Why Moving Away From A Camera Strap Can Make You A Better Photographer

Apr 16, 2015

Martin Gillman

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

Why Moving Away From A Camera Strap Can Make You A Better Photographer

Apr 16, 2015

Martin Gillman

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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All photographers know that composition and perspective are critical ingredients in producing images that stand out from the crowd. Camera manufactures even provide us with tilt screens to enable us to shoot from just about any perspective. But wait a minute…let’s think about the role of that innocuous item of gear that you’ve attached to your camera without even giving it a second thought and will probably remain there for the entire life of that camera – the camera strap.

Yes, it was free, and yes, it may sport the model of your latest purchase, but let’s just stop and think about what else it does. Let’s imagine for a second that you had to purchase it and think about it the pro’s and con’s, about its value, function and benefits in the way you chose a lens or other item of gear…based on what you want to achieve and your personal shooting style.

Let’s start by considering its primary functions:

  1. To stop you dropping the camera when using it.
  2. To transport it safely when not in use.

Tick, well that’s that sorted then…or is it? Sure, it will stop you dropping your camera it if it’s around your neck, but here’s the problem – let’s go back to the opening statement: “composition and perspective are critical ingredients” so therefore, shooting with a camera around your neck gives you the worst possible perspective and by taking it off your neck, you can start to explore new creative perspectives…interesting!

Sorry, what was that “it’s ok – I’ve wrapped my camera strap around my wrist” – ok, so, is wrapping it five times in an uncomfortable tangle around your wrist a design feature? We’ll come back to you in a minute.

Let’s just finish off here by challenging the assumption that “hanging a camera around your neck is a safe way to transport it” – it’s highly visible, uncomfortable, open to the elements. Makes you look like a tourist and screams ‘mug me!’…so not a compelling argument then?

So, why am I writing this? I’m the editor of a blog called Lightism, whose motto is “Buying a better camera won’t make you a better photographer” but I think you’ll agree that throwing your free camera strap away might!

What’s the alternative: well, there are two main options and you folks who wrap your neck camera strap around your arm will like these too:

Wrist Straps

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You can get really great wrist straps from companies like Joby, Black Rapid, Peak Designs and Op/Tech. They give you much more security and the freedom of movement to explore those creative perspectives. I’ve used one for years and the only downside is that they are a little binary – they’re either on or off. They take a few seconds to pop on and then your hand is committed to holding your camera, so you tend to put your camera back in your bag more frequently to achieve that safe transportation function I mentioned.

So, here’s the problem: you’re out wandering with your camera attached to your wrist and you see a killer street shot, you get a great kerb perspective, bang – you’ve nailed an awesome never to be repeated street shot. You wander on and let’s say that the neighbourhood is not so great, or you want a coke or your phone rings, or your had is just tired from holding the camera, so you put it away. At this point and let’s be clear, you have switched modes from ‘out shooting’ to ‘taking your camera for a ride in a backpack’. Here’s your second hidden learning point: be conscious that the two things are VERY different – if you wander around a city with your camera in your back pack – don’t kid yourself you’re out shooting!

Right, back to our story…suddenly you round a corner and OMG! you see the World Naked Bike Ride Team repairing a puncture (or whatever would make a great image for you) by the time you’ve opened your bag, pulled out the camera, attached your wrist strap, you look up and they’ve all gone.

Finger Straps

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Here’s a new trend for you: I recently bought a finger strap of these finger straps after a friend raved about them and frankly because they were cheap. (I got a Cosyspeed fingerstrap 10s, but there are several other alternatives). I have to say, this thing rocks. It’s a simple loop that you can adjust, you set it bigger than your finger for a lighting quick on and off. Personally, I’ve got big hands and found it worked best on my second finger, but whatever works for you. It attaches firmly to the camera where your strap would have been anchored.

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My camera is securely attached and it’s super quick to pop on or off. It totally nails the primary function of ‘stop you dropping the camera when using it’ and made me think – “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Being a big over thinker, I looked at my iPhone and thought, wait a minute – how much comfier would browsing be or how much more secure would I feel when I hang my phone over water or cliff if it had a finger strap on it?

That’s when I noticed the two perfect sized holes in my epic new super manly armored iPhone 6 case by Urban Amour Gear.

£5.99 later! Works like a flipping charm! People are stopping me in the street saying ‘Cool, where do I get one from’. For browsing or phone use I can hold the phone with my hand open and my forefinger in the loop and for iPhoneography I can grab the non camera end of the case and pull the strap with my forefinger for a vice like grip ideal for steady video or dangerous stills. It’s brilliant!

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So, whatever you do – consider loosing the strap and exploring a wider range of perspectives and your photography will improve. (Unless your camera is taking a ride around in your back pack!)

About The Author

Martin Gillman is the editor of education blog Lightism and contributor to International Photographic magazines. Martin has worked for international fashion magazines, provides stock images to various stock companies including Getty Images and was a finalist of the 2014 Landscape Photographer of the Year.

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30 responses to “Why Moving Away From A Camera Strap Can Make You A Better Photographer”

  1. Zak Avatar
    Zak

    A BlackRapid cross body strap with a quick release is the best of both worlds for me.

  2. natem Avatar
    natem

    As with most things photography, your mileage may vary – I don’t do street photography so what is described in the article is irrelevant to me.

    I use a leather wrist strap from Gordy’s: http://www.gordyscamerastraps.com Fits great, feels secure, and is bomb-proof.

  3. mike Avatar
    mike

    I like the hand-strap design. It is easy to let go of the camera when you need to, and isn’t bulky and getting int he way of a tripod. Though, I do use a mirrorless camera, so my arm is not going to get tired carrying the thing around. If I had a 5D or something big, I might have a different opinion.

  4. Allen Mowery Avatar
    Allen Mowery

    I haven’t used a camera strap for years (with the exception of a harness and rapid straps for shooting events like weddings)…bloody hate ’em.

  5. Simon Ellingworth Avatar
    Simon Ellingworth

    I’ve got one of these fingerstaps – came Free with my Camslinger bag & together they rule!!!
    http://cosyspeed.co.uk/

  6. Steve Avatar
    Steve

    I guess if you are using a light weight consumer camera, these wrist and finger straps might be okay, but lugging the D4 coupled with a Sigma Bigma (or any big lens) attached around your wrist or finger for any length of time will make you switch back to a good sturdy strap every day.

  7. Martin Jack Lacasse Avatar
    Martin Jack Lacasse

    I imagine myself “letting go” the D4s with only finger strap… good bye hand hello concrete. this might be a possible option when using a FM2 with a small 50mm lens but never be a good thing with a big dslr.

  8. Marc Pujol Avatar
    Marc Pujol

    I prefer the hand strap that used to come with the Canon 1D. When adjusted properly I would carry my 1D with 70-200 F2.8 and speedlight all day long. They don’t put it in the box anymore but you can still get them. Tried many neck straps, I have a drawer full.

  9. Guest Avatar
    Guest

    The good thing about the neck strap is that you can put the camera on your neck/shoulder can free your hands for some other stuff (e.g. going to restroom, drinking water)

  10. Nelly Z Van Cleeff Avatar
    Nelly Z Van Cleeff

    Its a great idea, specially after several trips to the floor, it also makes the camera store very happy.

  11. Kris Dow Avatar
    Kris Dow

    My Black Rapid strap is pretty well behaved, keeps the camera in a nice place when not in hand (worked very well at an airshow last summer, for example) and is easy to remove quickly if I wanted to do so since it just screws in at the bottom. The only issue with it is it doesn’t allow easy movement from tripod to hand held and back. (But right now I don’t have a tripod I like anyway, so hey.) I can see some benefits to not having a strap, but I have arthritis in my hands and wrists (been developing since I was 10 – my hands are a mess) so there is no way on earth I am relying entirely on my grip strength to keep the camera from going splat. (I do also have a wrist strap, but for most situations I end up photographing the Black Rapid strap works better than the wrist strap for me.) Still, I do think it is good to remind people to experiment beyond the camera strap that comes with the camera. Of the three people I know closely who do a lot of photography (myself included) we all have different strap arrangement preferences – my dad doesn’t use one at all and prefers to just use a camera bag he can get into quickly, and my friend last I saw was using a hand strap but switches it up a lot because he still hasn’t found the Ultimate Solution for himself.

    1. Chris Cav Gibson Avatar
      Chris Cav Gibson

      Black rapid do screws that replace the ones in the manfrotto plate. You leave the tripod plate permanently attached to the camera and just unclip the Black Rapid clasp. The screw is shallow and fits inside the plate nicely. Best of both worlds.

    2. Kris Dow Avatar
      Kris Dow

      Oh, thanks. :) Like I said, I don’t have a tripod I like ATM and no money to get a new one, so I haven’t looked into solving the problem. Now I know. Fantastic.

    3. TrojanLL Avatar
      TrojanLL

      I use the CustomSLR M-Plate, which is Manfrotto R2 and Arca Swiss compatible. I use the front connecting hole for the Black Rapid connector, and the balance feels better with a lens on the camera than having it in the tripod socket.
      http://www.customslr.com/products/m-plate-pro

  12. JOhn C Avatar
    JOhn C

    I’m still not seeing how the neck strap holds you back, the camera is close when needed, and unless you plan on holding a camera ‘way out there’ I don’t see what shots it would keep me from taking. “They give you much more security and the freedom of movement to explore those creative perspectives.” With the neck strap I can wrap it around my wrist if I don’t want it around my neck for some reason. I don’t see anyting in this article that shows how the other options will actually make me a “better photographer”. Another useless article. I think someone needs to rethink this site.

  13. Marketa Avatar
    Marketa

    This suggestion is not useful for larger SLR cameras and lenses. I generally use two cameras, one on each shoulder, and switch between them as needed. Can’t imagine using a wrist strap to hold my 70-200mm f 2.8 lens and I don’t see why using a strap would affect my composition or creativity. It is easy enough to change viewpoints by getting down or climbing something. In fact climbing a ladder would be much harder with a wrist strap.

  14. Christopher R Field Avatar
    Christopher R Field

    I terrible with straps. I get th caught on things and yank the camera out of my hand. I abandoned them years ago :)

  15. John Wylie Jr Avatar
    John Wylie Jr

    Ditched the regular strap , went to Black Rapid , then ditched that in favor of a Spider holster, wish I had got one years ago.

  16. Steve Solis Avatar
    Steve Solis

    I hate them! However, when I’m out photographing sporting events, I need one on a strap. So i guess I shouldn’t hate it.

  17. John Aldred Avatar
    John Aldred

    I just use the regular strap as a wrist strap while I’m shooting anyway.

  18. Matt Owen Avatar
    Matt Owen

    A Capture Clip from Peak Design works well too. Combine it with a wrist strap – attach to the clip, slip the strap off, now it’s out of your hand but still fully accessible.

  19. Cameron Yee Avatar
    Cameron Yee

    Was inspired by your article to make my own finger strap with a couple things laying around.

  20. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    Finger straps or wrist straps may be great, but what if you have a full-frame camera with a 100-400mm lens? Worse yet, what if you’re carrying another full-frame camera in the other hand? How does one eat or drink?
    Recently at a Masters Tournament practice round, I used an OpTech shoulder harness with a Canon 5D Mk III with an EF 100-400mm f4-5.6L lens mounted on the left and a Canon F-1N with an FD 28mm f2.8 on the right; I figured with the film camera on the right, my thumb would be more readily accessible for the film advance. In preparation, I removed the battery grip from the 5D and the motor drive from the F-1N to save weight. I was carrying 6 pounds on my left and 3 pounds on the right.
    With the OpTech shoulder harness, I was not much worse for the wear. Now, if I had used a neck strap for both cameras, then I would’ve been out of commission for a day or two.

  21. AshtonNekolah Avatar
    AshtonNekolah

    nice article, but for me the finger thing will not work for me, I see those for smaller cameras, I love the blackrapid rs7 but lately i haven’t bin using it much at all. I use the neck strap that can be tilted like the blackrapid. I have become so adjusted to my environment that it depends to a person way of style how they shoot. I also use the wrist strap and it works for me even on heavy lenses such as the 70-200 v2 IS. I will change straps base on conditions but no matter what the wrist strap stays with me all the time. I do keep my body in my bag and pull to shoot so i do understand the part when it said you missed the shot. But then again if i did miss the shoot I never think like that anyway. You never miss the shot, it’s how you look at things that makes people think like that I don’t. But anyway the finger thing is nice for lighter cameras I don’t see me using it on my 5D or 7D bodies of those sizes.

  22. Martin Pot Avatar
    Martin Pot

    For the last few years, I have been using a home-made wrist strap made out of paracord – and I find it more useful than the original neck strap. The wrist strap adds some support when shooting, makes it more comfortable to hold the camera when not shooting, and gives me security to prevent dropping the camera.

    See http://martybugs.net/blog/blog.cgi/gear/hacks/DIY-Camera-Wrist-Strap.html for details on making one yourself.

  23. Jonathan Marcus Avatar
    Jonathan Marcus

    Martin- Love the article! I’m a big believer in finger straps… In fact I created a product silimar to your DIY iphone case — check it out at http://www.NeverdropCase.com

    It’s an iphone case with an integrated finger strap. And like you said, it’s great for picture taking.

    Cheers!
    Jonathan

    1. Jean-Philippe Mathieu Avatar
      Jean-Philippe Mathieu

      Be aware, this link (NeverDropCase) redirects you randomly to other websites

  24. David Chigusa Avatar
    David Chigusa

    “Loosing the strap”?

  25. Matias Rengel Avatar
    Matias Rengel

    I really don’t like camera straps.. specially in hollywood, people just think I’m a tourist ??? not that there’s anything wrong with it. But yeah, they are very annoying honestly. I had been thinking about a wrist strap.