Having photographed swimwear models for years, I’ve refined my bag of essentials to bring to every shoot. Check out what’s in my bag.
First and Foremost, the Camera.
The right camera makes a huge difference. The lowest cost product that meets my standards is the Sony Alpha A7 II Mirrorless Digital Camera. It’s 24 MP, full frame sensor was previously the stuff of dreams at the sub $2,000 price point, and on top of that it provides 5-axis in body stabilization to drastically reduce blur due to hand shake. While it’s debatable whether similar offerings from Canon and Nikon offer superior image quality, they are more expensive, almost double in fact. The Sony also gives you smartphone integration, built in intervalometer for time lapse videos, and remote smartphone control. The Sony can be inexpensively adapted to all the best glass from the likes of Canon, Nikon and even Leica. It even has programmable face detection and auto eye focusing. Quite a value indeed.
One flaw of the Sony is that with it’s single memory card slot, a card failure would mean losing images. I can say that in two years of using the same Sony A7 II, I have yet to have any such loss. This concern is less in swimsuit photography because production costs are relatively low and if a reshoot is necessary due to equipment failure, it’s not usually a catastrophe.
I shoot primarily through the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. I adapt this to my Sony using the Canon EF Lens to Sony E Mount T Smart Adapter (Mark IV). This lens has a cult-like following among Canon photographers, and for good reason. It features buttery smooth transitions from the subject to the background. It has beautiful bokeh. It grabs all the detail and clarity I need and more (I can see detail in the swimsuit model’s iris on full body shots). It’s weather sealed and reasonably durable as well. The Canon’s versatile focal range also delivers above-average captures in almost every situation with very little distortion.
The Selens 5-in-1 39.4 Inch Triangle Reflector with Handle is the only piece of lighting equipment I take to a swimsuit shoot. The handle really makes a difference when used in windy conditions. It also lets an assistant more easily orient the reflector above their head to give a better angle of light on your model.
My demands of a camera bag are two fold: large enough for two camera bodies, easy to pull out my camera while on my person. Also, I want to be able to pull out my camera without showing everyone my entire bag’s contents. I prefer to not show that I have several expensive cameras, lenses, and gear in a bag I ultimately have to leave somewhat unattended while I shoot.
The Lowepro Protactic 450 AW bag provides all of these things, plus it has a scalable exterior loop system. The Lowepro includes an opening system that keeps the region that touches my back off the ground. A design which also makes it extremely difficult for someone to open my bag without me noticing since they would have to physically separate my back from the bag to gain access to my gear. The Lowepro also has downpour rain protection, three discreet camera draw locations and one of the largest interior volumes available. The gripes I have with this bag is that it doesn’t have a dedicated tablet slot as well as a laptop slot. Also, the straps aren’t anywhere near as comfortable as other camera bags. Even with those drawbacks though, the Lowepro’s unique design, size, and build quality make it my go-to choice.
Apart from those main pieces of gear, I bring the following on every swimsuit shoot: Sunbounce Wardrobe Changing Tunnel, X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Photo, Hoodman 2 Stage Lens Cleanse Natural Cleaning Kit (may be the best way for a photographer to spend $1), Black Rapid RS2 Sport Slim Shoulder Sling Strap, thick tooth hair comb, extra NP-FW50 batteries from Sony, and the UE BOOM 2 Phantom Wireless Mobile Bluetooth Speaker.
I bring visual references to every shoot. Showing a model a quick visual reference is convenient. The sequence of the visuals also keeps me on track with schedule. It is much easier to show a swimwear model an image versus attempting to describe a pose with words or worse, by posing my own body. It might feel mechanical when you are cutting out little images the night before a shoot, but I believe it has an invaluable impact on efficiency, organization and ultimately image quality.
After well over 100 swimsuit shoots, the tools mentioned above have proven essential to my photography.
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