I see.


I still assist for a lot of photographers as my career continues to grow. Between my own shoots it’s a great way to make ends meet, especially because the photo industry is my only source of income. I take a little bit of pride in the fact that I’ve lived in Los Angeles for over a year and a half now, and never had a secondary job. 🙂

As an assistant I do all sorts of stuff from lugging heavy grip and lighting equipment, to driving production vehicles. I light shots, I sometimes digital tech, and I generally solve problems for the photographer I’m working with. It’s a great way to meet more people in my industry and I try to pick up something new on every shoot I work on. That might be a way of dealing with the subject or client, or it might be something technical like a lighting pattern I haven’t encountered before.

I was inspired by Tim over at http://aphotoassistant.com/ to lay out all the stuff I keep in my kit when going into the studio or on location. Some people tend to overkill it and bring even more than this, but I find it to be generally pretty solid in terms of covering my bases. I’ve had more than one photographer stoked I had something random like my own door stopper. Sometimes that, coupled with not being a total bummer to hang out with can get me hired back.

Here’s a list of stuff that comes in handy:

3 way splitters – You never know when power will be scarce. I carry 2 of these
Gum – Catering can do some damage to your breath. Keep fresh for client chats
Gaff tape (White, Black, Grey) – If you have room for all 3, they are great to have.
Electrical tape – Sometimes fraying cables can pose a serious risk
Gloves – I recently upgraded to Hot Hands by Setwear . They ain’t cheap, but they work great.
SOG brand B62 Leatherman style multi-tool – I prefer this one because it has gear-driven pliers in addition to the usual other stuff. Plus the added bonus of being all black (win)
Superknife with extra blades – Cutting foam core or fools who step out of line
1″ and 2″ blue and white painters/masking tape – a variety of applications, but great for taping the bottom of model’s shoes for the cyc
Tape measure
• Hand sanitizer
• Ibuprofin and Excedrin
• Red and Black Sharpies
• Blue and black rollerball pens
• Micron pen
(not necessary, but I love these pens and for some reason writing with them makes me feel fancy)
Small and Medium A Clamps – Sometimes photographers forget theirs, or run out. You having one on you makes you look awesome
Toof Brush – For keepin’ them chompers cleeean, son.
Small magnetic level
Door stopper – You’d be surprised how many doors try to close themselves and smash your cords
Matches – This might seem odd, but it’s come up. I’d rather have them than not. Plus the nice folks at Milk and Smashbox love free advertising.
Flashlights – I keep one little LED one for digging around in my kit, and another multi-LED one for on set
Travel First Aid Kit – Band aids, etc. Sometimes production drops the ball and you have to be the one to step up as medic
3-prong grounded adaptors – If you get stuck somewhere with janky power, you’ll thank me. I roll with 3 of them.
Extra AA and AAA batteries – You don’t need this many, but bring as many as you feel like you might use. Then bring 2 more.
• Pouch – I have this Klein Tools one left over from an old job doing low voltage wiring. I think I used to keep my phone in it, but now I use it to store my:
Blower – Get dust off the lens, and anything else that is mildly dusty. Many people prefer canned air, but this is sustainable so I rock it
Lens cloth – Most ad shoots have budget for digital tech, and they generally take care of the back, body and lenses. But often, you’ll be the unfortunate soul who has to keep cleaning the salty ocean spray off the lens as the shirtless hunk you’re hired to shoot splashes around.

I don’t have one shown here, but it’s not an awful idea to have your OWN light meter on set. Also not shown here are a couple of other non-essential items that are great in a pinch. I bring a pair of booties to go over my shoes to walk around on the cyc wall or in a house if I’m concerned my shoes might mess up the carpet.

Also, it’s always a good idea to bring a couple of trash bags in case it starts raining and you need to cover the packs. This is especially important at the beach. Things get wet AND sandy, and the rental house will give you the look of disapproval for real if you bring their gear back looking like you were trying to exfoliate it.

Some people also like to include a lint roller, some hairspray and a few different kinds of glue (super, gorilla, etc). I recommend all of these things as well.

I keep all that loot in my messenger-style shoulder bag and take it with me wherever I happen to be that day. Make sure to write your name on anything that you bring on set that you would like to actually come home at the end of the day. People might not actually mean to steal from you, but if they end up with your gear in their pocket, why not make it easier for them to give it back.

What stuff do you keep in your kit that I don’t?

As always, for more of my stuff, check out http://justinsullivanphotography.com


4 responses

  1. justinsullivan

    comment comment comment

    January 13, 2011 at 12:40 am

  2. msottovoce

    I do, I really do, geek out over What’s In Your Bag / Kit or What’s On Your Desk posts, so uh, I love this post.

    January 15, 2011 at 5:27 am

  3. Vivien

    I love this post.. I really do. Impressive. The door stoppers are awesome.

    February 1, 2011 at 2:10 am

  4. Word! Nice to see what others favor as needed.. the door stop is a great addition to a kit!
    Varieties of tape can come in handy as well.

    Gum is a mandatory tool as well!

    Albino Unicorn

    November 1, 2011 at 1:33 pm

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