When it comes to shooting, there are plenty of moments during the day when your gear holds you back. Lens changes, filter changes, grips changes, even packing it all up when you’re wrapped and want to go home.
My background is live events, mostly weddings and corporate. Quick, creative shooting is an absolute must. And gear holding me back is the last thing I need when on a shoot.
With a few simple tweaks to your kit, you can become a much more productive, without the feeling that your gear is slowing you down, or in the forefront of your mind so you can’t focus on the important task at hand.
Here’s a few tips I’ve picked up along the way, that will hopefully help you become a more productive shooter. Note – these tips are more applicable to the live event/one man band style shooters. With larger productions, job roles are shared over more than one person, and the pace of shoots is much different.
1 – Label all your gear
This is so important if you’re working with other people who own similar equipment/you’re hiring gear. I’ve spent hours at the end of shoots before sifting through kit trying to work out whose is whose. A simple Dymo label maker will do the trick here. I label everything from lenses to HDMI cables; it makes things a breeze for when sorting through stuff at the end of a long day. Everything simply has my name and number. That way if an item goes missing, the recipient has a way to contact you.
An extension to this tip is to make it unique where possible. I’ve purchased green rear lens caps for all my lenses, making my kit incredibly easy and quick to identify.
2 – Step all your lenses up to the same filter thread
Find your lens with the largest filter thread and step up all lenses to that same size.
This means that all lenses will take the same size lens cap (no more fiddling about trying to find the 72mm cap for the 50mm, and the 67mm cap for the 100mm).
It will also make filter changes much quicker. If you’re a DSLR shooter you’ll at least own one Fader ND (click here to see our fader comparison). Just ensure this is the same size as your largest lens and you’re good to go.
There are a couple of precautions you should consider with this technique. One is you’re likely to lose the ability to use any lens hoods for lenses you step up. However, I find that due to the constant need for a fader ND with DSLRs this isn’t really an issue, as use of a fader ND and lens hood isn’t usually compatible. The Flex Lens Shade offers a limited solution if you’re conscious of flare.
Another is when increasing the diameter of every lens, you demand more space, and therefore storage can become an issue. I step all my lenses up to 77mm. If they were any larger (say 82mm) they simply wouldn’t fit in my tightly packed pelican.
3 – Purchase the new centre pinch lens caps
Whilst on the subject of lenses, it’s worth noting how significant the upgrade is from the old Canon E-XXU lens caps, to the new Canon E-XX II lens caps (XX relating to the diameter of the lens in mm). If you’re looking to step all yours up to the same diameter, I strongly suggest purchasing a set of these. See the video below for just how much more secure they are than the old style caps, and third party versions (note – don’t try this at home).
For you photographers/people using lens hoods this will make your life so much easier also, as it’s infinitely easier to attach and remove a centre pinch lens cap from a hooded lens than using side pinch caps.
4 – Setup all your gear to the same plate
This will save you so much time. I never adjust tripod plates on shoots. Every item of grip has it’s own dedicated tripod plate and/or adaptor that stays permanently on that bit of kit. It’s important to pick a tripod plate that is both affordable, and compatible with all your gear. One of the most popular is the Manfrotto 501PL. This is a cheap, readily available plate, with an affordable quick release adaptor – the Manfrotto 577. The plate also comes in a variety of lengths, which is handy for larger rigs/heavier setups like a jib where more security is required.
The Cinevate Simplis Plate is a great addition to this setup, it offers snap on and off mounting and whilst it is adjustable to accommodate a wide range of plates, it natively fits the manfrotto plate, and ships with one too.
Further more to the manfrotto plate is its compatibility with Sachtler tripods. They are the same width, therefore any Sachtler head in the FSB/ACE range (including Cine DSLR, excluding T plate systems) will take this without the need for an adaptor.
Another plate solution would be the Kessler Kwik Release system. This is good as it offers a wide range of plates for cameras, jib and slider, however it’s a much more expensive setup all round.
5 – Look after your cards
One of, if not the most important item of gear on a shoot is your memory cards. Think Tank offer a great line called the Pixel Pocket Rocket. These pouches latch onto your belt loop for safety, and a simple upside down/right way up procedure for used and unused cards will leave you hassle free on location.
6 – Look after your batteries
So many times have I worked with shooters whom when asked, forget whether the battery in their pocket is fresh or empty. Think Tank offer a very nice solution for DSLR batteries – The DSLR battery holder. Again a simple upside down/right way up procedure ensures you don’t get them mixed up. I’ve added some belt loops to my pouch to make them easily accessible, plus batteries are bulky to keep in pockets.
7 – Keep spare lenses on you
Keeping spare lenses on you ensures you aren’t repeatedly running back to your bag to change lens, creating a chance to miss a moment. There are a few solutions for this, but (with risk of sounding like a Think Tank affiliate which we’re not) the best one I’ve found to work is the Think Tank Lens Changer. This is a small over the shoulder bag that provides you with a few lens options at your fingertips. It also leaves space for other small items such as cards, batteries and filters. Many other solutions often stem from utility belt style setups, but I feel these create way too much of a ‘production feel’ to your appearance. This can in turn make you stand out in the crowd, impacting the sincerity of a shoot or risk of sticking out like a sour thumb if you get in another operator’s shot.
8 – Accumulate all your chargers into one simple bundle
If in a situation where you’re moving venues regularly whilst shooting, I can’t recommend this enough. Below is my ‘charge box’ setup I made after leaving a battery and charger behind at a venue. It’s simply a piece of ship board inside an old laptop case.
When you need to charge a battery mid shoot, it’s hassle to locate your charger, plug in the lead, plug in the charger and attach the battery. It’s also an easy item to leave behind, especially when you have to hunt a little for an available plug, which can sometimes be in a different location to where you are storing your gear.
Accumulating your chargers like this gives leaves little to be forgotten when on the move. It also means you only need one plug to get all going. It also means you can leave batteries on their chargers venue to venue so that you don’t have to pack everything down and forget which batteries are charged and which aren’t.
These are just a few tips that can help you become a more productive shooter. 10 would’ve been a nice round number, do you have any tips to share that stops your gear slowing you down?