As a student working in a shared space, I can’t leave everything that I need at the studio, and it can be hard to decide what I need to bring and when. My first assignment in the studio, I was underprepared. Since then, I’ve come up with a pretty good kit of things I keep with me at all times, and I just add to it for special projects.
First of all– being on campus makes it really hard to get everything to and from whereever it is that you’ll be shooting, so let’s start with finding a good bag. You’ll want something big enough to carry the equipment you have now with a little room to grow. Camera bags can be a big investment (specially working with a college student’s budget). You won’t want to buy a new one right away. I like the Tamrac Anvil series. It has plenty of space, great support, and lots of areas to add on attachments when you get new gear.
So you’ve got a bag, but now what should you put in it? Your camera and some lenses to start, memory cards, a sync cable, maybe a tether cable too, but here is a list of some things you may not think to keep on hand.
Many students prefer to use sync cables because they are inexpensive and accomplish the same task as a wireless transmitter. However, by using wireless transceivers, I get a wider range of motion on set and have fewer cables to step over. You’ll need one for your camera and one for each battery pack or strobe you’re using. I have two Pocket Wizard Plus III and one Pocket Wizard Plus X. The models are compatible with each other so I could afford to save some money when I got a third one. You can buy these new or used from camera supply stores or direct from the manufacturer.
Rechargeable Batteries and Chargers
One of the worst things that can happen on set is running out of juice! You’ll want to keep extra batteries on hand for your camera, transceivers, and any other accessories that take power. I like to use rechargeable batteries because I tend to go through a lot and it saves me some money in the long run. You’ll want to keep chargers for everything in your bag too, if you have the space. You don’t want to miss your deadline because you ran out of power! You can buy spare camera batteries from the camera manufacturer or a camera store. They make inexpensive off-brand versions if you’re shopping on a budget (I know I am). Rechargeable double and triple A batteries can be bought most places batteries are sold. The first time you buy, make sure you get the one with the charger.
Box Cutter, Scissors, Tape, and Fishing Line
This is particularly important if you do still life, but can also come in handy at any shoot. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to use my room key and some strategical ripping to open things in the studio. From opening new seamless rolls to cutting tags of clothes to cutting foam core for bounce cards – the possibilities are endless! The tape and fishing line can help hold items in place on a still life set or hold clothes in place on a model. Each of these are pretty inexpensive and can be bought at any superstore.
You can spend about as much as you’d like on one of these. They’re like a swiss army knife but with pliers, screw drives, and even scissors! The pliers come particularly handy when you’re tightening acres on set. There are a lot of different sizes and types, so look around and find one that can do what you need it to. The prices range a lot too, but I chose to invest in a Leatherman. They hold up pretty well and are really easy to use.
If the space you’re using doesn’t already have some of these stocked you should keep some in your bag too! These are great for rigging bounce cards and flags. You can use them to hold foam core on a light stand with an arm to help move the light where you need it to be. In the past, I’ve even used small ones to clamp a shirt tighter on my model. They also work to prop up smaller bounce cards on a still life set. A-Clamps are multifaceted, inexpensive and can be purchased at your local hardware store!
With these items in your pack, you’ll be prepared to take on everything your shoot throws at you. So load up your camera bag and get on set!