5 DIY Hacks to Have in Your Camera Bag

5 DIY Hacks to Have in Your Camera Bag

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Paracord-wrist-strap-close-up

Close up of a DIY camera wrist strap made from paracord

1. Camera strap(s)

I stopped using the camera strap that comes with the camera (DSLR) quite awhile ago now. My fundamental gripes were as follows:

  • Not at all comfortable to wear around the neck, especially if you have a long lens attached to the camera.
  • Didn’t particularly like the camera brand name in bright colors screaming out to potential camera thieves that you have a nice camera worth taking!
  • The strap was a nuisance when the camera was mounted on a tripod.
  • Because of the strap length, it was irksome and fussy putting the camera back into the camera bag.
Paracord-wrist-strap

DIY paracord camera wrist strap

I like to switch from handheld to mounting the camera on a tripod when I shoot. I do however, like the security of a strap when holding my camera. Some years back, I found a useful DIY tutorial online, outlining how to make a camera wrist strap using paracord. Take a piece about 27 inches long and make a loop about 7-7.5 inches long by tying both ends together into knot. I used a simple overhand  knot but you could use a more sophisticated knot such as a Lanyard knot. You will need to burn the ends of the cord, after the knot, to stop it from fraying.

Paracord-wrist-strap-on-hand

Depending on the size of your hands, you want enough slack to be able to adjust the buttons on the camera.

This paracord is strong and really inexpensive to purchase. It comes in a variety of colors. There are a multitude of uses for this cord, it’s a dream for most DIY enthusiasts. However, this configuration of strap isn’t a fail safe option should you let your camera fall out of your hand.

Joby have a corded strap, specifically for DSLRs that is designed to automatically tighten around the wrist if the camera is dropped. Out of curiosity, I purchased one to try it out. It’s not expensive and does tighten around the wrist if the camera falls or drops out of your hand. It is very comfortable and I love the green color.

However, for you DIY hackers out there, you can fashion a similar wrist strap with a built-in wrist tightener from paracord using a slip-knot. Just do a google search to get a tutorial online.

2. Wrist rubber band to prevent zoom creep

I used to own a Nikon 18-200mm VR lens. It was a great versatile lens. But after some time, when I would take macro or overhead shots, where the camera is at 45 angle or more, I’d notice the lens would creep (move slightly due to gravity). I found this neat solution online to put a wrist rubber band around the zoom ring and the barrel of the lens. It worked and was a perfect solution to prevent the lens from creeping.

Wrist-rubber-band-lens-creep

A wrist rubber band to stop lens creep.

This rubber band can also act to secure the Ziploc bag around the lens if safeguarding against the rain. See tip below.

3. Ziploc bags and cable ties

Sandbag(s) are great for adding stability to your lightstand or tripod. But they are not practical to bring with you on vacation or on a day trip. This is where having a couple of Ziploc baggies with you in your camera bag are ideal.

If you are away on vacation, purchase a bag of dried beans, rice, or soup mix. Make a small hole near the top of the bag, place a cable tie through the hole and create a plastic ring. Depending on the type of tripod that you have, place this on the hook or use another cable tie to create second ring that will secure the bag to the centre column of the tripod.

DIY-sandbag-on-tripod

A Ziploc bag filled with 1kg of rice suspended from the tripod using cable ties adds stability.

A Ziploc bag filled with dried beans etc., can be also used as an alternative bean bag tripod. If you are out and about shooting on a day trip, and there are no convenience stores nearby – use soil or sand to fill the Ziploc bags.

A large Ziploc bag can even be a turned into a quick rain guard. Make a hole for the lens and use the rubber wrist band to secure the bag around the lens.

4. Vaseline

This small tin of petroleum jelly is small to put in your camera bag and weighs practically nothing. If you are shooting portrait shots and your subject or model forgets to bring their lipstick, the vaseline gives sparkle to lips and helps catch some specular highlights.

You can get creative by applying some vaseline to an old UV filter, rather than on the lens itself, to create a dreamy retro look. It’s a bit messy, so use a Ziploc bag to put the UV filter in when you’re done and clean it when you get home.

Vaseline-plus-other-items

Vaseline, pen with gaffer tape plus other items to have in your camera bag.

If you are a landscape or street photographer, the elements can play havoc with your lips. Nothing worse than chapped lips. Apply some vaseline to protect them.

Vaseline-on-UV-filter

Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) smeared on the UV filter.

hanging-basket-flowers

Before shot without Vaseline.

flowers-vaseline-on-UV-filter

After shot with Vaseline on the UV filter.

I could have smeared more Vaseline to allow for a smaller opening, which would have created an even more dreamy effect. That is the beauty of this technique, just experiment.

5. A Bic pen or any plastic disposable pen

This inexpensive pen should be an automatic addition to your camera bag. After all, you never know when your smartphone or tablet might lose power and you will need to write down some specifics. A pen and paper always comes in handy. Wrap some gaffer or duct  tape around the middle of the pen rather than carry a big roll of it around. You never know when you may need a bit of tape.

All of these items are so small and compact that you won’t know that they are in your camera bag. Sometimes it is the small things that can make a BIG difference!

Do you have any hacks or tips that you would like to share?

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Sarah Hipwell is an independent professional photographer based in Dublin. She specialises in high-quality corporate, stock and portraiture photography. Her background is in Design. She received her BA in Hons Design from the University of Ulster, Belfast. She has many years commercial design experience working as a designer and as a trainer for large multimedia companies. See more of her work at SarahHipwell.com or at 500px.

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Thx Kev, great tip about the roll-up diffuser!

  • Simon Sid Bartle

    So you did Sarah. I missed that bit. My apologies!

  • Simon Sid Bartle

    I travel as light as possible. So my camera bag just sways in the breeze I’m afraid.

  • Sarah Hipwell

    No worries Simon, thanks for your comment, kind regards, Sarah

  • but to cooke the rice you need water…

  • Tango

    Since in the hack it says 1kg, I’m sure your backpack can easily go over 2lbs even you travel light weight, so your backpack should do no problem.

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  • ernldo

    I have a couple plastic grocery bags, easy to fill with some dirt, sand or a few rocks for tripod weighting….

  • ernldo

    You wouldn’t do that in a stream, or the surf at the coast, though….(I hope)

  • kzpbb2

    I really like my Joby strap. You may find it is a bit more comfortable if the strap is positioned as shown instead of being between your palm and the camera body.

  • G. Allan Carver

    I always carry ziplock bags as well. Usually at least a half dozen of the gallon size. Much of my work is done around water, sand, and in the rain. Some other helpful item to use with the bags in my case is desiccant packs. Some of my gear spends a lot of time in those bags and like I mentioned, in rainy weather. One bags contains drying cloths to wipe things down with prior to putting away in another bag with a desiccant pack. Then the wet cloth goes into a ziplock just for wet cloths. Working in the rain presents many unique challenges.

  • chrysmarty

    I like the ziploc baggy idea. Gave me a great Idea for when I have to hike out. Weight gets to be an issue. I use a light weight tripod but gear can get heavy. Going to take some next time and fill with rocks or sand. Then I can just put them back when I am done. What a DUH moment. I need people like you.

  • David Amaral’

    that’s what I do.

  • Darlene

    An alternative to the bag of rice is a tripod apron aka as a stone or rock bag. It attaches to the legs of your tripod and you can put anything heavy in it like a camera bag or rock to help stabilize your tripod. Pretty reasonably priced too.

  • drdroad

    But the rice bag also works as a tripod sitting on your window ‘sill’ as you’re driving through a Wildlife refuge! I have one sitting on my center hump at all times.

  • Ved

    Nice tips, I’ll be using them, thanks for sharing!

  • Stacey “Being Stacey” Hubbard

    Just starting out with a new camera and looking at building up my equipment this has been really helpful

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Thanks Ved, glad you found the tips helpful.

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Thank you Stacey, good luck with your new camera.

  • Ted Dudziak

    Thanks for the tips Sarah especially the one for lens creep. I think I have put up with it long enough. One more tip is to use zip lock sandwich bags to gather like things together in the camera bag. I find this easier than searching in the camera bag. Ted

  • Ted Dudziak

    Me to

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Too true Ted, the zip lock sandwich bags are a favourite item in my bag too:-)

  • Spursingham

    How about paint tins? Then you wont need rice or water.

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