My 10 best photography accessories – not from camera shops!

What are my 10 best (alternative) photography accessories?

Read on and you will find out – here I am writing about photography accessories that you will not find in a camera shop. One of them you won't find in any shop – it is free!

I was going to call this non-photographic accessories for photographers, but went with the snappier title above. Or improvisation in photography (see item 4).

In this light-hearted article I am going to tell you about 10 things that I use in my  photography work – and these are 10 things that you will not find in a camera shop!

Yes I use all of these bits of kit.

1 – Shortbread

How many times have you been out taking photos and reached for your chocolate based snack to find it has melted, and when you try to get the chocolatey mess out of the wrapping you get the stuff all over your hands.

And it never tastes the same.

Shortbread is my non-chocolate snack of choice. It is pretty much inert, and is unaffected by hot and indeed cold temperatures.

We have recently experienced Greece like temperatures for an extended period here in the UK, making taking photos in the UK more of a travel photography type experience.

This meant I had to buy in extra short bread for UK photography antics for the first time!

What do folks in other places eat? I knew a photographer who swore by flapjacks, but I found certain types could melt and fuse in extreme heat.

2 – Shoes

Proper walking shoes that is.

These are what I wore for a photographic tip to Santorini.

Red pumps.

By the time I was walking back to the hotel on the last day the soles of my feet were really quite seriously sore. I had spent a week trekking up and down the Santorini Caldera at sunrise and sunset, and spending the days walking around Fira and other built-up areas.

I went to Rhodes once and had nothing better then flip-flips. Ridiculous I know.

Last time in Rhodes though I actually packed my photography shoe of choice – my Salomon walking shoes.

Here they are.

Much better!

Wearng these bad boys I can safely and efficiently clamber up and down rocks all over the place, most of the time with my Canon 6D in my hand (secured with a wrist strap I hasten to add).

These wonderful walking shoes have very well padded insloes and have the grippiest soles I have ever had, other than on climbing shoes that is.

3 – Hat

I have no hair. And I turned 50 years old last year. Put these two together and put me out at sunrise and I get a cold head. Even in Santorini in April. My trademark North Face red hats have served me well, and also serve a second purpose.

I include them in photos.

Yes a red hat is quite distinctive in a landscape or travel photography shot. And when I am working on an architectural shoot I take the odd image with the red hat included (having already taken the shot without the red hat that is).

There is a reason for this – I want to produce a set of images that have a red hat in them. This is a long term plan. I am going to do something different for interior shoots – a red hat in a period English country house just wouldn’t make sense!

It's a bit of a theme thing.

I just need to remember to take the hat with me. The other month in Paxos it was absolutely boiing hot, and I completely forgot my red hat. I packed for the weather of course.

But I did bring the proper shoes!

4 – Rocks

Sometimes I have to improvise. One of those times is when I forget something. Like when I was in Paxos a couple of weeks ago. I was taking photos for a new website. Photos and videos of me taking photos. Whilst doing this I also took some videos of the lovely tranquil coastline.

The problem was I forgot the tripod adaptor for my iPhone.

It was time to improvise.

I found a flat level rock as close as I wanted to where the sea and the land meet. I found rocks of the kind of size I wanted, placed my iPhone on the flat rock and used the other two rocks to wedge the phone in place.

I wanted a very low angle for the video, and this is what I got. You can check out that 6 minute video here.

6 minutes of sunrise peaceful loveliness on the Greek Island of Paxos.

Which reminds me of the main problm I had with my iPhone – I just can't see the screen when the sun is out, especially on a Greek Island at sunrise!

A lot of the photos and videos I took were pretty much guesswork. For the video I took on the rocks I was ok as the phone was secure and I could lie down on the pebbled beach and get exactly the view I wanted. After I had taken my t-shirt off and draped it over my head and my iPhone that is.

I thought I had taken a photo of this complicated set up but it turns out I didn't – I was hoping to be able to show you all this wonderful set-up.


I also use larger rocks to place my camera on, not only to take photos with but also to take nice product shots of my gear.

5 – Headtorch

An invaluable piece of kit which has just expired on me after many years of use. My beloved Petzl torch has expired, so I am now in the market for another one.

And here it is!

What do I use it for?

Two things.

Getting to places before sunrise, and getting around once I am there.
And also as my eyes are getting old and less useful than they once were they help with getting stuff out of my bag when I need it.

Thankfully I don’t need a torch to operate my camera or change a lens – but I do need help finding the lens to change without dropping it!! No – the endless hours of practise and use with my good old faithful Canon 6D mean that I can use my camera pretty much with my eyes closed.

That is when I take more than one lens. And it is invaluable for assembling the various bits for my Lee Big Stopper filter – my ND filter of choice.

Composition is a different matter – I rely on Live View for that!

6 –Raised thing such as tables and harbour walls. And rocks.

If I am travelling light I do not take a tripod with me. Not a full sized tripod that is. All I take is a Platypod and a Manfrotto Pixi tripod.

I take quite a lot of photos at low level so this is not a problem, indeed quite often I use these tiny bits of kit even when I have my main tripod with me.

But when I am travelling light all I do is find something to place the tripod or Platpyod on.
Most frequent free accessories I have used include

  • Various restaurant, cafe and bar tables
  • Harbour walls
  • Breakwaters
  • Hire car roof
  • A fridge
  • A lean-to roof
  • A garage
  • A flint wall
  • A gas canister

You cant beat a bit of improvisation every now and then eh?

7 – Leatherman

My utility tool of choice. The one thing I always need to remember to do is put this in my checked luggage and not leave it where it lives in my backpack.

I use this for all sorts of cutting, fixing, removing and adjusting tasks.

This wonderful piece of kit has a dedicated and permament place in my Peak Design Everyday Backpack.

I know it is a concern that I write so animatedly and emotionally about a piece of metal formed into a useful bit of kit!

8 – Flask

This is my flask. This goes out with me every time I go out. In the summer it is filled and put in the fridge the night before, and in colder times it is filled with lovely stong hot coffee.

On a shoot it fits in one of the side pockets on my Peak Design Everyday Backpack. On a driving shoot I just chuck it in the boot in the bag with all my clothing gear.

It is important to stay hydrated – very important. And also equally important that I manage to stay awake!!

9 – Gaffers tape

I have gaffers tape wrapped around a tripod leg. Funnily enough this is dead handy when out and about in cold weather as my Manfrotto tripod only has the plastic surround on one of the legs, so the other two legs can be very cold to touch. The gaffers tape helps with this problem.

And as I always have my tripod with me it means I always have gaffers tape with me.
I also have a small square of the tape on the back of my phone, and a small roll of it in my Peak Design Everyday Backpack.

Basically wherever I go I always have some gaffers tape with me.

And it has endless uses in the house too – most recent one being to cover up the blue LED light on Mrs M’s bedside charger, which was much too bright.

I also used it to cover up some redundant vents in the house we have just moved out of – after three years I just removed the tape and the paintwork behind was just fine.

And this weekend just gone I used it to temporarily stick two curtain pole halfs together.

Back to the photography – I have used the gafffers tape on my 17-40mm lens to fix the focal length at 17mm – again removing the tape leaves no residue behind.

And I have this wonderful stuff on endless temporary sticking things to other things, and also to cover things up that I don’t want in a shot.

10 – Fiat 500C

Yes a car. This is going to take some explaining. I share our Fiat 500C with my wife. I love driving this little fella with the roof off.

This is the photo with a moving sky!

There are two main things that I like about taking my Fiat 500 out taking photos.

The first is that I can see exactly what is happening with the light and the weather. And I can smell the smells of the countryside around me.

I can feel much better the environment I am in.

And then there is the other benefit.

I can just stand up and take photos without getting out of the car. And I find this quite handy for doing urban 360 degree videos.

Now I know that the quality of this video of Canford Cliffs is rubbish, but with a bit of thought and practise with my DJI Osmo Mobile I think that I might be onto something with these urban 360 videos.

OK – I look a muppet standing up in my car taking a 360 degre video from inside a small white convertible Fiat, but thankfully I am of an age where I don’t give an actual stuff what people think of me.

And I have not ruled out taking videos out of the roof while driving – that will need some thought, a fitting for my DJI Osmo and of course some more gaffers tape!

I am quite happy lying down on the footpath to take the a photo if that gives me the view I want – I have done this many times in town centres when dong commercial work.

And the other benefit of a convertible car – you smile more while driving. Well I certainly do!


Let me know your favourite photography accessories that you can't buy in a camera shop – photography should be fun and not an exercise in spending cash on endless gear!

8 thoughts on “My 10 best photography accessories – not from camera shops!”

  1. I just love this – some great ideas, some new ones I will adopt. My tool of choice is the Swiss Army Knives I’ve had for 30 years – one in my camera bag, one in my handbag, which got confiscated in Tate Britain last week! Thankfully only temporarily, the knife is worth more than the art!

    1. Exidia – hi and great point. I have a Swiss Army Knife somewhere which should have been called the drinkers model – it has a corkscrew, can opener and bottle opener. As well as the knife blade of course and that thing for taking the stones out of horses hooves.

      With regards from England


  2. As another 50 year old bald guy, I agree with the hat, wholeheartedly! I like the idea of a distinctive colour, though. I normally have a black toque. I should look for a little more colour.

    I like shortbread but I wouldn’t say it’s a healthy snack! 🙂

  3. I completely agree with your list. The only accessories to be added are spare clothes in one’s vehicle. Any landscape photographer is not afraid to get wet and dirty for their shots. Changing into a dry set of clothes before a long journey home makes for a comfortable ride- especially in cold weather!

    1. Hi Marc

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, spare clothes are an essential. I guess with the unusual weather we have had in England this year ie sunny and hot I had completely forgotten about the realities of normal life here – ie cold and wet!

      Thanks again – with kind regards from sunny England


  4. Andrew Spanoudakis

    Great tips and a terrific sense of humor. What kind of backpack is that? Is it waterproof? Mine isn’t so I carry plastic bags.

    1. Hi Andrew – thank you for your comments. It is the Peak Design Everyday Backback which is I believe waterproof.

      With kind regards from England


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