Sometimes you just can’t find the right tool for the job. That’s why these photographers made it themselves—then sold it to the rest of us.
Czech lensman Dalibor Zyka with his Ray Flash, which turns a conventional shoe-mount unit into a ring flash that produces the frontal, rim-shadowed light so loved by fashion photographers.
It’s a moment that most serious photographers have experienced: You’re in the middle of a shoot, and you realize that none of the off-the-shelf photo gear at your disposal can solve the particular technical problem you’re facing or produce the creative effect you want. You cobble together a solution and move on.
Then there are those photographers who stop and think, “I’m likely to have this problem or want this effect again. What can I build myself?” Of those who actually go on to make such a tool, a few figure out how to produce their invention and sell it to the rest of us. Some whose names you might know include photojournalist Jim Domke, whose eponymous photo bags were the first good soft-sided ones available; beauty photographer Peter Gowland, whose custom-built view cameras served a variety of exotic purposes; and commercial photographer Gary Fong, whose light modifiers helped redefine on-camera flash photography.
The advent of Web-based sales and computer-aided design have made the manufacture and marketing of these tools much easier than it was for them. And it may explain why more photographers than ever are following in their footsteps. Here are the stories of a few photographer-entrepreneurs and their unique products.