Carry a photography "grab bag"

Not all camera gear has to be expensive or high tech. Sometimes something as simple as a clothespin can make all the difference in what you capture with your camera.

I carry a little bag full of odds and ends--photo accessories that can be found in a hardware store.

  • A metallic-coated plastic tarp or “space blanket,” this is perhaps the most versatile and invaluable accessory in my “grab bag.”  You can sit or kneel on it when the ground is wet or dusty, and it doubles as a great reflector for both indoor and outdoor shots. It can be hung, wrapped around objects, or taped on a ceiling or wall and used to bounce natural or artificial light onto your subject. It’s also handy in the summer to cover your equipment in the field or in the car; its shiny surface reflects heat and helps keep you and your gear cool.
  • Clothes pins are sometimes the only way to hold back an unwanted leaf or branch—the kind of thing that clutters up otherwise good composition. They’re also good for pinning up background paper, fabric, or reflector cards.
  • A small spring clamp or two for handling heavier items from flashes to reflectors.
  • A heavy-duty rubber band to attach a homemade “flash bounce,” an index card banded around the flash head to soften and spread strobe light.
  • Zipper lock style freezer bags to carry film canisters and protect them from dust. Since I often keep film in my lunch cooler, the bag also keeps out moisture.
  • A yard or two of black velvet or velvet-like fabric makes a good backdrop if you want to unclutter your background. Colored fabrics work too, for example blue or green, can add contrast and make your subject “jump out,” depending on the color of the subject.
  • Two 8.5 x 11 inch paper cards--a white one to reflect light and a black one to absorb it.
  • A small “compact” mirror is another tool useful for redirecting light into shadows of leaves, flowers, or tabletop subjects.