As photographers, we’re good at planning ahead and thinking on our feet. But it can happen that we don’t have everything we need on hand to get the shot we want at that moment. Luckily, with these do-it-yourself quick fixes, you’ll be able to get amazing shots even if a few unexpected surprises roll your way.

Quick fix #1: String-and-bolt tripod

When traveling, you don’t want to overpack and be burdened down with gear you don’t need, which is why you only take essentials when you’re out shooting. Your camera? Yes, that’s a no-brainer. An extra lens? Depends on the location and type of photography. But what about your tripod? Do you take it with you or leave it home? With these three options, you can have it all — shoot stable, tripod-esque shots without lugging a big one with you.

Eye-level moving subject

Imagine that you’re shooting in a city or out in nature and want to capture a dynamic subject at eye-level. Simply pull these three simple items out of your pocket and you can build your own tripod in less than a minute.

What you’ll need

  1. A strong piece of string, approximately as long as you are tall
  2. A metal washer (optional)
  3. A screw (a bolt with 1/4” diameter, 20 threads per inch OR a 1.25 diameter bolt — it needs to fit in your camera’s tripod socket
7 do-it-yourself photography quick fixes
Everything you need to make the string tripod

Here’s how to make and use your string-and-bolt tripod

  1.  Tie one end of the string around the bolt and other end around the washer.
  2. Screw the bolt into your camera.
  3. Drop the washer to the ground and stand on it.
  4. Pull the string tight with your camera, using the tension to hold your camera steady.

Using the string tripod

7 do-it-yourself photography quick fixes
You can now easily swivel in place without camera shake, as easy as that!

Quick fix #2: Frying pan tripod for ground-level moving subjects

Traditional tripods aren’t great for ground-level subjects, especially those moving across so” materials such as sand or snow. The tripod legs may sink into the ground, hindering your ability to follow the subject with your camera. Thankfully, nature photographer Gustav Kiburg came up with an excellent DIY quick fix for just this situation.

While photographing wild seals on the beach, he couldn’t move and get the sharp photos he wanted using his tripod. The solution? Gustav drilled a hole in the bottom of an inexpensive frying pan and used a screw to attach his camera to the pan. With the smooth stability of the pan, he could easily slide his camera over the sand, capturing exactly the shots he wanted without shake.

7 do-it-yourself photography quick fixes
Gustav Kilburg with his frying pan tripod.

Quick fix #3: Plastic baggie ground-level still subject

Do you want to photograph a ground-level non-moving subject? As long as you carry a resealable plastic bag with you, you’re all set! Look around your environment and fill your bag with any soft, flexible material such as sand, dirt, grass, or other substance. Now, simply position your camera on top of the plastic bag and focus on your desired subject. The lightest and easiest solution guaranteed.

7 do-it-yourself photography quick fixes
The “baggie” ground-level camera support

Quick fix #4: Coffee sleeve lens hood

When you’re shooting in bright sun, a lens hood is an essential tool in limiting sun glare in your photos. If you don’t have one handy, treat yourself to a cup of take-out coffee and use the plastic sleeve as a DIY lens hood.

7 do-it-yourself photography quick fixes
A thermal coffee sleeve serves as a lens hood

Quick Fix #5: Easy blurry, tilt-shift effect

This quick-fix may come in handy in multiple situations but is also simply fun to experiment with. Imagine that there are a number of distracting elements but you want to focus on your subject and give it either a tilt-shift or blurry effect. Without spending a lot of extra money on a new lens, this quick fix can create the effect you want. Use a rubber band to attach a piece of plastic wrap over your lens (or use a cheap UV lens filter) and then smear a little bit of Vaseline or similar substance around the sides. Just be careful when removing the plastic. You don’t want a bunch of goop on your camera!

7 do-it-yourself photography quick fixes
Vaseline is used to blur the edges of this photo

Quick Fix #6: Anti-theft backpack

You may find yourself out shooting with a small fortune in camera equipment in your bag. Keeping your bag in sight is sufficient protection in many situations, but there are other contexts where active theft is a problem. In those situations, hiding the fact that you have expensive camera equipment with you may be the best way to limit risk and keep would-be robbers from looking your way. Professional photographer Albert Dros came up with a quick fix for this situation when he was in Guatemala to shoot the Fuego volcano. Instead of taking a nice camera bag with him up the volcano, he put his equipment in a beat-up backpack so it looked like he was carrying food and water rather than thousands of dollars worth of equipment. The bag attracted zero attention, which was exactly the goal.

7 do-it-yourself photography quick fixes
Albert Dros used a patterned backpack to protect his gear from theft

Quick Fix #7: Can cooler lens protector

Sometimes you bring more than one lens with you when you’re out shooting but you don’t always want to bring a whole camera bag. Yet, you do want your lenses to be well protected. Most lenses will slip easily into a clean can cooler and stay safe in whichever bag you’re using. Super handy.

7 do-it-yourself photography quick fixes
A beverage “coozie” becomes a fast lens protector

Read the book on Photofocus and own the printed version, too

Every other week a new photo and the story behind it will be published here on Photofocus. Clemens and Ivan have made copies of “Amazing Photography” available for the cost of shipping — $8.99 alone. The book retails for $29.99 regularly. Here are some highlights …

  • The cover of Amazing PhotographyMore than 100 breathtaking photos by professional and hobby photographers
  • 13 personal stories from pro’s and hobbyists such as Albert Dros (pro-photographer), Laura Vink (pro-photographer), Andre Kuipers (astronaut and photographer), Ori Guttin (co-founder Viewbug) and Evgeny Tchebotarev (co-founder 500px)
  • 4 practical photo guides to help you enjoy your photos to the max
  • 7 DIY quick fixes for unexpected photography situations
  • World’s top 15 under-the-radar spots for stunning photos
  • Would you rather …? A hypothetical photography game for friends
  • The science behind how your photos can affect your happiness and well-being.

Get your own copy of “Amazing Photography”