Friday, February 1, 2013

What's In Your Camera Bag?

Guest blogger: Craig Kelly

"One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes." – Benjamin Disraeli

Those of you who have read my rantings over the past year have no doubt seen that I mine the subject material from the LinkedIn group I started a few years ago called TV Camera Operators. With more than 3,000 members from so many countries, I lost count of where they all live. What is great about this resource is the sheer amount of eclectic answers received to questions posed there – intended for new or volunteer camera operators as they forge their way in the their new vocation – even if it is in a volunteer situation. Maybe even more if it is in a volunteer situation. It seems that many people like to share their personal experiences, stories and trade tips.

Photo courtesy of Petrol Bags.
With this article, I am taking a new look at a question that I posed months ago asking, what is in your camera bag? I know as a DP, there are a few items that you feel like you have to have with you on every shoot. Greg N. From Phoenix, Ariz., posed this question for the group a while back reprised as What is the single piece of backup gear that has 'Saved the Day' for you? We have had so many great answers from many group members; I thought I’d share some of them here:

Peter K • The spare tripod plate I keep in my emergencies kit in the glove box. I think hands down the most useful piece would be the roll of gaffa tape, got a small roll in my kit and again one in the car. 

Glenn N • A spare card for whatever camera you use. I've done it twice, ran out during a big shoot, once in a plane, I'm sure I'm not the only one. 

Stephen C • Clothes pegs. Out in the sticks where crocodile clips were as rare as hen's teeth, and the hired in lighting kit came without the means of attaching diffuser. Since then, I've always carried some and have used them for hanging scrim on para-cord when making makeshift hides for wildlife shoots. Also useful on still life and fashion shoots for pegging backdrops and cloths. Blue-tac is my other indispensable friend. Sun block and Avon Skin So Soft. I once got separated from my sun block on a doco shoot in a remote area and boy, did I burn........and Skin So Soft has so far proved to be a better midge repellent than Deet or any other proprietary insect repellent I have tried so far.

Olivia P • My leatherman pen knife. And a 20p coin for tightening tripod plates etc. Although gaffer tape is definitely a good one.

Greg N • Hi, I keep a few U.S. quarters in my bag for my camera plates!!

Jim N • The biggest and best inverter you can afford. No power, no pictures. In cold climates especially, batteries crap in half the time.

Charlie W • Duct tape. Good for everything....

Stephen C • Velcro ties for (audio) cables prevents them getting covered in sticky grunge. Freezer bag ties for keeping lapel mikes tidy. Insulation tape usually better than Gaffa tape as it's easier to remove and less damaging. Tie wraps (or zip-ties) provided I have some side cutters or knife to remove them. Yellow Gaffa usually reserved for taping cables down on floors. 

Matthew A • Gaffers' Tape and my multi-tool are super important but I use my tiny AAA, LED flashlight more than anything. When you need it though, bug repellent is the MOST useful!

Jillian B • led key ring torch for when you can’t see the tripod bubble.

Matt Q • I carry what I call my 'Gaffer Box' - It contains spare Gaffer tape (of course) a few basic tools including a gas soldering iron, some cleaning materials (bottle of IPA, swabs etc) a tin of small croc clips, fuses, some tripod screws, some VERY long nylon cable ties and a few spare phono, XLR and BNC connectors... A few odd lengths of wire stripped out a 3-core flex Oh; and a 'tub' of random-sized plastic clamp/clips from the DIY store... 'Saved the day' many times - usually when someone else's kit has let us down due to lack of prep/maintenance!

Conor L • Shower Caps - perfect for protecting lenses in downpours, fits snugly over a matte box too.

Jim T • HANDY is an ALTOIDS box, and coins, they make a great 'nose lift' when shooting off the ground.... Other favorites, MINI- leatherman with scissors, LARGEST Black trash bag you can buy for A) Raincoat, B) Camera rain cover, C) 'tarp' for other gear and kit bag.. I also routinely carry: 

Chris K • A backup camera: when traveling always have some kind of 2nd camera recording device. In case your #1 camera goes down for any reason.

DAVID D • My leatherman Wave, saved me on a shoot for Bob Dole once, had to tear apart a tape deck and clean it 10 minutes before show time. Had 2 minutes to spare!

Craig Kelly is a veteran free-lance, TV camera operator/DP with more than 25 years of experience. He writes these articles to be included in his blog found here at Often the subject matter comes from the 3,000 + global membership in the LinkedIn group he started for new camera operators and volunteer operators called TV Camera Operators. Kelly is also the International/North America Representative to the Guild of Television Cameraman as well as advisory board member for two colleges and two high schools in the greater Seattle area. In addition, he writes for Worship Musician Magazine and conducts workshops for new and volunteer camera operators. Kelly welcomes comments here or via email at

1 comment:

  1. Along with gaffer tape, clothespins and sash cord I carry The Shine Control Kit. In the absence of a makeup artist, this kit saves the day every time. I recommend this kit to any cinematographer, videographer or still photographer who sometimes just needs to take down the shine on their subject’s complexion. Regardless of the skin tone, complexion or age of your on camera talent, this kit works. You can find more info at