Premium bags, cases, and portfolios have become as important to photographers as the valuable cargo they protect. Manufacturers have listened carefully to photographers, developing a multitude of products to satisfy their rigorous requirements. Here, industry execs tell us how photographer specs are driving innovation in today's marketplace.
"Photographers have varying needs, and we develop cases with the goal of creating every photographer's perfect bag," weighs in Suzanne Caballero, marketing communications manager for Lowepro. "Their top priority is knowing their equipment is well protected. Heading out to an assignment only to find yourself with damaged equipment is simply unacceptable. Dragging around steel, padded cases isn't always practical, so we design carrying options that combine protection with comfort. Lowepro photographers won't be slowed down by their bags."
Brandon Kirk, vice president of marketing for Tamrac, concurs on several counts.
"Most professionals are looking for protection, durability, and ease of use when choosing a high-end camera bag or case," he explains. "For years, Tamrac has manufactured its high-end camera bags in the United States, using the best materials and fabrics available. Nearly all of Tamrac's rolling cases are constructed with ballistic nylon, an incredibly strong and abrasion-resistant fabric. Tamrac also uses high-density, closed-cell foam and ABS plastic platforms for shock protection."
Manufacturers know that accessibility is paramount for photographers.
"Typically, a studio or location shoot requires the photographer to have nearly all equipment available and quickly accessible," says Kirk. "For these occasions, our rolling cases are indispensable when storing or transporting a large amount of photo equipment. Once on location, many photographers carry the gear they need for the shoot in a shoulder bag or a fast-access sling pack."
"Fumbling around with complicated cases can cost a photographer that once-in-a-lifetime image," agrees Caballero. "Lowepro bags are designed to provide as much accessibility as possible, maximizing efficiency with every feature. For outdoor assignments and photo shoots in the wild, see-through pockets that let you easily locate accessories and silent zipper pulls that provide quiet access are the new essentials."
There is also a growing trend for developing bags and cases that camouflage their valuable cargo, especially when photographers are traveling internationally.
"Photographers are looking for camera bags that don't look like camera bags," says Lindsay Cousley, GM of Crumpler USA. "We've noticed that our backpacks have become very popular with photographers who are traveling a lot overseas and don't want to stick out as a photographer. Colors are always good as well—photographers like to have a few more color choices rather than black."
Of course, today's bags and cases don't just transport photographic equipment. "Photographers exemplify the mobile workforce, so the trend has been to offer carrying solutions not only for photography equipment, but also for the technologies photographers need to stay connected, such as laptops, cell phones, and PDAs, without adding bulk and weight," says Caballero.
Meeting Travel Regulations
Getting through customs and fitting your bags comfortably into the overhead are just a couple of the challenges traveling photographers are faced with, and the manufacturers have taken note.
"Travel restrictions have increased demand for bags that are light, nondescript, and secure," says Caballero. "Many of our bags are designed to allow easy access through back panels, so expensive photo equipment can't be accessed while walking through crowded airports. Lightweight yet rugged material is used on all Lowepro cases to ensure they're not damaged during travel.
"We also have designed a most extensive line of photo-carrying options, so photographers can bring everything they own or just what they need for a particular assignment. This is essential, given the unpredictable nature of travel."
"Tamrac designs many of its medium- to large-sized bags and cases to be carry-on compatible," says Kirk. "Although airlines have different carry-on size restrictions, the most common restriction limits passengers to 9x14x22-inches (or 45 linear inches). Because checking photographic gear in the belly of the plane is not an acceptible option, Tamrac clearly designates, on its website and in its catalogs, all products that are carry-on compatible."
"We haven't seen the need to change any of our designs or materials to conform to the new TSA rules and regulations," says Cousley. "Our bags are designed to be secure while being used and easily accessible when going through security checkpoints at airports, so your gear can be examined by TSA workers with as little hassle as possible."
Driven to satisfy the needs of their pro shooter clients and prospective clients, manufacturers constantly search for innovative materials, technologies, and features that will aid photographers in their year round travels.