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Gear Talk => Canon General => Topic started by: DCM1024 on February 06, 2013, 04:10:33 PM

Title: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: DCM1024 on February 06, 2013, 04:10:33 PM
I have been reading the recent thread "Emergency Wedding" and thought it would be a good idea to talk about the incidence/likelihood of equipment failure at paid gigs. I know a number of people advised the OP to have a backup body available. It is excellent advice that I hope he will take to heart.

I take excellent care of my gear, which is usually purchased new. However, I still experienced two major equipment failures in 2012.

The first occurred at a boudoir shoot, when the Skyport trigger failed. I replaced the battery, no help. I attempted to use the studio owner's Pocket Wizard, no luck. Finally, in desperation, I pulled out my 7D, engaged the built-in flash and used that to trigger the strobes. The camera was tethered to my laptop and the client (a photographer herself) was happy with the results. Now this seems to be a shoot that could be rescheduled, but there would be expenses incurred which would move this from a modestly profitable shoot to a possible loss. Specific expenses would include the possibility of having to pay studio rental again, plus the client had paid for her hair and makeup to be professionally prepared. It turned out that the Skyport trigger had indeed failed, and it was promptly replaced by Elinchrom under their two year warranty.

The second failure occurred at a wedding, using a two day old 5D2. No problem during pre-ceremony, ceremony, formals. At the reception, I noticed that I was sometimes getting correctly exposed images but I was also getting images that were totally blown out to white with no detail. I had no way of knowing whether the problem was with the body or the flash, and there was no time to try to resolve an issue. I just packed it up and once again pulled out the 7d which I used the rest of the night. The bride never knew that anything had gone wrong, so the rest of the evening remained a time of relaxed celebration for them. Canon repaired the 5d2 immediately and it has never presented another problem.

I hope this post helps anyone considering taking on paid jobs without having back up gear. Have a great day.

Debbie
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: ChilledXpress on February 06, 2013, 05:54:23 PM
It is enevitable... when paid, that at least something is forgotten or fails on you. Especially seems to happen at weddings. The CF card that is bulletproof has a write error, someone knocks over the strobe and it breaks a bulb, the 7D starts up with Error 30, that battery that was charged drained for some reason,  etc...

This is the main reason why the so much loved 50 1.4 will never be carried in my bag again, great lens that always takes a focus mechainsm crap when you need it the most (it has happened twice). More than 2 bodies, tons of CF, extra batteries, extra assistants (for the flaky)... par for the course these days! Lived and learned ;)
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: bvukich on February 06, 2013, 06:02:52 PM
It is enevitable...

Death, taxes...  and hardware failure.

If you don't have backup equipment and a solid contingency plan, please don't take paid gigs that are of any importance.  All it takes is one clown to botch a wedding for photographers as a whole to get a bad name in the eyes of an entire family.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: Arkarch on February 06, 2013, 06:34:47 PM
Backup gear is an excellent investment.

My story does not involve a paid gig; but a group photo gig I paid $$$ for - in particular a steam railroad roundhouse evening event and following canyon day event out in the cold and snow.  I set up my 7D and 70-200 2.8 on a large metal plate - thinking that was level and stable.  Then I turned to fetch something in the bag and accidentally discovered a pivot point "hole" under the metal plate, sending my rig backwards into a pile of metal scrap.  Thought everything survived - but as I quickly discovered a hole in the body that wiped out my CF Reader (and later discovered a scuff that warped the focus ring on the long lens) - all before I got my first shot off. 

Fortunately another photographer had a third camera - a T2I - that I was able to use for the weekend.  I was fortunate - but without that I would be down the event cost plus lodging costs plus travel costs.

I sometimes wonder what I would have done if this was a paid gig.  You just cant tell the client - sorry, I dont have a camera.  IMHO, any paying gig requires two camera bodies plus a mix of lenses. 


I now have a full frame 5DIII that pairs well with my repaired APC-C 7D - and both come with me on any significant trip.  And if for some reason someone gets in a bind, maybe I can pay the prior favor forward.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: V8Beast on February 06, 2013, 06:37:21 PM
I've only suffered one body failure of the years, when the mirror fell of my 5DC, but between the bodies, glass, flashes, remote triggers, tripods, light stands, etc. something is bound the fail sooner or later. I try to keep the quantity of gear I carry around to a minimum, but it's simple math: the more gear you have and the more gigs you take on, the greater the potential for equipment failure. It's not always catastrophic, but at the very least if will make your miserable during a shoot :)
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: Seanlucky on February 06, 2013, 06:55:36 PM
To the OP, I would ALWAYS recommend having not just one, but a pair of hard sync cables as a backup for triggering your strobes. They're cheap, take up almost no room in your bag, and are a simple solution.

But regarding the general purpose of the thread, I'm huge on always having backup for everything.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: risc32 on February 06, 2013, 07:02:27 PM
I have the same exp as you at weddings chilledxpress. Someone tracks me down nearly every wedding i work, and the story is pretty much just as you described. one camera, one or two lenses, a flash, a website, and maybe a few months shooting, time to turn pro! Sometimes it's an uncle or grandfather who just want to have a little chat, and that's cool, but many times it's someone about my age(35) or younger ready to go big.

I also won't get a canon 50mm 1.4 due to all that i've heard about it's reliability.

Actually, i have a much larger peeve.... time to start a new thread.
   
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: ChilledXpress on February 06, 2013, 07:06:19 PM
I have the same exp as you at weddings chilledxpress. Someone tracks me down nearly every wedding i work, and the story is pretty much just as you described. one camera, one or two lenses, a flash, a website, and maybe a few months shooting, time to turn pro! Sometimes it's an uncle or grandfather who just want to have a little chat, and that's cool, but many times it's someone about my age(35) or younger ready to go big.

I also won't get a canon 50mm 1.4 due to all that i've heard about it's reliability.

Actually, i have a much larger peeve.... time to start a new thread.
 

So I'm not alone ;)  I'm more than happy to talk to anyone about cameras and photography, grandpa/ma and uncles/aunts are fine asking about gear for documenting the family.

Yea, You get flamed here when you knock the 50's for a 50L but it's an "L" for a reason and why it sells.

Looking to see your new thread!!!
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: V8Beast on February 06, 2013, 07:13:09 PM
I have the same exp as you at weddings chilledxpress. Someone tracks me down nearly every wedding i work, and the story is pretty much just as you described. one camera, one or two lenses, a flash, a website, and maybe a few months shooting, time to turn pro! Sometimes it's an uncle or grandfather who just want to have a little chat, and that's cool, but many times it's someone about my age(35) or younger ready to go big.

I venture to guess that every photog, regardless of what you shoot, goes through this experience all the time. When I shoot a car, it's usually just me, the car owner, and a couple of his buddies serving as makeshift assistants. Even out of a group that small, there's at least one person that wants to talk about camera gear, and how he/she aspires to turn pro. The funny thing is, 99% of the time the conversation revolves around gear, not technique.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: DCM1024 on February 06, 2013, 07:17:44 PM
To the OP, I would ALWAYS recommend having not just one, but a pair of hard sync cables as a backup for triggering your strobes. They're cheap, take up almost no room in your bag, and are a simple solution.

But regarding the general purpose of the thread, I'm huge on always having backup for everything.

Thank you, that's a good suggestion. I did purchase a 2nd more elaborate Skyport but the hard sync cables would work great "just in case". The studio and I use the same strobes, so I always take my own and leave them in the car. A tube could always blow, and the studio owner typically is not there, so I'm on my own.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: ChilledXpress on February 06, 2013, 07:39:20 PM
I have the same exp as you at weddings chilledxpress. Someone tracks me down nearly every wedding i work, and the story is pretty much just as you described. one camera, one or two lenses, a flash, a website, and maybe a few months shooting, time to turn pro! Sometimes it's an uncle or grandfather who just want to have a little chat, and that's cool, but many times it's someone about my age(35) or younger ready to go big.

I venture to guess that every photog, regardless of what you shoot, goes through this experience all the time. When I shoot a car, it's usually just me, the car owner, and a couple of his buddies serving as makeshift assistants. Even out of a group that small, there's at least one person that wants to talk about camera gear, and how he/she aspires to turn pro. The funny thing is, 99% of the time the conversation revolves around gear, not technique.

I actually love to talk about gear and techniques... I'm here in this forum. Even with aspiring photogs.

It's the ones that haved moved on from aspiring to active "pro" after 28 days with a rebel that worry me  ::)

For more of that just head over to the thread "Emergency wedding, of sorts."
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: V8Beast on February 06, 2013, 08:14:42 PM
I actually love to talk about gear and techniques... I'm here in this forum. Even with aspiring photogs.

I don't mind talking gear as long as the person I'm speaking with realizes that gear is just part of the equation. Lots of people I run into wonder why their new Rebel isn't producing images any better than their iPhone, and conclude that if they had a 1Dx they'd be ready to turn pro.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: Mt Spokane Photography on February 06, 2013, 08:41:58 PM
Out of 20 or more bodies, I've never had a failure, but I still take a backup with me to important shoots, even if its my wife's G1X.
They day I don't have a backup is the day my main camera will fail.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: curtisnull on February 06, 2013, 08:58:50 PM
Having a backup for everything is what separates the men from the boys, or the pros from the amateurs. Not that you have to have a duplicate of everything, but always a second body, extra batteries, extra flash, extra lenses.

If my 24-105 were to fail, I can get by using my 17-40 or my 70-200. If my flash remote fails, I can use a wired trigger. Or like someone said, use the pop up flash on the 7D for a trigger.

Always have a backup plan.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: bycostello on February 06, 2013, 09:15:11 PM
never had a problem yet... but equally i would never go to a wedding with just 1 camera...
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: Hobby Shooter on February 06, 2013, 09:25:41 PM
I actually love to talk about gear and techniques... I'm here in this forum. Even with aspiring photogs.

I don't mind talking gear as long as the person I'm speaking with realizes that gear is just part of the equation. Lots of people I run into wonder why their new Rebel isn't producing images any better than their iPhone, and conclude that if they had a 1Dx they'd be ready to turn pro.
;D ha ha, well I would venture to say it's one stage of the learning curve, then they will come to realize what else is needed to take good pictures. As my signature says I'm not a pro, nor do I aspire to become one, I don't think I have the talent. I like to learn new stuff as I find this to be a great hobby though. I do get published sometimes, but that's more out of chance and the fact that I submit pictures with travel articles I write (also a hobby). Financially, the only ambition I have is to make back the money I'm spending on hardware and maybe even cover some of the travel costs.

Whatever walk of life you're in, it's important to be open minded to people who wants to learn more about your profession, but I can understand the frustration of you pros that so many amateurs thinks that your profession is something they could just take up if they wanted. Maybe it's because it's a creative line of business and they think that skills going in to it is not so difficult to obtain.

I still remember the picture you posted last spring of that car that you shot with the 5D3 when it was new. I remember thinking it takes more than pure talent, it takes a craftsman.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: Chewngum on February 06, 2013, 10:57:36 PM

I venture to guess that every photog, regardless of what you shoot, goes through this experience all the time. When I shoot a car, it's usually just me, the car owner, and a couple of his buddies serving as makeshift assistants. Even out of a group that small, there's at least one person that wants to talk about camera gear, and how he/she aspires to turn pro. The funny thing is, 99% of the time the conversation revolves around gear, not technique.


I am no pro but shoot about 20-30 paid events per year. I always get the 'Oh that lens is huge is that a mark 3? oh I shoot X, why do you shoot with Y?'. If they seem like a gear head I fuel their passion and tell them about the 25+ bodies and 30+ lenses I have owned in the last 8 years and that normally brings them to orgasm. However I had the delight recently of someone asking me if I liked a particular section of a reception hall due to its coloured fairy lights, to my surprise we then talked for 10 mins about bokeh and technique. People who know something are rare...but they do exist. Someone mentioned earlier in this thread about wanting better gear than plebs without seeming elitist. It is legimate to want to have better gear than the average joe but the average joe can own a 5d2 + L glass now, especially at higher class events. It is getting harder and harder to differentiate ourselves without seeing the results. For the OP, you don't always need to have an entire mirrored backup setup, you will generally want to have enough of the right gear that if something fails you can make do. This can mean using one body instead of two because one fails, not shooting longer than 135 because your 70-200 failed, settling for a 50 1.8 because your 85 1.4 failed or using very high ISO because your flash died. Sometimes when I consider a job, it is not worth the $200 I get paid for the night, but it is worth the $1000s in referrals I will get if I do a good job. Not having a backup makes you look bad even if its not your fault. Scouting motto...BE PREPARED!
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: V8Beast on February 06, 2013, 11:22:22 PM
Whatever walk of life you're in, it's important to be open minded to people who wants to learn more about your profession, but I can understand the frustration of you pros that so many amateurs thinks that your profession is something they could just take up if they wanted. Maybe it's because it's a creative line of business and they think that skills going in to it is not so difficult to obtain.

You're absolutely right on both accounts. I don't really differentiate between amateurs and pros when having such conversations. There are lots of mediocre pros out there and many extremely talented amateurs that are smart enough to know that there are better ways to make a living ;D Creative fields, whether it's photography, writing, music, comedy, metal fabrication, etc. are generally perceived as something that anyone can do.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: helpful on February 06, 2013, 11:44:43 PM
Failures are a fact of life. You name it, and it will happen to you. I've had shutters go bad all the way to opening a case on the last day of baseball to find out that an element had come loose in one of my 300mm lenses.

Assume that at least two things will break, and plan accordingly.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: RMC33 on February 07, 2013, 01:07:14 AM
I could not agree more. My horror story is not one that affected me, but a wedding photographer I know. She showed up early and I had helped her setup the night before. All her gear was fine but I noticed she only had 64 and 128 GB cards (this was about three months ago now). I asked her where her other cards were so I could setup the card holder and she said "I only use these". That made me a bit nervous as I usually act as her backup/director but since I was in the bridal party I could not. About two hours into the wedding her 128 GB card in her MK3 died (which had all the formals, pre-ceremony, ceremony etc.) during the reception. She came to me in tears and asked what she should do, tell my friends that she lost all these photos that we could not re-create. I had my MK3 and a card wallet with a ton of 16gb cards in it. So I got my friends in the bridal party together and told them what had happened. They told her not to worry and we would re-do them now. She took my cards and re-shot everything. She learned a valuable lesson that day about using one large card.

 I personally do not use cards over 16gb and keep a portable card reader/HDD with an LCD screen in my bag to dump from if somehow I fill up the 15 or so cards I have. It's not a matter of If.. but when.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: exactopposite on February 07, 2013, 01:12:17 AM
My experience with this is a bit different. I shoot with a rebel T1i (500d) and I mainly do street photography. A few months ago I agreed to shoot a wedding (my first) for a good friend of mine along with a mutual friend who has been a pro for years. I rented a flash (580EX) for use at the reception (the wedding was outside). During the reception, the flash (which i was already not familiar with) started acting up. The LCD screen on the flash was blinking and it wouldn't respond to any of the buttons. Turning it on/off made no difference. If would still fire when I took a photo, but there was no way to adjust the power output.

Fortunately I made it though the night with no worse than some mildly underexposed shots, since the flash was stuck on a lower power setting. I was able to fix them in post processing.  In this situation there were 2 of us shooting with 3 bodies, 2 flashes, and several lenses between us. SO, even if the flash totally crapped out everything would have been fine, but it was a valuable lesson.

Aside from that the couple and the other photographer were very happy with the photos that I captured. Actually it went so well that we plan on working together on some other photo projects.

2 things to take away form this:
Always have a backup
Cameras don't take pictures. Photographers do. (a rebel isn't as nice as a 7d, but it  can definitely get the job done...if you know how to use it)
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: ChilledXpress on February 07, 2013, 02:21:04 AM
I could not agree more. My horror story is not one that affected me, but a wedding photographer I know. She showed up early and I had helped her setup the night before. All her gear was fine but I noticed she only had 64 and 128 GB cards (this was about three months ago now). I asked her where her other cards were so I could setup the card holder and she said "I only use these". That made me a bit nervous as I usually act as her backup/director but since I was in the bridal party I could not. About two hours into the wedding her 128 GB card in her MK3 died (which had all the formals, pre-ceremony, ceremony etc.) during the reception. She came to me in tears and asked what she should do, tell my friends that she lost all these photos that we could not re-create. I had my MK3 and a card wallet with a ton of 16gb cards in it. So I got my friends in the bridal party together and told them what had happened. They told her not to worry and we would re-do them now. She took my cards and re-shot everything. She learned a valuable lesson that day about using one large card.

 I personally do not use cards over 16gb and keep a portable card reader/HDD with an LCD screen in my bag to dump from if somehow I fill up the 15 or so cards I have. It's not a matter of If.. but when.

She was shooting with one 5D3 at a paid wedding gig and did not have the SD card as back up?!?!?! It's really the only time I use the SD, for the CYA in these exact circumstances. D'oh !!! These are the "pros" I'm talkin about.

You fill 15 16gb cards at one wedding? Good lord, you must be in PP for half the year for just one gig!
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: drummstikk on February 07, 2013, 04:03:43 AM
I honestly love the higher cost of the 5D3 or the 1DX... it does keep these out of the hands of some of these "pros". With more and more soccer moms or GWC ponying up for great gear, the one thing they can't buy is experience. Just because you can post on online somewhere and/or have a website does not instantly make you professional.

Oh, I so wish that the cost of gear would weed out more of the amateurs. Fact is that all too often the guy who's the rankest amateur is often the best equipped photographer on the scene. Case in point from an indoor track meet just last weekend: I and one other lady are working for different school sports information departments and roughly equipped the same (crop bodies with 70-200 2.8's). In walks a guy with a Nikon D3X mounted with a 200mm f/2.0, a lens I would almost literally kill for. (Almost. If it were a Canon.) I chatted with him a bit and learned he was a super nice guy and was just messing around trying to get some pictures of his nephew.

Another case in point: Last fall, at a high school football game between two of the state's highest ranked teams, the only guy on the sidelines with a 400mm 2.8 was not a professional photographer, but an insurance salesman.

These are the individuals that make it harder for working photographers to navigate in today’s market.

Neither of the two guys I mention above were hurting me at all. No skin off my nose if they post photos to Flickr and pass some prints out to family and friends. But one of my college contracts evaporated a couple of years ago because an athlete's father has taken it upon himself to shoot all sports and donate hundreds of jpegs for free. My understanding is the guy is a dentist, so while the contract I used to have was real money to me (equivalent to about four house payments a year), it would probably be chump change to him. The school is not getting my experience or my level of quality, but they have apparently decided the quality sacrifice balances out the cost savings.

Nobody goes to Sears and drops a few grand on a professional tool set and then starts doing auto repair for free, so it kind of blows my mind that anyone would spend thousands on photo equipment and then just start doing photography work for free. Personally, I would have a moral compunction against going out and doing something for free that would be somebody else's livelihood, except in the case of volunteer work for charitable or benevolent organizations or something to help a close friend or family member in need. Am I wrong to feel a bit screwed, not only for myself but my profession, that someone would mess with the market this way, and in so doing condition a private, for profit university that used to pay fair rates for good work to become photography freeloaders?

I suppose it doesn't really matter. That's just the market these days.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: Swphoto on February 07, 2013, 09:01:59 AM
About two hours into the wedding her 128 GB card in her MK3 died (which had all the formals, pre-ceremony, ceremony etc.) during the reception. She came to me in tears and asked what she should do, tell my friends that she lost all these photos that we could not re-create. I had my MK3 and a card wallet with a ton of 16gb cards in it. So I got my friends in the bridal party together and told them what had happened. They told her not to worry and we would re-do them now. She took my cards and re-shot everything. She learned a valuable lesson that day about using one large card.

Slightly off topic, but do you recall what brand/model of card she was using?
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: RMC33 on February 07, 2013, 11:46:26 AM
I could not agree more. My horror story is not one that affected me, but a wedding photographer I know. She showed up early and I had helped her setup the night before. All her gear was fine but I noticed she only had 64 and 128 GB cards (this was about three months ago now). I asked her where her other cards were so I could setup the card holder and she said "I only use these". That made me a bit nervous as I usually act as her backup/director but since I was in the bridal party I could not. About two hours into the wedding her 128 GB card in her MK3 died (which had all the formals, pre-ceremony, ceremony etc.) during the reception. She came to me in tears and asked what she should do, tell my friends that she lost all these photos that we could not re-create. I had my MK3 and a card wallet with a ton of 16gb cards in it. So I got my friends in the bridal party together and told them what had happened. They told her not to worry and we would re-do them now. She took my cards and re-shot everything. She learned a valuable lesson that day about using one large card.

 I personally do not use cards over 16gb and keep a portable card reader/HDD with an LCD screen in my bag to dump from if somehow I fill up the 15 or so cards I have. It's not a matter of If.. but when.

She was shooting with one 5D3 at a paid wedding gig and did not have the SD card as back up?!?!?! It's really the only time I use the SD, for the CYA in these exact circumstances. D'oh !!! These are the "pros" I'm talkin about.

You fill 15 16gb cards at one wedding? Good lord, you must be in PP for half the year for just one gig!

I should have clarified a bit. She had two bodies and usually I spend most of my time posing for her/gathering people. I don't know why but she never uses the SD slot (I keep an 8gb in mine for all shoots) or her 2nd body a lot. .

I was a bit tired while writing this. I have 15 cards, only ever use about 2-3 max (I keep a 16 in my 7d and two 8's for my Mk3). I kinda have a card fetish I guess cause I own two from every brand it seems.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: RMC33 on February 07, 2013, 11:50:00 AM
About two hours into the wedding her 128 GB card in her MK3 died (which had all the formals, pre-ceremony, ceremony etc.) during the reception. She came to me in tears and asked what she should do, tell my friends that she lost all these photos that we could not re-create. I had my MK3 and a card wallet with a ton of 16gb cards in it. So I got my friends in the bridal party together and told them what had happened. They told her not to worry and we would re-do them now. She took my cards and re-shot everything. She learned a valuable lesson that day about using one large card.

Slightly off topic, but do you recall what brand/model of card she was using?

Kingston, Not sure on model but I know it was 60mb/s.
Title: Re: The need for backup equipment for paid jobs
Post by: InterMurph on February 07, 2013, 01:20:15 PM
The school is not getting my experience or my level of quality, but they have apparently decided the quality sacrifice balances out the cost savings.
They have also likely decided that making an athlete's father happy also helps.