December 28, 2020

What’s In Your Camera Bag

Maddie Mae Shows Us What’s In Her Camera Bag

I’ll be the first person to tell you that success as an elopement photographer “isn’t all about the gear.” You don’t need to have the best & most—the camera you have will always be better than no camera at all. However, I also firmly believe successfully photographing an elopement requires certain gear. If you don’t have everything you need to overcome potential obstacles on a couple’s wedding day, a successful experience is hinging on luck—you’re hoping the weather is nice, the camera doesn’t fail, and the temperature doesn’t drop. I don’t like relying on luck when we’re talking about a couple’s wedding day. Instead, I choose to be prepared for the worst. I’ve intentionally curated a collection of gear based on scenarios in my last 10 years photographing weddings and elopements—every single thing I carry with me is something I either used or wished I’d had at one time during a shoot.

I’ll be the first to admit my gear list is extensive, so bear with me. I’ll break it down into 3 sections: camera gear & accessories, hiking elopement gear, and things my couples have appreciated I pack for their comfort and enjoyment. Everything listed below is something I carry with me every single elopement.

Camera Gear & Accessories

Obviously, you can’t photograph a wedding without bringing along some basic camera gear. This is the list of things that I’ve found to be the bare minimum of essentials. Because each item is dependent upon another, one forgotten piece of equipment could be the end of the shoot. For example: If I brought only one camera body and it unexpectedly died, it wouldn’t matter that I bought five spare batteries. Or, if I only packed one lens and it broke when I slipped on a rock, it wouldn’t matter that I brought 512 GB of memory cards. You don’t have to have the latest camera gear to be an elopement photographer, but decent gear (and enough of it) is essential to ensuring you can complete the job even when something goes wrong. 

  • 2-3 Camera Bodies
  • 3-5 Lenses
  • Batteries
  • Memory Cards
  • Lens Cleaning Cloth
  • Dual Camera Harness
  • Shootsac

Hiking Elopement Necessities

If you’re photographing elopements, but not hiking elopements, some of this might seem irrelevant to you. But even if you’re photographing outdoors and remain close to the trailhead, many of these items are worth having in your camera bag so you don’t have to go running back to the car during the shoot. For longer, overnight elopements my bag includes camping essentials, but this list is what I take with me for hiking elopements whether they are four hours or all day.

If you’re just starting out as a hiker, the best place to begin with gear planning is called “The 10 Essentials.” This is a list of 10 items outdoor professionals have determined are necessary for your safety in a worst case scenario. Ideally, you’ll take these 10 things with you on each hike – whether you’re summiting a 14er with a couple, or going for a light jog in the woods near your home. The 10 hiking essentials are navigation, sun protection, insulation, illumination, first-aid supplies, fire starter (depending on local regulations), repair kit & tools, nutrition, hydration, and emergency shelter. You’ll see that each essential hiking gear requirement is filled by the items I’ve listed below.

  • Gregory 30L Backpack (outfitted to be a dual camera harness)
  • Water: A hiker’s rule of thumb is 1 liter of water for every 2 miles per person. (A reliable purification or filtration system like a LifeStraw can help for longer hikes)
  • Food: Calorically dense meals and snack bars are great for hikes.
  • Tripod: Gorillapod by Joby
  • Compass
  • Thermometer
  • Maps & GPS
  • Dry sack & cloth for carrying a bouquet 
  • Headlamps
  • Warm layers: jacket, gloves, hat, leggings, etc.
  • Rain ponchos
  • Travel towel
  • Hand, foot & body warmers
  • Rain cover for cameras & backpack

– Emergency kit: antibiotic cream, excedrin, advil, benadryl, dramamine, ginger chews, eye drops, alcohol swabs, bandaids, blister gels, moleskin, hand sanitizer, mini sewing kit, superglue, tissues & toilet paper, lint roller, tide to-go pen, multi tool w/ bottle opener, chapstick, double-sided tape, bobby pins, hairspray, sunscreen, bug repellent wipes, WAG bag, hair ties, dry shampoo, bobby pins, mirror, tweezers & nail clippers.

5-Star Accessories for Eloping Couples

I titled this section “5-Star Accessories” because I swear these are the things couple’s talk about in my 5-star reviews more often than even the photographs themselves! These are the items that fulfill the comfort needs for couples – the stuff I can pull out of a pocket when I hear a sentence that begins with, “I wish we’d brought…” Not all of these need to be in my camera bag at all times—some items are really season-dependent. I’ve learned living in Colorado my whole life that high elevation throws seasonal expectations out the window—all of these items are still packed into my car when they aren’t in my pack, just in case we decide to bring them along upon reaching the trailhead.

Note: If you pack these items away “just in case,” be sure to double-check expiration dates at the beginning of the wedding season. Snacks, bug spray, sunscreen, and hand warmers all expire!

  • Nude leggings in multiple shades & sizes
  • Microspikes & yaktracks
  • First-aid kit
  • Snacks & espresso shots
  • Blanket
  • Cute photo-worthy jackets & shawls
  • Plain black gloves
  • Fingerless gloves in multiple colors
  • Warm hats in multiple colors
  • Wool socks
  • Extra bug spray & sunscreen
  • Earmuffs
  • Extra hand, foot & body warmers

BONUS: Overnight Hiking Elopement Gear

This is the stuff I take with me on overnight hiking elopements – it’s all great gear if you’re simply traveling overnight too! I’d also like to add that a second person to carry some of the weight makes a huge difference with overnight elopements—everyone at Adventure Instead will agree that we have a much better time packing for overnight elopements when a partner or friend is able to come too. The extra weight of our camera gear combined with the quantity of food, water, and camping gear required to overnight outdoors leaves our packs heavier than many thru-hikers.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to carry all this plus everything listed above yourself, but don’t take on this task without a trial run first – load up your backpack and go camping without the pressure of an elopement or wedding. See how feasible it is to pack in this much gear, and be honest with yourself about how far you want to hike for an overnight elopement. Boundaries around mileage or elevation can be a lifesaver – literally. Your overnight bag might look a little different than mine depending on your needs, but these are my additions to the above accessories:

Although I’m going to let you in on a little secret… I actually don’t have one or even two camera bags (like the 30L & 50L mentioned above)… I have four that we rotate between for different scenarios—and you can learn about each of them & how I use them at Adventure Instead here!

Want to learn more about what all goes into planning a hiking elopement, including my secrets to success? I’ve got you covered with this “Hiking Elopement Logistics” blog post!

Now you know what I bring along for elopements! Tell me, what’s in YOUR camera bag?

Written by

Maddie Mae

Award-winning Destination Elopement Photographer + Business & Marketing Coach

Founder of @adventureinstead

I help wedding and elopement photographers discover what sets them apart—and make that their “secret sauce” to building a thriving business.

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