Photo Notes A place to talk about making images.

December 20, 2012

Handy Tools

Filed under: Basic Photo Technique,Do It Yourself,Photographic Equipment — John Siskin @ 3:43 pm

I hope you’ll check out my books: Photographing Architecture and Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting. I hope you’ll get copies if you haven’t already. Of course you know that one reason for this blog is to sell the book and get you to consider one of my classes at An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio, Getting Started in Commercial Photography

There are things in my camera and lighting case that aren’t cameras or lights. Some of these are pretty obvious: if you have lights you must have light stands. If you have cameras you’ll have lenses. This post is about the other things, some of them are used constantly and others hardly used. But they are all critical once in a while. If you have some favorite gadgets please let me know. I’ll post the information. Because this site got spammed you’ll need to let me know by e-mail.

This is probably my favorite. It’s a vice grip that has tripod sized threads welded onto it. I can put on a small ball head and use it to hold the camera or a light stud and it’s a light stand. Vice grips can attach to almost anything. I don’t know of a commercial supplier for this, so, if you want one, you’ll need to visit a welding shop. Here’s the ball head and the lighting stud. This is the small lighting stud that fits all my lights.

I also have this clip that I put a tripod thread on. It can hold a small light, or notes. By the way tripod thread is 1/4X20, unless you are European.

This is another sort of lighting stud, basically it allows you to mount two lights on a single light stand. This is useful when you need more power. It used to hold four lights, which is why there’s a hole. This is another thing I don’t have a supplier for. Any suggestions?

I know a lot of people have 5 in 1 reflectors but they don’t really appeal to me. I do have a piece of bubble wrap with a silver and a white side. Good as a reflector and extra padding. The piece I carry is about 18X24 inches. I also have a piece of duvatyne in the case. Duvatine is a very black cloth used for blocking light.

This is another old friend: the chain pod. Here’s more information. They’re easy to build. If you must spend the money you can get one from Calumet.

This is another one I wrote about before. It’s a shoe cover that helps modify light. For more check out this link.

I don’t use this much, but it doesn’t take up much room. It has been important on come occasions. It’s basically a raincoat for the camera. Here’s a modern version.

I also have a laser pointer. This helps me focus in low light by giving me a target. I have to remember to check the batteries once in a while. I don’t use it often, but when I need it I really need it.

The next two items are still in my case, but I find I use my smart phone for both: a level and a flashlight. Especially with architectural photography leveling the camera is important, and I often need to see things in low light.

There are other things I should at least mention:
Model release, adult and child
Property release
Gray card
MacBeth Color checker
Cine Foil
Gaffer Tape. This is actually on the cases, which makes it easier to find

Clothes pins. I use these to hold filters on lights.
Please consider one of my classes at

An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

Getting Started in Commercial Photography

If you’re in the Indianapolis area there are other opportunities as well. I’ll be teaching a class in commercial photography next spring at Ivy Tech.

Happy Holidays!

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