If you have any interest in pursuing BMX photography or photography in general you will eventually need to learn how to prepare for trips, know how to pack your gear, and be ready to handle whatever project it is you may be working on. One of the main reasons that I love writing this column is the fact that each feature seems to come out pretty organically. For the most part I don’t plan ahead, and I typically won’t work on a column until the night before. For example it’s 12:23AM and I am just getting started writing this week’s feature. Sure, it may not seem like the best idea to put off a deadline until the very last minute or to wait until the bitter end to come up with an idea and then stay up until the sun rises working on it but to me, that is the best part about it. Each week the same mountain is put in front of me and I have to climb it every time no matter what I did in the days leading up to it, no matter how tired or burnt out I may be or no matter how big of a case of writers block I may be experiencing at the time. This is the 23rd TTL and I just wanted to send a shout-out to all of the people who have emailed me and said good things about the column, all of the companies who support The Union, and anyone who can appreciate what it takes to make it in the photo game these days; now onto TTL #23.
Memory cards are an integral part of packing up and heading out to shoot. This may be painfully obvious for some of you but don’t ever think for a second that it couldn’t happen to you. Without them, your shoot is a bust. I have made the mistake of forgetting memory cards on a shoot before and it sucks. Not only do you have to scramble to find a place to buy a new one but you might be in a place where you have no access to any kind of store. A good tip is to always keep a few in your camera bag at ALL times. That way, even if you forget all of the cards you were supposed to take, you still have one in your bag no matter what. Nothing is more important than being prepared for a shoot so don’t forget the essentials or you will be dead in the water.
Bringing a computer on a trip isn’t necessarily mandatory and sometimes just isn’t a good idea depending on what kind of trip you are taking. For example, if you are going to be flying to your destination and then staying in a hotel for a few days then by all means, bring your laptop without question. But, on the other hand if you are on a budget trip sleeping in parking lots, sharing a van with 8 other BMX’ers with no safe place to keep your laptop then it may be a better idea to leave it behind. You have to make the call yourself but whenever you are working on a serious project for a company it is essential to bring a laptop, card reader and backup hard drive. That way as soon as you are done shooting for the day you can instantly upload your photos to your computer and back them up to your hard drive. Losing photos is a mistake that you only make once or hopefully not at all. It is not worth the risk; trust me I have been there before. Always back up, back up and back up again. Nothing would be more painful than losing photos that riders put work in for and if that happened while shooting for a company it wouldn’t look so good for you to get hired by them after that.
Get all of your gear charged up and packed up. It is especially important to have your stuff charged the night before. You never want to be scrambling in the morning trying to charge your stuff while other people are ready to go. It’s just another aspect of being prepared. You have to remember that if you get hired for a job you are the one responsible to be ready to shoot. It is your responsibility to have your shit charged, organized and ready to go.
One of the biggest tips I have for staying places and making sure you have access to enough outlets to charge your gear is to use a power strip. There were times where I would be a photographer on a road trip and always found myself messing around looking for four or five outlets for my camera batteries, flash batteries, my phone and whatever else I wanted to plug in before I would go to bed. When you are staying at someone’s house or cramming in a hotel room it’s hard to have enough outlets for everyone. So, go out and get a power strip and you will never want to leave on another shooting trip without one.
These are a few essential items that I always like to have with me when I go on a trip to shoot. A voice recorder is essential if you want to really get a solid interview with someone. Just set this on record and talk as you would anyways. After a few minutes people forget it’s there and you get much more natural answers and responses to any questions you might ask. A roll of Gaff tape always seems to come in handy and is super strong. If you aren’t familiar with it think of duct tape that leaves absolutely no residue on any surface making it ideal to use on camera gear. Keep it in your bag long enough and you will use it more than you might think. Sun block is key on those long days stuck in the sun shooting for hours at a time with zero options for shade. This is more of a “you should know this shit, I don’t need to be telling you this” one but I always have some in my bag so I threw it in here. Zip ties are good to have around just in case because you just never know when you might need one. The shoelace is also mandatory. Use it to tie a tripod to your bag, or to tie up the trunk if you need to throw bikes in the back of a car, or as a neck strap for your camera, or as a strap for your flash battery pack, or for whatever else you can think of. Either way, if you leave one in your camera bag long enough you will find a use for it.
Bringing back up cameras is mandatory on any shoot that you are getting paid for. It is one thing if you are on a trip with a few riding buddies and something goes wrong but when you are collecting a paycheck you have to do whatever it takes to get the photos and that’s not easy with a broken camera. Always plan for something to go wrong. That way, when it does…which it will, you will be ready to go. I have been in the middle of shooting at the Dew Tour finals in Salt Lake City before when the shutter in my camera blew up on me. Luckily I had a back up body with me but if I didn’t I would have been screwed and it would have been no ones fault but mine. Always be prepared. Obviously don’t stress too hard if you don’t have a back up body at this point, when you get more serious though be prepared to have one. Also don’t be afraid to throw in a few kick around cameras as well. Both 35mm Holgas and one-time use Kodak’s are always fun. It’s cool to just keep one around and then develop it later down the road after you bring it on a few trips. Although I mainly have an all-digital workflow it’s still rad to get some photos back from the lab and hold them in your hand right away.
I guess the main point I wanted to get across this week is to always do your best to be prepared. Remember that if you are hired as a photographer you have ALL of the responsibility on your shoulders when it comes to getting the job done and if something goes wrong, you need to have a plan B. Never be afraid to mess up as long as you learn from your mistakes and always remember that you can never, ever be too prepared. If you are curious as to what brought on this weeks column it was the fact that I am heading out to Woodward West tomorrow morning (in about 7 hours actually) to shoot for Mongoose for the next couple of days during the Team Jam they are putting on. Also, just a side note for anyone who was wondering, all of the photos for this week’s TTL were shot and edited on my iPhone. Anyways, be sure to check back next Wednesday for the twenty fourth edition of Through the Lens and as always feel free to leave any questions in the comments section or email me at [email protected] and I will hit you back as soon as I can. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @jeremypavia.
Want to see some of the past editions of Through The Lens? Check out the links below!