Do you want to know the essential camera accessories every photographer should consider? Do you want to know the best camera accessories for your needs?
Then you’ve come to the right place.
Because this article will give you everything you need to know about camera accessories. You’ll discover the key accessories almost every photographer owns, and you’ll determine the best options for your own photography, no matter your budget, and no matter your shooting style.
Let’s dive right in.
The Best Camera Accessories on the Market Today
It may not seem like it, but camera accessories can make or break your photography.
With the right accessories, you can take your images to the next level, fast.
And with the wrong accessories…
…well, you’ll spend a lot of money and get very disappointing results.
But what counts as the right accessories? What accessories does a photographer need in 2020?
Let’s look at these one-by-one, starting with:
Camera Accessory Number 1: A Good Tripod
A tripod is the most useful photography accessory you can buy.
In fact, a tripod is the single most important accessory that I myself own, and I can’t recommend it enough. If I had to keep one accessory, it would be my tripod, no question.
Because a tripod expands your shooting capabilities in a number of key ways.
First, with a tripod you can shoot images with shutter speeds of 1 second or longer. This is perfect for creating stunning motion blurs, such as in a seascape or a waterscape. It’s also necessary if you want to capture landscape or architectural images in low light, because the narrow aperture that’s required must be counterbalanced with a lengthy shutter speed.
With a tripod, a long exposure photo will turn out beautiful and, most importantly, sharp.
But without a tripod, you’ll end up with a frustrating blur–every single time you take a shot.
Tripods are also great for focus stacking, because they allow you to maintain the same framing while changing your point of focus. This is key for macro photographers and some landscape photographers, because even a narrow aperture can’t always ensure the entire image is in focus from back to front.
You can also use tripods in wildlife photography, to prevent camera shake when shooting with long lenses, as well as studio photography, in order to frame your shot while working with various flashes or studio strobes.
Even street photographers can use tripods for photos with a sharp background but blurry subjects.
In other words:
Tripods are amazingly useful, and you can find a place for them in pretty much any genre of photography.
So I recommend you get one as soon as possible.
Which tripod should you buy?
Picking the perfect tripod generally depends on two things: Your budget, and how portable you need your tripod to be.
If you need a portable tripod, one that compacts into a small case and can be carried around for hours on end, you’ll pay a significant sum to get a sturdy option. You’ll want legs that are made of carbon fiber (to keep the weight down), and you’ll also want a good head. I’d recommend checking out the Gitzo Series 1 Traveler tripod, which is extremely expensive but both lightweight and sturdy.
A cheaper option, still good but a bit less rugged and sturdy, is the Feisol Tournament CT-3442. The CT-3442 is lightweight, stable, and very compact, though you’ll need to purchase a head with it (which can cost about as much as the tripod itself).
Cheaper still is the 3 Legged Thing Eclipse Leo, which is light but not as sturdy as the options listed above. It’s also a bit flashy, which may be a selling point or a big issue, depending on your style. Note that the Eclipse Leo also requires a head, so you’ll need to budget for one (such as the 3 Legged Thing AirHed Pro Lever ballhead.
On the other hand, if you want a sturdy tripod but portability isn’t a big deal, then the Manfrotto 055 is a great choice: It’s made of aluminum and very heavy, but it’s extremely sturdy and cheaper than every other option on this list.
There are plenty of great tripod options out there, but there’s one thing you shouldn’t do when getting your first tripod:
Because if you do, you’ll end up getting blurry shots and you’ll wish you had never purchased that tripod in the first place.
So start out with a great tripod, even if it costs a bit more than you’re expecting to pay.
Camera Accessory Number 2: A Camera Bag or Backpack
Unless you only do studio work, you’re going to need a way to carry around your equipment.
And you’ll want something that’s light, comfortable, and can fit everything–from your main camera, a few lenses, a flash, batteries, maybe even a second camera body.
Now, choosing a camera bag can be tough. But you’ll need to start by asking yourself: What’s the most equipment I would ever need to carry around?
Then pick a camera bag based on that specification–because you don’t want to purchase a nice, small bag only to find out that it’s too compact to carry a third lens.
Personally, I prefer camera backpacks, because I find camera bags to be a bit awkward, plus they can get in the way when working with a tripod. Backpacks are also better for traveling by plane, because you can often stuff them with more than just your camera equipment, including a laptop, and even spare clothes.
But the choice is yours, and you should pick whichever option is more comfortable for you.
If you do decide to go with a backpack, I’d recommend checking out the Peak Design Everyday backpack, which is well-designed, durable, and looks amazing–though it is quite pricey.
A cheaper option is the Endurax Video Camera backpack, which is impressively durable for the price, plus it holds a lot of gear.
As for camera bags, there are plenty of shapes and sizes to choose from, but the Peak Design Everyday Sling is a great option, as it’s small, reasonably priced, and will hold a camera body plus a couple of lenses.
Camera Accessory Number 3: A Remote Shutter Release
This accessory depends on the type of photography you do:
If you’re a portrait photographer, wildlife photographer, or street photographer, it may be useless.
What’s the purpose of a remote shutter release?
With a remote shutter release, you can trip the shutter button on your camera–without actually pressing it.
This matters for photographers using long shutter speeds, who need to prevent any vibrations caused by punching the shutter button.
But it’s also useful for studio photographers, who might want to take shots from different positions around the room while leaving the camera in a single location.
Note that there are different types of remote shutter releases. Some will simply flip the shutter button on your camera to take a picture, while others will have many advanced modes that allow you to set your camera to shoot several shots in a row or shoot continuously.
If you’re a casual landscape photographer or studio photographer, then I’d recommend you go with the simple option. You can grab a decent remote for a few dollars off of Amazon, such as the Kiwifotos RS-60E3 Remote Shutter Switch.
If you need more complex options, such as for time-lapse photography or ultra-long exposure images, I’d recommend something like the Pixel TW-283, which will offer lots of advanced functionality.
Camera Accessory Number 4: Filters
If you like to shoot landscapes, cityscapes, or architectural images, you’re going to want a few powerful filters.
And even if you don’t, there is one type of filter that I recommend everyone check out:
A clear protective filter.
Protective filters cover the front element of your lens and prevent all sorts of damage, from scratches to rain to dust and dirt. Plus, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable cleaning off a protective filter than you will cleaning off a lens that cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
Now, it is true that every filter degrades the image quality slightly. So you have to decide whether the trade-off is worth it–and for some photographers, it isn’t. But personally, I place protective filters onto every one of my lenses, and I’ve not noticed any significant image quality problems.
That said, you don’t want to skimp on filters and purchase cheap items. This will cause issues, from a loss of sharpness to vignetting to flare. In other words, it’ll result in plenty of results that you want to avoid.
For that reason, I recommend you grab filters from a company like B+W, which is known for its high-quality glass and excellent build. In particular, the B+W XS-Pro clear filters, with their multi-resistant coatings, are a good performer.
As for other filters, like I said above, landscape and architectural photographers are the ones who need them most. A circular polarizer, for instance, will cut down on reflections, which is particularly useful for someone who frequently photographs water or foliage. Again, you don’t want to skimp on these, so I recommend the high-quality but pricey options from LEE Filters or Breakthrough Photography. Yes, they’re expensive, but they’re worth it.
The third type of filter that a landscape or scenic photographer should consider is a neutral density filter. These basically darken the scene, so that you’re free to drop your shutter speed way down and create blur in water and blur in clouds–or to shoot portraits wide open on sunny days.
As with circular polarizers, I’d recommend grabbing these from LEE Filters or Breakthrough Photography.
Camera Accessory Number 5: A Flash
Here’s your final photography accessory, and it’s a big one:
Now, for landscape photography, street photography, and architectural photography, a flash isn’t going to add much to your shots.
But for portrait photographers, product photographers, still life photographers, and some wildlife photographers, a flash is absolutely essential.
For one, a flash allows you to light your subject when there isn’t enough light. A flash can be the difference between a terrible shot and a great one.
But a flash can also be used for all sorts of creating lighting scenarios. With careful use of the flash, you can take a flat portrait and make it dramatic, or a harsh portrait and make it soft and glamorous.
Now, there are plenty of flashes out there, plenty of which are very expensive, and some of which are cheap but terrible.
If you have the money to spend and you absolutely know you’re going to use a flash, I’d recommend a speedlight offered by your camera manufacturer–for instance, Nikon sells the Nikon SB-700, while Canon produces the 430EX III-RT. These are expensive, but they’re very durable and include a lot of advanced options.
By the way, you’re not going to want to get a flash and then call it a day. If you want beautifully lit images, you’re going to need a way to take your flash off the camera–which requires a light stand.
You’ll also want a way to modify the light, in order to make it beautiful and soft. An umbrella is a good way to start, though a stripbox or a softbox is a nice alternative and will give you more control over the direction of the light.
The Best Camera Accessories: Conclusion
Now that you’ve finished this article, you know all about the best accessories for your needs–and which to buy.
Pretty much every photographer could do with a good tripod and camera bag, but when it comes to other accessories, such as filters and flashes, you can be a lot more selective. Flashes are great for portrait and product photographers, but much less interesting for the casual landscape photographer. The reverse is true for circular polarizers and neutral density filters.
So get the camera accessories you need–and start shooting!
This depends on your type of shooting. But in general, I recommend a tripod, which can enhance almost any photography workflow, and is always good to have around. Remote shutter releases are useful for those who frequently shoot long exposures (i.e., landscape photographers), while flashes are great for anyone doing portrait, still life, or even macro-style work. I also recommend putting filters on every lens you own, though this is somewhat controversial; read the FAQ below to find out more.
You don’t need a flash for good photography, and there are plenty of photography genres where a flash is rarely used. But if you’re a portrait, macro, still life, or product photographer, a flash can be a huge help. It’ll allow you to light your subject well, even in poor conditions. And you can create very dramatic images with the careful use of flash.
Quite important, especially if you’re a landscape, architecture, or product photographer. A tripod allows you to capture beautiful long exposure shots–and it’s also essential for anyone wishing to do HDR or focus-stacking composites. As I say in the article, buying a tripod was probably the single biggest improvement I ever made for my photography.
I’d recommend it. It’ll give you piece of mind when it comes to cleaning your lenses, plus
it can protect against scratches, bumps, and adverse weather. Filters do degrade image quality very slightly, but as long as you go with a good brand, you’re not going to notice this. That said, there are some photographers who want to get the best resolution possible, so they advise against putting a clear filter on the lens. The choice is yours–and if you’re the type who doesn’t worry about your equipment and doesn’t mind having to shell out some cash when things break, by all means, forget the filter!
Jaymes Dempsey is a professional macro and nature photographer from Ann Arbor, Michigan; his work is published across the web, from Digital Photography School to PetaPixel.
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