09.03.2021

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep, in Their Camera Bags

We love seeing what photographers keep in their camera bags. In the past, we’ve interviewed photographers about the best gear for everything from street photography to high-speed photography. This time, however, we wanted to do something unexpected, so we asked twenty-one Shutterstock contributors from around the world to tell us the most surprising or unusual thing they always bring with them into the studio or in the field. And, they delivered by giving us a bunch of cool ideas.

We heard from landscape photographers, wildlife photographers, portrait photographers, macro photographers, underwater photographers, and more. There’s something in here for everyone. Some of these items you can easily buy online, but a few of them you’re sure to find floating around your house. Others are DIY projects you can do on your own to suit your individual needs. These objects might sound out-of-the-box, but in the right situation, they can make all the difference.

1. “I have a cheap and easy DIY tool for when I’m shooting cityscapes.”

Stephane Legrand

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Opaque Cloth

Video by Stephane Legrand. Gear: Sony ARII camera, Sony 16-35 lens. Settings: Focal length 16mm; f8; ISO 50.

Stephane Legrand:

I have a cheap and easy DIY tool for when I’m shooting cityscapes. Have you ever been at the top of a skyscraper with a breathtaking view of the city, but when you take a photo, it’s ruined by the reflection of the people below you? I have, and it’s annoying, but I have an easy fix.

I go to a fabric store and buy an opaque cloth for about $5. Once I get home, I make a cylindrical hole in the middle with roughly the same width as my lens. I then put some double-sided tape on the edges of the cloth, and I’m good to go.

If you feel this setup is too complex for you, don’t worry. You can also buy a tool specifically designed to remove reflections, like the Lenskirt or the Ultimate Lens Hood.

2. “The strangest thing you can find in my bag is a middle gray card…”

Michele Vacchiano

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Middle Gray Card

Image by Michele Vacchiano. Gear: Phase One 645DF+ camera, Phase One 120mm AF Macro f/4.0 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/100 sec; f22; ISO 100.

Michele Vacchiano:

The strangest thing you can find in my bag is a middle gray card, an accessory that almost no one uses today but that I think is unavoidable when I want to take my time thinking about the exposure. There is also a small mirror, which I have stolen from my wife’s purse. I often use it to reflect the flash light and create a second source of light.

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Small Hand Mirror

Image by Michele Vacchiano.

3. “I keep a new pair of socks and bath tissues in my camera bag.”

solepsizm

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Extra Socks

Image by solepsizm. Gear: Canon 5D Mark II camera, Canon EOS 16-35 f2.8 L lens. Settings: Unknown.

Sergey Makarov aka solepsizm:

I keep a new pair of socks and bath tissues in my camera bag. During long walks, a new pair of socks can be very useful, and socks can also serve some unconventional purposes. You can use a sock as a cloth to wipe off any dust from your lenses and also as a bag if you need to store something small. Bath tissues are important as well, and there is always room in my photo bag for them.

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Bath Tissues

Image by solepsizm.

In 2012, when I was shooting the consequences of the Hurricane Sandy, I almost froze to death because of the biting cold wind. I quickly found a compact wind-resistant coat that can be folded into a pocket-sized bag. In the summer heat, I also carry my thermos cup with me and refill it in water fountains. The thermos keeps the water cold, and the reusable cup is eco-friendly.

4. “I have canvas beanbag, and instead of filling it with rice or beans or whatnot, I fill it with plastic bags.”

Simon Eeman

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Plastic Bag Beanbag

Image by Simon Eeman. Gear: Canon EOS 70D camera, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8l IS II USM lens. Settings: Exposure 1/4000 sec; f/2.8; ISO 400.

Simon Eeman:

I have canvas beanbag, and instead of filling it with rice or beans or whatnot, I fill it with plastic bags. It works as well as it would with rice or beans, and it is much lighter to transport! Also, if there is a little hole in your beanbag, you don’t make a mess.

5. “The most interesting items I have in my camera bag are all of my survival gear…”

Michael Chatt

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Survival Gear

Image by Michael Chatt. Gear: Canon 6D camera, Canon 100-400 L series lens. Settings: Focal length 260mm; exposure 1/500 sec; f8.0; ISO 1000.

Michael Chatt:

The most interesting items I have in my camera bag are all of my survival gear: matches, maps, a compass, and rain gear. When photographing wild places, you never know what you might encounter, so when taking pictures of grizzly bears, it is always important to keep your distance (a telephoto lens is a must) and have bear spray just in case something happens.

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Bear Spray

Image by Michael Chatt.

6. “I always keep additional batteries and memory cards because, during continuous shots, my batteries drain quickly…”

Priyank Dhami

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Extra Batteries

Image by Priyank Dhami. Gear: Canon 1200d camera, 55-250mm lens with AF Macro Extension tube and External Flash with diffuser. Settings: Focal length 7 mm; exposure 1/60 sec; f9; ISO 400.

Priyank Dhami:.

I always keep additional batteries and memory cards because, during continuous shots, my batteries drain quickly, and my cards easily fill up. Additionally, I have a macro extension tube and a small piece of aluminum foil, which is useful in low light conditions. During monsoon season, I carry a lens cloth and a lens pen, and I also have a thermocol dish or a plain round-cut piece of white cloth, which can be used as a natural diffuser in harsh sunlight. I also keep an external flash around for extreme low light conditions during monsoon season.

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Additional SD Cards

Image by Priyan Dhami.

7. “I’m not sure how surprising or odd this will sound, but I always carry a few rubber bands.”

Alexey Stiop

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Rubber Bands

Image by Alexey Stiop. Gear: Canon 5D Mark II camera, EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens. Settings: Exposure 1/100 sec; f16; ISO 200.

Alexey Stiop:

I’m not sure how surprising or odd this will sound, but I always carry a few rubber bands. They can help you to hold gels on the flash, serve as a “third hand” when you need to hold something small, or give you extra friction when you try to break free that stubborn lens filter.

8. “The best and most surprising addition to my photography kit is a drone.”

Ken Kistler

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Drone

Image by Ken Kistler.

Ken Kistler:

The best and most surprising addition to my photography kit is a drone. I’ve DIY attached a 24-megapixel Sony a5100 with a lightweight Sigma 19mm to my old 3DR Solo drone. The drone gets about twelve minutes of flight time, but the Sony camera and Sigma lens can capture some sharp images from angles or locations I never could have reached otherwise. Plus, I love the challenge of framing an image from half a mile and 400 feet in altitude away.

9. “I have to say the most surprising thing in my bag has to be my DIY macro reflector.”

Charles Wollertz

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - DIY Reflector

Image by Charles Wollertz. Gear: Canon 7D camera, Canon EF 180mm macro f/3.5L USM lens. Settings: Exposure 1/500 sec; f7.1; ISO 400.

Charles Wollertz:

I have to say the most surprising thing in my bag has to be my DIY macro reflector. I cut out a 10×10 piece of white foam board, cut out a hole just big enough for my lens hood to fit in pretty snug, and added a bit of tape to hold it in place. It works well for adding fill light when taking macro photos of live insects or fast-moving subjects, especially when they are backlit.

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Macro Reflector

Image by Charles Wollertz.

10. “The most unusual thing in my bag is a timelapse slider with a stepper motor…”

Inga Linder

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Timelapse Slider

Image by Inga Lidner.

Inga Linder:

The most unusual thing in my bag is a timelapse slider with a stepper motor made of some board, bobbins, parts of an oven, string, and a piece of track and a railroad carriage! No one can guess what this strange piece of equipment is for until he or she sees it working.

11. “One of the oddest things I carry around in my camera bag is the Yongnuo YN-24EX, a specialized twin-headed speedlight for macro photography.”

Dario Lo Presti

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Twin-Headed Speedlight

Image by Dario Lo Presti. Gear: Canon EOS 5D MkII camera, Canon 65mm MP-E lens. Settings: Focal length 65mm; exposure 1/160 sec; f11; ISO 100.

Dario Lo Presti:

One of the oddest things I carry around in my camera bag is the Yongnuo YN-24EX, a specialized twin-headed speedlight for macro photography. If you like going into the woods and taking a close look at an amazing world hidden only by its size, then you will find this is the best thing to carry around besides your camera.

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Lighting Macro Shots

Image by Dario Lo Presti.

You can leave your tripod at home because the short flash duration will allow you to freeze the frame even if the camera’s handheld and with high magnification. You don’t even need light modifiers; given the tiny size of the subjects you are going to photograph with this light, the relative size of the flash heads will guarantee a soft and pleasant illumination. You can also adjust the power ratio between the two heads to achieve more dramatic shots.

12. “A recent client of mine made me some sponge cutouts covered in a felt material that I use to plug my camera hood opening…”

Lance van de Vyver

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Sponge Cutouts

Image by Lance van de Vyver. Gear: Canon 5DSr camera, 500mm lens. Settings: Exposure 1/800 sec; f4; ISO 800.

Lance van de Vyver:

A recent client of mine made me some sponge cutouts covered in a felt material that I use to plug my camera hood opening whilst driving in open game vehicles. They are perfect for keeping the dust off my front element! Other than that, I’ve always got random clamps and cables for remote triggering and some business cards…you never know who you will meet along the way!

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Business Cards

Image by Lance van de Vyver.

13. “I am never be caught without at least one or two Godox AD 200s in my bag.”

Paul Aiken

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Lighting Control

Image by Paul Aiken. Gear: Nikon D850 camera. Settings: Focal length 38mm; exposure 1/640 sec; f6.3; ISO 500.

Paul Aiken:

I am never be caught without at least one or two Godox AD 200s in my bag. I must be in control of my light in every single situation. Depending on natural light will only limit your options and your creativity.

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Pocket Flash Kit

Image by Paul Aiken.

14. “I keep disposable hand-warmers and a velcro strap around to use as lens warmers.”

Steve Lansdell

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Hand-Warmers and Velcro

Image by Steve Lansdell. Gear: Canon 6D camera, Canon 24-105 lens. Settings: Focal length 24mm; exposure 8 sec; f4; ISO 1600.

Steve Lansdell:

I keep disposable hand-warmers and a velcro strap around to use as lens warmers. They stop my lens from fogging up on cold nights.

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Lens Warmers

Image by Steve Lansdell.

15. “The most surprising things in our camera bags are probably old toothbrushes, vinegar, and cotton balls.”

blue-sea.cz

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Old Toothbrushes

Image by blue-sea.cz. Gear: Canon G16 camera, Fantasea FG16 underwater housing with 2 powerful Sola underwater video lights. Settings: Focal length 28mm; exposure 1/30 sec; f2.8; ISO 800.

blue-sea.cz:

The most surprising things in our camera bags are probably old toothbrushes, vinegar, and cotton balls. These items are great for maintaining our gear after a dive. We use them to remove the salt, calcium, and sand from our underwater equipment.

16. “One unique piece I like to keep in my camera bag is a translucent glass disk, about the size of my palm.”

Claire McAdams

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Clear Glass Disk

Image by Claire McAdams.

Claire McAdams:

One unique piece I like to keep in my camera bag is a translucent glass disk, about the size of my palm. Held close to the lens, it can be used to redirect light, creating lens flare and soft foreground bokeh.

17. “…bubbles and candy are the most unusual things I carry.”

Tanya Little

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Bubbles and Candy

Image by Tanya Little. Gear: Canon EOS Rebel T2i camera, Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens. Settings: Focal length 50mm; exposure 1/250 sec; f 2.8; ISO 200.

Tanya Little:

I keep my bag pretty light since I only use natural light, but I often work with children, so I’d have to say bubbles and candy are the most unusual things I carry. Children are fun and quirky, but they can also have the occasional meltdown. Bubbles photograph well, and they also help distract little kids from the camera.

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Distractions for the Subjects

Image by Tanya Little.

18. “I’d say the most surprising thing in my camera bag is a mini waist fan!”

YUSHENG HSU

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Mini Waist Fan

Image by YUSHENG HSU. Gear: DJI INSPIRE 2 with Zenmuse X5S camera, LAOWA C-Dreamer 7.5mm F2.0 lens. Settings: Focal length 7.5mm; exposure 1/200 sec; f5.6; ISO 100.

Yusheng Hsu:

I’d say the most surprising thing in my camera bag is a mini waist fan! It gets very hot in summer in Taiwan, so a fan keeps me comfortable and focused.

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Keeping Cool

Image by YUSHENG HSU.

19. “By far the most unusual things you will find in my camera bag are zip ties.”

Diana Rui

19 Unexpected Things Photographers Keep in Their Camera Bags - Zip Ties

Image by Diana Rui.

Diana Rui:

By far the most unusual things you will find in my camera bag are zip ties. I use them if I need to tidy or hide electrical cords. You wouldn’t believe how handy they can be. Cables from TVs and other appliances are really unpleasant to the eye and can be a nightmare to remove in post-processing, so I try to fix the problem on location if I can.

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