Photographers are gadget people. We like to follow trends and to learn what to do with the new gadgets. I think it comes in our DNA. A lot of times there are fast trends and things that prove themselves to be what I call a "false gadget": something that you swore was going to improve your photography or make it easier to go on a photo session but It did not stand the test of times.
That is why today I am going to talk about 12 things to help photographers from a dollar store.
1 - Clamps
Those photography clamps can be used to hold backgrounds, keep the height of a failing lightstand, hold clothing from the back when adjusting a pose for a model or client.
2 - Flashlight
Photographing in the end of the day has its magic but as the sun disappears by the minute into the end of the day, the flashlight saves me to photograph people when I have helpers: an assistant will turn the flashlight on and point the light to the subject's face so I can focus in the darkness. Then I lock my focus in manual mode, without moving myself or the camera, and take a picture in manual focus with the real "flash". The flashlight allows me to focus. Without it, the camera would just hunt and my images would be blurry.
3 - Cilinder gift box
This gift box allows me to create a "snoot" when photographing people, the concentrated and controlled "hair light" . By removing the lid and the bottom of the gift box I can insert a speed light on it and have the light to focus where I want it.
4 - Dry erase board with a sharpie
Did you ever photograph a lot of people where you have to send them emails and later you don't remember who is who? Meet the dry erase board with a sharpie! You ask the person who will be photographed to write her/his name on the board with the phone number and email and photograph a first image with the dry erase board showing. Later on you know who is who and where your images needs to go.
5 - Notebook
The digital age is great but why do I always run out of batteries when I don't have an outlet to make my notes? A small notebook with a pen can be kept in the car so you can make notes of locations when you are scouting for photo sessions or take note of somebody's phone or email. It is also great to have it as an idea book for photography projects , where you can make small drawings, take notes and details of your sessions and lighting scenarios.
6 - Poster board
I am talking about the poster board like the ones that fold in 3 that kids use for school projects. You can use them to bounce light to fill in the shadow side of your picture. You can also put together 2 or 3 of these in the long way and use it as a v-flat to bounce light. I have made one for myself using small pieces of wood hangers on the back attached with gaffer's tape. Two poster boards together are long enough to bounce light from head to toe.
7 - Foam board
The dollar store has pieces that are white in one side and black on the other, so you can use them to bounce light or to block light, very handy!
8 - Binder
A binder is great to keep your things organized - postcards, notes, business cards, contracts, model releases and any paperwork you may need in a photo session
9 - Hand warmer
The cold weather we endure sometimes to photograph in winter...now hand warmers are at the dollar store. Keep a few in your photographer's backpack and use it in inclement weather
10 - Gloves
Do I need to say more? My hands are always cold in winter and it is convenient to keep a backup plan in the car if you forget the good ones at home
11 - Lint roller
Everything is great in the beginning of the photo session when you meet you clients and then you realized they have too much pet hair! There comes your friend, the lint roller. Use it to clean their clothing before you photograph. It is much faster to clean the clothing before than to photoshop later!
12 - The Picnic Tablecloth
They come in all kinds of colors, but my favorites are black and white. With the white picnic tablecloth I can bounce light from the sun or a flash, diffuse light outdoors, use it as a background. The black picnic tablecloth is the one I use the most! I cannot find it all year round, but usually about Halloween time I find it (and I stock up fro the year!). This tablecloth is used to put it on the ground so clients and models can put their personal belongings in a photo session, to block light from the sun, to use it as a background and to help to create a "flag" to block light partially from a flash or from the sun.
I hope these small gadgets are in your new list to acquire. Sometimes the budget does not need to be big to be really handy and useful in the photographer's life!
Enjoy the new season and take more pictures!