Sometimes you just can’t find the right tool for the job. That’s why these photographers made it themselves—then sold it to the rest of us.
Photographer Andy Cotton wearing his invention, the Cotton Carrier camera-carrying system, which keeps hands free during active shooting.
COTTON CARRIER CAMERA-CARRYING SYSTEM: Andy Cotton. Vancouver, BC
If there is one truth about the best way to carry a camera, it’s that one size does not fit all. Therein lay an opportunity spotted by Vancouver, British Columbia-–based photographer Andy Cotton. In 2006 Cotton saw the need for a carrying system specifically for photographers who like to shoot while engaged in physical activities such as running, climbing, skiing and bicycling that would allow the wearer to move quickly with both hands free.
Cotton’s system would use an adjustable vest with a sturdy, front-facing receptacle into which the camera could be locked and incorporate a quick-release system strong enough to hold big cameras and big lenses securely. The vest would have stabilizing straps to batten down the camera and a tether to catch it in the event that it’s dropped. Relying on his 26 years of experience designing gear as a special-effects coordinator for movies, Cotton made some prototypes.
Finding a suitable production partner was a bigger challenge than designing the product. “The difficulty was having the sewing and stitching done the way I wanted,” Cotton says. “That kind of production capacity doesn’t exist in North America anymore.” His break came when he met a Chinese textile businessman who specialized in making products for the U.S. military—in China, of course. His factory easily accommodated Cotton’s specifications, and the hands-free Cotton Carrier camera-carrying system was soon launched.
The company has a staff of six, including three Cotton family members. “We’ve done amazingly well given where we started,” Cotton says. “But where we thought we’d see heavy interest—from photojournalists and sports photographers—we haven’t. We’ve done well with older photographers who just get it. They want to be active but don’t want cameras hanging off their necks. We also do quite well with women—they get it, too.”