Take a closer look at one of our Spotlight Awards sponsors that is making photographers lives easier by producing carefully designed and tested, high-quality camera carrying solutions. Think Tank Photo has been offering innovative design bags for working professionals for over a decade. Read our interview with Brian Erwin, Think Tank Photo’s marketing adviser to find out more.
Production Paradise: Think Tank Photo consists of a team of many designers and professional photographers. Whose idea was it to create the company and what was the reason behind it?
Brian Erwin: Think Tank Photo was founded by two award-winning camera bag designers and two award-winning photojournalists, including the winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for photography. The force behind the founding is our president and lead designer Doug Murdoch. He and the other co-founders wanted to start a camera bag design firm where the needs of professional and serious photographers could interface with the designers’ commitment to innovation and quality, and with no interference allowed from outside forces seeking unwarranted compromises. We have stayed true to this vision.
Production Paradise: According to your design philosophy, your products represent your commitment to photographers. How are these products enhancing the photographers’ work?
Brian Erwin: There are three main qualities consistent in all of our camera bags. The first is our commitment to innovation. We listen to the needs of working photographers and observe how they move, how they access their gear, and how they transport it from location to location. This input is integrated into the designs, many of which are patented because of their innovation. Our second quality is a determination to source only the best materials for bags. We put ourselves in the places of photographers who may be in remote locations and who absolutely need their camera bags to stay solid, even amidst trying circumstances. This is why we don’t look at cost when sourcing materials. Either it’s the best or it’s not. The third quality is our offering the best customer service in the camera bag industry. Our bag experts are working photographers who will do what needs to be done to make it easier for working photographers to keep working. This includes our “No Rhetoric Warranty” and overriding philosophy of wanting to be of service.
Production Paradise: What is the most successful and bestselling product of yours?
Brian Erwin: Our rolling bags, shoulder bags, and backpacks have won a lot of awards. What we’ve found is that working photographers use different bags in different configurations, depending on what and where they’re shooting. Our rolling camera bags are particularly renowned for their functionality and durability. Our Airport roller series, for example, is sized so that photographers can use them as carryon-on, so as not to be separated from their most valuable bodies, lenses, and accessories. They come with security devices that help prevent theft. And, with replaceable wheels, handles, and housings, when parts wear out photographers don’t need to replace the whole bag.
Production Paradise: What is the difference between “active shooting mode” and “storage and transportation mode”?
Brian Erwin: Serious photographers have two basic needs. The first is to get their gear safely from one location to the next, especially through airports. Our airport rolling camera bags and backpacks are designed as the ultimate “storage and transportation” systems. They are built to hold the maximum amount of gear, while still complying with airline sizing requirements. The backpacks feature comfortable shoulder straps. Our goal is to help photographers get from their studios to their locations as easily and comfortably as possible.
Once they reach their shooting location, our other backpacks, shoulder bags, sling bags, and modular belt systems can then be deployed so that they need carry only the gear they’ll use for that shoot in the way they like to carry their gear (e.g. on their back, on one shoulder, on their hips). For us, designing bags for “active shooting mode” is defined by speed and access. Does the bag move in the way the photographer moves so that they can access gear, switch lenses, and the like intuitively? Ultimately, does the bag’s design help them get “The Shot?”
Production Paradise: Can you explain to us what your “No Compromise” philosophy is and what “The Last 3%” is about?
Brian Erwin: We founded the company so that no outside forces would force us to compromise on our designs and the quality of the materials we source. This “no compromise” philosophy also applies to the features we build into every bag. Sure, adding a new feature costs more, but our goal is to serve the needs of “feet on the street” photographers who need this feature. This leads to our “Last 3%” commitment. Every bag we design undergoes rigorous prototyping, multiple versions, field testing, and more. Our goal is to make each bag as perfect as can be done, which sometimes means pulling a backpack from being released so that the final 3% of enhancements can be completed.
Production Paradise: What makes your products different and what do you want to say to photographers who have never used them?
Brian Erwin: If you are serious about photography and value your equipment, don’t you deserve camera bags designed by those who take their craft as seriously as you do yours? We are privately owned and almost all of our employees have been working together for over a decade. We take our work extremely seriously. Our goal isn’t to have the camera bags used by most photographers, but those that are used by people like you, people who are passionate about photography.
Production Paradise: Any exciting new products in the making that you can tell us about?
Brian Erwin: Take a look over at our outdoor camera bag line, MindShift Gear, where we just released the Exposure shoulder bags. They are storm-resistant carrying solutions for the active photographer in virtually any outdoor environment. Built with high-performance waterproof sailcloth panels, strategically placed storm flaps, water-repellent DWR fabric, and a sturdy Tarpaulin bottom; the Exposure protects camera gear from the elements and withstands the rigors of adventure photography. And, with its cross-body stabilizer strap, the Exposure moves with you while you’re active or is removable for more casual environments. A waterproof rain cover is included when it’s time to put the camera away and hunker down.
Production Paradise: You are one of the sponsors for the Spotlight Awards for Photographic Excellence 2018 that Production Paradise is hosting for the first time. What would you want to advise all photographers that are considering taking part in it but have not made their mind yet?
Brian Erwin: A lesson I was taught by one of my mentors is that we need to put ourselves out there creatively. We need to take the risk of being seen and being judged. It is only by doing it that we grow.
We thank Brian for the talk and want to remind you that you can win Think Tank Photo prizes in the Spotlight Awards. Each professional category winner and Shot on Mobile winner will receive Think Tanks’ canvas RETROSPECTIVE® 10 bag, among many other prizes.