(All 2016 recommendations like Blundstones and Mooncups are still solid!)
Links are in the captions or below. Feedback and further recommendations are always welcome.
I've been using the Thinktank Change-Up 2.0 and modular belt pouches for about 9 months now, and still love it - my back is grateful. Check out my review here. I find myself switching often from the shoulder-strap format during travel to the waist format when actually working, which I didn't expect to appreciate so much.
Free Phone & Laptop app to protect your eyes from being burned out slowly over time by screens. Not really, but it'll supposedly help the effect that binge-staring has on your sleep pattern. Just make sure to remember to turn it off when you're editing images (please learn from my mistakes).
It's an online service that will scan the internet for infringements, and fights for settlements with partnering legal outlets in a handful of countries (unfortunately not big infringement hubs like Vietnam, China, and Russia). It can take some time to initially comb through their matches and file the cases but considering they have affordable account levels (there is a free tier) and only take 50% of any successful settlements, you don't have much to lose. It took about 7 months for my first successful case to come through, but the result made the wait worth it. It won't pay your bills but is nice extra cash here and there - just be prepared to be very patient.
Personal First Aid Kit
After attending a full Hostile Environment and First Aid Training (HEFAT) course by Blue Mountain Group this year, I had the opportunity to refresh my emergency first aid skills since I last attended RISC Training in 2013. One of the important takeaways was having your own items to treat yourself at any given time, rather than solely focusing on carrying materials to treat others. In addition to my robust RISC-sponsored pack of items for working in conflict, I customized an additional smaller kit to travel with + keep in the seat of my motorbike in Bangkok. Includes a SAM Splint, RAT tourniquet, gloves, and various gauzes/bandages. And make sure you know your blood type!
(Also, if you haven't been HEFAT trained, make it a priority! Frontline Freelance Register members can email or check the membership group for upcoming affordable/free training opportunities)
The Committee to Protect Journalists recently expanded its crisis support team and resources in a huge way. If you're a freelancer working in conflict, it's critical not only to have paperwork such as risk assessments, proof of life, and a comms plan in place, but also that you know who is and isn't able to support in case of a crisis such as detention, kidnap sexual violence, or death. Resource awareness is essential not only for yourself but also for being able to be a good colleague as well. The regional contact list for this CPJ initiative is here - read up on making a note! Another great freelance journalist emergency support funds are through the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) and Rory Peck Trust (RPT). Also, please consider donating to these initiatives!
I'm ashamed it's taken me this long, but this year I made a serious effort to up my confidence in copyright and contract fluency. After a real doozy of a bad experience earlier this year, I vowed to never again let myself get swindled by predatory contracts. Trust me - the amount of money that the fotoQuote program license ($149) and this highly-recommended Better Business Practices for Photographers ($25) costs is nothing compared to the amount I've probably been losing by getting duped by bad contracts and under-quoting certain types of jobs. We owe it to both ourselves and our colleagues to work sustainably - this means to fully understand and be able to negotiate the contracts we are agreeing to, and knowing the industry-standard rates that match those terms.
My years of holey H&M leggings are over - I've discovered Uniqlo's Dry Stretch Jogger Pants, and they are the perfect photographer's pants. Comfy, fitted, and breathable pants that are 10/10 for keeping covered, looking professional, and not suffering (too much) in tropical humidity. Also amazing for long flights.
I always try to return prints to those I photograph, but it isn't always an option when it's a remote place. This is a great instant camera to carry around to give ethical 'thank you' tokens of appreciation. It also has a neat double-exposure feature. Batch order film by the 100 counts on eBay to keep it around $.70 a print.
Making a Private Instagram Account
When Facebook became the Freelance Journalist's Newsroom, I had to taper off the personal nature of posts and shift towards a more professional feed. I shifted my personal need for a diary-like space, free of the pressure to be curated, over to Instagram - until that bloated into a business tool as well. Social media is an anxiety-inducing thing for me, a pure obligation if I'm honest. I'm very aware of the benefits of being active on social media, but I'm increasingly seeking the space to just be a human past being ALL PHOTOGRAPHER ALL THE TIME. Last year, I finally gifted myself a private personal account, and it's really taken the edge off.
Digital Security Measures
I can't stress how important it is that every single journalist makes their digital security an absolute priority. If you've had this on the back burner as so many folks do, take it off ASAP. It's not just your data that needs to be secure, but you're also responsible for the contacts and data of your sources that you may be carrying. There are tons of online resources and easy apps to utilize quickly. A few helpful sites to get you started:
Electronic Frontier Foundations Starter Tutorial
Electronic Frontier Foundation's HTTPS Everywhere Chrome Extension
Dashlane Password Manager
VPNs - Tunnelbear or Private Internet Access
Adblock Chrome Extension
More resources and suggestions here
While I wait for the market to drop portable solid-state drives down to a more civil price, standard drives seem to plummet in price late last year. Until I can afford a RAID system, I loaded up on a few of these 4 TB Western Digital drives for $120 a pop to eliminate the chaos of juggling a dozen smaller drives.
You probably already use Moo, but if you don't: I've used these for a few years, and they just keep getting better and better. Also, their customer service is amazing. I've ordered both business cards and stickers, and anything I do through Moo is 10/10 for the process, price, and quality. Use this link to save $15 on your first order.