40+ Essential Items Every Photography Assistant Needs Now

Los Angeles-based photographer and photo assistant Shawn Corrigan has spent the past 10 years traveling the world assisting and shooting. Over time, he has developed an “everything but the kitchen sink, plus the kitchen sink” kit that he brings to each set. In addition to the absolutely essential leatherman and light meter that every assistant should carry around, here’s a checklist of others things you should consider packing.

Corrigan was recently profiled by Photoshelter for a free Photo Assistant’s Handbook they released. It’s a good resource for some free photo assisting tips and advice.

(via Photoshelter)

Image credits: Photos by Photoshelter and used with permission

  • OSAM

    This is quite possibly one of the silliest over-sensationalizations I’ve ever seen.

  • Mike K

    I got lost at iPod.  Not sure if they make them anymore, but your average smart phone has 16GB or more memory and the ability to stream music from several sites like Pandora and Spotify.

  • AlexJB

    wow, that’s awesome!  Would love to see if he’s devised a cool carrying solution for all that?  I’m envisioning something in between a chef’s knife-roll-up and some kind of crazy spy movie gear with a million compartments :-)

  • mko

    Does it have to be iPod?

  • Alexander

    More gear obsession! Spend more time making pictures rather than collecting equipment. I’m a fashion photographer myself and my vehicle is full enough without an assistant bringing everything but the kitchen sink!

    That said gaffer tape should be in every kit bag. God knows why you’d want it in multiple colours though.

  • Ksuwildkat

    My substitutions:

    iPhone with Pandora
    iHome iHM79 speakersBelkin Mini Travel Surge Protector with USB
     – kills the need for phone chargers – anyone not using a USB powered one needs to get up to date
    Level app on iPhone
    Note taking app on iPad
    Model Release app on iPad
    Lighting Diagram app on iPad
    Flashlight app on iPad
    Pantone app on iPad
    Photoshop app on iPad
    Post Its
    Pepto/Imodium – you never need these until you REALLY need them
    SD cardsPolaroid Pogo Instant Mobile Printer

  • Guillermo Medina

    That’s a very silly list… i rather have my camera, 1 extra lens, 1 flash, duct tape, 1 tripod, a sketchbook and a pen. that’s all i need

  • Ohheycorilynnlove

    Why is it that all you’re doing is criticizing him? Every person is different.

  • Thomas Hollænder

    Every photography ASSISTANT – not every photographer  ;-)

  • wickerprints

    This is an assistant’s tool set, not the photographer’s.  And yes, they do need to bring a lot of extra, miscellaneous stuff because if the photographer’s on location, all kinds of unpredictable things may happen, or the photographer may call on you to provide a last-minute solution to an unforeseen problem.

    But no, instead we have snarky commentators who get caught up on “iPod” vs. any other device to play music, or people who simply fail to read the article.  Use some common sense for a change.  And it’s not as if EVERY assistant has to bring ALL of those items in the list.  It’s just meant to give you an idea of what might come in handy.  Your own experience doing assisting for others will ultimately shape what you bring to a shoot, and different photographers have different assisting needs.

  • cmon son

    ^^^ said the guy who won’t get hired as an assistant 

  • Dave Eckblad

    Why isn’t “Umbrella” in that list?

  • Knur
  • Roy

    “And it’s not as if EVERY assistant has to bring ALL of those items in the list.”

    But that’s exactly what the article’s title suggests (ESSENTIAL items for EVERY assistant.

  • Quinn

     And you’re that sure you’ll have wireless access at a photo shoot, say, in the middle of a cornfield?  Good luck to you.

  • Knur

    That looks like a burglar equipment.

  • wickerprints

    You should realize that the author of the checklist is not the author of the title of the article; furthermore, that accuracy in reporting is often sacrificed (especially in headlines) for the sake of sensationalism and engaging the reader’s attention.

  • Jonathan Yao

    What the heck is a “Book of Seamless Colors”?  A catalog of the seamless backgrounds you are carrying?  Also, are the tripod converters 1/4 to 3/8 and 3/8 to 1/4 thread converters?  What is the point of paint markers.  Finally, aren’t most DSRL, if not all, tethering cables USB now?

    I wish that there was a little description on why you would want each item in your or you assistant’s bag.

  • Guy

    This isn’t that unusual, most photographers if shooting on location in city they have a kit bag. Sometimes they don’t, every studio is different.  First rule of an assistant, be the boy scout, you never know what will happen on location.  People who think this is so weird have not worked for commercial studio on location before.  Simple as that.

  • Jeffrey Lee

    For me, this is overkill. But I’m sure that each item came from a time when that one thing was not there and really needed to be. As an ex-audio tech who used to tour, the first thing I would ask when I got to town was where the local Radio Shack was. It was amazing to me how many time the difference between show and no-show was a >$1.00 adapter that converted one thing to another so the million $ system could plug up. If I ever wanted to assist anyone, I’d devour this list. The thread adapters are just that kind of thing, especially if you supplement your own gear with rental stuff. Sure we all think we’re prepared in advance, but things always change and go wrong. He might use those thread adapters once a year, but that could mean the difference between a successful shoot and lots of angry clients who don’t hire you again. Which would you choose?

  • Mike

    Nobody has half a toilet roll? I always have one these in my kit after a very nasty occasion when it saved the day!

  • OSAM

    I’ve only used an assistant once, and it was only because it was a fairly large event.  Did I bring any of this gear? Yeah, the gaffer tape, a sharpie, and some gum.  It fit in my pocket. I didn’t need a duffel bag the size of, well, my assistant.

  • darbschu

    This adds up to paranoia and lack of trust in ones own ability to improvise. If you have it you’ll use it, if you don’t you won’t.

  • Ett Venter

    This is ridiculous. If your assistant has his phone, his wallet, and your memory cards in his pockets, you’ll be 100% fine.

    Sure, all of these things may be USEFUL, but they’re most CERTAINLY not “essential”.

  • Dansmith

    photographers are the biggest bunch of girls in the world

  • Sean Lucky

    I’m really curious how many of the people saying that half these items are unnecessary actually have any experience being a legitimate assistant… Even without a car, I’ll come to every shoot with one of two kits: A portabrace run-bag full of that kit and more (noticed a flashlight and/or headlamp was missing, and that’s just foolish) which comes with me on larger gallery or fashion shoots, or a smaller satchel a little more stripped down and lighter for editorial shoots.

    The reality is, as an assistant, you want to have problems solved before they even become problems. If something odd goes wrong on a shoot, and you solve it instantly, you look like a hero. This sort of preparedness goes a long way in being hired again and again.

    In terms of the list: Thought some things may have been overkill like a magic arm, or seamless swatches. And maybe a few things were missing like the previously mentioned flashlight (I even carry a spare), sash, black wrap, box cutter, bull dog clips, C-47’s, ratchet straps, walkie-talkies, kleenex, canned air/pocket rocket.

    @twitter-161224742:disqus While most DSLR’s are running USB for tether, almost all medium format is running off of firewire tethering cables. They also have a tendency to die on set so having a backup isn’t a bad idea.

  • Sjetzel

    Being a former advertising photographer I still think having everything you might need is part of the photographer’s job. The assistant goes and gets it out of the truck.

  • Scott Mains

    Colour coded measurements for different settings (e.g. one colour = one hight at a particular location coded with the colour tape…) trust me that one works and it’s used a fair bit. 

  • Manuel Smirnoff

    Nice list. It looks like about what I have at arm’s reach in my own studio, and would want to follow along with me if I did a similar type of job outside. I don’t travel much, but I have a large metal trunk, and these are the type of things I use to fill the holes between the big stuff.

  • Rob

    Wow. 16 whole GB’s. And yes, we want to be beholden to yet more social media like Spotify and Pandora…

    Sorry for being a little abrupt, jamming to excellent music quality on my 240 GB Red Dial iPod…

    A phone is not a camera or a stereo center, but great for calendar, contacts, some apps and even talking here and there..:)

  • Droops

    When you’re assisting $100k+ jobs, it becomes essential.

  • droops

    sounds like you were not good to your assistants. Why not just get a day laborer then?

  • droops

    People complaining about the length of this list probably do not have much assisting experience (or experience with assistant) on bigger scale jobs This isnt for wedding and event photogs. Sean said it best. I’m a newer assistant, still learning and getting my kit together.  

    I think a lint roller, portable hard drive, are also good ideas, and Sjetzel, I agree it is part of the photogs job but they have bigger things to worry about. 

    I keep all of my stuff in a 16″ wide mouth tool bag.

  • droops

    You want multiple colors for a lot of reasons,  Consider a high foot traffic area with a tripod leg sticking out, im sure that bright pink gaff tape will be preferred over the black stuff.

    Its very naive to think these things (a good number) aren’t essential for an assistant to have.

  • cchdisqus

    The seamless colors are there if you’re on a commercial/fashion shoot (possibly at a studio) and you’re collaborating with the stylist for different backdrops – or one singular backdrop – to see which goes best with the clothing/model, etc. It’s WAY less time consuming that going and fetching the giant roll of seamless & setting it up only to find it doesn’t look right. Usually those things are picked out in advance through collaboration between the photographer, stylist or art director, but its not uncommon to get on set and realize something just doesn’t look right and a last minute change needs to be made. There’s also more items in that photo than on the list (probably) because they did a simple image search and that was the best one they could find that had examples of everything and then some, and wasn’t a horrendous looking photo. Your kit doesn’t have to be an exact replica, just what works for your type of photographer.

  • Simon Pollock

    I gots me a bag I could stick all that stuff in…. now as an assistant I need me an assistant to roll it! woo hoo… fun

  • Carl Bertossi

    Because it not UK will not rain as there, otherwise you will have to have not only one umbrella but whole set of others equipment like wellingtons and canoe :)

  • Rob

    Seriously, if I get one that shows up with Duct Tape and a smile I consider them good.