Let's play a game

June 09, 2013 |

I was on a real estate shoot earlier this week and ran into a problem. The solution was pretty simple, but I didn't have the best tool for the job while I was on the shoot; I had to make do. I'm going to show you a photo from that shoot, and I want you to try to see what I saw as the problem.  Ready? OK, here's the photo...

 A photograph from a real estate shoot with a problem

So, do you see the problem? It's right near the middle of the frame. Still don't see it? Maybe this will help; I'm going to show you the same photo but with the problem area highlighted.

A photograph with a problem, but the problem is highlighted

Yeah, there it is. The wind was blowing the end of the table runner up and flipping it over. This is not something where I can "just fix it in post," at least not very easily. With the wind continuing to blow, I could run in and flip it back and then quickly run back out of the frame and hope the wind doesn't blow it again, but that's a lot more work than I really need for this photograph.

I had an idea that would have solved this problem, but I didn't have the gear in my bag. I asked the homeowner for a binder clip. She didn't have any, so we used a piece of tape and affixed the end of the table runner to the table. With that I was able to finish the shoot and make acceptable photographs of this table even with the wind blowing.

The tape worked, but I can't rely on my clients to always have something like that to solve this kind of problem in the future. Besides, when the shoot is over, using tape runs the risk of pulling out some of the threads, leaving some glue behind or, in the worst case, ripping the cloth that we were holding down. it also looks unprofessional if I always have to ask my clients to supply something so small that should be in my gear bag to begin with. I got home from the shoot and started editing, still thinking about what I could do to solve this problem on my own. You might have seen my updated Facebook status saying "I need to add some binder clips to my camera bag."

But just getting the binder clips wouldn't be enough for what I needed. Sure, I could add more binder clips to increase weight, but it wouldn't necessarily be the most stable solution. Clipping a bunch of clips together would increase the weight, but it would also increase the amount of stuff that needs to be hidden from view for the photographs. So I needed something more. Then, toward the end of the week, I came up with the complete solution; it meant that I also had to stop at the sporting goods store.

The raw materials for simple and small photographic weights

Yes, those are fishing sinkers with a big container of binder clips. You see, the sinkers are designed simply to be weights; plus, they are available in different weight increments from 1/8 ounce up to 6 ounces and more. They also have the advantage of including a secure mounting ring on each weight, so I don't have to worry about them falling off. The mounting rings are large enough to fit onto the binder clip handles, and the weights are small enough in size that I can easily add several onto one binder clip if I need more weight. Here's what it looks like when in use.

An assembled binder clip weight holding down the end of a cloth

So now I have a solution that perfectly fits my needs. The weights and clips easily fit into my camera bag, they are infinitely adjustable with different size binder clips and different combinations of weights, and the best part is that this addition to my camera bag cost less than $20. The only part that pushed up the price was the quantity of binder clips in the package shown above. The store I visited only had black clips in the large 100-pack (an old theater trick I learned was that if you don't want something seen, paint it black, so the birghtly colored clips wouldn't work here). The fishing weights, however, cost about $1 to $1.50 per package. Everything I need for this project is easily available at any office supply store and any fishing supply store.