Best Photography Accessories for Under $100 – 2011 Version

YN-560 flash unit for photography

YN-560 flash – by Jim Harmer

Photographers L-O-V-E accessories, but they are usually so expensive!  Just thought I’d list a few of my favorite cheap photography accessories for the benefit of your wallet’s health.  Please feel free to share your own cheap accessories in a comment below.

Cheap Photography Item #1: A DSLR rain cover. For around $6, this is absolutely essential to have in your bag when needed.  I find myself in need of a rain cover somewhat regularly: when shooting near the ocean to protect my gear from sea spray, when shooting lightning storms, when shooting in the snow, when shooting in dense fog or near steam, etc.  You can buy a permanent one for more money, but I like the cheapies since they are so small and portable.  You can buy a universal DSLR rain cover for around $6 on Amazon.

Cheap Photography Item #2: DISPOSABLE cleaning wipes. Lens clothes get dirty, stained, and frankly—they collect lint that gets wiped all over your lenses.  These super soft lens clothes are ridiculously cheap, convenient, and are soft as a baby’s bottom.  Not a bad replacement for your “lintless” cloth.  You can buy a package of 100 disposable cleaning wipes for just $10 on Amazon, and the product gets high reviews.

Cheap Photography Item #3: Photoshop Cheat Stickers. If you haven’t learned all the thousands of keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop, you’ll love these little stickers that go on your keyboard to remind you of the shortcuts until you memorize them.  A sure way to speed up your workflow in the long run.  You can pick up a set for around $6 on Amazon.

Cheap Photography Item #4: A sandbag. If you own any lighting equipment with light stands, you definitely need a sandbag.  Seems like every photographer, including me, puts off buying one until you break your first strobe, umbrella, or softbox from carelessly using it without a sandbag.  Pick this one up on Amazon or just run to your friendly hardware store and buy one.

Cheap Photography Item #5: A High-quality Monopod. You probably won’t ever realize how often a monopod is the right tool for the job until you own one.  In situations where you’d like a lot of stability but a tripod is impractical, a monopod can make life simpler and your shots sharper.  I use a monopod when I go to the zoo with my family, when shooting sports, when hiking with my photo gear, etc.  I found this high-quality Manfrotto monopod on Amazon for just $60.

Cheap Photography Item #6: Quick release plates. Tripods are a pain to use if you need to screw the quick release plate on a new lens or body every time you want to switch lenses.  Buy a few quick release plates and you’ll save yourself a lot of time.

Cheap Photography Item #7: Gels for your flash. A gel is not gel-like at all.  It is a sheet of transparent plastic that colors the light cast by the flash.  If you own a flash unit but you have never purchased gels, this will be the most fun $15 you spend this week. You might check out this set of gels for around $15.

Cheap Photography Item #8: Hoodman Loupe. The LCD screens on our DSLRs are more reflective than Mike Tyson’s bald head.  In bright sunlight, it can be almost impossible to check the LCD screen.  Enter, the Hodman Loupe.  This little device allows you to view a large and clear view of your screen no matter how bright it is outside.  Unlike some of the products on this page that are merely convenient, this one will actually improve your photography.  You can pick one up on Amazon for around $80.

Cheap Photography Item #9: A Light Tent. If you shoot products, macro, or food photography, you need a light tent.  A light tent is an easy and cheap way to achieve incredibly soft and even light for small items which are put inside the light tent.  I found a 40″ light tent with several background colors for around $55 on Amazon.

Cheap Photography Item #10: Photo Vest. My wife has begged me not to sport a photo vest, but I think I will soon cave and start wearing one every time I shoot.  It is much more convenient to wear your gear than carry it on your back on a backpack.  I found this trendy-looking photo vest for around $80 on Amazon.

Cheap Photography Item #11: Magic Mouse. Photographers need the ability to do fine-tuned work with a computer’s mouse.  Sometimes I feel like my success in Photoshopping an image is the ability to make fine selections by using a mouse.  The magic mouse is easily the nicest mouse ever created.  You can buy it for around $65.

Cheap Photography Item #12: A Wacom Tablet. If you feel like you don’t have enough control or creative outlets by using your Magic Mouse, you might consider buying a Wacom tablet.  This allows you to work in Photoshop by simply drawing on the tablet.  I LOVE my Wacom tablet and use it constantly in working in Photoshop.  This small Wacom tablet only costs about $45!

Cheap Photography Item #13: Buy a YN-560 flash! I always tell my students that this is the greatest bargain in all of photography.  This little flash is 90% as good as the Canon/Nikon flash and comes at less than one-fifth the price.  I own a few of these flashes and use them constantly.  The YN-560 works on both Canon or Nikon cameras.  You can pick up a YN-560 flash for around $70.

Cheap Photography Item #14: A Beauty Dish. Now that you have your fancy YN-560 flash, you’ll want a diffuser to use with it.  The beauty dish is amazingly popular in photography right now, and the good news is that you can buy one for just $48.

Cheap Photography Item #15: A Gorrillapod. I certainly wouldn’t use a gorrillapod as a replacement for a tripod, but they are really convenient for hooking up a camera for time lapse and other specialized uses.  Fun product.  They cost around $40 for a large one.

Cheap Photography Item #16: A reflector. Every portrait photographer needs a good reflector.  I personally use this versatile 5-in-1 reflector from Westcott, and it costs only $32.

Cheap Photography Item #17: Photoshop Elements. This program does 90% of what the full version of photoshop does, but at a tiny fraction of the cost of the full professional version.  Check out this post to learn the differences.  You can pick up a copy of Photoshop Elements 9 for around $90.

Cheap Photography Item #18: X-Rite Color Checker Passport. If you’re crazy about getting precise color reproduction, then this little puppy is a life saver.  It comes with software to easily fix the color and white balance of your photo with just one click of the mouse.  I have not tried it personally yet, but I hear good reviews.  You can pick it up for around $99.

Cheap Photography Item #19: A cleaning kit. Cleaning a DSLR is a lot easier than most people make it out to be.  There’s no need to send it in to Canon or Nikon just to get cleaned.  If you don’t know how to do it, read this post.  If you know how to do it but don’t have the equipment, then you’ll probably want to buy this one for around $15.

Cheap Photography Item #20: Outdoor Photographer Magazine. For the UNBELIEVABLE price of $12 per year, you can get a monthly subscription to Outdoor Photographer magazine. Subscribe on Amazon.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like tomorrow’s post, 22 Things You Can Do to Change Your Photography Forever.  Oh, and make sure to LIKE ImprovePhotography on facebook to get our daily photography tips right in your facebook feed each morning.

Comments from the I.P. Community

  1. says

    Because of this article I went out purchased Items 5, 7, and 13. Glad they were all under a $100.00. Seriously though, thanks for the article. I’ve already put these items to use.

  2. says

    Some seemingly insignificant items that often get passed over but are all so necessary; Black Gaffer’s Tape (quick repairs), ‘A’ Clamps (holding stuff), Double-Sided Velcro Cable Ties (multi purpose), Black Elastic Hair Bands (ditto), Tote Bags in Assorted Sizes and/or Plastic Storage Bins (Make sure you mark contents), Small Dry-Erase White Board (write notes and photograph them for permanent record), Tripod (more so than a monopod), Black and White Foam Board (for reflectors/backdrops). These are just some of the ‘incidentals’ I use ALL THE TIME.

    Great post.

  3. says

    Some free/cheap items I find are handy:

    Umbrella: Self explanitory.

    Grocery bag: The handle can be looped around your lens for basic inclement weather. The best thing is that you can still use your IR shutter release since infrared wavelengths can pass through those bags easily and still trigger the camera. It’s also useful to wrap your unused lens in just for extra water/ sand protection or to just carry extra stuff that you want to be able to access easily. They take up no space, so why not? This brings me to…

    IR shutter release: Small and usually <$20. No need to touch the camera to take a shot and you can do it from a fairly long distance away. This is great if you want to get animals and don't want to startle them, you can set your gear up where you know they will be, crouch and hide farther away. When they come by, you snap the shot. If you want more control theres…

    Intervalometer: The cornerstone of DSLR astrophotography. A good 3rd party one can be had for ~$50. You can customize your shutter for all kinds of intervals, delays, time lapse, etc.

    Extra lens cap: You never know!

    Battery grip: the third party brands can be pretty cheap and with 90% the quality of the name brands.

    Poncho: Lightweight portable protection against the unexpected elements (a MUST at Yosemite, lol).

    Small LED flashlight: Have a keychain one if you really want compact. Sometimes a flashlight is all thats needed to make a shot or spot a setting or find a dropped item in the dark.

    Comfortable shoes: This is counterintuitive but anyone who hikes a lot will tell you that it is essential to have shoes that you are COMFORTABLE in!

    I'll probably think of more, lol. I know not all of these are technically camera related, but they are all life savers when you need them.

  4. says

    I recently bought that YN-560 to go along with a name brand flash I have. During a recent outdoor, mid-afternoon, summertime wedding, the name brand flash overheated. The Yongnuo kept working right on through it.

    We’ll see how it holds up long term, but it held up under some pretty demanding conditions.

  5. says

    I’d say skip the photo vest and instead invest in a ThinkTank or Lowepro belt system. The ability to pick and choose exactly which pieces you want allows for a lot more flexibility.

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