The saying "every job is different" couldn't be more true in my work. Every shoot brings a new set of locations, new talent, and different gear requirements. Typically most jobs are travel jobs as well, which means that I often have to limit the amount of gear that I can bring, which, in turn causes me to make many decisions before every shoot. This can be stressful at times as it would be easy to just grab my bag and walk out the door. But I need to be prepared, so oftentimes I find myself packing several days before shoots to make sure I have all the proper tools.
I have found that a little bit of consistency can go a long way. I make sure to always have my "everyday items," those items that I never leave home without. From there I make additions based on the job. These items include some of the obvious things like camera, lenses, media, etc., as well as some items that you wouldn't think of but are seriously essential to a shoot. These "everyday items" typically go into my camera bag as my carry-on.
How to Pack Your Photo Gear for a Flight
My general rule of thumb is to carry on the bare minimum to complete the shoot. I cannot tell you how stressful it is to get to a job and find out the bags that were checked didn't show up. This can be especially stressful when shooting in locations far away from anywhere you could get a replacement.
So always make sure you have at least your camera and lenses packed in your carry-on, so you can shoot something should your checked bags go missing. You might not have that fancy gimbal or drone with you, but you'll at least be making images, and that is better than sitting in the hotel all day twiddling your thumbs.
What I Pack in My Carry-on
So, to begin, here is how I sort out my typical carry-on bag.
- 2 camera bodies: You NEVER know what will happen. I always make sure to have two bodies with me for a couple of reasons. One, it is often easier to shoot with two cameras (not having to swap lenses). And two, if one happens to fall or break, you still have the other remaining to shoot with. (This often goes for video shoots as well, though, in the event of a video shoot, the cameras typically get packed into an additional carry-on and transported by an assistant.)
- I never leave home without the following lenses: 14-24, 24-70, 70-200. From there I may decide to bring a couple primes depending on the shoot, but at least this gets me covered from 14-200.
- Extra media
- Custom SLR Glide One camera strap
The next grouping of items are what I like to call "hotel stuff." It's the gear that I feel strongly about traveling with, but I would never bring it out into the field with me during the shoot. Typically these items would travel in a separate compartment (like their own F-Stop ICU) and then be removed upon arriving at our hotel. These items usually include:
- Hard drive(s)
- Battery chargers