It's the little things that can make a huge difference. You don't have to spend a fortune, either. Here are our top 15 recommended accessories.
image shot by: Shotinraw, Unsplash
1. UV filter
This one is at the top of our list because you’ll want a UV filter for each lens you own. Having splashed out on those expensive optics, it’s not worth taking any chances – protect your glass from scratches with one of these. As well as looking after your lens, they’ll also help to reduce haze and reflections.
2. Camera bag
When it comes to camera accessories, a camera bag has to be very near the top. Unless you’re shooting everything at home, you’re going to need one of these, and possibly even two. They come in many different styles and sizes, and the one you go for will depend on how much gear you’re planning on carrying around with you. Size is everything here – too small and your gear won’t fit; too big and your camera won’t be supported properly. By far the best way to decide is to pop into a store with your camera and see which fits best.
If you’re shooting with a compact, then a shoulder bag style of camera bag should be fine, but if you’re using multiple lenses and possibly flashes as well, then you’ll want a backpack that can take it all. Some even have room to hold your tripod. Even if you’ve got all that gear and the perfect backpack to take it all, you’re certain to need a smaller bag as well, for those occasions when you want to travel light and shoot with just the one lens.
Even if your camera comes with its own flash, nothing can beat an off-camera flash. Camera flashes are mounted directly above the lens, which means that when you press the trigger, they illuminate your scene from the front – the worst possible angle, as it bleaches out everything in front of you. Far better is to buy a flash that can sit off to the side of your composition, casting interesting shadows and giving more depth overall. Welcome to the world of Speedlight. Super portable and super fast, you can use these either attached to your camera or off-camera and positioned anywhere you like. Whether you’re shooting close-ups, portraits or just shots of your friends, you’ll marvel at the way you can make light fall from any angle. If you’re shooting with the flash off-camera, you’ll also do well to invest in a wireless controller to trigger your flash (or flashes) at just the right moment.
4. Wireless shutter release
Even if you’re not interested in a flash, a wireless controller can come in handy in other ways, too. When used to trigger your camera’s shutter, a wireless shutter release makes easy work of long exposure shots, or anything you shoot on a tripod, for that matter. While you can use your camera’s timer to trigger your shutter (or use a wired lead from your camera), nothing beats a wireless controller for ease of use and instant response.
5. A tripod
Here’s a camera accessory where it’s worth getting a good one. For pin-sharp photos and taking long exposure shots, a tripod is essential. There are two types: aluminium and carbon fibre. Aluminium camera tripods are cheaper but they are also heavier to carry round, however this weight can also help to make the tripod more stable. Carbon fibre tripods are more expensive, but if you plan on taking your tripod out with you fairly frequently, you’ll be grateful for the reduced weight.
When choosing which one to go for, look out for the maximum height the tripod will reach. The minimum height is good to know, too – for when you want to shoot those low-to-the-ground shots.
Manfrotto is the biggest name in the business and makes a tripod to suit any budget. 3 Legged Thing is also worth checking out – this British company makes some funky alternatives with a clever locking system.
6. Polarising filter
If you’re into shooting landscape scenes, then a circular polarising filter will come in handy. These filters work in the same way as polarising sunglasses and are often used to raise the contrast in blue skies, making the clouds stand out. That’s not all they’re good for, though. When shot at a right angle to the light source, they’re great at getting rid of unwanted reflections in glass or water. Known as a circular polariser, they can be turned left or right to affect the intensity of the contrast effect. Understand more about filters here.
7. Neutral density (ND) filters
If you’re thinking about taking long exposure shots during daylight hours, you’ll need an ND filter. They work in a similar fashion to sunglasses, darkening the scene your camera sees so the shutter can be open for longer without over-exposing the shot. Filters range from ND4 all the way up to ND1000. Crucially, the good ones do not affect colours in any way – hence ‘neutral’ density. An ND8 increases your exposure time by about three stops. An ND8 or ND16 is a good place to start. At the darker end, an ND1000 reduces light by a massive 10 stops. This is one way to get rid of the tourists in your scene because with an exposure that long, anything that moves around won’t show up in the final exposure. A round neutral density filter screws directly into the end of your lens, so you need to buy one to suit the size of each lens opening. However, you can also buy square filters that slot into an adapter attached to your lens. The benefit of this system is that you don’t need to invest in different filters every time you change your lens. The downside is that they’re not as quick and convenient to work with. In both cases, you can fit one or more filters in front of each other.
8. Lens cleaner
An obvious entry in our top 15, a lens cleaner is likely to be the one item on our list that you rely on more than all the rest. Dust (and even worse, grease) can ruin a shot and you’re unlikely to notice until you get home and zoom into your best image from the day. If you’re shooting outdoors in bad weather, raindrops can be just as bad. While both can usually be cleaned up using Photoshop or Lightroom, it’s so much easier when you don’t have to. A microfibre cloth and lens wipes work fine, but an even easier option is a Lenspen. Using a carbon cleaning compound, it cleans your lens without using any liquid (and it never dries out). Perfect for keeping your optics crystal clear.
9. Air blower
Dust on your lens is one thing (and fairly easy to get rid of), but dust inside your camera is another thing altogether. If your sensor gets dusty or greasy, your best option is to get it professionally cleaned. However, use a blower whenever you switch lenses and you might never get to that point. When you switch lenses, always make sure your camera is turned off (static can draw dust onto the sensor). Holding your camera downwards, remove the lens and then take off the end cap from the lens you intend to fit. Give the lens a couple of blasts with the blower, then do the same inside the body of the camera (be careful not to touch anything). Now fit the new lens. If you can get into that routine, you should avoid problems. Never use pressurised air from a canister to clean inside your camera – it will damage the sensitive equipment. If you have any queries about cleaning your equipment, drop into one of our stores and our staff will be happy to help you.
10. Photo editing software
Post-production software can transform a dull image into something truly eye-catching. Adobe Photoshop is the king of the jungle and does way more than you’re ever likely to need. If you need to take elements from several shots with a view to combining them into a single image, then Photoshop is worth getting to grips with. It’s also pretty handy at adding effects like fog or rain, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s insanely complicated for novices.
Adobe Lightroom is a far simpler tool for post-production editing, and has been specifically designed with photographers in mind. It’s a doddle to adjust settings such as exposure, saturation and clarity, plus you can make adjustments for distortion based on the particular lens you used. Both are available on a subscription from Adobe as part of its Creative Cloud Photography plan.
Also make sure you take a look at Skylum's Aurora. Designed for those moments when you’re looking to bring out extra details in the shadows, Aurora (and sister package, Luminar) are even easier to use, and will give you some dramatic results.
11. New strap
This might seem like a simple thing, but your camera’s neck strap can sometimes become more of a hindrance than a help, particularly if you’re shooting with a tripod. Also, while a neck strap makes perfect sense all the time there’s a short lens on your camera, switch to a longer lens and the centre of gravity shifts. That’s when you’ll find a wrist strap more useful. Clip your camera to your wrist when you’re holding it, but quickly release it when you want to put it back on your tripod.
12. 50mm lens
By far the most popular prime lens on the market (and potentially the cheapest lens you’re likely to buy), a 50mm prime lens is the perfect way to experiment. Primes are fixed at a single focal distance, so if you want to zoom in or out then you have to use your feet to move closer or further away. What you lose in focal range, though, you more than make up for with quality. The shots from a prime lens are super-sharp.
13. Extra batteries
As photography accessories go, there’s nothing exciting about backup batteries but they’re essential, even if you’re taking all your shots indoors. There’s little worse than running out of juice just as you’re poised to click the shutter on a scene you’ve been rearranging for the last hour. If you have a DSLR and use Live View a lot, or if you have a mirrorless camera, you won’t need reminding how important backup batteries are – given the chance, both will quickly drain your power reserves. Just like with your smartphone, as batteries age their performance diminishes, so keep an eye on how old yours are. If you find you’re getting through a lot of power, think about buying a battery grip. This enables you to add a spare battery (or two) to the underside of your camera, ensuring power issues become a thing of the past.
14. Extra memory cards
Whether you shoot to SD cards, Compact Flash, or Sony’s super-fast XQD format, you’re going to want a backup card for when your main card gets full. Be careful never to remove a memory card while your camera is accessing it – it’s the surest way to damage it. You also want to make sure you look after your memory cards, especially when you’re out and about. Unless your card is in the camera, it should be in a case.
15. Portable storage
If you’re shooting away or while you’re on holiday, then you won’t want to take any chances with your data. That’s where portable storage comes in. This can come in two forms. One is just like any hard drive that attaches to a laptop, and can be used to back up your data in the usual way. But what if you don’t have a laptop with you? Well, there’s a solution for that, too. Some of these devices will read the contents of your memory card directly – either reading the files from your camera (or smartphone), or giving you an SD slot into which you insert your card.
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