Do-It-Yourself Part 2: Camera Straps and Harnesses
By Paul Nguyen
The BlueHour Do-It-Yourself blog series features handy and simple tips for photographers of all ability levels about taking care of your equipment to get the most out of it.
In Part 2, we discuss some options for wearing your camera on your body that keep it safe, but also allow you to carry it comfortably and ergonomically all day and access it easily for your most common shooting situations. Switching out your camera strap for one of these more functional alternatives is one of the easiest modifications you can make to your camera kit, but it will work wonders in helping you to enjoy your hobby more.
Any camera you buy will come with a strap - the classic neck-and-shoulder kind that has been seen on cameras since time immemorial. But just because it’s included and free, doesn’t mean you have to use it.
The stock camera strap attaches to the top corners of your camera body, so you end up wearing the camera like an enormous steel and plastic amulet, if you want to keep it in front of you and ready to shoot. This arrangement puts a lot of strain on your neck if you wear your camera for a long time. And if you walk with it, the camera bounces and thuds on your chest all...day… long. NOT ERGONOMIC, especially when you attach larger lenses. Of course, for more comfort during walking you could choose to wear your camera strap on your shoulder going across the body like a purse (or man-purse). But, if you want to take a picture, you have to slip your arm through the strap to bring the camera back in front of you - this is easier said than done when you’re wearing a coat.
Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions out there that let you wear your camera comfortably while moving about AND keep it immediately accessible for grabbing a shot. We’ll introduce you to 4 different options. The best part of any of these aftermarket camera straps and harnesses is that they are all easily detachable - which means that even if you own multiple cameras, you can swap the same strap/harness to any of your cameras at any time.
The beauty of the Black Rapid strap is that you wear the strap across the body, like a shoulder bag (or the aforementioned man-purse), but the camera slides up and down the strap, so that you can easily bring it up to your face for shooting without having to slip your arm out of the strap. There are many different designs to choose from, but they are all designed on this same basic principle.
The one downfall of this system is that in its intended configuration, the strap clips to a lug that screws into your tripod socket… which means that if you regularly switch between shooting handheld and shooting on a tripod, it becomes a real nuisance to have to unscrew the lug to attach your tripod quick release, and then reverse the process when you go back to handheld shooting. UGH! Fortunately there’s a solution that gives you the best of both worlds:
The BosTail is a simple, short tether that attaches to your camera’s left attachment point (as you look at the back of the camera) on one end, and has a ring on the other end. I clip my Black Rapid to this ring, instead of using Black Rapid’s tripod socket lug. By doing this, I have freed up my camera’s tripod socket, and I can leave my quick release attached 24/7. I can quickly switch from handheld shooting to tripod shooting without unscrewing anything! Once my camera is safely mounted on my tripod, I can unclip my Black Rapid Strap from the BosTail, so I don’t have a long strap hanging from my camera waiting to get caught on something and drag the whole system over.
Further modifications to the Black Rapid/BosTail chimera:
For long hikes with my camera on the Black Rapid strap, it’s irritating to have it swinging back and forth on my hip with every step, so I’d rather attach the camera up close to my chest where it will be less able to move. I accomplish this by hooking a carabiner to my backpack's right shoulder strap, and then I clip my BosTail into the carabiner. This holds my camera high and tight.
Just when I think I know everything there is to know about photography, my partner Allie introduces me to something I have never heard of. One example of this phenomenon is the Peak Design camera attachment strap. The easiest way to describe this is that it’s a system of quick-connecting “snaps” and straps that allow you to effortlessly switch the same strap to any of your cameras, or switch between different types of straps (shoulder strap and wrist strap, for instance) on the same camera. You have the flexibility to attach the strap to the standard attachments points or to the tripod socket, so you can wear your camera in the traditional “giant metal amulet” style, or in the more hip over the shoulder style, while still being able to shoot without having to slip your arm out of the strap. Allie shoots weddings and events, and must regularly switch between camera bodies, so this system serves her well.
With the Cotton Carrier, we have definitely veered out of strap territory and are comfortably in harness country. You wear it like you would wear a Baby Bjorn, and the camera attaches to your chest via twist-release attachment. The mount attaches to your camera’s tripod socket, so this once again brings up the issue of how much of a pain it is if you have to frequently switch to shooting on a tripod. And with its very military-looking design, you’ll definitely be looking like a photo mercenary. This is definitely a system for the dedicated wilderness handheld shooter.
If you’re less into the Soldier of Fortune look and see yourself more as a Sheriff of the Wild West, then perhaps the Spider Holster is more your style. You wear the belt and holster around your waist, and your camera attaches to your hip with a ball-and-socket type mount. You can get different configurations that hold multiple cameras as well. Many of my buddies who are in the wedding photo industry prefer this system. It’s a quick and easy rig for sure, and well suited to event and portrait shooters. But if I were to go walking or hiking for long distances I’d probably choose a system that keeps the camera higher up on my body.
Do you have a preferred strap or harness system, or have you discovered one that we didn’t even know about? Your comments are appreciated!