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:
- To stop you dropping the camera when using it.
- 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:
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.
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.
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!
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.