What is in a Photographer’s Grip Kit?

Here at Bolt we have noticed that many of our customers are just starting their journey into photography. . Photographers often consider what cameras, lenses, and lights they might need. However, a perfect photographer’s key grip kit is probably one of the most overlooked items in your arsenal.

Typically born from necessity, a photographer’s grip kit contains all the miscellaneous items used to place and hold equipment where needed for all the “what if ” moments on a shoot. Whether it’s a pesky wire that won’t stay on the ground, a screw that’s too loose, or hair that won’t stay put, Bolt Productions has a wide variety of equipment rentals to help you build your ideal Grip Kit.

We wanted to make a list of items as a starting point for building the perfect key grip kit. This is by no means the end-all be-all of lists; every photographer (and videographer) will have different favorite items they must have in their kits. However, our list should help get you headed in the right direction for customizing your own grip kit to fit your particular needs.

Get a Grip – What’s in a Name?

On set, there are many names and different terms that assistant, gaffers, and grips use on set. Some of them are descriptive and others you might have to call the rental house for a definition. What the heck is a Duckbill Clamp? This refers to the rather large clamps attached to a vice grip that holds a bead board together and can be mounted on a stand. Now ask yourself, what is a bead board? This is a styrofoam 4ft x 4ft square that is and inch thick.  Most commonly one side is silver and the other side is white. Here we try to list some items and explain their use. 

Grip gear comes in two primary categories: support and exposure. Support items are mainly for rigging, clamping, and holding your gear in one place for the shoot, while exposure items help you with lighting and color balancing. Key grip kits should also contain essential tools that fall outside of these two categories.

Our below suggestions take into consideration versatility, dimensions, and weight. These factors are really important, especially if you will be carrying the key grip kit around all day. Each tool is an essential item that should fit in your kit without taking up too much space, while also acting as support and exposure items that are inexpensive and useful.

Support Items

Magliner Junior Rental

Clamps

  • Justin Clamps: These spring clamps with a cold shoe mount are great for clipping speedlights to doors, shelves, etc.
  • Super Clamps: Perfect for adding a second light to a stand or anywhere with a 5/8 pin.
  • A-Clamps: Used to suspend diffusion material, modify wardrobes or even hold bounce cards.
  • Mafer Clamps: Heavy-duty clamp used for mounting pipes and tubular objects to a surface to hold them in place.
  • Junior/Baby C-Clamps: Easy to operate and ideal for DIY or household clamping to provides strength and durability

Carts

  • Multi-Cart: Collapsible, easily transportable cart that doubles as a tethered workstation on location. Although this likely won’t fit within a bag or box, it is compact enough for transport and provides great stability on-set
  • Magliner Cart: This is a cart that has a removable top metal shelf with pneumatic tires. This cart is primarily used for computers and cameras. 

Tripods & Stands

  • Folding tripods: Useful for applications where a full-size tripod is not practical to carry around.
  • Boom poles: Aside from being used in audio applications, a boom pole can be rigged with light fixtures  or other shooting equipment to get into hard-to-reach areas.
  • Magic Arm: Fully articulating arm with a comfortable grip that can be attached to a Super Clamp and place a light in hard-to-reach areas.
  • Apple box: Used to mount your clamps or raise up a short tripod or stand

Tape

  • 1 or 2″ Spike Tape: Brightly colored tape that works great for setting actors marks without being too noticeable in the shot.
  • 1 or 2″ Roll of Gaffer Tape: The MacGyver of any grip kit, this tape leaves no sticky residue and fixes everything, from loose wires to broken equipment.
  • Masking Tape: Just like the kind from any office supply store, often used for less heavy-duty repairs.
  • Duct Tape: Similar to Gaffer’s Tape, but more heavy duty and indestructible. Good for keeping people quiet or fixing generator leaks.

Exposure Items

Superior Seamless 9' Roll on Core - Colorful seamless paper

Color Balance

  • Show Cards: Pocket sized reference points to help you adjust exposure and white balance settings
  • Light meter: Used to measure the amount of ambient light falling on a subject, or being reflected by a subject to determine the most beneficial shutter speed and f/stop to use for that given subject. This is generally used with video lights in cinematography shoots.

Materials, Filters and Papers

  • Superior Seamless Paper: Seamless or flame-retardant paper that can create smooth and even backgrounds for a shot.
  • Lee Filters: Color Effect Filters and Diffusion Filters that look great for almost any shoot.
  • Cinefoil: Reusable black tinfoil used to shape or block external lights at the source
  • Blankets: Not necessarily just for when you’re cold. These act as good moving assistants.
  • Tarps: Also helps block light.

Modifiers, Reflectors, and Diffusion

Essential Tools

Motorola CP200 2-Way Radio (Walkie Talkie) w/ Speaker Mic

Utility

Cords and Ties

  • Zip Ties
  • Bungee Cords
  • Rope

Safety Gear

  • Work Gloves: Used to protect your hands when building a set or working with electrical wires.
  • First Aid Kit: Always good to have in case of emergency.
  • Wedge-It: Door stopper to prop open doors to transport gear or make sure you don’t get locked in (or out) of a shoot.
  • Caution Tape: Cordon or mark off an area to keep pedestrians from walking through your shot, or to keep cars from parking in unwanted areas of your shot.
  • Traffic Cones: Used to block off areas of your shoot or control traffic flow to certain areas.

Electrical

  • Batteries: Pocket Wizards, Bluetooth Speakers, Control Systems, Speedlights, nearly everything in the field runs on batteries. Make sure to bring rechargeable ones for your cameras as well.
  • Extension Cords: Great when there are few outlets in a location for mobile power.
  • Chargers: Pairs with your batteries to make sure your shoot is fully powered, or to keep your mobile phone charged.

Cleaning

  • Rags/Cloths: Used with glass and stainless steel cleaner, or to tidy a dusty area or wipe down equipment after spills.
  • Paper Towels: Quick picker-upper for spills on set.
  • Glass Cleaner: For quick clean up jobs where glass items are dirty.
  • Stainless Steel Cleaner: Shines appliances for a tidy appearance.

Styling

  • Hairspray: To keep flyaways away, especially for portraits or fashion shoots.
  • Make-Up Powder/Brush: HD powder can be found at most makeup stores, and is great for eliminating hot spots and shine on a person.
  • Shout Stain Remover: Useful for when clients or models encounter a spill just before a shoot.
  • Tampons: Not necessarily a styling item, but comes in handy if a model needs one. Plus you’ll be the hero of the shoot if you’re the only one on set who has them.

Of course, there is always going to be something to exchange, add or rework dependent upon the type of shoot you’re headed to. What are the must-have items in your grip kit? Let us know to help us further fill out the ultimate list of the perfect grip kit equipment for a photo or video shoot.