Apart from cameras, lenses, filters we as photographers carry a number of gizmos to help our image capture.  This is part 1 of my list of gizmos.  These are all reasonably priced and many are less than $10.  Most on-line photography stores carry these items and you should check them out.

  1. Gray Card  – Get your exposure right. Available in cardboard and durable plastic these are one of the most valuable tools for your camera kit. The camera may be smart but it is easily fooled.  It will under or over expose very bright or very dark scenes. You should use a gray card to set the exposure for much more accurate results. Some of the newer cards come as sets with a black and white card.  This can also help you set your white balance.  A step-up would be the X-Rite Color Checker Passport.
  2. High velocity blower – Never clean your lens without first blowing off any dust, grit or lint.   The last thing you want is to scratch your lens as your clean it with a lens pen or lens cloth.  A good blower costs under $10 – the one I like is the Visible Dust Manual Blower. Adorama and B&H have these.
  3. Lens Pen – This is another must have tool for your bag.  There are many manufacturers and models available.  The ones with a carbon bad need to be activated before each use. Others like the Allsop have replaceable tips.  I keep an Allsop in each of my camera bags.
  4. Lens Cleaning Cloth – A good lens cloth is a must in your bag.  Zeiss makes some of the finest and can be purchased from Walmart and B&H for $3 and up.
  5. 1 or 1.5 inch natural bristle soft painter’s brush – An ideal too to get lager dust and sand particles off your equipment.  Keep one in your bag – you will be happy you have it on those dusty trips.
  6. Small micro fiber or cotton hand towel – You never know when you will need it.  These are great for wiping of moisture from your gear on those wet days. Grocery stores and Bed Bath & Beyond carry these.
  7. Spray bottle – You may not always get a dewy morning but you can create dew on flower petals and spider webs with a handy fine-mist spray bottle. Fine mist spray bottles can be found for under $2 at Amazon.
  8. Bubble level – A three axis bubble level for your hotshot mount will keep your horizons level.  If you have an inbuilt electronic level in the camera then you can skip this tool.
  9. Elastic bands and small ziplock bags – You will find many uses for this combo. A lost lens cap can be a problem but not if you can put a ziplock bag around the front element and secure it with an elastic band.  If your zoom lens tends to creep the elastic band can help keep it in place.
  10. Large garbage bag – During any outdoor shoot I always pack one or two large garbage bags in my bag or in the car.  They are great when you need some rain protection, need to keep your equipment on the salty sand, need to lay down at ground level when shooting low to the ground.  A black garbage bag acts as a great gobo when needed, translucent bags make great diffusers.
  11. Gaffer’s tape – 1 inch width in black, a small roll is perfect to secure items when needed.  This is a must have to tape down your lens at infinity when doing any astro photography.  A small piece can be used to cover the eyepiece of the viewfinder, preventing stray light from spoiling the exposure.  It is also a great all around repair tool.
  12. Parchment paper, issue paper, or rip (stock) cloth – A small piece about 4 inches square is good but larger pieces can be useful for other situations.  You can tape this (using gaffer’s tape to your flash to diffuse the light.  If you keep a larger piece you can have someone hold it to diffuse bright sunlight while doing close-up or macro photography. Get parchment paper any kitchen or grocery store. rip stock can be purchased from a fabric store or on-line.
  13. White foam-core – This makes a great reflector, if you need a silver reflector keep some kitchen foil and fold it over the foam-core.  You can use the foam-core as a gobo or even as a white background for small subjects. Staples, Office Max, Michael’s or A.C. Moore are ideal for this.
  14. LED Flashlight – a must have when you are in the dark.  A great tool for light painting and when you need just that added light for filling in shadows or adding a highlight. My favorites are Coast and SureFire (SureFire lights are available from the SureFire website and Amazon).  Others can be purchased at Home Depot, Amazon or Lowes carry great LED Lights
  15. Small notebook and a ballpoint pen – Journaling is key.  Write down locations, notes, day and time of best light, etc.  Draw sketches of what there is so you can come back for better images.  If nothing else – you can use it to jot down names and contact info of fellow photographers you meet.

In the near future I will follow-up with additional items I find useful.  Some for the bag and others that are good to have. In the mean time, why don’t you use the comment link on the top of this post to share with us some of your special items.

If you do plan on getting any of these items please use my affiliate links on the right column of this blog post or use the Products and Discounts Page for additional links. 

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