Photography tips – camera bags
When I have an assistant help me out on the shoot, one of the first things they are informed of – and there is no flexibility on this – you have to zip up any bag or roller case so that the zipper tags can be seen right next to the handle. In other words, you always zip up to the top (or to the handle). This means that any time you reach for the bag, you can immediately see whether the bag’s lid is closed properly.
Let’s say for example you close the zippers to the bottom, then you don’t have that immediate visual clue that you can actually pick up the bag … without all lenses and cameras hitting the floor. Or worse, hitting hard concrete.
By religiously staying with this, I am sure I have saved myself countless dollars and tears.
It is as simple a photography tip as this – always, always zip your camera bag close, so that the zipper tags can be seen next to the handle. It’s just common sense. Any other way is a recipe for eventual disaster.
Now, about camera bags, in case you are wondering what I most often use … I have used a variety of brands over time, but in the last few years I have consistently gravitated towards Think Tank camera bags (affiliate).
There is something that is important to me when choosing a camera bag …
… it must have a pouch for my juice, including my coke-juice.
In all seriousness though, I’ve come to prefer Think Tank products – their camera bags and roller cases are sturdy, and will protect your gear. You can also immediately see the designers have put serious thought into what they are creating. On top of that, their customer service is top-notch with a life-time warranty on (most of?) their products.
That’s it – as simple as that, and as important as this: Always zip your camera bags and cases up to the top (or to the handle.) Don’t do it any other way.
12 Comments, Add Your Own
1Patti Hale says
I’m guilty of coming dangerously close to dumping my gear out on the parking lot several times when I didn’t notice that the bag was unzipped. Then about a year ago, you gave me this tip about leaving the zipper tabs by the handle, and I’ve done it that way ever since. I never have to worry that I’ll grab an unzipped bag. Great advice, and certainly saved me some broken gear along the way! Thanks, Neil!
I’m use manfrotto backpacks and peli cases. All good, I’m realy happy with peli products.
I have to disagree with this tip a bit. While I do see your reasoning for it, I feel this tip is a bit YMMV based on the type of bag and the surroundings.
Certain bags have been known to fail when zipped up to the top; an example is the Canon backpack which will actually unzip itself while walking around if zipped up to the top (the weight mixed with the movement of walking will actually cause the zipper to work its way open, and its not a rare occurrence for it). Zipping both zippers to a lower corner will actually prevent it from opening.
Also depending on surroundings, if in a busy area you leave the possibility of someone unzipping (pulling down) on a zipper causing any loose contents to pour out. This may be a bit more unlikely, and the same can be said about someone pulling a zipper up (if they’re located at the bottom) but it seems a bit more likely.
Again, YMMV based on the camera bag but I wouldn’t set this as a go-to rule for everyone to follow
I had this exact scenario happen to me! My Canon bag unzipped and dumped a bunch of stuff on the ground when I used it as a backpack! Since then, I’ve always done the zippers to one corner. It only takes a second to check.
I hearitly concur on using ThinkTank bags now. That’s all I use.
4David Hall says
Simple! Perfect!! I’m doing this!!!
I have to agree with you on the Think Tank bags. I’m amazed that after many, many years of hard use that not even a stitch has come undone…
6David Hall says
Neil… regarding your Think Tank bag. What’s the best, most durable bag for rolling around city streets capable of carrying one body and maybe 3 or 4 primes. Something that you can work out of on location, yet durable enough to take city street abuse for a respectable time period? Any recommendations?
7Scott Campbell says
I disagree with this. I think it is more important to ALWAYS zip towards the bottom of a bag, so that gravity does not open it. This is especially true for backpacks. All of the jostling will open the pack if the zips are at the top. For added security, I also use a small carabiner clip to keep two zippers together (if there are two). I discovered this issue when a bag that had been zipped closed to the top of the bag cam open and it cost me about $2,000 in repairs to the lenses and body to repair the damage.
When working with two (or more) people, just check to see that the bag is closed prior to lifting it.
8Ed Shum says
OMG, why didn’t I think of this! HAHA.. legend Neil!
9zander lane says
…my 2 cents from 25 years of humping photo gear:
>>> NO zipper is complete without a SOLID ZIPPER PULL (speed and efficiency points) and if you have a pair of zippers, one of the pair MUST have a MINI-CARABINER so that the two zippers can be clipped together and will NEVER separate and spill precious glass upon the concrete due to gravity’s whims or sidewalk n’er-do-wells! (security points) ;)
When I ship a bag, I place the zipper in the middle this way if the zipper breaks open on either the top or bottom the bag does not completely open because the zipper pulls keep the bag from opening completely.
When I am using a camera bag with a zipper I away zip the bag back up after I remove or replace something so I do not accidently grap the bag and dump everything on the ground. Also my helper aka wife does not accidentally dump everything when she moves a bag to help me.
I have never seen the Think Tank cases before or heard of them but looking at the prices shown in this article they would have to be made exceptionally well. I will investigate further. Regarding the zip – it seems reasonable to me that all zips with valuable gear in it should have some sort of clasp or lock to prevent stupid prank behaviour from behind you as a minimum. I would worry about having my zip at the bottom just in case a hole developed through movement and stuff started to drop out. Zipping at the top or top corner makes me feel safer – with a clasp.