Essential Gear: The Photographer's Grip Kit

One of the most overlooked, yet most used items in a photographer's arsenal, is the grip kit. A grip kit isn't something most photographers set out to buy, build, or assemble, it's generally born from necessity. Over the years we find ourselves on jobs needing certain things that we don't have readily available and we end up improvising to get the job done. Usually we make a mental note of how we can be more prepared in the future, which often times leads to adding small "grip" items to our pack list. When we collect enough of these items, they typically make their way into some sort of crate, bag, or box also known as a grip kit.

I've tried lugging around heavy bags of miscellaneous grip equipment over the years (that's what assistants are for) and found that a 6 gallon milk crate works best for my needs. Keeping true to form, my assistant figured out a way to work smarter, not harder, and strapped the crate to a rolling cart. He thought it would be a good idea to share the contents of our precious grip cart with the rest of the world, so we put together this video going through the entire pack. While it's not the most riveting topic in the photography world, hopefully it'll give you guys some ideas on what to include with your kits before you head out on future shoots.

Here's a portion of our grip kit inventory/pack list:

  • Multi-Cart R12 - Collapsible, easily transportable cart that doubles as a tethered workstation on location.
  • Hard Hats - To protect your melon and prevent the transfer of head lice.
  • Diffusion/Black Fabrics - Basic rip-stop nylon from any fabric store used to cut the harshness of light or block it completely.
  • Justin Clamps - Spring clamps with a coldshoe mount, great for clipping speedlights to doors, shelves, etc.
  • Gaff Tape - The photographer's duct tape. Leaves no sticky residue, comes in many colors, and can MacGyver just about any problem.
  • Cinefoil - Black tinfoil. Used to shape or block light at the source. Reusable too!
  • Super Clamps - Add a second light to a stand, or just about anywhere by adding a 5/8 pin. Various accessories can be attached (see Magic Arm)
  • Traffic Cones - Establish a workspace or control traffic flow by placing cones around your perimeter.
  • Glass Cleaner - You'd be surprised how often I show up for an architectural gig and the windows are filthy.
  • Stainless Steel Cleaner - Get those stainless steel appliances nice and tidy!
  • Rags - For use with glass & stainless cleaner. Also good for cleaning up dusty areas, or wiping down equipment after a rain drizzle.
  • Screw Drivers - Sometimes you got to take down a decoration, tighten a light fixture, or do a little surgery on your own equipment in the field.
  • Tape Measure - I use it to measure hyper focal distance on location.
  • Crescent Wrench - Take down a sign, tighten up a stand, or defend yourself from attackers on location.
  • Wedge-It - Prop open doors to transport gear, or during a shoot. Florescent green ensures you never forget it when you leave!
  • Caution Tape - Cordon off an area to keep pedestrians from walking through your shot, or to keep cars from parking in unwanted areas.
  • A-Clamps - Also called Jed Clamps as in "Jed Clamp It", used to suspend diffusion material, modify wardrobe, or hold bounce cards in place.
  • Tri-Grip Reflector - I like the white/silver version for bouncing just a little light into a subject. Designed to be held in one hand, with camera in the other, or attached in place with a clamp.
  • Make-Up Powder/Brush - Get the HD powder found at most high-end makeup stores. The same stuff newscasters use on HDTV. Great for eliminating hot spots and shine on a person.
  • Magic Arm - Fully articulating arm that can be attached to a Super Clamp and place a light in hard-to-reach areas. I like the variable friction version.
  • Shoe Covers (Booties) - Grab these from the Doctor's office during your next physical. They're great for keeping floors clean on location.
  • 2-Way Radios - On-site communications between crew, especially when cell phone service is limited.
  • Puppet - A great ice breaker to get people laughing on set. Guaranteed to loosen up an otherwise rigid subject.
  • Bluetooth Speaker - A shoot just isn't the same without the Spice Girls.
  • Ratchet/Sockets - See Crescent Wrench above.
  • Work Gloves - Sometimes we got to do some heavy lifting or even move dirty equipment to get the shot (if you don't have gloves, an assistant or intern works well too).
  • Paper Towels - The quicker picker upper.
  • Batteries (various) - Pocket Wizards, Bluetooth Speakers, Speedlights, etc. Everything in the field runs on batteries.
  • Allen Wrenches - Some of our heads and stands have set screws that occasionally need adjustment.
  • Shout Stain Remover - Keep this in your kit for that one time when a client spills coffee on his tie just before a shoot.
  • Tampons - You'll be a hero if you're the only one on set who has them, and your model needs one. 

 

 

Log in or register to post comments

26 Comments

Clay Cook's picture

Awesome! I'll definitely be making some additions into our kit. Useful stuff.

Tony Roslund's picture

You're too kind Clay. My vids are nowhere near as useful as the stuff you produce, but you've inspired me to try.

Matthew Taggart's picture

I also keep a small sewing kit in mine. It's come in handy many times! Great post!

Tony Roslund's picture

BOOM! That's going in mine. Thanks.

Anonymous's picture

Back when I shot a lot of Weddings I'd always carry small sewing kit and it's saved the day a few times.

Ralph Berrett's picture

Gaffer tape and cinefoil don't leave home without them. But there is one tool I would never do a shoot without, My Leatherman tool. That tool has bailed me out more times than I can count.

Ditto! Mine goes in my camera bag so I never accidentally leave it at home

Not really "grip" per say, but I've put a couple of raincoats from the dollar-store in every bag and trolley I have.
They've saved my butt a few times on location and they can prevent your gear from getting wet in case of rain.

Tony Roslund's picture

Good idea. We used to have a couple trash bags in ours for the same reason. Not sure whatever happened to them.

Chris Helton's picture

I keep ripstop nylon to use as a diffusor like you, but they also work as rainfly's. Excellent at repelling water to keep me and gear dry.

Gary Winchester Martin's picture

Seriously what conditioner do you use?

Fritz Asuro's picture

I'll bring my house then always. :D

Good stuff, thanks Tony. In addition to carrying rolls I've wrapped a few layers of gaffer tape and/or electrical tape around the ends of my A clamps. Comes in real handy and very easy to get to.

Binder clips, blue tack, white tack, a pack of pund coins (roll of quarters), green gardening wire, small multi socket extension, fuses...great article by the way.

Extension Cable, Museum wax, Gerber or letherman, small flashlight for focusing aid and other, A-clamps, black and white foam board in small pieces, and all that other trash I have in my bags, sometimes I forget the camera but as long as I have all that crap I am alright, I can always use the camera phone.

Pat Black's picture

i am surprised you didn't show a multi-tool in your grip kit

Tony Roslund's picture

I don't keep it in my grip kit, it's actually in my camera bag. I've noticed a few people mention that so far.

Sara Smoot's picture

Great bag of tricks to be carrying, cool video! I really need to put together an arsenal like this.

I will put all my A clamps linked some rope along with my tapes on a separate rope. Along with many of your items i will also have picture hanging hardware, large zip ties, wire, leather an, wire cutters, 3 prong to 2 prong AC converters, hammer, different wattage of light bulbs, clothes pins, filter roll, quarters for parking meters, canned air, travel steamer, hair brush with the make up, level and extension cords. You gave me some good ideas with your video and I will have to add more items to my kit. I will use large Home Depot canvas tool bags or Harbor Freight has cheap canvas bags too to carry my stuff. I agree a grip kit keeps growing from shoot to shoot.

Tony Roslund's picture

Keep in mind everyone, this is just our grip kit, not everything we take on a shoot. We certainly pack extension cords, lightbulbs, and other stuff specific to an assignment in addition to our normal grip kit.

Blaine Deutsch's picture

Great list - one the best additions I've made to my kit is a laser pointer. Imagine asking a grip to rig a camera in the rafters - "ok, see that post, 3 bolts to the right, no next to that, no, other direction." Takes out all the guesswork with just a little red dot.

Tony Roslund's picture

That's a great idea! It'll drive my crew nuts cause I'm gonna start pointing to everything, even in the studio! "Get me that sandbag, no THAT one"

Ryan MacKenzie's picture

haha I have to add a puppet to my grip kit now. Nice video thanks

Great, helpful, and informative...thank you! Could do a short video on your cart and how you modified it, how it breaks down, setups,etc? It looks like a great tool for the onsite photographer.

Tony Roslund's picture

John, that's not a bad idea. I'll put something together in the coming weeks. It may not make it on to Fstoppers, so be sure to follow my Vimeo page, we'll most certainly post it there.

Joshua Boldt's picture

Wait? Head lice?