Handy and Forgotten Items for the Portrait Photographer

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Portraits from Early Winter 2015 extras (17 of 21)ISO 4001-180 sec at f - 3.5

Every photographer starts out somewhere–and when you’re first starting out in portraiture, you probably can’t find or hire a stylist or make up artist (MUA). What you’ll begin to learn is that sometimes thing will go wrong on set. While models and people you photograph sometimes bring some of their own kits to help, it can be tougher if you’re photographing a couple for an engagement for example.

So to prevent any unwanted problem, here are items I’ve learned to have in my kit as a portrait photographer over the years with a brief reason as to why.

Circular Polarizer

Chris Gampat Raiyan Saed's portraits (7 of 11)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 3.2

Circular Polarizers help when photographing a subject that’s backlit by the sun and you want to shoot with your lens wide open. They can also sometimes help with color balance in an image. Polarizers (not vari-ND filters) saturate colors a bit to give them extra pop. So if you’ve got really straight backlight, it can be nerfed a bit using a circular Polarizer that lets you dial in the specific amount of light cutting abilities you want.

Gaffers Tape

Every photographer should have gaffers tape. It solves so many problems and is very strong yet doesn’t leave a sticky residue on surfaces. Use this to get clothing just the way you want it or to make a quick fix on something.

Safety Pins

Safety pins serve the same purpose as gaffers tape but have more to do with clothing specifically. They can be very useful. For example, if a man doesn’t have such form-fitting clothing, it can be pinned back and tucked in a bit to make it look and function better.

Hair Ties

Hair ties not only work with fixing hair of all sorts, but it can help with clothing too.


Higher shoulder towards a wall. Have the body bear most of the contact on the bicep. Pivot the subject in a 30 degree angle backward. Bring the hair to the opposite side. Bring the arms along the body to give a more natural appearance or bring them up to flatten the profile a bit. And again: watch the nose


Getting hair to do what you want it to can be made easier with pomade–except in really, hot and sticky weather situations.

Leather Oil

Leather oil makes sense for loads of reasons. Besides shining up belts and shoes, it does very well with moisturizing and giving more life to a man’s beard and facial hair when rubbed in and massaged–and that translates into a better photo.


Everybody sweats–and powder helps eliminate that. No need to say anymore here.

Oil Free Moisturizer

Something that a lot of women tell me is that their skin is dry, so they ask for a moisturizer if they don’t have one. While I typically recommend and an Aloe Vera or Cocoa Butter based one, oil-free moisturizers will do the job while eliminating glean on the skin, unless you want that.

Five-in-One Reflector

Last but not least is the photography item that very few photographers take advantage of but really should. A five-in-one gives you loads of different configurations and options when it comes to photographing people and there isn’t a good reason why you can’t have one in your bag.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.