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.

  • I use PeakDesign’s Slide as a long strap and Clutch as a hand strap as they can both be removed easily, so #1 wouldn’t be ideal for me, but I have to admit that it’s a good idea. I’m not sure about the vaseline though… guess I’m just not retro enough to like that kinda look :/

  • In the photo showing your hand through the wrist strap, it will work much better if you put your hand through the strap from the top rather than from underneath – it will give you some support when holding the camera, and is a lot more comfortable.

    See the photos on my blog to see what I mean: http://martybugs.net/blog/blog.cgi/gear/hacks/DIY-Camera-Wrist-Strap.html

  • Simon Sid Bartle

    Why carry bags of rice around? When all you need is a couple of plastic carrier bags with handles and a couple of nearby rocks/pebbles/bricks to stabalise your tripod.

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Hi Amaryllis, I haven’t tried out any of PeakDesign’s products, although they look great, they are a bit pricey. The vaseline tip isn’t for everyone I agree and it is messy but I don’t mind getting my hands dirty:-)

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Well spotted Martin, I actually do hold it like you described on your blog. Nice photo btw. For this photo, I was holding my Sony RX100 with my left hand to take the shot and I am right-handed,
    so it was a bit awkward:-)

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Hi Simon, I agree with you soil/dirt or rocks nearby is a great solution which I mentioned this in my article.

  • They are, but they also look pretty slick and, when trying to make a good first impression on clients, that’s always a good thing 🙂 Moreover, Clutch is a must for me because I have small hands and not a lot of arm strength, so it helps me grip my camera properly 🙂

  • Dan Merkel

    I don’t like camera neck straps either and for at least twenty years have been using a leather wrist strap. with a split ring on it. About every other trip to Amish country in eastern Ohio gives me a chance to stop in at my favorite harness shop and have a few made for my four camera bodies AND for several friends who have made the switch as well. The leather is strong and the straps look good. Best part is that they cost me about a whole $4 each… for custom, quality work!

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Hi Dan, can you post a pic? I would like to see what they look like.

  • Morgan Glassco

    I like to keep a couple bungee cords and trash bags with me.

    With the bungee cords you can secure a tripod or light stand to something if you don’t have room for the feet to be out or even use it as weight from the hook on the tripod down to something heavy below, like your camera bag.

    Trash bags make good rain protectors or wet weather gear and take up next to no space. I keep them in my laptop slot of my Think Tank Street Walker HD

  • Dan Merkel

    Hope this shows up well enough for you…

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Thanks Dan, I love the idea that you are dropping into a favorite shop of yours to have these camera straps custom made for you! The whole process sounds fantastic, so much better than going into a retail store to pick up a camera strap. I’m guessing here, but you probably know the guy/gal really well at this stage, brilliant!

  • David Gumm

    like to keep a large 10 gallon Ziplock on hand. In a bind, you can use it to protect your gear from elements, use it as a make shift rain cover, or to carry random things you may not want in your camera bag.

  • Simon Halstead

    I always carry a sandwich bag in my kit bag. That way when I’m shooting on the beach I put my camera remote inside. That way you don’t have to worry about the remote release dropping into a rock pool or puddle. I had to replace two expensive remotes before I came up with the cheap and easy solution.

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Hi Morgan, I completely forgot about bungee cords. I wouldn’t mind but I always have a few in my bag too. Good tip.

  • I’ve used Paracord for years. For my 7D, i made a hand strap. For my Mark III, I now have a wrist strap. They hold 550lbs. I don’t think I’d have better protection or comfort from a store bought strap. Just find a YouTube instructional video to your liking and a couple dollars of Paracord can turn into a great strap in under an hour.

    http://www.bit.ly/oufr4c

  • Joe M

    Rice, beans etc.? Forget that… just buy bottled water… chunk a few unopened bottles in the bag for weight. Much easier and less messy to remove and many more practical uses other than added weight … like drinking it while shooting.

  • Alvin Johnson

    I’ve used the paracord method with a plastic toggle thrown in to tighten as needed.

    http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/NzY4WDg3OA==/z/jNQAAOxy77hSFLUm/$(KGrHqF,!lsFIB1qO1zoBSFLUmQfC!~~60_35.JPG

  • Dan Merkel

    Well, the first one was made about twenty years ago at a local tack shop. It lasted for a LONG time. When that one gave up the ghost, I had to find a new supplier and visited an Amish harness shop during a visit to Amish country. They have probably made a total of about 8-10 for me on three separate occasions covering about three years. So I wouldn’t consider myself a “regular” but the same gentleman has made them each time and has remembered me from previous visits. And, he now knows what I want although I always take one with me. He usually cranks them out in about 20 minutes. Next batch I may well get personalized; he can add names, initials and some decorative flourishes.

  • Dan Merkel

    I should also mention that they are strong. I usually gold my camera in my right hand with my fingers around the grip and the strap around my wrist but I have no fear of leaving the camera dangle simply by the wrist strap.

  • Tango

    What I would do is just hang my heavy camera bag on it. Simple and easy.

  • Stereo Reverb

    Might want to consider a 6th hack- wrapping gaffer’s tape around a sharpie so that you have enough to use in emergencies. Can fit in your camera bag, pocket, and glove box. 🙂

  • Lorinda Silveira

    I keep a travel size lint roller. You know, the sticky peel off sheets? Great for getting lint off your model or even a dark backdrop

  • i am agree with you and most of the person is using it…
    clippingpath

  • your photos are awesome.

  • ColininOz

    Another 10 cent accessory, if you DO use a neck strap, is a bootlace, tied at each end to the camera neck strap , and passed around the tripod shoe permanently on the base of your camera. Adjusted in length it will keep that long, projecting, always bumping into things, dead give away, zoom lens , snug down against your body.

  • uncleskull

    I used a Vaseline diffuser YEARS ago when I shot weddings. It kept picking up dirt / small particles as it got used and just kept getting better and better. Ruined it when I decided to clean it and apply a fresh coat of gel. Never was quite the same.

    Experiment with the filter to find the proverbial sweet spot. Aperture does affect the amount of diffusion as does focal length.

    I had about 2/3 of the filter covered and found “dabbing” worked better than a smooth circular coating. Again, experiment to find what you like best.

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Thanks Enamul!

  • hi sarah hipwell,
    i am welcoming you to visit my photo studio where we are editing photos for our clients.
    http://www.clippingpathking.com

  • rose

    Hi Tango.. this is what i do too…so easy and i don’t have to carry any other objects

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  • Good one

  • Amazing Photography!

  • Hi Sarah, I spent an hour to find again this article only to say THANK YOU for the hints, particularly the paracord trick saved my life! Cheers from Italy

  • Sarah Hipwell

    GRAZIE Roby!

  • I take lego blocks glue one to the lens cap and attach one to my camera bag and camera vest for a quick place to put it out of the way. thanks for the tape trick already have one in my bag. great stuff as usual what a great site to get in my email. thanks and keep um comming

  • Sarah Hipwell

    Hi Marty, lego is indeed great. Good tip!

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  • Ted Dudziak

    Same here and this way I give my shoulder a break.

  • Ted Dudziak

    I use sandwich bags a lot. Anything that is loose is in a bag and I organize according to function so I have all of the same kind of thing in the same bag. Keeps the hunting time down when I need to find an accessory.

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    If you’re looking for a paracord camera wrist strap, we’ve got you covered.

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  • David Jalloul

    Well, you can also cook the rice when you are hungry 🙂

  • The wristband to stop lens creep, OMG, you have no idea how long this has been bugging me – brilliant!

    My 10 cents worth is the roll-up difuser, made a couple of these and last month I was at my brothers wedding as best man so the only shots i took were at the reception, the official photographer emailed me a few days later to ask ‘where the hell did u get that thing? I have looked everywhere for one… – it beat the c**p out of my dedicated Nikon diffuser’

    http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Gary-Fong-Lightsphere/

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