Though the recent focus of posts has been on Motion content, I still make much of the bread and butter as an assistant on stills shoots. Over the few short years I've been actively working, I've built up what could be considered a pretty essentials kit that rides with me (usually on me) for most shoots, regardless of content. Sometimes it grows, rarely it shrinks, but this is what seems to always be there. In order of importance / frequency used:
Everything lives in a JanSport ultimate-uncool fanny pack. Trust me, its not cool, but is less embarrassing if you don't wear it around front… surprisingly, everything fits or clips on easily. Fanny packs are also naturally theft-resistant.
10. Bandage and cleanup kit. Picked this up at Duane Reade one day (just happens to include a marrow donor application, so some karma for that), and its been used and restocked plenty of times. The neat packaging packs flat and keeps the bandages sterile. While its great for small knicks as well as… taping down certain body parts that become pokey in colder temperatures. (Sorry, but it's been used more for that, than wounds!).
9. Mini Gretag-Macbeth color checker. I typically have the larger X-Rite ColorChecker Passport (still small compared to the full size version) but the mini version is small enough to pack with a few business cards inside the sleeve. Ideally sized for tabletop stuff, but I can usually get a decent color sample from most caemras 22MP and up. The Color Checker is industry standard for color reference and makes white balance easier in post production. Keep in mind that for specifically motion shoots, its joined by a full size Gray Card, as its much preferred to balance off the neutral card in camera (and this one is a bit too small for that) rather than try to nail it in post.
8. Sekonic L-358 Light Meter with Pocket Wizard transmitter chip. Upon learning this meter was discontinued and replaced by the new-fangled-touchscreen-478, I was a bit saddened. One of my first major photo-related purchases in college, this meter has served me well and becomes indispensable on shoots of both the one-light and 30-light variety. The PocketWizard chip means I can wirelessly trigger strobe lights that are synched with "wizards" (the most widely used strobe-radio-trigger for my industry). It does not however, factor in FPS ( a feature for most cine-specific meters) but with a few quick calculations, can get exposure for motion also.
7. C-47's and various clips. C-47, the "Imma cool #setlife nerd" name for wooden clothespins are indispensable for clipping garments, securing gel to lamps, and about a million other things. I keep a good number on hand, as well as mini plastic-spring clamps that are good for running cables to.
6. Quirky Bandits. I discovered these while interning with Quirky a few summers ago, and they've found a home in my bag, great for keeping rolls of expendables rolled up, securing tether cables, hanging wizards to stands…
5. Flashlight. Currently its a mini maglite (AAA version), due to the loss of a nice LED torch. Nice for trying to find your way through a dark set, or providing an extra pop of light when its too dark for the camera's autofocus sensor to grab onto. Other tricks include providing a point source of light that doesn't affect the scene for the subject to focus on, which is great for when the studio lights might be a bit too blinding for them to see the photographer.
4. Sharpies and Pens. Pens of the plain ol' non-gel kind, and at least one pencil. That and a few black sharpies, as well as a silver one (for black gaff) are great for labeling water bottles, light power settings, talent-marks (where to stand), etc etc.
3. Chewing Gum. Don't be the guy who raises the dead with their breath after crafty (craft services, caterers) serves a garlic and onion massacre at lunch. Gum keeps things cordial and folks likable, and (at least for me personally) can stave off that groaning stomach when the shoot runs well past regularly scheduled meal times.
2. Gloves. I can't emphasize how wonderful it is with gloves, to the point it becomes painful when you're missing them. They help give a better grip and reduce wear on the hands after loading in heavy steel or a multitude of cases. Pinches in stand risers, burning hot lights, and stubbed thumbs become a minor issue with gloves on. When you glove-up, it feels like you're putting on a super hero costume. Though there are some great set-oriented (SetWear, ToughGaff) gloves out there, I've been doing alright with run-of-the-mill finds at most hardware stores. I usually get about one season's work (three months, less in the sweaty summer) out of a pair of gloves, and feel naked without them.
1. (Not pictured): Leatherman Multitool. It doesn't have to be a Leatherman (I'm a big fan of Gerber's accessible blade when closed design) but something that gives you a decent blade, screwdriving tools, as well as pliers/wirecutters becomes invaluable on set. Tightening down bolts or a quick release plate, cutting off gels or foam core… its hard to assist without it. Not pictured because it has a permanent place on my pants-belt...
Things that aren't pictured (but usually around…)
- Tape. 2" Gaff(er's), and 1" paper (masking) tape. Due to size, usually in my bag or on a belt. Gaff is great for... well just about anything. This better-than-duct-tape alternative is cloth-based for durability, but has a no-residue adhesive (though if left on under heat or for months, will leave a residue). Paper tape is nice for when you're taping onto hardwood or anything painted, as gaff might rip some of the paint or varnish up.
- AA Batteries, 2 or 4 of these when flashes run low, or for a PocketWizard unit.
- Ibuprofen/Tylenol (I'd like to, but typically gets tossed when short on space)
- 5-Hour Energy Shots (I'd like not to, but some days run much past the 18 hour limit of "I can remain standing on my own")