Last Updated on February 17, 2022 by Devaun Lennox
Wondering which camera accessories should be next on your list and which are essentials for every photographer?
Every photographer has a slightly different toolbox of go-to accessories. Some have large selections, while others have smaller collections that are more specific to their work. But, finding the right accessories can quickly take your photography to the next level. While there’s quite a broad range of accessories on the market, each falls into a specific category. And thankfully, most are also quite affordable, unlike the new camera and lens that made that big dent in your bank account.
In this post, we will cover the top must-have accessories for photographers and why you should consider each of them. Ultimately, not every one of these accessories will best serve and suit your needs. But, the ones that do will add immense value to your workflow and surely make your life easier. And you’ll discover which are the best options for you.
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A Prime Lens
If you just purchased a camera, you likely have the standard kit lens that comes as a bundle. And in the beginning, this lens is sufficient. But, as your skills sharpen, you’ll want to purchase other lenses to widen your creative expression. But, there are many lenses available for each camera system, so choosing your first lens may prove challenging. But, every professional photographer will tell you to get a fast prime lens as your first purchase.
Prime lenses have a single fixed focal length, meaning they can’t zoom. Instead, if you want to get closer to your subject, you’ll need to physically move towards. This may sound like a limitation at first, but prime lenses produce superior image quality over zoom lenses. And the reason is that they have fewer glass elements, which introduces fewer artifacts. They’re also lighter and more compact than comparable zoom lenses for this reason.
Now, a lens can come in several different speeds. This is notated by the maximum Aperture, how wide the lens opens, and how much light it lets in. You’ll see this notated on a lens by “f/x,” where x represents how fast it is. Slower lenses typically start at f/4.0 or f/5.6-6.3. At the same time, fast lenses have apertures below f/2.8. And using these faster lenses capture more light in less time, allowing you to shoot in low light or use faster shutter speeds. These lenses also have a shallow depth of field, which creates a pleasing blurry background.
Every camera system on today’s market offers a 50mm f/1.8 equivalent lens, which is only slightly different from our eyes. And, for most people, it’s the ideal starting lens to add to your collection because of its versatility and price.
A sturdy and durable tripod is a must-have if you want maximum detail when shooting landscapes, products, long exposures, macro, or low light photography. And the right tripod can unlock a world of creative possibilities.
When shooting in these situations, you’ll typically use a longer than normal shutter speed to capture enough light for proper exposure. Product and landscape photography also often requires taking multiple shots of the scene. And sometimes you’ll stack these images to increase the depth of field. But, if the camera moves during that time, the photo will be blurry. Thankfully, a well-made tripod will keep the camera still, preventing blurry images due to movement. Whether you decide to opt for an expensive model or a budget-friendly option, the stabilization they offer is a must if you plan on shooting any of these mediums.
Today’s tripod’s come in many sizes and styles, depending on the cameras they support and their portability. Larger tripods are best for large camera setups and long telephoto lenses. While medium-size and small tripods are best for lightweight cameras and compact lenses. Pick the best tripod that fits your budget and the amount of portability you need.
Most people don’t think about buying spare batteries when they first buy a camera. And it’s usually not a part of the initial budget. But, it’s arguably the most important accessory. Without one, you won’t avoid the frustrations of having to stop shooting because of a dead battery. It’s even more critical if you’re shooting with an entry-level or mid-range mirrorless camera, as they typically only offer 350 shots before dying, which isn’t much. When shopping for batteries, stick with the original batteries manufactured by your camera brand. And purchase replacements that match the model number, as these are guaranteed to work and offer the maximum lifespan. Avoid knock-off brands here, since they’re usually not reliable.
Most cameras ship with a memory card, but they’re usually on the smaller side. So it’s likely you’ll want a larger capacity card in due time. Thankfully, these days adding storage is cheap, so it’s wise to stock up.
When choosing a memory card, it’s essential to know which format your camera supports. The most common card is the SD (Secure Digital) card, but you’ll regularly see CFast, XQD, CF, and Compact Flash. Once you know the format, the next consideration is the speed. Today’s cameras have ever-increasing video frame rates and larger sensors, each raising the required read and write speeds. And if you use a slow card, it will slow the camera’s performance when writing data.
Today, most cameras typically will require a Class 10 SD card, which supports 100 Mbps data for 4K video. From there, make your decision based on how large of a card you need. But, know, in most cases, 64 GB’s is sufficient.
Memory Card Reader
Dedicated card readers are a great way to offload photos and videos from the camera quickly. And for high-volume photographers, this is the fastest and most efficient way to transfer images to a computer. While you can transfer photos using the supplied USB cable included in the box, it’s not particularly fast. Neither is transferring files over W-Fi or Bluetooth. Considering a dedicated card reader can move data 20x faster than these alternatives, they’ll save you time.
A Camera Strap
While they’re not quite the sexiest thing around, the right strap makes an enormous difference in comfort and security. The strap that manufacturers include with purchase can make you a target while traveling, as they’re easily identifiable. And worn as a traditional neck strap, they’re also quite insecure. Even worse, they’re usually small, thin, and uncomfortable during prolonged use, causing unnecessary strain on the neck and downright pain.
Depending on what and how you shoot, a camera strap may not be a necessity. But, if it adds value to you, then you can easily find plenty of options that fit your style. Camera straps come in many varieties, ranging from neck, shoulder, wrist, or holster straps. Just be sure to get one with enough padding and offers the versatility you need.
A Camera Bag
Camera bags protect your gear as you travel, and they’re a must if you shoot anything outside of a studio environment. Don’t wait to invest in a high-quality bag after your camera already has knocks, nicks, and scratches. Consider getting in one from the start to protect your investment.
Thankfully, bags have evolved significantly over the years, and you’ll be pleased by how many options are on the market today. There’s plenty of styles and sizes to fit any taste or budget. But, before purchasing one, consider the amount of gear you own. And make sure to get a backpack that has enough room to compensate. If you also prefer to carry a laptop or tablet while traveling, be sure to look for a bag that accommodates, as not all do. Considering the value it offers, it’s wise to take the time to think about what will serve you best. Ideally, you want something light, comfortable, but fits everything you own, including your primary camera, lenses, and accessories.
Cleaning supplies are crucial, as dirt easily invites itself to your lens and sensor. And when it does, you’ll see specs throughout your images, which will require post-processing to remove them. Plus, dirt and debris also reduces contrast, creating hazy looking images.
A camera cleaning kit not only helps keep your sensor and lenses clean, saving you time during post-processing. But, it also maintains image quality and prolongs the lifespan of your equipment. But, cleaning your camera equipment with a standard paper towel, or worse, a t-shirt is just not a good idea. At the bare minimum, use microfiber cloths, which gently remove debris, dust, or fingerprints. Alternatively, you can use a lens pen with a soft brush head. And if you have a particularly tough spot, that’s when a proper lens cleaner comes into play.
Vertical Battery Grip
A vertical battery grip is a must if you find yourself always running out of battery. This style of grip acts as not only a vertical grip, adding comfort when shooting portraits. But, more importantly, they also house additional batteries to double your battery capacity. If changing batteries aggravates you during a shoot, a battery grip is the ideal accessory for alleviating that.
Neutral Density, Polarizer, or UV/Protective Filters
Filters are slightly underrated today, but they add a lot of value to photographers.
For landscape, cityscape, or architectural photographers, Neutral density (ND) filters and circular polarizers are a must. Neutral density filters reduce incoming light, making them the ideal accessory if you want to shoot long-exposures and have more control. Circular Polarizers, on the other hand, remove reflections, glare, haze, and selectively darken the sky for rich and vivid colors.
But, virtually every other photographer should consider protective UV filters.
Apart from reducing the sun’s UV rays, these filters also protect your lenses from scratching and breaking if dropped. Plus, they’re considerably easier to clean from dust and debris. For the price, they’re a must-have for each of your lenses. Just be sure to purchase the right size filter for your lens. You can find the lens diameter by looking at the lens’s barrel marked as “XXmm.” For example, the image of the Tiffen filter above works for 58mm lenses.
External Hard Drive
A reliable external hard drive is essential as you start developing an extensive collection of photos and videos. And they help keep your computer clean and clutter free.
But, most importantly, an external drive is critical to backup up your collection. And it’s the real lifesaver in the event of a catastrophic loss where your computer or hard drive crashes.
But, today’s manufacturers have listened to creatives. And there are plenty of portable, rugged, reliable options on the market. The biggest consideration here, besides capacity, is how robust of a drive you need. You’ll determine that based on how often you plan on traveling with the drive. If you don’t plan on frequently bringing it with you, getting a standard bulky option is a better investment, as they’re cheap. However, if you do, then getting a weather-sealed solid-state drive, ideally with encryption, is best.