To Vest or Not To Vest, That is the question

“Almost everything out there is so damn “fisherman” look or “paparazzi” style. Are there more stylish photographer clothing with lots of pockets and doesn’t make you look like a total geek?”

These are the actual written words of some one on DPreview who is more worried about looking stylish as if they had just stepped out of fashion magazine then in what the real practicality of a photo vest can offer.  What this person is expecting completely escapes me and I have to think his or her life is more about his or her image as opposed the image they should be worried about creating.  I find that just as bad as a person worrying about how impressive their photo gear is as opposed to knowing how to use it.

I’ll be the first to admit that photo vests are not for everyone, but for a lot of photographers who want to be as minimalist as possible but still have with them the things they need for a day out making images, a photo vest could be just the right way to go.  I have used vests for a great many years, dating back to the 1970’s.  There are a lot of  vests available but no where as many styles compared to the thousands of camera bags out there.

And when it comes to bags, and I know that I am not alone, I have stored in my home from time to time more than 25 bags none of which ever offered the perfect solution and that can be said by any photographer.

For a day out I really do like to wear a vest, weather permitting because it really frees up my hands and makes it possible to carry in a very balanced way lots of stuff I need. 

I have had close friends and fellow photographers make jokes about my wearing a vest and I have had countless people wanting to know if I was going fishing, or into a war zone.  Everyone thinks they’re cute but have no idea as to how great it is to use a vest.

I do not have a crew of people carrying around my gear.  I’m it.  So bearing the weight of a bag full of the gear I like to have with me can get pretty tiresome and painful.  I don’t care if you wear it cross chest or on a shoulder it is going to be out of balance and take my work for it, it will take a serious physical toll over time.

There is nothing wrong with using a bag from points A and B of your destination.  They are great for keeping the gear in the trunk of your car or even boarding a plane, train or ship.  But once I get to where I am going, I know that I do not need everything in that bag and that is when I pull out my vest and load it with the stuff I am going to need for a day’s shoot.

If I am just going for the day either by plane or any other transport to do some shooting I may actually opt out of a camera bag.  I have been known to walk out the door of my house with only what I feel I shall need.  I don’t  throw the vest in my bags because being that I have decided to wear it I can put in my phone, water, maps, maybe an Ipad, snacks, a couple of lenses, about 4 batteries, a memory card wallet, a couple of filters ie. a couple of Neutral Density filters, (3 stop and 6 stop and Polarizer.  The back pocket of my vests can store a rain poncho.  And of course cleaning stuff for my lenses and some gallon size zip locks.

Most good vests have a number of inside pockets or chest high zipper pockets, to carry my wallet, glasses, etc. And let’s not forget entry passes to parks and some buildings, or air or train tickets.

Vests when you pack them evenly on each side provide excellent and comfortable balance and will remain comfortable throughout your shooting experience.  Now I have been told that the vest makes me look like a photographer and that of course will leave me vulnerable to those who might want to cause me harm.  Really?  How about expensive camera bags like Ona and Billingham.  I think they send a worse message.

One thing I would recommend for sure

If you know your size, then think about purchasing the next size up.  You won’t be making a mistake.

Go to your camera store so you can try several different vest, make sure they fit right, and that you feel you can wear them all day long.

I’m aware of the fact that many photographers won’t wear vests because they think they’re “stupid.” This is another way of saying that the photographer would feel stupid — a.k.a., self-conscious — wearing one.

 

To get the information out as to what vests I use the most here is the list:

Big Pockets This vest was originally designed for birders who like to carry a day’s worth of maps, water, binoculars,foul weather protection, etc.  This is my favorite vest especially for hot and humid weather. – This vest has been around for many years and was my go to vest for a very long time.  I still have a Domke vest and it is one of the most vests that photographers can wear.  It is several inches longer than the big pocket vest and like the big pockets it has a great many outside pockets that can carry lenses, and all types of photo accessories and personal items but the Domke’s also have large inside pockets as well.

Domke – This vest has been around for many years and was my go to vest for a very long time.  I still have a Domke vest and it is one of the most practical and heavy-duty vests that photographers can wear.  It is several inches longer than the big pocket vest and like the big pockets it has a great many outside pockets that can carry lenses, and all types of photo accessories and personal items but the Domke’s also have large inside pockets as well.

          Promaster Shooting Vest – Great little vest, reasonably priced

          Billingham VestThe most expensive of all the vests, beautifully made, very functional but not vented and I would consider much to heavy for hot weather.  But it is a beautiful vest just like all of the Billingham products.

Author: ELLIOT STERN

68 YEARS IN PHOTOGRAPHY - HAVE ALWAYS LOVED IT AND ALWAYS WILL.

1 thought on “To Vest or Not To Vest, That is the question”

  1. I love my Filsson Vest. This is a nearly indestructible vest, not specifically designed for photography.

    I largely agree with Elliot, but we mustn’t forget that the “Fashon Police” are everywhere.

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