14 Unusual Items That Will Make You A Better Portrait Photographer
To perform a basic photo shoot all it takes is some creativity, a camera with a lens and a subject to shoot. Depending on preference and circumstance, the location is a controlled studio, a real world environment or a hybrid of some kind. Step it up by adding some flash, a reflector or a combo of both. That is all there is to it, right? Well, that depends on a couple things. How smoothly do you want things to go and how professional do you want to appear as a photographer?
Anticipating and being ready for anything is crucial to ensuring that clients walk away with the impression that each session was effortless, simply because you are a master of your craft. Bringing the right gear with you is the first step to making that happen. The tools are easily overlooked and aren’t as obvious as one might think. The following is a compilation of some of those items and their uses…
1 ) Gum and/or mints: This doesn’t need much explaining; nobody likes bad breath and doing something as simple as chewing on gum can make people feel more at ease. Just make sure your talent loses it before you start shooting.
2 ) Straws: To avoid touch-ups to lipstick on your subjects, have straws ready to go. Whether or not you are the one providing refreshments, having clean straws for the talent will prevent the need for constant attention to makeup so that you can focus on the task at hand.
3 ) Clothing Pins & Safety Pins: Wardrobe is always an issue. No matter how well one plans, there always seems to be some piece that sticks out in an odd manner. Keeping these on hand will save a lot of frustrating time in Photoshop.
4 ) Music: This can be a little tricky for environmental photographers. There’s no right way to do this when in the field, but one gadget that works well (for iPhone 3G/4 users) is the AirCurve from Griffin Technology. It is small, lightweight, easy to use and it amps up that little speaker very well. Start up Pandora, ask the talent what his or her favorite musician is and go!
5 ) A Small Mirror: This isn’t just for makeup and hair touch-ups. When there is a particular facial expression needed, mirrors are crucial for working with the talent and getting consistent results.
6 ) LED Flashlight with Laser Pointer: Another directing tool, this will save your butt in more ways than one. The flashlight is pretty straightforward for helping in the dark. The laser pointer is useful in directing where everything and everyone goes without having to run all over the place. If you find yourself on a ladder, bring it up with you and leave it up there until you are done.
7 ) Velcro Wraps, Straps, Fasteners & Ties: Organization prevents accidents. Keeping wires, cables and other gear together will not only make you look more professional but it will keep the set running like a fine tuned machine.
There are many other items, big and small, that are such staples to the industry that they could almost be considered borderline camera gear. Those items include, but are not limited to…
8 ) A-Clamps: Highly useful for holding reflectors, backdrops, props, clothing etc.
9 ) Ball Bungees & Hook Bungees: These are life savers for equipment transportation and organization.
10 ) Gaffers tape: Best. Tape. Ever.
11 ) Card Stock and Aluminum Foil: Great for making snoots, gobos, flags or reflectors on the spot. Get some different color stocks and kick a little color into the images.
12 ) Leatherman: Apart from being able to fix most equipment malfunctions, this is an essential tool for building contraptions on the spot.
13 ) Fishing string: Great for hanging odd things and tying things up that don’t get too much heat. It’s strong, easy to use and almost never shows up in photos.
14 ) Foam Core Board: For many photographers this probably doesn’t need to be said, but having a supply of white and black foam core is a must. Like the card stock, this is way cheaper than purchasing “real” reflectors/flags and can be cut down and used in a lot of different ways.
Sure, there are pieces of specialty equipment for almost all aspects of photography but they can be pricey and it isn’t always necessary to get them. A-Clamps, for instance, are cheap heavy-duty pieces of equipment that fill many roles and do it as well as most of their specialty counterparts. All of the items listed in this article can also be great for those moments when you are in need of a piece of equipment that you don’t have, that doesn’t exist or that you simply didn’t think to bring. What does one do in that situation? Build something quickly. It’s probably not pretty and may be just temporary, but it works. Admittedly, this is to be avoided. However, most people are curious by nature and pulling a DIY-on-the-fly can sometimes be a great way to start a conversation with the talent. Who knows, one of those contraptions you build may turn into a refined piece of equipment you use every time. Bottom line this stuff saves you time, headaches and money.
What piece of equipment do you have that doesn’t necessarily qualify as camera gear but, because you never conduct a shoot without it, has become a permanent part of your camera bag(s)?
Andrew Wagle is a commercial account manager at C.R.I.S., a digital camera repair company located in Chandler, AZ. Andrew’s photographic education, hardware knowledge, and digital imaging expertise is a major contributor to the company’s BBB A+ rating. Andrew is also the social media coordinator and moderator of the company’s camera repair blog; focused on care, maintenance and repair tips for digital cameras and imaging equipment.