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1. Luggage rack as photo table
To create a tabletop for still-life photography, simply unfold the luggage rack. Place glass on top (borrowed from a desk). Put different colors and textures of cloth underneath to vary background, or crawl under glass to shoot objects from below.
2. Ironing board as equipment table
Flat surfaces are at a premium in studios, make-shift or otherwise. The board can be moved near your shooting area, with height adjusted for easy access to lenses, film, and props.
3. Shower curtain as light diffuser
To soften harsh light, just carefully detach the shower curtain and place it in front of the light source. If discreetly transported outside, it's good for diffusing direct sunlight, and makes a handy tarp in the event of inclement weather.
4. Bath mat as kneeling pad
Photographers spend a lot of time on their kneesbegging (sometimes) but mostly just seeking the right angle. In wet or muddy places, a bath mat can be especially useful as a knee and pants preserver.
5. Mirror as light reflector
Perfect for bouncing light into a shadowy area to reduce contrast, which will vary with the mirror's distance from the subject. You can also reflect sunlight into a cave, tomb, or other dark area, although direct reflected sunlight is harsh. (Remember to bring that shower curtain.)
6. Shower cap as camera raincoat
Rain, snow, and spray are bad for cameras. Wrap a shower cap around the camera body, poke a hole in it for the eyepiece and voilà: instant camera raincoat.
7. Ice bucket as film cooler
Good for keeping film cool in hot places, like cars in the summer.
Make Your Hotel Room Picture-Perfect
Photograph by Robert Caputo and Cary Wolinsky
Veterans photographers like Bob Caputo, at left, and Cary Wolinsky, at right, don't pack and carry everything when on assignment. Hotel rooms are loaded with useful photo gearenough stuff to create a serviceable studio. (Make sure you return everything intact, of course.) In addition to the items published in April's National Geographic (left), Bob and Cary identified six more accessories in the picture. Can you find them? If not, check out the complete list below.
8. Paper as light reflector
Use the pieces of paper from the nightstand or desk as light reflectors if you're shooting outdoors. You can never go overboard with the amount of paper you use because when you return at the end of the day, there will most likely be a fresh notepad waiting for you on your desk.
9. Towel as camera protector
Drape the towel over the lens when it's raining. When you're ready to shoot, just lift the towel and throw it over your shoulder. Towels are especially useful in areas with lots of mosquitoes. You can spray strong bug repellant on the towels and wear them around your neck rather than spraying directly on your skin.
10. Hair dryer as camera dryer
If your camera still gets soaked after using a shower cap, and towel, all you have to do is turn on the blow dryer from the hotel bathroom and within seconds, you can have everything dry and functioning.
11. Pillow as a lens support
If you're using a long lens and your camera is propped on a table or on the floor, the lens needs to be supported by something so that it doesn't shake. That's when a pillow comes in handy. The lens will be protected, and the photo won't be distorted by movement.
12. Cushions as equipment divider
When using the trunk of your car to transport equipment, cushions from a chair or couch can be a padded barrier to protect fragile objects or keep items organized in a certain way. As with a bath mat, cushions are also great knee protectors.
13. Shoe cloth as cleaner
Shoe mitts are usually small and made out of very clean, soft material. They're handy for cleaning small, delicate objects such as light filters. You can also use shoe cloths to wrap around small objects to protect them from your hard camera bag.
14. Chair with wheels as dolly
Instead of renting an expensive dolly for a day, just clamp your camera onto a chair arm and slide it across the room or down the hallway.