5 DIY Hacks that Promise Photo Results Every Time

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5 DIY Hacks that Promise Photo Results Every Time

Take Professional Pictures Without The Professional Pricetag!

Do you love taking photos but want to save a dime?  Here are five simple DIY hacks that promise photo results every time!  If you’re tired of worrying about buying expensive camera equipment, you’re in the right spot.  I have used every one of these hacks and have saved a whole bunch of money over pricey gadgets.

Assistant holds a tagboard used as a reflector at a photo shoot.
Reflecting Light is easy-peasy with this DIY posterboard hack!

The great thing with each of these hacks is that you can usually find what you need on short notice, depending on your location.  I have been known to get to a site and forget to bring one of these items.  Oops.  I have improved over time, but let’s face it – we all have our bad days.  The better prepared you are to make do with what you have, the better your result.  Like our old friend, MacGyver (yes, I’m a child of the ’80s), get ready to improvise your way through some simple DIY equipment hacks!

DIY Hack #1

The Dry Bag

One of my most recent discoveries is designed to keep your expensive equipment safe and dry.  I live in Michigan near lots of water, so my husband and I like to spend time out on the boat.  Some of my favorite captures have been along the shores of Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan.  Of course, water usually comes with being on the lake.  Actually, lakes  ALWAYS have water.  Brilliant insight, I know.

Landscape-Photographer-Holland-Michigan-BigRed

I found I was spending too much time stressing over my gear getting wet or even my camera bag getting damp.  No one wants to deal with a damp bag.  Let’s not forget that most camera bags are not bargain-priced, so it’s certainly not a great idea to get them wet.  But what if your camera bag came with a fancy rain shield?  That should do it.  Not so fast!  The rain shield does not consider the water coming from under the bag, which is a bigger problem when you are on a sandy beach or a moving boat that takes a wave. 

This smart photographer decided to get a dry bag to protect the bag:  A bag in a bag.  Perfect solution!  But wait!  A dry bag is meant to cover the large camera bag and costs upwards of $50!  If you’re a bargain shopper like me who wants a quick solution on short notice, enter the Ziploc bag!  The great news is Ziploc now makes BIG bags meant for BIG solutions.  Don’t worry; they’re not paying me.  It’s just the truth.

These giant bags are plenty big enough to hold even a generously sized camera bag.  Even better – you can zip it closed to keep out dust, sand (also a common problem at the beach), and general dirt and mayhem.  And coming in at under $10, you can’t lose with this purchase!  Look HERE for other ways to use Ziplock bags.  How did we survive without them?

DIY Hack #2

The Light Reflector

Imagine that you are outside and want to take some great photos of your favorite subject at golden hour…  You know, that luscious time of evening when the light is buttery yellow and oh, so soft!  I feel ya…  Mmmmm…. 

Oh yeah – stop dreaming and back to business.  So you get your subjects all lined up with the sun setting beautifully behind them, and GASP!  You see a face full of shadows!  Not ideal.  But you’ve been putting off buying that expensive folding reflector.  Don’t panic!  Keep a handy piece of tagboard in your trunk or your coat closet for just this kind of moment.  This is one of my favorite tips.

This kind of foam core board works great in most weather conditions, and at this price, you can pass ‘em on to the kids or grandkids for an art project when you’re done!  Bonus – they also make an impromptu privacy shield in a pinch.  I actually keep a few of these in the trunk of my car, so I’m ready.  I promised photo results, and this will certainly do it – and for pennies on the dollar!

DIY Hack #3

The Lens Hood

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle with my lens hoods.  They never seem to stay on the lenses as I put them in and out of my bag.  And they are not interchangeable depending on their sizes and how many lenses you use.  And heaven help you if you stuff your camera in a bag and the hood detaches – good luck getting it out of the bag, not cracked or squished.

Ready for tip number three?  Presenting the coffee cup solution, and hey – who doesn’t love anything connected to coffee, right?  If you find you’re in a pinch and need a quick hood, run through your local Starbucks and grab yourself a cup of Joe on the run, and you have a quick fix.  If you want to be a wee bit more prepared for an emergency, pick up a neoprene coffee sleeve HERE to keep in your trunk next to your poster board!

A simple coffee cup sleeve makes a perfect lens hood.  Just pop it right on, and it does a great job of keeping the glare off your lens.

Bonus DIY Hack

Gaffer's Tape

If you are worried about your makeshift lens hood staying in place, a piece of gaffer’s tape will hold it right where you want it!  I always keep a roll tucked away in my stash for occasions like this.

Related:  3 Reasons Why You Need to Use a Lens Hood

DIY Hacks #4 & #5

A 2-in-1 Solution

Here’s a bonus!  Two tips in one!  Now and again, I need some weights to hold down my tripod -or- a soft surface on which to prop up my camera.

#4 - Tripod Weight

When conditions are windy or you or set up in an area where you need a little extra stabilization for your tripod, you can hang a weight from the bottom.  Of course, you can purchase weights for just this purpose online, but wow, is it pricey to get a bag full of beans!

So skip the fancy and get yourself a cool pair of socks to keep in your camera bag.  You can either fill them with some rice or dried beans at home and tie off the tops or bring them with you and fill them with whatever you find on-site.  Sand works great, or if there’s no sand available, you can use a rock or two.  Imagination is important here.  Anything heavy that you can fit into a pair of socks will do the trick!

Of course, since we’re photographers, who doesn’t love a super cute pair of socks with cameras on them?  Here are just a few…  Go ahead and take a look.  You’ll be amazed at how many cool choices there are out there!

#5 - Camera Rest

A pair of socks can also make a perfect and impromptu camera rest in a pinch.  Once again, you can purchase a brand-name, ready-made camera rest for a chunk of change, or you can be ready with this cheap solution.

My friend Melinda of My Little Light Photography put this solution to work recently.  She got a great bargain on a 70-200 2.8 Canon lens.  We all drool over that lens, so she was thrilled to get a great deal!  Unfortunately, once the lens arrived, she found it did not have a tripod mount ring attached.  Bummer.  It can be pretty tricky to shoot with that super heavy lens when you can’t mount it on a tripod.

What did she do?  She made a camera rest on the fly, and here’s how you can do it, too.  Instead of mounting your lens on a tripod, find a good, solid surface and set that camera up just as it is…  Of course, it can be tricky to balance the camera on its own, especially with a heavy lens on it.  So grab one of those handy socks, fill it up with some sand, rice, beans, or pebbles and use it to rest that lens and balance your camera.

That’s exactly what Melinda did when she found herself with that beautiful new lens and no tripod ring.

Mackinac Bridge at night
Melinda was able to capture the Mackinac Bridge with a long-shutter exposure by placing her lens on a homemade camera stand using what she had handy. Beautiful, isn't it!?

If you keep a pair of socks handy, you’ve got weights and sandbags at your fingertips, either ready-made or ready to be made on the go!

Wrapping it up!

It is easy to get caught up in purchasing all of the new gadgets and trinkets when you get started in the world of photography.  Let’s face it – I’m not new anymore, and I still love the gadgets and trinkets.  But with these DIY hacks, you can save some money and take professional pictures without the professional price tag!

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2 Comments

    • That is a great way to do it, Lloyd! I have a 30L Peak Design bag. Fully loaded it’s a touch heavy, but once I remove a lens or two, it also works great for this purpose!

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