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Staying Organized..

Oct 11

In Advice, Equipment, Tips & Tricks at 8:28am

Always a challenge, right? Photogs–we’ve all got our bits and pieces, our favorite gadget, our go to, get out of jail free light or lens that saves our butt in the field. We accumulate all this stuff, and travel with it, and just keeping up with it sometimes seems to be half the battle.

If you know anything about the way we travel, it’s that we generally have a good chunk of gear.  And with that gear comes an utter mess of cords, batteries, flashes, lenses, stands, etc.- if we don’t have a good organizational system intact.  So it seems as though every few months, we’re coming up with new ideas, altering our packouts, and just trying to make traveling with a bunch of stuff as painless as possible.

Which leads to this…


We typically travel with two wallets of gels: color correcting and theatrical, and until recently, we had been using old leather business card wallets- which were great, but not exactly organized.

The issue was that the gels were all kinda mixed together, and to find say- a 1/4 cut CTO on the fly, wasn’t always as quick as we’d like.  We had a couple of really nice Think Tank card wallets sitting around, and while Will Foster was working on a packout, he came up with the idea of ripping the middle seams out to fit gels. Will’s a local shooter who’s not only a good guy, he’s one of those folks who stare at a problem for a couple minutes and come up with a simple solution.


So out came the Exacto blades, and a little while later, we had a much more well-organized gel system.



May seem like a small thing- and it is- but with as much gear, and as little time as we often have to pull off a shoot, this is definitely a time saver in the field.


Dunno what Thinktank is going to think about us, uh, customizing one of their smaller pieces of gear, but they do make great stuff. We have traveled internationally a lot this past year, and have shifted to their wheelie bags for carry on gear. Much easier at the big international airports, where the gates always seem to be about four or five miles from the baggage belt. More on those tk……

Free Range Photographic says:

on October 11, 2010 at 9:35 am

Great idea! I already use those thinktank card wallets, will have to get another one now to sort out the mess of gels that I carry around with me.

Wayne says:

on October 11, 2010 at 9:56 am

What’s the diff between color correction gels and theatrical color gels?

Nice idea by the way.


Sherried says:

on October 11, 2010 at 9:58 am

I am a very amateur shooter and use this to keep my SD cards in. It works great. Thanks for all your interesting posts.

Kholloud says:

on October 11, 2010 at 10:35 am

Joe … thats a spectacular idea .. i think they’ll think again on how to utilize it.. sorry THINKTANKPHOTO love your little pocket but i have to keep my self organized too ..


Randy Cole says:

on October 11, 2010 at 10:47 am

Terrific idea! ThinkTank does make excellent gear and I wouldn’t be surprices to soon to see “McNally Pocket Rocket”.

Jason says:

on October 11, 2010 at 11:00 am

Gotta love the DIY hacks – they usually end up leading to the vendor making one with that in mind, so kudos on the ingenuity!

Now you could even buy the sheets, cut down to size about 20 per color, and stuff them in each slot. 20 1/4 CTO’s at the ready!

Eystein Roll Aarseth says:

on October 11, 2010 at 11:19 am

I bet that the Thinktank people are going “D’oh! Why didn’t we think of that!” and start customizing their personal gear.

Vince Carmichel says:

on October 11, 2010 at 12:13 pm


Max says:

on October 11, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Hey Joe,
these are cut to fit speedlights, but how are you attaching them? are they fitting in the little clear gel holder on the sb900. how about if you’re running sb800’s? tough to get a good system. i was thinking some kind of binder so i could also carry bigger cuts for big lights. i dunno.

saw you in hartford, good show, even though i got rear-ended on the way down there.

thanks Joe,

Edmond says:

on October 11, 2010 at 12:42 pm

nice hack! I have a few pixel pocket rockets and never thought about using them as gel holders! now I have to sort through all my gels in my bag! thx for the tip!

Michael says:

on October 11, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Think Tank should call them “Foster Gel Pockets” and make them in 6 or 12 pocket sizes.

Drew should do the commercials with Joe’s voice calling for gells. One of those cheesey late night before and after commercials, Drew trying to find the gel frowning then finding the gel with a theatrical opening flourish of the gel holder.

Maybe I should follow Joe’s advice about not going audible with the inside voice?

Todd says:

on October 11, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Awesome tip, Joe! I’m wondering if Thinktank is gonna be surprised to see a sudden spike in sales of their pixel pocket rockets now. lol

Adam says:

on October 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I’ve had to customize my Lowepro memory card wallets in similar fashion, and that just to hold the damned memory cards! Their DMC-V model has a “webbing” that helps keep the whole system intact, but it’s more of a pain than anything. So I cut them out.

Tim Skipper says:

on October 11, 2010 at 2:35 pm

A lot better than the way I currently carry around gels. BTW reading your book Guide to Digital Photography. Even though some parts are written to new shooters I am enjoying the book and some of your thought process in getting the picture.

Lorri E says:

on October 11, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Great idea. Although, a seam ripper might be just a little safer than an Exacto knife to remove the dividing seams.

Tom Dills says:

on October 11, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Love the idea of the modified Pocket Rocket!

This is a pretty useful gel holder for those not inclined to develop their own solution:

Louis Pang says:

on October 11, 2010 at 6:48 pm

GREAT IDEA! I am going to do the same! Think Tank should thank you guys for this. They will sell a few more wallets because of this!

Scott says:

on October 11, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Expect a shortage of thinktank wallets… just like the strobist effect.

Hamidi Alwi says:

on October 11, 2010 at 7:47 pm

That is so brilliant! That is the reason why I will be attending to one (maybe 2) of your workshop and seminar in Asia!

All the best, Joe!

Craig says:

on October 11, 2010 at 7:48 pm


Brilliant solution. I purchased 3 this morning to replace the ziplock bags I have been using. Keeps these kinda tips coming they are valuable.

Steve Thompson says:

on October 11, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Holee crap! Great idea. I have a few of these laying around that I got for various promotions, etc. One I use for CF cards but I smell a new product!

You listening Doug!!!!!

Walt says:

on October 11, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Foster gels??? With Joe it would be more like Foster Brooks!!!!!! “Hey Kid! Wo wo Wud ja hhhannd me muh muh muh, g g g gels. Burp. LOL

rososusilo says:

on October 11, 2010 at 10:56 pm

new for reply your blog, hot topic in alltop

what is that, a pocket idea,
nice idea

Steve says:

on October 12, 2010 at 7:27 am

They sold you two more of them, why would they care? The product developer’s are probably glad their helping you do their job.

Andreas Frossard says:

on October 12, 2010 at 8:16 am

Cool idea. I might pimp my pixel pocket rocket this afternoon ;). Cheers Andreas

Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on October 12, 2010 at 8:21 am

Seam ripper is the right tool. It will leave a nice hole in flesh, but not that much cutting or blood. That right hand in the picture looks like fresh meat about to get butchered! Good thing it was Will and not Joe. Think Tank makes some of the most practical stuff around, and I won’t be surprised if they take you up on this. The Modulus belt and attachments gets me around when my back won’t tolerate a heavy backpack.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

frank says:

on October 12, 2010 at 8:46 am

Great idea! Thanks for sharing…

Daniel Korzeniewski says:

on October 12, 2010 at 8:52 am

Cool!!!! I have a couple of those Pocket Rockets laying around, and I have my color gels in a # 10 Envelope, that is always very uncomfortable to carry around or to toss into the bag, I’ll definitely going to grab the Exacto, today!!!!

Troy woods says:

on October 12, 2010 at 9:12 am

Great post Joe. These little tips help A LOT!

Mike Neale says:

on October 12, 2010 at 10:17 am

OMG, Joe,…there’s a company named Think Tank???…hahaha,…ok, so perhap these guys will know what will exist in 5 yrs….;-)))

Thanks for gel “insight”!,…oh, I’m scratchin’ today!,…hahaha!


Megan Bearder says:

on October 12, 2010 at 10:28 am

OMG! That is brilliant. Same thing- gels floating everywhere and stuck in wallets that rip, etc. I keep tape on the ends of the gels for fast adhesion to my flashes then they get loose and end up a big glob of color. Have lots of these Think Tank wallets. Their gear is The Best.

brett maxwell says:

on October 12, 2010 at 10:33 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I have one of those lying around, and I never use it anymore because I just keep two 32gb in the D3 and don’t need any extra cards. AND, I’ve struggled with how to store gels. Perfect solution.

David Noceti says:

on October 12, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Thanks for the tip, Joe. I read this and thought, “I’ve gotta have it!” I went to order one and saw how much these little gems cost. “Well, maybe ‘gotta’ wasn’t quite right.” Then I came up with a solution of my own based on your lead. Why not, rather than use a five slot Think Tank that has to be modified, use a business card holder? I picked up something like a 96 slot holder for $10. No modifications needed, you can fit all your gels in one case, and it’ll take up a lot less room than a few of these Think Tanks. Oh, and a bit cheaper to boot 😉

As always, thanks for the inspiration.


Jeff says:

on October 12, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Professional needs = professional products! I wouldn’t be surprised if Think Tank or Honl come out with something designed specifically for gels soon. Nice work!

Deanne Fitzmaurice says:

on October 12, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Brilliant! Why didn’t we think of that? Keep the great ideas coming, Joe!

joe says:

on October 12, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Won’t be long at all before ThinkTank is offering these along with all their other EXCELLENT stuff !!

Stephen J. Zeller says:

on October 12, 2010 at 9:24 pm


Thanks for posting this. Gonna have to get some more PPRs from the local camera shop and break out the Xacto!!!



David says:

on October 13, 2010 at 2:56 am

Great idea ! Thanks Joe

Marcin Retecki says:

on October 13, 2010 at 5:30 am

Great tip! I was sticking all those filters in normal plastic bags, it was a pain to get the one I needed. I even found a retailer in Norway, neat!

Igor Mekhtiev says:

on October 13, 2010 at 9:33 am

Heh I totally went out and bought 2 of these ;).
Thank you Joe!!!
Question: The theatrical colours pack, are those specific shade of each colour?

Terry Clark says:

on October 13, 2010 at 9:50 am

Why didn’t I think of that. DOH. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. But I think I’ll get my assistant to do the TT surgery, otherwise There Will Be Blood… mine.

Brian says:

on October 13, 2010 at 2:39 pm

How do you get those filters to stay on your flash? Velcro/ gaffers tape/ magic?

Scott Slattery says:

on October 15, 2010 at 9:09 am

Awesome idea! I’ll have to see Doug Murdoch and get some more!

Michael DeYoung says:

on October 25, 2010 at 10:24 am

Been using Think Tank card wallets ever since they came out. What a great adaptation for your flash gels. Very clever and useful. I’ve been using Honl gels which are too big but I may adapt my system to use these wallets. Thanks, Joe!

Albert says:

on September 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Aw, this is a really nice post. In idea I have to put in writing this way in addition – spending time and actual hard work to produce a top notch write-up

Joe McNally says:

on January 22, 2012 at 10:23 am

think tank card wallets….cut the center seam, and drop in your small flash gels, and label each slot…it’s great….

astma says:

on January 27, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Od dawna szukaÅ‚em artykuÅ‚u na temat Staying Organized.. Joe McNally’s Blog . DziÄ™ki

Jim Craven says:

on February 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm

A couple of people have asked how those strobist gels attach to the flash head. What do you do Joe? I want to attach them but still use my Nikon dome diffuser. I was wondering about the Lumiquest Fxtra. Will the dome fit with it on the flash?

Joe McNally says:

on February 22, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I use the Nikon gel holder, the little plastic cap on thing. Unless I really want a hard core color, then I tape gels and seal them against white light leak…

Jim Craven says:

on March 2, 2012 at 12:17 pm

That’s what I do for my SB-900s, but I also use SB-800s. Would you just tape them or is there a cleaner, simpler way?

William Ito says:

on April 12, 2012 at 3:22 am

Looks like they liked your idea!

Strobe Gel Wallet
Product: TT215

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