5 DIY Hacks to Have in Your Camera Bag


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.

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.


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.


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.


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, 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.


Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) smeared on the UV filter.


Before shot without Vaseline.


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.

  • Marguerite2142

    Good tips

  • Glen Stevens

    I just hook my camera bag in the tripod for stability then you don’t need rice or water bottle

  • Frank Cizek

    Vaseline? I’ve used it, but prefer KY-Jelly because it’s water soluble.
    The oil from the front of your forehead or the side of your nose works well for a subtle effect.
    That clear plastic that everyone packages their products in will work well because it’s not optically perfect. Just cut a hole in the center to shoot through. Try holding it over the lens, & also on the end of a lens hood.
    The thing is that your results will vary depending on the f-stop you use, the distance you shoot from, the distance of the “filter” from the lens, & the light on the subject.
    Run your own tests with whatever you use.

  • AnonyMouse

    If I know that I am not needing anything else from my bag, it is usually heavy enough to weigh my tripod down – one less thing to carry. Or, depending upon where you are, rocks found on the ground and placed in a plastic bag.

    Not so much a hack, but I always keep at least four disposable hand warmers with me, usually two in the pockets of my coat and two in my bag, for doing star trails to stop lens fog. It also helps to keep my hands warm.

    If you have long hair, a hair tie is always useful – mine comes down to the base of my spine, and I always forget to tie it up – but even without long hair, it is always useful to have a couple on your wrist to tie things out of the way (or secure hand warmers to the lens).

    The room that I use as a studio has a lot of useful little things, again, not so much hacks, but things that are good to have around. A retort stand from a chem. lab – useful for suspending things from (mine is about thirty years old from a lab that closed down years ago, but a quick search on eBay shows some reasonably priced retort stands and clamps), fishing line is useful, again for suspending things, and also for tying things together when you can see where it will be tied. Interesting lighting objects – a string of Christmas light, a couple of torches and desk lamps. In my car I have an emergency survival kit, no bigger than an A4 ziplock bag, not necessarily for photography, but more general survival – the studio has a similar one of those, just in case. Oh, and a box of tissues – one never knows when they will get a runny nose, plus wrapping a tissue around a flash can have some interesting effects.

  • sofarsogood

    Those disposables are nice, but I have some reusables. They’re small pouches if food grade sodium acetate with a small metal disc inside. When you need heat, flex that disc and it causes the solution to turn white and get hot. After use, chuck them back in your pocket, and when you get home, or the motel, or wherever, just boil them for 5 minutes, let them cool, they’re clear liquid again and ready to use. I think the brand is ‘The Heat Solution’. I’ve had mine for years and really like them, and there’s no waste.

  • Photokenetic

    Regarding the para-cord wrist strap, I see that you tied it off with a single, overhand knot. If you pass the end of the cord through the loop a second time you get a beautiful, figure-eight knot that follows the plane of your cord and is even more secure. Give it a try and you will immediately see what I mean. You will end up tying that way from now on.

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Cool tip re KY-Jelly Frank! That is the problem with Vaseline, it’s quite messy and tedious to remove from your lens. Kind regards, Sarah

  • Frank Cizek

    Re: “and tedious to remove from your lens….” Sarah, I hope that you’re putting it on a filter & not the lens? And remember, the distance of the “filter” from the lens can make a big difference.

  • Sarah Hipwell

    LOL Frank, sorry I did mean to say on the ‘filter’…now that would be indeed messy & tedious:-)

  • KC

    An adjustable bungee cord and a ground spike is smaller and easier to carry, plus you can use the bungee to wrap up the tripod later. I can understand anchoring a tripod if you’re shooting on uneven ground or high wind, but even then, anchor it to the ground. If you’re shooting on uneven ground often there’s other options: a monopod or a tripod where the center column can swing or go horizontal. (That moves the center of gravity.)

    Truth be told, I’m not sure why the “hang something from the bottom of the tripod” trick is still around. In 35m days, when long lenses were long and heavy, and we didn’t have image stabilization, I could understand it. It made a sort of “steadicam”.

    I like wrist straps. Neck straps have gotten “industrial”. Thick, heavy, complicated, sometimes noisy, and they can act as a pendulum, too. I prefer Peak Design’s straps. The connectors stay on the camera and it’s easy to release the strap and change ot to a wrist strap. Their neck straps are light, soft, and long.

    The old “goo on a filter” trick lives on! It’s overdue for updating. There are water based gels that wash off a lot easier. Rubber cement also works. Better still, buy a few used filters, and use clear silicone.

  • thanks for sharing

  • Tom Cooper

    Mine is heavy, and with enough breeze it will sway pretty good. Most of the time, using my backpack works fine.

    Just make sure your tripod is rated for the extra weight of the bag.

  • Christopher Hall

    Wristband just what I have been looking for

  • WOW!!Good idea for take rice and camera…I think it’s need when anyone going to journey…….

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