This post contains affiliate links.
Note: I have not used every product linked. These give you an idea what I'm recommending in general, in case you've never heard of the item. I do look for products on Amazon that are Prime eligible and have good ratings. I've said in the description if I've used the actual product linked. Otherwise, it is an example (but I believe a good one). Some of the links are similar items where you need to choose what will work for you (for example, the lids, you only need one, I've linked to three different styles).
Supplies for an Awesome Cemetery Photography Kit
5-gallon BucketThis is a container, seat, stand, table, etc. I know I can get them locally at our home improvement store and Firehouse Subs. I know my father owned a "hunting" version with a padded swivel seat. I don't advise buying the bucket on Amazon unless you are buying something more than just a plain bucket, they cost too much. You will need a lid for many of the uses beyond "container."
|The bucket is only half full with all these items, which includes the bucket apron which goes on the outside when in use.|
5-gallon bucket accessoriesI had no idea there were so many accessories made for a 5-gallon bucket. We used to use the buckets for camping in Girl Scouts which is why I knew they were perfect for storage/seat but I'm thinking I might organize a bunch of things in buckets, now! Here are a few lid-seat options: stool, padded swivel lid, organizer seat (the video illustrates how four different products from this company work if you want to see them "in-action"). This is one of the in-bucket organizers from the video for the organizer seat. I've linked to it specifically because it fits all the way inside the bucket. I see products that look the same but sit on the rim which won't be good when you put your kit in your car and it falls over! It also won't be a seat or table which is a major advantage for a cemetery photography kit.
Smart phone photography optionsSmart phone adapter for tripod or consider a selfie stick instead of the tripod, your hands won't be free but you will do much less bending to get to the level of many tombstones.
Gardening shears and other gardening toolsThe linked shears are my got to shears in my garden for soft and hard materials (thick grass or brambles). They should be able to handle anything that isn't excessively overgrown.
This will geotag your photos and allow someone else to transcribe the information. It's easier for the photographer than Find-A-Grave but both are valid choices (you don't need anything extra at the cemetery for Find-A-Grave).
A reflector is the most useful part of this kit in the cemetery (it has two, silver and gold, plus the white also works to a lesser extent). I was taught this technique with a mirror, which will work much better. However, you need a mirror the size of the inscription you're trying to bring out. That's not usually something you can bring with you (and use) if you're on your own or if you have to fly...
This set folds up (easily) and is small enough to fit in your bucket. The diffuser can help you remove strange shadows if the stone is in direct sunlight.
Note that the set contains the diffuser (with the foldable edging, i.e. that is the stiffened piece) and one reversible zip on cover (i.e. soft, no stiffening edge on its own). You can NOT use the diffuser and the reflector at the same time unless you have something else to go inside the reflector cover. A piece of foam core from the dollar store will fit but not fully stiffen the reflector. The foam core can be trimmed to fit and even cut in half and duck taped to "fold" if you want a cheap fix. Foam core won't fit in your bucket AND do a good job stiffening, though.
This set is small enough and lightweight enough to carry two (you could also buy a smaller one to be your diffuser). This is worth every penny if you're serious about your cemetery photographs and can't bring a mirror.
This is worth every penny if you're serious about your cemetery photographs and can't bring a mirror.
|Your bucket can prop up this reflector if you're working alone. (Reflector placed close to stone for illustration, only.)|
|This fake headstone doesn't have details that illustrate why reflected light is needed. It does show how much additional light the silver reflector can provide, even late in the day.|
Index cards and sharpieFor making notes that need to be in a photograph.
Hardback notebook and pens/pencilsSince you have a seat or table (the bucket), you could also use a small device with a keyboard if you prefer electronic to paper. I don't want to photograph on my phone and try to take notes there, too, but you can. If you use Evernote, this Moleskine notebook is the perfect way to write and then digitize notes from the cemetery.
Water bottlesFor you, to stay hydrated, if you're going in the summer, I recommend an insulated bottle. I am less likely to drink water that has gotten warm and if it's hot... not happening. My family recently found my daughter's bottle does a great job insulating. They make the same bottle in a larger size without kids characters on it which is what I've linked to.
One reason I am recommending this bottle, is the cover will keep the lid completely clean, even if you knock it over into the dirt while working. We have discovered this bottle comes with or
without a handle. For kids, the handle is the difference in carrying it one-handed or two-handed. For adults, this isn't as big a deal but consider if you need the convenience of a handle. We can't find the handled version locally, right now. We bought the handled bottle locally, though, at a back-to-school sale.
If you need water to clean the stone or matte dirt that keeps flying up, insulated bottles don't really hold much. Make sure to bring a second bottle for your non-drinking water so you don't end up dehydrated.
Hat, protective clothingAny protection from sun, bugs, poison ivy, dirt---anything.
Measuring tape, clipboard, pencils, graph paper, ruler, etc.If you will be sketching a layout.
Tombstone rubbing kitI don't do rubbings, too many issues with possibly damaging the stone, but a kit should fit in your bucket if that's your choice.
Permission slipsPrint a copy of local laws that give you permission to be in a cemetery or correspondence giving you permission to be on private property. You are not guaranteed to have permission to be in every cemetery and even if you can be there, photography (or rubbings, etc.) may not be allowed.
This is a good post from The Legal Genealogist about this issue. In particular, read the comments to learn about the many variations people have come across and also the issues you should consider from an ethical stand point, not just a legal stand point.
A printable checklist of all these items is available in the Resource Library.
Do you have any additional suggestions for items for a cemetery photography kit? I tend to work in rural cemeteries but they aren't hard to access. Do you need different supplies for an urban or remote cemetery? Have you found something that helps with mobility issues or comfort? Leave a comment and tell us what additional items help you!