One of the most common questions I get asked is what is in my camera bag?
I know a lot of people think it is my magical camera and lens combo that creates the beautiful images you see on my website. I wish that were true, but it is not. I have been working on my craft as a birth photographer for over 5 years where I have attended over 250 births. I also completed an intensive two-year full-time Professional Photography course at Langara College. I have never stopped learning. I never feel I have reached my fullest potential and that is why I love my job so much. There is always more to learn. Calling yourself a professional birth photographer means you will be working in low light, fast moving, challenging environments, and you should have the professional gear to help yourself achieve the results you and your clients are hoping and expecting. So yes, professional equipment is essential to be a professional birth photographer but you will also need to learn the craft of photography.
So with that, here is what I carry with me to births.
What camera bag do I have?
I have a Manfrotto backpack that is always packed and ready to go. I like having a backpack instead of a bag or roller case because I can easily throw it on my back and still shoot while carrying my gear. I don’t have to pull a loud, roller bag down long hospital hallways. Another bonus is that it doesn’t weigh a lot when empty, which is great because once you add all of your camera gear the bag is really heavy. I picked a backpack that had extra storage for my doula gear and my laptop. The camera gear is easy to access and it is padded to help protect the gear. There are a few size options, depending on the amount of gear you have and the size of your laptop.
What do I keep in this magical bag?
I have my Nikon D750 as my main camera with a Nikon D600 as my backup. I love both of these cameras for their video capability and sharpness. I like how light and compact these cameras are especially for the documentary style shooting that we do.
I keep a charged battery inside both cameras at all times. I fill all the SD slots with Lexar Professional 32GB memory cards. I keep an extra camera battery, the battery charger, and 2 extra cards in the zip up pocket.
I have a Nikon 24-70 mm f 2.8G lens without a filter. Who wants to put a cheap piece of glass on an expensive lens! I have the Sigma Art 35mm f1.4 lens on my backup camera. I mostly shoot with the 24-70mm. When I am both the doula and the birth photographer, I like to have the flexibility with the focal length, without having to change lenses. I also don’t like how close I have to get with the 35mm to get a close-up image. That said, the 35mm is super sharp and great for video!
I have two flashes the Nikon SB-910 AF Speedlight and my old Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight. I carry Eneloop batteries in each of them and an extra two sets for back up. I have used the same batteries for years it is totally worth the investment for good power.
I also have gum, instant coffee packs, licorice tea and instant oatmeal packages, for a filling, warm late night snack. I have a small bag with my basic hygiene stuff like lip balm, toothbrush, toothpaste, Advil, deodorant, a diva cup and hair ties. I carry extra socks because home waterbirths always make my socks wet. I have an extra phone charger and $20 in case I forget my wallet. I am often a doula at births so I also have my rebozo, homeopathic remedies, including Bach Rescue Remedy, orange + peppermint essential oils, and an Elle TENS machine, including an extra set of electrodes.
Often before I run out the door I add my sweater, laptop + charging cable, a water bottle, coffee cup and hopefully my wallet! I even have my birth outfit already picked out, which is a cozy pair of Lululemon jogging pants, (terry cloth not spandex) a tank top and t-shirt or loose long sleeve cotton shirt. Just watch your neckline: if you have big boobs like me you could be flashing them when you bend to get the good shot. I live in a cold climate so I wear my Blundstones in the winter and Birkenstocks in the summer.
Hopefully this list has satisfied your curiosity. If you find yourself still wondering about how to get better photos with your gear maybe you need a mentor to help you learn how to take better photos. This blog post has some great questions to ask yourself when choosing a mentor. If you would like to find out more about mentoring with me, please go to my mentoring page to find out more.
Morag Hastings has been mentoring birth photographers from around the world, helping them hone their photography skills and gain confidence in the field of birth photography. In the last five years, Morag has lead the pack locally and nationally in professionalizing the birth photography industry. People follow her work as a doula and a birth photographer through her extremely popular Facebook page. She is a co-founder of the Canadian Birth Photographers Directory, a listings site for birth photographers all over Canada. In 2016 Morag’s image won the Best in Labour category in the 2016 International Birth Photography Contest and was voted one of Vancouver’s top Family Photographers on Vancouvermom.ca. If you would like to see if you are a good fit for Morag’s mentoring please fill out this online form.