Five Small Items Every Portrait Photographer Should Find Room for in Their Bag

Five Small Items Every Portrait Photographer Should Find Room for in Their Bag

Photographers always find themselves obsessed with exciting toys like camera bodies and lenses but it is often the overlooked items that can make the biggest impact on a shoot. When packing your camera bag always try to find space for a few invaluable tools to common challenges during any shoot. Below you will find some of my favorite little lifesavers that join me every time I shoot.

1. Mini A-Clamps

A poorly fitting wardrobe is often one of the most annoying aspects of any shoot. Being able to quickly and easily pin loose clothing to create a more flattering silhouette can easily improve the quality of a shoot with almost no effort. Mini A-Clamps are great tools for this job and are so cheap that they can fit into any budget.

2. A Gray Card

Setting white balance is made so much easier when using a gray card which can make a world of difference when post-processing natural skin tones. By using a neutral gray card you can make life much easier in post when it comes time to color correct. Simply have your model hold the gray card before each set of images for a single shot which you can use to sample your gray point. Gray cards can do a great job of saving time and frustration when working on your images later.

3. Q-Tips

Coming in at even cheaper than the previous suggestions the mighty Q-Tip can do magnificent things when it comes to helping save time when retouching. Any makeup artist worth their salt always has a bucket load of them handy for a very good reason. They are fantastic for touching up makeup issues on location. Thus, you should have them as well for those moments when the makeup artist isn't around, even if you are completely inept at using Q-Tips odds are that your model is capable.

4. Hairspray

One of the most annoying situations to retouch occurs when hair starts to become frizzy and unmanageable. Being able to address frizzes and flyaways during the shoot can save you hours in Photoshop later. By stuffing a small bottle of hairspray into your bag you can always ensure that you have the tools needed to tame flyaways as soon as they show up.

5. Snacks

Nothing drains the energy of a shoot quite like a hungry team. My snack of choice is usually granola bars as they can provide a decent boost of energy, are healthy enough that most people will eat them, are super cheap, and don't go bad. Become adept at learning to pick up on signs that someone is hungry during a shoot as being able to preemptively feed them is always a better choice than waiting until the crankiness begins to spread.


Getting the perfect shot extends beyond your ability to operate your camera. It also heavily depends on your ability to be prepared for and to address unexpected challenges during a shoot. Thus, the burden falls on you to include the tools needed to deal with virtually any situation that may threaten the success of your photoshoot. What are some of your favorite items that you like to take to every shoot? Make sure to share in the comments below.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Ryan is an mildly maniacal portrait/cosplay photographer from glorious Vancouver, Canada.

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For #1 - binder clips work well and are smaller.

I'd also add blotting tissue to help remove shine w/o affecting makeup to your list.

I would add to the list:

Hair Clips/Ties
Double-Sided Tape

Ooh yeah double-sided tape is good if you're working with revealing or drapey outfits.


Also, I try to keep a small hand held mirror for the ladies. They always want a last minute check of their hair.

Flashlight, Plastic trash bag (great for trash, but I use it on wet days to kneel on when my tripod is low to the ground), small cloth/towel.

Yes!!! I can fit two wrap sandwiches in my bag. Always leave *room* in your bag! Edit : Seriously guys... flashlight? And our flash on continuous is what? And our phone on flashlight is what? You guessed it.. we already carry two flashlights... just sayin'