When first getting started, photographers often become mesmerized but also overwhelmed by the sheer scope of learning they must do to figure out all the various new gadgets and doohickeys that they have recently acquired. Usually, this focus tends to be towards more expensive photo-related tools, while some of the seemingly trivial tools end up being cast aside with the thought that they simply aren't worth the effort and can't possibly be all that important. When I was first getting started I wish someone had given me a good shake and simply told me to spend a few dollars and pick up the following tools as they would be invaluable for the indefinite future.
Everyone is always so quick to drool over all the various light modifiers, softboxes, umbrellas, and reflectors, but one of the cheapest and most useful options to modify light is to simply hang diffusion fabric between the model and light source. For less than $10 a photographer is able to arm themselves with a tool that can provide the same soft light that a large softbox does while also doing double duty to diffuse another harsh light source such as sunlight through windows or on location. Diffusion fabric is so cheap and easy to use that the photographer doesn't need to worry about ruining it in dirty conditions or if they need to cut it to fit a specific use case. Furthermore, diffusion fabric is far more portable than any other light modifier due to its foldable, sheet-like nature. Personally, I can't think of a better way to spend what amounts to the cost of a premium cup of coffee.
It's just tape, right? Expensive tape! I can buy masking or duct tape for pennies at the local dollar store and it will do basically the same thing, right? I feel this is an experience most photographers go through until they give gaffer tape a try and realize just how useful it is. Its ability to easily tear, form a strong bond that releases easily, and rarely leave any residue make it akin to magic. Gaffer tape is the most versatile and useful tool that a photographer has at their disposal other than the camera itself. And even though it is more expensive than a roll of masking tape gaffer tape is still very much towards the cheaper end of photographic investments.
I played with fire for years thinking that sandbags were just a waste of time, space, and effort for someone like me. I wasn't using heavy booms, and light stands seemed to balance just fine with moderately sized softboxes on them. Somehow I managed to skirt by with only a few accidents, none of which were costly or harmful. I figured on the off chance that I needed some weight on a stand that I could simply employ a voice activated sandbag (usually my model's boyfriend) to step in and hold on to a stand. After I finally bought a couple sandbags and tracked down some sand I realized how foolish I had been. Sandbags simply make life easier; no more stress, no more worry, and freedom to place the lights in positions that aren't as well balanced. For a few dollars and a sneaky trip to the beach, I will be forever kicking myself for not buying them from day one.
An A-clamp is like having a helping hand that costs almost nothing, doesn't complain, and is useful in any number of situations. A-clamps come in a vast range of sizes from ones small enough to help tighten loose-fitting clothing or large enough to secure a backdrop. All are useful in their own right and any photographer can find a helping hand in keeping several of each size readily available during a shoot. Fortunately for us, A-clamps can be purchased at local hardware stores and often even at dollar stores at very reasonable prices. Even when purchased for the specific use of photography they are usually very cheap which is a refreshing change from what seems like an industry of typically seemingly overpriced photography accessories.
It's far too easy to find yourself casting aside the seemingly minor items when chasing after the much more exciting toys as your pursuit of photography begins to build momentum. This, however, is a mistake that you likely will regret later once you realize how many frustrating problems could have been solved with simple and cheap tools that the majority of experienced photographers know deserve a permanent spot in their bag. When the cost is low and the learning curve is virtually non-existent, there really is no good reason to ignore them, other than perhaps a bit of stubbornness.