Adaptive + Camera

Commercial & Assignment Photography

Camera Malfunction and the Importance of Back-up Gear

Camera gear is expensive, and when you buy your first piece of professional gear, unless you are independently wealthy, it feels like a big investment. But it doesn't take long to realize that if you are going to work professionally, that it is not enough to have a good camera and a lens or two that you like. With photography equipment there are so many points of failure that you really have to have backups for everything. If you're working very much, especially if you are dealing with a variety of environmental conditions, it's not so much a matter of IF you're camera gear will fail, but when and how.

Points of failure:

  • Camera body
  • Lenses
  • SD cards
  • Batteries
  •  Flashes (and batteries) 
  • Stands 
  • Chargers 
  • Hard drive 

 So far, out of all of these, I've experienced camera failure, lens lock-up, battery failure, and hard drive failure. Luckily, in each instance I was in a position to do a work around when it happened. But I've become increasingly inclined to not only have back-ups, but back-ups for my back-ups. 

These travel with me. I shoot to two cards at the same time, using my second slot as a back-up copy. Then back them up after the shoot to my portable hard drive and I store the SD cards with duplicate files in separate bags.

There is nothing like the feeling of being on-site and have your camera stop functioning in the first hour of the first day of several back to back shoots in different locations on a tight schedule, especially when you have no way to verify that everything you've shot so far is safe and sound on the SD card because your back-up can't read the files from your main camera. It happens. And I'm realizing that these are the situations that define a photographer as much as anything - the ability to see forward as far as possible and have strategies for coping with problems that emerge. 

I've used knock off batteries as back ups for my camera, but I've had more failure with the knock off. I often run out of power, so it is imperative to have extra batteries even without failure, so that means carrying a reliable extra + 2 back-ups (at least) + a charger.

My coping method so far is to over prepare. I make lists. I streamline and duplicate. I make a plan with built in spaces for things to go wrong. And then I forget about everything that is not immediately in front of me. It is the paradox of pairing preparation and control with the ability to relax and go with the flow. To me, the security of duplicating gear and having a detailed plan creates the freedom to be completely engaged in the moment and do the work of photography. 

I have the plan on my phone, in my e-mail, and printed. I've lost power or had no internet access. I like having options and the ability to just keep on cruising when one avenue if information goes down.