Packing your Bags for a Photo Shoot

Packing your Bags for a Photo Shoot


You know I write everything from experience. No point in figuring things out and not passing on the info! So here is a list of simple things to remember (or in my case, forget) when packing up your bags for a photo shoot or wedding:

  • Choose your bag. I have a girly camera bag (from Jo Totes) and a big Lowepro Roller. I use them for different types of work. For example, I bring the roller fully packed with everything I need if I know I have an assistant to roll it around for me. It it’s just me or I know the weather is rainy (mud in the wheels!) I make sure to bring a bag I can wear on me.
  • Charge your batteries and pack the charger
  • Wipe and format the memory cards. Nothing more annoying than stopping a couple midway down the aisle so you can change your memory card and wait the 20 seconds for 8 gigs of last week’s photos to clear out.
  • Check that you have extra batteries for your flash and that you have them in a handy place for a quick change. If you’ve been using them for a while, it might be good to just change them before you head out so it doesn’t become an issue. On that note, ALWAYS make sure you trash used batteries. Even putting them in your pocket can be a no no because I assure you, you will forget if they’re old or fresh.
  • Make sure you’ve packed a lens cleaning cloth.
  • Business cards! Keep a little pile of cards in all your camera bags, handbags and put one or two in your pocket. If I notice that one of the bridesmaids has an engagement ring, I make sure to hand her a card and tell her to check the blog for her friend’s photos within a week.
  • A pen. Seems unimportant, but I find myself needing a pen at least once.
  • One of those little tiny folding umbrellas. But don’t put it back in your case once it’s gotten wet!
  • In all my camera bags, I keep a check list of these things so I can just quickly run through before heading out the door.

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Elizabeth Halford is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

Some Older Comments

  • Paul September 5, 2010 05:28 am

    Regarding battery storage: I like to use these quart-size zipper bags (the ones that you use for airport-liquids). Bring two and you have one for the used and one for the new batteries (you can label them).

  • Sebastian Slotwinski September 3, 2010 08:18 am

    Hi guys
    Recently I bought a bike. I like cycling around my town and taking pictures. I was using my old back pack but it wasn’t very comfortable nor safe for my camera (bumps etc) Could you please recommend some good backpack I could use in this case?

  • Luxury Shawls August 31, 2010 09:06 pm

    A very good resource and some valuable tips, although I agree that each shoot may require something different. Preparation and a list before each shoot is the key in my opinion.

  • Biswajit Dey Photoblog August 31, 2010 03:04 pm

    That's some cool tips.....I tend to forget sometings or the other many a times....even once I forgot to take my camera battery which I left for chanrging at home.. :D

  • Rob August 31, 2010 08:33 am

    I have two shoot boxes and a shoot bag separate from my camera bag.

    Light stands, umbrellas and strobes go in the shoot bag along with reflectors, clamps, lighting gizmos, sand bags, snacks and water.

    The first shoot box has props, a robe, colored cloth (white, black, gold, silver, deep purple), more umbrellas, and and a beach blanket.

    Final box has hot lights, extension cords, power strips and more modifiers.

    Depending the complexity of the shoot I take them in order - bag, bag and box one, bag and both boxes.

  • Lon August 31, 2010 02:27 am

    As I learned last week, if you put all your gear in one place make sure it is all fully insured by a good policy and reasonable deductible. And make sure you guard that bag closely!

    It's amazing how quick a thief can run off with a backpack containing thousands of dollars worth of equipment, even in plain daylight.

    Once again: make sure you have theft insurance!

    (also if anyone comes across a gripped Canon rebel XTi with Tamron 17-50mm for sale on ebay that looks suspicious please let me know!)

  • Tony August 29, 2010 09:42 pm

    If your charger has a cord, bring it...

    I was at Photoshop World last year in Vegas with my Nikon D200. I had brought my charger base, but not the power cord. Ended up going to a Radio Shack to get a power cord. I brought the charger with me to the Radio Shack and the manager said "Yep, the double-D cord, over there on the wall."

  • Darren August 29, 2010 04:36 pm

    Wedding photography, stressful, so i pack in a box of headache tablets as i have had a few headaches when shooting long day weddings. Problem is i am running out of space, Have a Tamrac Expodition 8 and it's almsot bursting at the seams.

  • OsmosisStudios August 29, 2010 12:34 pm

    I'm OCD: trust me, my stuff's organized out the wazoo.

  • Cornell August 29, 2010 10:54 am

    If you are traveling by plane and a change of planes is needed to get you to your destination, try to pack any extra camera(s) and lens(es) in a bag that can fit under the airplane seat.

    A few years ago, a plane I was taking was late leaving Chicago. We arrived just in time to at the next airport to board the plane. Unfortunately, all of the overhead bins were taken and my carry-on luggage had to checked into the plane's luggage area. Fortunately, I had my second lens in a truly hard case (which dated back years ago when you could get a truly hard case) and I had surrounded the lens and case with enough clothing to cushion the lens against any shocks.

    This flight dated before airlines charged for luggage being checked and people were carrying more luggage to avoid the checked-luggage fees.

  • charity miles August 29, 2010 07:46 am

    I would add a few granola bars and a bottled water for the times you are sitting around in between things or when you don't get lunch because a shoot goes long!

  • Lisa August 29, 2010 07:43 am

    Thanks for the tips - I like the idea of adding the checklist. Probably laminated would be handy.
    I would suggest some kind of small container (an old pill bottle works well) marked "USED BATTERIES" so you can properly dispose of them vs. throwing in trash. In many places they are considered hazardous waste and shouldn't be chucked in the regular garbage.
    I also include pen/paper - can't tell you how many times that has come in handy in my travels.

  • fotographx August 29, 2010 07:38 am

    It is a bit simple to say pack for a photo shoot and say this is what I bring. The list thing is most important thing to pack for your shoot. As part of my work flow I create a hand written list of what I think I'll need in a spiral notebook , when I pack my bag I make a slash beside it. If I think of something else while I packing I can include that in my list and make my mark. After the shoot I cross that slash as each piece returns to my bag. When I have all X's then I know I have everything I brought to the shoot.
    I have a basic or simple lighting kit that I use for most photo shoots. 2 Speed lamps, two Manfroto five section light stands, two umbrella heads, three pocket wizards, two flying discs modified to fit light stands and an extra hole for the pocket wizard wire, 2 double folding umbrellas with removable backs. I have a snoot and a 20 deg grid. I have a couple black / white sided flash cards with Velcro and a pair of Velcro straps. I carry about 20-30 lbs of ankle weights for weighing down light stands. I have two sets of rechargeable batteries for everything. Last but not least is a knee pad. All of this equipment and cameras and lenses fit into my backpack and one light stand case. It grows from there.

  • Mike August 29, 2010 07:18 am

    I have 6 batteries for my P&S, and I've numbered them 1 to 6 with a permanent marker. When I change out a flat batt, I always go for the next number in sequence (wrapping to 1 after 6). That way I can drop the used one in a pocket, although for speed and less confusion I use a different pocket than the one with the fresh batteries.

    The numbering also helps me spread the use among the batteries, and hopefully increase their lifetime.

  • Gabi August 29, 2010 06:59 am

    For the sake of the environment, don't trash your batteries! Get them to a battery collection point. Better yet, use rechargeable ones, the 2700mA will do for flashing.

  • eric August 29, 2010 06:35 am

    Really depends on the shoot you have scheduled. Where are the light stands, shoot through umbrellas or softboxes, reflectors, backdrops, white balance card, backup body?