The Story of Clever Supply Co.

Posted by Todd Balsley on

It’s the Fall of 2010, I had just started the beginning of a 6-year journey in wedding photography. I thought I found my life calling (spoiler alert, I thought wrong)!

As a new wedding photographer, I’d spend loads of time hunting for gear that helped me do my job better. In my search for the best equipment I naturally explored different camera straps, I found a lot of good (and not so good) options that seemed to work for most people, but not for me.

You see there were some camera straps that were innovative but were made of strange materials, while other options had a more refined style but were uncomfortable to wear while casually shooting. So you know what I did? I searched, found some things I didn’t like, and then ultimately I gave up…

wedding photographer with camera strap

Fast forward to 2017, a year after I had left the wedding industry, by this time I picked up leatherworking as a hobby. Initially, all I wanted to do was make a cool wallet, but it didn’t take long for me to become obsessed with my new found hobby. I don’t know if it was the intoxicating smell of new leather hides or the process of making something useful with my hands that could one day be passed down to my kids, but I knew I was in love with the process.

leather wallets
As I learned more, I started making different things. Eventually, as you might guess, I thought I’d try my hand at making my own camera strap. On a personal level, I still shot quite a bit, focusing mostly on street photography. Because I no longer shot weddings, the pressure was off, I had much lower expectations for a camera strap. So here’s what I came up with, the first camera strap I ever made. I know I know, it looks rough, and guess what, it felt rough too!

leather camera strap, fuji xpro2 camera

I was determined though, and through almost a year of testing, I developed a number of different camera straps. I wanted something that fit MY needs as a photographer, and with each iteration, it became clear what those needs were. At some point in this journey, the term “Comfort is King, Function is Queen” was born, it challenged me to prioritize both equally…

“Wow, that feels good!”. That’s it. That’s the reaction I’m going for the moment one of my camera straps hits your neck. No one wants to put in the work to earn a good break-in when they have a job to do. To accomplish this I spent lots of time deciding on the right leather, ultimately I chose a style that is tanned to require little break-in, making it feel great from day one.

leather hides for camera straps
Functionality also mattered to me just as much as the look and feel. The strap needed to provide an elevated experience over any other traditional straps. For an “elevated experience,” I decided Quick Connection was important. Once you have the freedom to freely swap camera bodies, or remove your strap as needed, it’s easy to see how this can elevate your workflow.

With those principles in mind, I finally came up with a design I was proud of at the beginning of 2019. I had a bunch of other photographers test the design for me as well and give me great feedback. Later that summer I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, I couldn’t believe it, the camera strap I wanted for myself just so happened to be the camera strap a bunch of other people wanted too.

leather camera bag with two cameras and camera straps, a plant and cup of coffee

Now as of writing this it’s the summer 2020 and a few hundred straps later I’m still loving the process. Things are a little wild in the world right now, yet in the midst of it, I’m so thankful for the support of the photography community, and the story of Clever Supply is still being written...

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