I talk with a lot of women with kids, and while everyone has their own unique situation and approach, there are some questions and themes that come up over and over again, some of them bigger and more philosophical, while others are more practical such as:

How on earth do you lug your big camera around with you?!!!

It’s a challenge, I know, and what’s happened is that as smartphone cameras have become better and better, and as we rely on our phones more and more, the upside of that fancy DSLR you likely bought when you first became a parent becomes less and less.

And that’s ok!

As you may know if you’ve been reading my posts, I’m a huge proponent for the best camera being the one that you have with you (see last week’s blog post on skirts with pockets to see how to really make this a reality), and I love using my iPhone to capture and enjoy day-to-day moments with my kids.

And I admit that I haven’t upgraded my iPhone yet to check out the new lenses that come with the latest model that better emulate some of the qualities of a DSLR.

But for me, and for many of the Photosanity parents who have worked with me, a DSLR is still going to give you the best ability to really be in the moment and capture it in a way that best reflects how you experienced it.

There is one caveat to this though - you need to get out of auto to do so, because it’s the shallow depth of field when photographing your kids that makes all the difference.

What is shallow depth of field? Shallow depth of field is the effect that you may associate with “professional” photos where the subject is in focus and the background is blurry.

That disappointment you feel when your photos don’t reflect the beauty of the moment as you experienced it? One factor might be the way the background is in full focus and distracting with all its clutter. Other factors such as lighting and focus are also handled better with a DSLR. 

If you don’t know how to shoot out of auto on your DSLR don’t despair - we have a free “get out of auto” cheatsheet that you can download that will get you started.

Which brings us back to the question of lugging that thing around once you know how to use it!

So here’s what I’ve found - as a mom, you have enough gear that you’re carrying around with you that if you have to carry yet something else in a separate bag, it’s just not going to happen, however much you would like it to. I’ve been there!

The key, and this is pretty much a good general rule for everything, is: integration and leverage.

The best camera bag for moms allows you to safely and securely integrate your camera in with all the other stuff you have to carry.

That’s right - no additional camera bag.

Now, of course, there is no one best camera bag for all, you have to figure out what will work best for you, but here are some suggestions to help you figure it out:

1) What is your go-to bag that you take with you most of the time when you’re with your kids (or even when you’re not)?

For me, whether I have my camera or my kids with me or not, I pretty much exclusively carry a backpack these days, because let me tell you, after being pregnant with, nursing and carrying two kids, my back is wrecked, and I simply cannot do over-the-shoulder or even cross-body messenger style bags anymore. Your mileage may vary.

2) Will your DSLR fit in this bag?

If so, there are some simple accessories you can buy so you can safely and securely carry your camera in your current bag. I know - you might not even need a new bag!

Look for a “camera insert” that basically converts any bag into a camera bag. I have the Roma Camera Insert from ONA but if you search for “camera insert” you’ll find a whole variety of options at varying price points.

Alternatively, look for a “camera sleeve” that will protect your camera so you can feel comfortable throwing it in your bag with everything else. USA Gear has a whole series of them such as this one, but again, a search will bring up many options.

3) Do you want more convenient access to your camera?

If you want more convenient access to your camera within your bag, so you’re not rummaging around so much looking for it, you might want to consider finding a camera bag that will also hold your other stuff. 

The good news is that there are many camera bags available that also have a laptop pocket. Whether you carry a laptop with you at the same time as your camera or not, it means the bag can do double duty as a laptop bag. 

If you have a child in diapers, I’ve found that the laptop pocket is very handy for holding a changing mat, and that all the pockets that camera bags have usually make them great diaper bags too!

And if you are out of the diaper stage, camera bags are usually good for organizing snacks, toys, books, devices, etc. 

I’ve been using the Crumpler Half Photo Backpack. What I like about this bag is that the camera is easily accessible through a separate compartment at the bottom of the bag, and there is a laptop sleeve and enough room to carry other things I need up top. Side straps mean you can attach a water bottle holder or other pouches and accessories.

This bag has absolutely changed my ability and willingness to carry my camera with me, whether to the playground, to a school event, into the city on a more elaborate adventure, on the plane traveling or to the beach and pool while on vacation. 

I’ve also been eying the bags at Peak Design, which are relatively new to the market, specifically the Everyday Backpack which looks amazing! I haven’t seen it in person, but it features dividers, pockets, external carry and promises “no more digging” for photographers and non-photographers alike. But again, search for “camera backpack” or “camera bag," and you’ll find a variety of options to meet your needs.

That’s it for this week. If you’ve enjoyed using your DSLR before but just haven’t been carrying it with you lately, I hope you’ll consider some of these suggestions, and if you have never fully utilized your DSLR by getting out of auto, don’t forget to download the cheatsheet.