through cable port, allowing you to attach your flash to an external battery pack without having to leave the bag unzipped. A large nylon case, such as Think Tank’s Travel Pouch, can house your necessities for out-of-town events. Toiletries, a spare change of clothes or other small personal items can be stored and transported to a location easily.
Think Tank offers two 4-piece value sets that are well suited to most wedding photographers’ needs. The Modular Component Set V2.0 includes the 75 Pop Down V2.0 and 50 V2.0 lens changers, Strobe Stuff and Speed Changer 2.0, all of which have medium-weight padding. The Modular Skin Set V2.0 includes comparably sized pieces, but instead uses compacted, unpadded material to lessen the bulk. While creating a slimmer overall presentation, less padding does sacrifice some element of protection.
Another incredibly versatile option, the foam-padded Tamrac M.A.S. Modular Accessory Belt holds up to five compatible accessory pouches. An M.A.S. Lens Case – Pro 50 can hold your mid-sized prime or zoom lenses up to 5.5”, while the bigger M.A.S. Lens Case – Pro 100 has enough space for your standard zoom (such as a 24-70 f/2.8). The M.A.S. Flash Accessory Pocket – Medium will accommodate your wireless flash unit or light meter, with room for a few additional batteries as well. In the S.A.S Memory & Battery Management System, Tamrac utilizes an effective organizational system of red flags to assign which memory cards and batteries are used up. This clever implement saves time and guesswork while you’re out in the field. The same red-flag system is used on a smaller scale in the Digital Zoom 7 Holster Bag. The Holster Bag can hold a DSLR with up to a 5” lens attached. Its Dual Foam Technology provides extra protection and a secure, molded fit for your camera.
The 3” padded WB belt from f.64 is an adjustable, comfortable unit. Compression straps prevent the belt from sagging with a heavy accessory load, making it easier for you to shoot actively. The compatible HCX Large Holster Bag will hold your DSLR with up to an 8” lens attached. The downsized HCM Medium Holster Bag carries a DSLR with up to a 6” lens attached. Both pouches come in different colors and have additional zippered pockets to store batteries, filters or other small accessories. They also keep your camera and lens together for ready-to-shoot accessibility, which can be a time-saving factor out in the field. The all-purpose Small Fanny Pack can be customized to carry a combination of DLSR body, lenses, flashes and other accessories. A movable divider allows you to break up the interior into designated spaces, and an additional outside pocket can house your smartphone, memory card wallet or filters.
The Modular Belt for 4000/5000/6000 Bags is compatible with a wide variety of M-Rock pouches. It will either support a DSLR bag and two modular accessory bags, or four singular modular accessory bags.
The 4070 Grand Teton Double Access Holster Camera Bag supports one DSLR with up to a 7” lens attached, while the slightly smaller Double Access 4030 Yellowstone Holster Case allows up to a 5” lens. Both cases offer dual-access zippers on the top and front/side, making it easier to get to your gear from any angle. Rain jackets are included and can be used as lens-changing bags in inclement weather, and plastic paneling in the lining reinforces stability and absorbs shock if the case is jostled.
The 5020 Cascade Double Access Notebook and Camera Bag is a multi-purpose case that can be used to carry your DSLR with a 5” lens attached, an additional lens, flash unit, accessories and even your tablet. For small accessories, the 2010 Mesa Verde Compact Camera Bag can store a compact mirrorless camera with an attached lens plus batteries, filters or memory cards.
Spider Holster System’s claim to fame is a unique plate-and-pin locking mechanism that readies your DSLR for “quick-draw” style shooting. The plate attaches to your camera’s tripod socket and fits into a pin slide on the belt. At the hip, the camera can be secured permanently via a two-position lock. With only one lock engaged, the camera will release with the flick of a finger. In a demanding environment, the shooter can choose to disengage both locks entirely. Even so, the unit stays secure. The DSLR body needs to be lifted upward for release from the pin slide; meaning slight bumps or jostles won’t leave you worried about your camera hitting the ground. The Single Camera System holds one 5-lb DSLR, while the Dual Camera System is perfect for the shooter with multiple cameras. Apart from holding a second camera body, it can also be used to carry a spare lens via its tripod mount. For those who already own units of a different brand, SpiderPro offers an adapter kit for Lowepro and Think Tank belts.
SpiderPro recently introduced a line of reinforced accessory clips under the moniker Spider Monkey, which snap on to the belt of nearly any holster. Using the same locking system, the plates attach to any flat surface on a small to mid-sized accessory. This gives your flashes, battery packs, light meters and Pocket Wizards the same quick-draw accessibility as your DSLR.
For more information on equipment-slinging options, speak with a B&H sales professional in our New York SuperStore, over the phone at 1-800-606-6969 or online via Live Chat.