5 Simple and Surprising Things That Can Make Your Photography So Much Easier

5 Simple and Surprising Things That Can Make Your Photography So Much Easier

There are a few things that make life as a photographer much easier. Here are some simple changes I made that you might consider adopting to help you capture the shot.

As I gain more experience as a photographer, things I discover change my approach to photoshoots. Furthermore, technology has advanced too, so once-necessary accessories have become redundant. Occasionally, new inventions get added to our kit, and the best of those are usually simple ideas.

1. Rest Your Foot in Your Hand

The first in my list fits into that last category. It is that curious-looking piece of wood in the image above. Like all great inventions, it is a simple idea. But it makes a big difference to me.

It is a patented Ergonomic Lens Rest. Carved from solid oak wood, the rest attaches to the tripod mount foot of my large telephoto lens. I bought it on the recommendation of Tesni Ward, a fellow OM System Ambassador, and a hugely experienced and brilliant wildlife photographer. I had a WhatsApp conversation with her after I bought my new OM System M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO lens, which I reviewed recently. Beforehand, I turned the lens' tripod mount around by 180 degrees and was using my camera by holding the lens barrel. However, attaching this to the Arca Swiss-style foot makes the lens easier to handhold. The foot now sits comfortably in the palm of my hand, and I can still reach to adjust the focus zoom rings and operate the switches with my thumb.

The Ergonomic Lens Rest

Made in the UK by a business called The Secret Sign Writer, the Ergonomic Lens Rest cost me £52.98, approximately $65. Sadly, it’s currently only available for the following OM System cameras: 40-150 f2.8 PRO, 100-400 f5-6.3, 300 f4 Pro, and the 150-400 f4.5 Pro. Because it’s a small-scale operation, Edward, who makes them, doesn’t have a website. However, I am happy to pass on the email address if you direct message me.

2. The Reason to Love Beans

During the early to mid-naughties, photographers raved about carrying a beanbag as a camera rest. But, with improved image stabilization and small, light, and reasonably priced tripods now available, the beanbag's popularity seems to have waned. Nevertheless, they are still handy for photographers, as you can use them to support your lens or camera on a wall, rock, or the ground without damaging it.

My beanbag was made for me by my wife; she is a dab hand with her sewing machine. The cloth she used was some rescued micro-fleece recovered from an old jacket, and it is approximately half-filled with mung beans.

I've been using this beanbag since 2005

If you travel to many poorer countries, beans are a staple food and cost next to nothing. Consequently, a small drawstring or zipped bag that you can fill on arrival will save you the weight when flying. Furthermore, you are not carrying foodstuffs, possibly infected with parasites, fungi, or plant diseases over national borders. Nor will you have it split open by contraband enforcement officers wondering what is inside.

3. Sit On It

That's a catchphrase that those of us of a certain age will remember. However, in this case, it isn't an insult.

I used to use a piece of foam sleeping mat I bought for camping. But, after experimenting with several options, including bubble wrap, I discovered that a carrier bag in my pocket a good option. A lot of my photography is shooting at a low level, and it stopped me from getting a wet bum when sitting on the sand at the beach. However, I now avoid single-use plastic as much as is practicable and I rarely have a plastic bag. It’s also windy where I live much of the time, and the last thing I want is the bag or bubble wrap blowing out to sea.

For a while I used bubble wrap.

Here in the UK, we have many charity shops selling second-hand clothing. The items that are in too poor condition to sell get given to “the rag man,” who sorts and sells them for recycling. Sometimes those shops get donated old waterproof coats that cannot be sold. So, I buy one of those for the equivalent of one dollar, cut a square from the back, and it makes an ideal sitting or kneeling cloth that will fold up and fit in my pocket.

4. It All Happens in a Flash

One of the things that is a temptation for photographers comes from advertising. Ads push us into buying the latest, highly specified gizmos that perform in ways we don’t need and never use. So the fourth thing on my list is something I could not work without, but also have resisted the temptation to upgrade. That is my flash lightmeter. I have an old and very basic Sekonic L-308S. It has since been superseded by the Sekonic L-308X-U Flashmate.

Many complex light meters on the market do all sorts of jiggery-pokery. They do tempt me. However, I always found that my old flash meter does everything I need from it. It advises me on the light levels I need for shooting portraits or products for clients. If you want to know why a flash meter is useful, this excellent video by Gavin Hoey explains all.

5. Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, Or Not

Number five is something that I have stopped using altogether: a camera backpack.

When I started shooting digital photographs with a DSLR, I had excessive enthusiasm for all my gear. I feared missing the shot because I didn’t have the right lens with me. Consequently, on every photoshoot, I carried all my lenses, lots of spare batteries and memory cards, a filter kit, and everything I could fit into my camera bag. The bag cost me a small fortune.

There was often a degree of snobbery when it came to camera bags. I heard someone exclaim that good photographers would only ever have A-brand bags. Similarly, they declared that you must buy B-brand tripods and only C-brand filters. Furthermore, D-brand cameras were worth owning, and nothing else would do. Although, at the time, all four of those brands did make good gear, the situation has changed. There is far greater competition with great alternatives from other manufacturers, and two of those brands now have serious quality issues they need to address; I’ll let you work out which two.

Times change. So too did my level of experience. Now, I carefully plan my photoshoots because I know I will get much better photos that way. Part of that planning process is working out what equipment I need. I’ve also realized that I can usually carry everything by hand or in my pockets. My camera is either slung over my shoulder or attached to my tripod. Moreover, because of my camera's outstanding image stabilization, I rarely need a tripod.

Therefore, I no longer lug extra lenses around with me. I might take one spare battery. However, the one time I needed to change it was at an all-day wedding shoot; battery technology has come a long, long way over the last few years. If I am taking a filter, it will be in my top pocket. That means I no longer suffer from a bad back lugging all that gear around.

There are also two other good reasons for not using a camera bag. Firstly, they scream that you carry lots of expensive equipment worth robbing. Secondly, they never seem to be designed to carry a packed lunch and thermos flask.

Consequently, I never carry a camera backpack on a photoshoot. That doesn't mean I wouldn't own one. For transporting my camera and lens in my car, Peak Design Cubes are great for protection and better for access. But hidden in the trunk (or boot as we call it in the UK) is where they stay.

What Do You Think?

Those are five simple things that simplify my shooting. Are there any of those you would adopt? If there is one other thing you do or don’t use to make your photography easier, please tell us in the comments.

Ivor Rackham's picture

Earning a living as a photographer, website developer, and writer and Based in the North East of England, much of Ivor's work is training others; helping people become better photographers. He has a special interest in supporting people with their mental well-being through photography. In 2023 he became a brand ambassador for the OM System

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Quote:"[Camera backpacks] never seem to be designed to carry a packed lunch and thermos flask."

So, I'm not the only one who wants a camera backpack that's half camera bag, half normal backpack. That's reasuring. I always wondered if other photographers have a sherpa who carries their non-gear stuff.

You are right. If I take a bag now, it's not a camera bag for that reason.

I often use my Crumpler Proper Roady 2.0 shoulder bag. It fits one camera with lens, wallet, phone, a water bottle (0.5l) and additional small stuff.
It allows me to get the camera out fast, because I don't need a protective bag inside the bag.

I so want a half camera bag / half backpack too! The folks who design backpacks for photo gear must never actually spend a whole day out in nature carrying such packs with all the gear and necessities for a day afield. You can tell by the terrible design of the backpacks that the people designing them never actually use them the way we do. I have never seen a single photography-oriented backpack that was designed properly for a typical day in nature. I can't help but wonder where in the world these designers come from, because they are so utterly clueless about our needs.

That's exactly what I use--a Tenba Fulton 14L backpack. The bottom half for 1 Fuji XT camera with standard zoom, 1 longer zoom, 2 primes, filters and battery spares with a little bit left over. The top is a roll-top about the same capacity, enuf for lunch, thermos, fleece jacket/sweater and more. A thin pocket on the front will hold a 10-inch tablet. 2 side pockets, good attachment points, really comfy and durable. 3 years, no complaints.

We learn as we go through time capturing the light of every second. A while back '15 I was at a flea market with a camera store selling old cameras and gear and I spotted a photographers vest and being 6' 2" and some change when I saw it was XXL I had to have it. At the time I had no idea about a Photo Vest and today so many. There are pockets all around inside and out, big ones up front inside and out are big enough for a camera and lens in each or a small pano rig (today's version on amazon $125 comes in a case). Also back pockets for a camera rain cover, see through trash bags for changing a lens if needed. A water bottle pocket just the right size for one of those tall plastic coffee mugs. Many other pockets for batters, blowers, lens cleaners, cloths etc.
Also you see many videos of nature photographer with that big long lens in the backpack not really ready or carrying by hand on a long walkabout. This is where the Photo vest is real handy, get a heavy duty binocular harness and with it on attach that gig lens then put on the vest, first everything in the vest is equalized weight wise and the long lens is also with the harness and can be hidden beneath the vest but very fast use with the camera attached and hanging down.
Example for use: I like doing Milky Way captures on beaches with dark skies over the ocean it is great, I can carry one or two lenses in the inside pockets and the small pano rig assembled in a front pocket. For the cool part most beaches have a swamp you have to walk on a path to get to so you have the big lens on under for the birds getting breakfast with the rising sun lighting them up like a flash and with golden hour a little color in the background.
Most zoos to not allow tripods so the long lens under the vest (hidden form mean eyes) and a monopod in hand is fast but also a camera and shorter lens in a pocket.
There is one additional item you need when at the zoo or on a tour bus/car and it is the a LENSKIRT it has suction cups for a window to block reflected light on the glass great for the zoo windows day or night but ever on a hotel floor way up great for city night capture and a couple times for a great sunrise from a hotel room, you will find many uses and it folds up flat so easy to carry in the big pocket on the back of the vest.
Lastly in today's world of thefts while out capturing a police style armor vest (it will hurt A LOT but you will go out another day/night) can be worn unseen and if allowed a handy can of bear spray the gel kind that sticks and not very washable but also good for gators when crossing that swap at midnight for that all nighter!
Just remember be safe and sound while out playing with that camera. Ever out doing MW's behind your hotel and hear something behind like something pulling grass, it happens a lot on a island I go to, it was deer so close I could touch. 1. Yes Deer right behind me 2. Grand Canyon Elk be aware also the Big Cats at night, put big eyes on a hat looking backwards. 3.zoo night 4. Through the glass

Fabulous.the photographer's best is a great idea. I'm going to look for one of those now. Thank you.

"Hidden in the trunk" doesnt help anyone in San Francisco, where thieves know to smash the rear door window, flip the rear seat down, and grab all the valuable gear that people thought would be safe in the trunk. I'm sure the thieves in many other places also know that trick.

Yes, they probably do, but it is even more tempting on the back seat. Fortunately, thefts from cars like you describe are uncommon where I live now.

Years ago, I lived in Dar es Salaam. There was an area where things got stolen from cars all the time. A friend had a dog that died, and getting rid of the body wasn't easy. He had just had a TV delivered, so he sealed the body in the box, loaded it into the back of his pickup, and drove slowly through that neighborhood. The dead dog in a box was stolen and became somebody else's problem. Absolutely nothing to do with photography, but a good tale.

What a great tale, Ivor!

That is actually the most interesting thing I have read on Fstoppers, maybe ever. Seriously, it is.

Hi Ivor, I just got the Olympus 100-400 and would like to order the Ergonomic Lens Rest. You offered to provide the email in response to a direct message - but I can't figure out how to message you. Did you mean twitter/x? I tried that and direct messaging is disabled. Or did you mean within fstoppers? I tried to send a message, but all I see is a page to receive messages... can you provide guidance? thanks, Charlie in Carlsbad CA. (now following you on fstoppers)

The attached screenshot will show what you need to click on to send a message to Ivor. First, click on Ivor's name, which will take you to his page. Then you should see the "private message" thing to click on. Sometimes, that "private message" thingy appears as three dots instead, which is asinine. Fstoppers could use better software writing so that this website would work better and make more sense. But if we get three dots instead of words sometimes, I guess we gotta just accept it, no matter how inane it is.

Thanks Tom, Yes, Charles, exactly that.

Hi Charles, I have sent you a message via this website. You should see a notification in the top right of your screen.

Check out Atlas Packs. They are designed to be modular and adjustable for use as combo camera/hiking bags. Plenty of room for lunch, etc.


Thanks Ed.

Recognisable article. Agree on most things, my Sekonic is ancient but does the job , but I disagree on the bag. I use a big photo backpack , a Lowepro Whistler 450, it has big comfortable shoulder and waist straps, it has room for clothing, water and food. It will carry all my equipment but I do make choices before taking it out. It does shout photographer with expensive gear, but in the areas I take this bag to I'm almost always alone (could be the time of day) I also don't like to carry my tripod in my hand, I prefer to strap it to the backpack. One thing I always carry is a bin liner, I use it to sit or kneel on and I can put litter in it if I come across some. (and indeed you have be careful not to let it blow away)

I love my beanbags and have several of them. I use stretchy Lycra for the bags, in bright colors so I'll notice if they creep into the shot. I fill them with granular cracked corncobs sold as pet bedding in pet stores. It's cheap, light, doesn't attract pests, and reasonably waterproof. The grains fit together under weight and provide a solid base.

Thanks, Tom. I'll see if those cracked corncobs are sold here. Biodegradable, I like that idea.