Photography Tips & Tricks: What if the Gear Fails Mid-Shoot?

By: Scott Holstein

Portrait of a man at Harry T’s lighthouse in HarborWalk Village.Portrait of a man at Harry T’s lighthouse in HarborWalk Village overlooking Destin Pass.
Both the cover photo and this portrait of Haim in the opening spread for the magazine story were shot with my backup camera when the main camera failed.

I recently traveled to HarborWalk Village in Destin, Florida to complete a marathon of 10 portraits on location in a day for Emerald Coast magazine’s “Top Singles” feature. Efficiency is the name of the game - with a schedule like that I’m running-and-gunning - setting up and shooting quickly and moving on with very little time to spare.

A few shots into the day I had one of those lovely moments that makes me want to pull out my hair: my Canon 1D Mark III stopped responding. The LCD that displays my settings went nuts for a moment and then everything went blank. I changed the battery, flipped switches, checked all the connections; nothing worked. The camera was fried and I had a good half-dozen shots left for the day. What to do?

Portrait of a beautiful black woman on the cover of Emerald Coast magazine’s 10th anniversary issue.
The portrait of Rosalynn on the cover of Emerald Coast magazine's 10th anniversary issue was made with the photographer's backup camera when the main camera failed.

I walked over to the car and got my spare camera, with batteries fully charged and ready, and we continued shooting after a minimal delay.

Any number of equipment issues can ruin an assignment when you least expect it, so it is imperative to travel with backups. Being prepared for the unexpected can not only save your butt, doing so will help keep your clients happy.

Setup info:

For Rosalynn's cover portrait, the couch was in direct sunlight so we dragged it around the corner and into the shade. It is easier to control the light in the shade than in direct sunlight. She is lit with a Profoto 7b power pack and a Profoto 5' Octa. Shot with the Canon 30D and 24-70mm at 48mm, 1/250 second at f/8.0, ISO 100.

For Haim's shot, it was late enough that the ambient light was nice for the background, but I still wanted him to be shaded so I can add in softer light. He is  lit by the 5' Octa, which is also shading him from direct sunlight. Shot with the Canon 30D and 24-70mm at 24mm, 1/200 second at f/10, ISO 100.

2 Replies to “Photography Tips & Tricks: What if the Gear Fails Mid-Shoot?”

Enjoyed reading this, Scott. Nice blog and nice photos! Keep up the good work!


Terrie Corbett

Thanks, Terrie! Glad you enjoyed it and good hearing from you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to my mailing list

Stay informed with the occasional update delivered straight to your inbox!

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.