There is a common debate among photographers that starts with, “The gear doesn’t make you a better photographer.” Yes, this is a true statement, but let’s be real with ourselves: there are some photography accessories that you simply must have.
If you are going for the minimalistic gear line-up, these are you essential “must have” accessories for any Digital SLR on the market.
There will come a moment when your enthusiasm for photography gets the best of you and you forget to charge the battery. (That, or you take so many photos in a shoot that the battery just dies on you.) Maybe you are into long exposure photography and you are lasting longer than your battery. No matter the situation – having that extra battery just may save your bacon, or your photo shoot.
There are several third party and knock-off brands of batteries that you could buy, but make sure that your extra battery is compatible with your camera and charger. Otherwise, the battery will not charge or function in the ways you expect it to.
Every photographer absolutely needs a tripod of their own. Whether you do landscapes, macros, formal portraits, or long exposures, you will want a sturdy tripod underneath that camera. (Notice the word “sturdy” was used.)
Having “any” tripod is like wearing “any size” shoe. It might serve the purpose but that does not mean it is a good fit. A tripod must be solid and secure so that your camera does not move or shake while you are taking a photo. There are tripods that will tremble at the flush of a toilet next door, and those are usually the $40 setup from your favorite local retailer.
Affordable, yet proven, brands would be Induro and Benro. These brands are owned by the same company and come with amazing quality at a fraction of the cost of some of the preferred name brand tripods.
In general, aluminum tripods are cheaper and a bit heavier than your favorite carbon fiber tripods. If you can swing getting a carbon fiber tripod, you will be happier in the long run. Keep in mind that whatever you decide to get (as long as it is good quality!) you will have it for 10 years before it needs replacing.
A cable release is used to engage the shutter without touching the actual shutter button on the camera. There are three major reasons you would want a cable release.
First, you might want to avoid shaking or moving the camera while hitting the shutter button. Using the cable release will allow the camera to remain steady as you click the shutter. We do not usually worry about this with faster shutter speeds, but once we slow it down, the slightest movement can make a big difference.
Second, some photographers like to extend their tripod really high and simply can’t reach the shutter button even if they wanted to. Having the cable release helps bridge the vertical gap.
Third, a cable release is mandatory if you are doing long exposures beyond 30 seconds. Your DSLR must be in bulb mode. To avoid holding the shutter yourself the entire time, have a cable release hold it for you. For example: to capture star trails at night, it is common to see exposures upwards of 30 – 45 minutes. (That’s also when an extra battery would come in handy.)
A basic cable release will allow you to engage the shutter through a cable attached to the camera. More advanced cable releases allow you to control the camera settings or set up time lapses.
There is little else that will instantly change your photography as dramatically as working with flash photography. Adding your own light and being in control of it opens up so many creative avenues to you as a photographer that your photos will never be the same.
Name brand flashes, such as Canon and Nikon, can be very expensive and difficult to justify when on a budget. Look into 3rd party or off-brand flashes that are half the cost and often times are just as powerful and feature-packed. If you are just starting out, getting a full manual flash is where you want to be.
Having the flash is an important piece to the puzzle of flash photography. Eventually, look into getting a stand, flash bracket, and a trigger and receiver so that you can take advantage of and experiment with off-camera flash photography. Controlling the direction of light and the intensity really adds to what can be done in the photo.
Flash Bender and Diffuser
This is such an awesome light modifier for your speedlight. If you were to only buy one right now, I would suggest the Rogue FlashBender. You can do so much with it and you will get very similar results as you would with other more expensive modifiers.
Just strap on the flash bender and you’re ready to go. Shape it and mold it to work with whatever you are photographing. You’ll be truly amazed at what this can do, especially when you bundle it with the diffusing panel that goes on the front and acts as a mini softbox.
For those who are looking at doing Macro or close-up photography, this is an easy and very affordable solution to helping you achieve those types of photos. Extension tubes are designed to extend the focal range of the lens you put on them. This allows you to use your current lenses and save on the cost of an actual macro lens if all you are looking to do is simply experiment or have fun with the style.
Extension tubes probably aren’t for the serious macro photographer due to limited control over the lens. Instead, you might want to consider at least a 100mm prime macro lens.
This is a lens that walks around for you. Haha! Not really… but these are lenses that are very versatile when you are walking around. This is the lens for the moments when you don’t know what you are going to photograph but you want to be prepared for whatever it is, wherever it is.
A walk-around lens has a large focal range. An 18-135mm (or similar) lens is a walk-around lens that allows you to get wide or fairly close. There are lenses that extend beyond the 18-135mm range, but you will want to read user reviews to make sure that a significant amount of quality isn’t lost in an effort to have such a large focal range.
A walk-around lens is also the perfect first or second lens for newer photographers. You can save a bit of money but also be able to participate in several genres of photography as you continue to learn and experiment. Once you have some experience under your belt, it will be easier to know what specialized lens to buy next.