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.