Working for ArtUK Part 1: Kit-Bag

My latest contract work is with ArtUK, I’m one of the 50 odd photographers working with them on photographing 170,000 sculptures, held in public collections, by the end of May 2020. This blog series is an account of two days work for them at Plymouth museums recently. But firstly, here’s a preamble:

I had decided to treat myself to a new camera, keep up-to-date with things, at the end of my contract with Beaford arts. Reading the details of what was required for ArtUK, amongst other things was a digital camera with a sensor bigger than 30 megapixels. I decided to go for the best camera I could afford and future proof myself by buying a Nikon D850 which has top of the range 45 megapixels. I’ve never been gadget-man, so I wanted to keep my kit to the essentials; therefore, could I get away with just two lenses for my new camera? I have fallen back in love with prime lenses after noticing that my zoom lens, through its lens barrel movement, was seemingly more likely to add dust to a camera sensor. So, I tried an interesting exercise: I looked at the meta data regarding lens length full-frame equivalent, for every one of what I considered where my best images from the last couple of years, and it brought me to an interesting conclusion as to which prime lenses I should buy. The clear majority of these pictures were either shot at 35mm or at approximately 60mm, I therefore started looking to see which lenses might work best for my new full frame camera. After much deliberation I decided on the Sigma 35mm Art Lens and the Nikon 60mm macro. I haven’t looked back; these lenses are perfect for me!

I also needed to update my portable studio. I have had, and used, studio lighting for the whole of my time as a freelance photographer, but I’ve never had a portable background stand, so this was something I needed to buy. Art UK also required a specific background colour, storm grey, which I bought in both 2.7m and 1.3m widths. I had heard of the problems from other ArtUK photographers have had with transporting their kit around and through various institutions; not been able to park right outside, having to take their kit up and down stairs, moving from room to room often with the general public about etc. I was determined to make my kitbag transportable and ideally being able to carry everything myself, all at once, if I needed to. I managed this with a small two wheeled suitcase trolley and by packing a bag on my back too – The only addition to this one-man operation was the large paper background and a collapsible table if needed. The kitbag I took to Plymouth is as follows:

  • Large grey background
  • Small grey background
  • Boom stand
  • Background support
  • Soft box
  • Extension cable
  • Tripod and extra stand
  • Box of reflectors
  • Flash head
  • Flash power-cable
  • Flash sync-cable
  • 100 watt equivalate LED modelling lamp
  • Nikon battery charger
  • iPhone charger with lead
  • iPhone battery back up
  • iPad
  • Sellotape
  • Remote flash sync + QP cards
  • Gaffer tape
  • Two boxes of studio clips
  • Spare reading glasses
  • Scissors
  • Blade
  • Hook
  • Cable ties
  • Croc-clip stand
  • Spare triple A batteries
  • Pen
  • Screwdrivers
  • Spare camera battery
  • Spare flash tube
  • Spare knife blades
  • Camera
  • 60mm lens
  • 35mm lens plus Lens hood
  • 2x Polaroid filters
  • Lens cloth

Follow this link for Part 2: Photographing Sculpture!

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