When we think about what we want to add to our camera bags, a camera strap is not exactly the first thing that jumps to mind! We each have a long and expensive list of wants queuing up and vying to be next in line for when our budgets allow, but it seems that BlackRapid straps have just won the jostle, ending up in our hands before we had the time to blink – and what a difference they have made.
Now, I am not talking about the generic camera strap you are probably thinking about – the one that breaks your neck, giving you a headache and comes complete with shining arrows pointing at the camera hanging on your chest as you waltz down the street, but a set of straps designed with the user in mind BlackRapid.
To be honest, I (Nicola) probably would not have been convinced to buy them by Brent (who is forever online trying to tell me that we need this and that, and wouldn’t this make things so much easier), but by chance we ended up with a couple of them to try out for an extended period last year during our three months of travels.
At one of the weddings we photographed earlier in 2014, we met Willem – the South African BlackRapid representative – as part of the videography team, The Wedding Revelation. Not only were he and Nic a pleasure to work alongside, but he ended up hooking us up with the straps to try out (after seeing us give ourselves a backache at the wedding no doubt!)
Brent went for the Yeti model and me for the only left-handed demo model they had – the Sport. Not because I am left-handed, but because I have chronic shoulder tension on my right, and it would simply do me in to have anything on that shoulder – well supported or not. We also grabbed a shoulder-slung, small leisure strap called the Shot which I didn’t think we would use much at the time, but it turned out to be immensely useful during our travels.
Sport & Yeti Straps
Obviously, each strap is slightly different, but we shall begin with the general benefits of the straps and why we feel they have really aided us in our business as Knit Together.
For starters, the straps do not sit around your neck, but across your body on your right or left shoulder. They have a padded, broader area for comfort against your shoulder, and you can adjust the length of the strap to suit you. The Sport strap has a small band that goes underneath your arm, ensuring the strap stays in place.
Brent and I both like to have our straps fairly long so that the camera sits just within hands reach, arm outstretched when resting. You screw a small attachment, called a FastenR, into your camera that can easily stay on there when you aren’t using the strap, and then attach it to the strap with the carabiner. Once attached, the camera hangs from its underside, sitting upside-down. It moves along the strap like a bead on a string. You are able to block this movement with a clamp on either side of the body, which are quick to lock into place. When in action at weddings, we almost always have the clamp at the back locked at our hip, preventing it from sliding behind us, and the other out of the way of the camera’s movement, to enable quick access. When we know that we won’t be shooting for a while, we lock the camera into place by bringing the other clamp down to our hip as well.
- It is great for weddings (or other long-hour shooting days). Really helps especially during dead time when you can let the camera go and give your wrists a break. Can be awkward with big lenses, but this is to be expected with any strap!
- The weight distribution of the strap takes away a lot of the tension usually experienced with a neck strap.
- I didn’t have problems being female and using the male strap. Though it is still a strap across your chest, so what you wear must be taken into consideration.
- The strap is easy to attach and detach from your camera, the connector easily staying on when you don’t use it, as it is small.
- The straps are both robust. We have found them to be completely trustworthy and hardy. From 9 hours of shooting a wedding to 10 hours of hiking up a volcano with a pickaxe and crampons.
Make sure it is fitted correctly; the right length makes a big difference. There were a couple of times when I was frustrated by the strap rather than feeling it was aiding me, but only because I didn’t take the time to make sure it was properly fitted. We both like to have the camera hanging just below the hip.
This little orange guy was such a pleasure to use on the streets of New York. We ended our travels there, spending some time in this crazy city after shooting Josh & Ophira’s wedding in New Jersey. Staying in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, we travelled on the underground and by foot A LOT. This meant a lot of camera carrying. In the end, we had to take turns using The Shot, as it was a much more comfortable, convenient way of having your camera at hand. We are both inspired and excited by street and documentary photography (which spills over into our wedding work), and there is one basic thing that is essential to always be ready for the perfect, split-second photograph: having your camera at hand and ready.
This is made easier by a few factors:
- Having a lighter, smaller camera (we opted for our 50 or 35mm lenses usually)
- Having the camera at hand i.e., not in a backpack
- The camera being inconspicuous so as not to attract too much attention (you want to get that natural, unposed moment, as well as prevent unnecessary animosity from some burlier characters)
The latter two points were largely enabled by The Shot. Its size was perfect for easy, lightweight camera carrying. You can whip it off your shoulder at any second to grab a photo and it can always be at your fingertips. It is also much less conspicuous than a neck strap or camera bag, as it hangs only off one shoulder, making it easy to hide the camera behind the crook of your arm. This made me feel a lot more comfortable walking about with my expensive camera body! I wasn’t too keen on the bright luminous orange colour for this purpose, however, and preferred to wear a cardigan over my shoulder to hide the strap entirely if possible. I would definitely go for the black edition of this model.
It is probably less safe to have your camera hanging off one shoulder only, but I, at least, was constantly aware of its weight and generally felt safer with it as it was easier to conceal the camera.
- Really great for travel. Perfect length to dangle off of your shoulder
- So nice to not have it around your neck or across your body (though the other straps go across, they are more suited for longer shooting hours, and have a system in place that is not ideal for quick get-up-and-go situations when you are just walking around)
- It can easily be placed on either shoulder, ideal for my shoulder problems!
- Great cushioned rubber section that doesn’t easily move out of place
- The colour was a major downer for me, as I felt my camera was much more obvious. I would have enjoyed walking the streets of NY more had it been a black, more inconspicuous entity. Having it slung over my shoulder and being able to hide it behind the crook of my elbow make it a great tool for street photography (and in places that are less safe to walk around with a camera), but the luminous orange made the strap stick out like an eyesore. I would try to wear a cardigan over it, which was not ideal.
- The length was great for walking but not always for shooting – often had to pull it off my shoulder to get the leeway I wanted. However, for walking around and general travel, the length is better off shorter rather than longer.
I shall end off in the words Brent penned down as an introduction to this article – words that mirrored mine almost perfectly. Brent and I are both extremely aware that a healthy body and mind are essential to living a fulfilled life, both within yourself and in your work (which, in a way, is inseparable from yourself).
Newbie photographers tend to spend more money on improving camera gear i.e. a better camera body or faster lenses (which may or may not result in better photographs) – but one thing often overlooked by both newbies and seasoned photographers is the influence of a quality camera strap. Improved ‘health and less stress on body’ allows one to be far more relaxed and focused whilst shooting, which may improve your photographs more than the aforementioned gear buying.