I am a news photographer. I go out with a camera and a microphone to record images and sound for a television newscast in the Los Angeles market.
It has always been my experience that my job is easier when I have the right tools. That said, a problem I face is that every story is different, and sometimes bringing the right tools in addition to the camera and microphone is a difficult choice to make. As much as it might be nice to have a magic bag that can hold all of your specialized widgets, gadgets, cables and other assorted goodies collected over the years, it (in my experience) doesn’t exist.
So, it pains me to admit, but we’re physically limited as far as how much we can carry. In other words, while it’s not an absolute, get used to the idea that you can’t always take it with you. Carry what you might need, but you have to find your own sweet spot.
The gear spectrum
It is possible to travel light with just a camera and microphone. At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, you’ll find the “kitchen sink” photographers. They are the human embodiment of “be prepared.” They drive the overloaded van, carry an oversized fanny pack and fear being caught with only eight BNC barrel connectors. That said, naturally, I’d never poke fun at them since I’ve been saved once or twice (OK, maybe a dozen times) by the shooters who do
Certainly, there are items that are not optional. The tripod is optional (no, Rembrandt, you don’t have to have one), but the camera and a microphone are not. Also, don’t forget an extra disc, tape or memory card (or whatever you’re recording on), and spare batteries for the camera and wireless mic transmitter. (I think we’ve all learned this from experience.)
The further the walk back to the truck, the more precaution one should take not to lose recording ability. Wireless audio technology is pretty reliable, but never is it 100-percent guaranteed. XLR audio cable has saved more than one interview.
If you look into my bag, you’ll find a pocket multi-tool — the kind that has knife blades, screwdrivers and unfolds into a pair of pliers. Just be careful about carrying it all the time. I always stop carrying it each time I lose one to an airport security checkpoint. And, of course, I’ll buy another one when I’m caught without and need it in the field. Also, I keep an LED mini-flashlight as well as a headband hands-free LED light.