The Common Sense Merits of a Simple Kit

In grade school, we’re often taught to keep things simple. Although valuable advice, simplicity often gets overlooked by photographers. This article is quite simply a reminder to keep it simple.

The Law of Parsimony

The law of parsimony, sometimes called Occam’s razor, is a philosophical concept named after Franciscan friar William of Occam. Now, Occam was around in the 1200s and even then was clever enough to keep things simple.

entities should not be multiplied without necessity

You may have heard of the K.I.S.S. method, which is a more modern take on this: “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”

This article isn’t a catch-all solution. I can’t possibly know what your specific project requires or what gear you need for it. Rather, this is more akin to a thought exercise to help you be more cognizant of the choices you are making in what gear you bring to a shoot.

The Merits of a Simple Kit

A photoshoot, as an idea, it isn’t a singular thing; but lots of little parts which together form a system. These systems, in turn, work together to help you execute the shoot.

A camera isn’t just a camera, but a camera system composed of camera bodies, lenses, adaptors (if you're using lenses non-native to your body), filters, etc. From the camera, your digital images go onto a computer which forms part of the file management system. This might include tethering cable, hard drives, laptop, or desktop, and software such as Lightroom or Capture one. As a final example, a lighting system isn’t just lights. It’s the light stands, the monoblocs, the LEDs, the modifiers. You get the point.

For a photoshoot to work, you need the systems to work. And for the systems to work, each of the components need to work. Of course, some of these components are core components and some are less important. If my camera body fails, I can’t take any images unless I have a backup. If my tether cable fails, I can shoot untethered and transfer files over afterwards. In this case, I won’t be able to view the images on a monitor while shooting (and nor would those with invested interests, such as a client). It’s not the ideal or most elegant solution, but we can work around it.

Conclusion

My intent, and I can’t stress enough, isn’t to tell you to do this or that for a particular shoot. If anything, it’s to be weary and to always have backups if things break but also really keep as light a kit as possible. Not strictly for the pieces of gear, but also for how you use that gear. So if you have two camera bodies for two different brands, that’s more "mental storage", so to speak, that you need to carry with you should you decide to swap bodies during a shoot. But if you have two of the same bodies, that’s really only one part of a system you need to commit to muscle memory. It’s not that you can’t learn two systems; but rather how efficient can you be at two?

Keep it simple.

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5 Comments

Paul C's picture

Ali has a good point - but travelling light is often the cue for the most wonderful scene to open up before you, and then it becomes the....if only you had with you your ...............

A lifetime of travel, climbing and exploring has taught me to travel light but have the kit with me too:. There is no turning back to collect more kit from base-camp in the Himalayas or deep in a tropical jungle!
[1] Dropping just one or two F-stops on a lens can halve its weight and size - and drop the cost 75% too. Leaving the F2.8 zoom behind can be a revalation!
[2] Step-up rings and careful lens choice means only 1 set of filters and lens hoods
[3] modern composite material tripods are stiffer and lighter than ever before - and table top tripods are better than none
[4] small pocket-sized strobes can still throw a lot of light; and 2 of those may give more options than one big strobe.
[5] white walls and ceilings can be better reflectors than the pop-up ones; even a newspaper can do the job.
[6] carrying kit balanced evenly on your body is way-less tiring than the traditional camera bag - try a camera rucksack or use two half-size camera bags worn "bandolier style".
[7] drop a sensor format size - APS still means great IQ, while using micro 4/3 cameras and lenses means 3-4x as many lenses in the same bag as my FF kit - those Lumix 25mm and 42.5mm F1.7 primes are featherweight and have great IQ.

so - yes, the aim is minimal weight for maximum kit - all carried in maximal comfort !

best wishes - Paul

Ali Choudhry's picture

My point exactly, Paul! Do as much as you can for the job at hand; but make it easy for yourself.

Andrew Eaton's picture

Know what the job involves, know the limits of your kit, take what you need to get the job done... you don't want to over promise and under deliver, but you don't want to be swamped in to much kit..

Ali Choudhry's picture

Exactly!