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Buy Less, Choose Well: 12 Must-Have Camera Accessories

camera bag full of gear seen from above

“It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument,” Eve Arnold so gratefully put it. So much happens from the moment you visualize a composition to when you share it on your photography website. While your talent is the soul of a good photo, there are so many camera accessories that can help you improve your work.

Because of the large amount of options available, it might be difficult to figure out which tools you can benefit from most. To help you decide which one of them should be your next acquisition, we have put together a list of 12 camera accessories all photographers should own:

01. Camera strap

A camera accessory to rule them all. Most importantly, the one that can actually save your camera’s life. There’s no question about whether you should have a camera strap or not. Instead, the question is “which type will better suit your needs?” The best way to pick one is thinking about how it is most comfortable for you to hold and carry the camera both during and in-between shots. Kit or artisan neck strap, wrist strap, sling strap, hand strap, finger strap, double camera strap, holster, vest… you’re bound to find one that perfectly complements you.

02. Tripod

A tripod is one of the most necessary accessories for photographers. In fact, it’s essential. From obvious genres, such as astrophotography, to less evident ones like sport photography, a good tripod can make a big difference in any situation. In addition to long exposures, you’ll be able to achieve perfectly focused compositions and avoid blurry images – especially when using long lenses. A tripod will also allow you to interact with the subject or frame as your hands won’t be busy holding the camera.

03. Remote shutter release

Remote shutter releases are to tripods what dogs are to humans: best friends that inherently make everything better. The main goal of this tool is eliminating the vibration caused by pressing the shutter on slow speeds. While most cameras come with a built-in delayed shutter (usually 2 or 10 seconds), this clearly has some limitations. The biggest issue with this feature is that it’s nearly impossible to capture a moving subject at the perfect moment. Here’s where the flexibility of a remote shutter release comes into play. Available in both wired and wireless versions (and a long shelf of sizes), this accessory allows photographers to fire the shutter from afar and without delay. Many models also offer advanced options, such as intervals and “bulb mode.”

photographer walking on a field road with a tripod and camera

04. UV filter

This one is as popular as it is controversial. Love it or hate it, you should at least consider using a UV filter. Originally used on film cameras to block UV light (hence the name), nowadays they are mainly used as a protective layer for the lens. However, many argue that adding these filters causes a loss of image quality, while not offering any actual protection. The first part is true, there is a slight quality image, but it is usually not significant. As for the protection, a UV filter will probably not save your lens if you drop it, but it will keep dust, smears, and scratches away from your glass.

05. Polarizer filter

If you were to ask landscape photographers what’s in their bags, polarizer filters will make the list in nearly all cases. So what’s so great about this accessory? There are three main things polarizer filters are used for:

  • Reducing the glare off reflecting surfaces.

  • Increasing contrast and saturate colors.

  • Improving the sky by deepening the shadows and brightening the highlights.

While these type of filters are most popular among landscape photographers, they are also widely used in urban and portrait photography. For the former, it is a great tool to get rid of reflections on windows and other reflective surfaces. For the latter, polarizers are used to reduce skin glare, especially in studio portraits.

06. ND filter

Neutral density filters are used to reduce the amount of light entering the camera without changing the color of the scene. This allows photographers to avoid overexposed images when using larger apertures. ND filters are particularly useful to capture beautiful landscape photos with dynamic elements, such as rivers, waves, and clouds. ND filters come in many shapes and numbers: screw on, filter holders, grad filters – plus, they are available in anywhere from 1 to 10 stops. Each stop doubles the time needed for a good exposure, with the number representing how many times you need to double (not sum) the original exposure time. For example, a 5-stop ND filter used on a 1 second exposure will require 32 seconds.

neutral density filter held in front of a landscape

07. Flash

The built-in one on your camera might be useful for adding some fill-in light, but if you actually need a good source of light you’ll want to invest in a proper flash. While there is a large number of available options, the most popular one is the on-camera flash or speedlight. The vast majority of these flashes communicate with the camera in order to control the image’s exposure automatically. Speedlights are generally used with flash diffusers, which allow for more natural and less harsh results.

08. Hard drive

If you don’t consider hard drives one of the most important camera accessories, you have some reconsidering to do. Why go through all the trouble of purchasing a camera, mastering photography skills, and buying accessories to improve your results if you’re going to skimp on making sure your work is safe? Ideally, you should have at least two different copies of your photos to avoid losing everything if one of the copies is misplaced or lost. Nowadays there is an infinite range of hard drives in all sizes and prices to pick from, so there’s no excuse to not to have one for your next project.

09. Reflector

Both inside the studio and outdoors, with artificial and natural light, reflectors play a major role in portrait photography. These allow photographers to modify the lighting in nearly any situation. Backlighting, harsh shadows, fill light… there’s one reflector for every occasion. These are the five main types of reflectors:

  • Silver: to increase highlights

  • Gold: to produce a natural golden fill

  • White: to achieve neutral-colored bounce light

  • Black: to block or decrease light

  • Translucent: to diffuse light

If you cannot afford to buy a reflector, you can make your own with white cardboard that can also be covered with tin foil in order to have white and silver reflectors at zero cost!

photo studio setup with flash and reflector

10. Backups

It probably goes without saying, but you should always carry spare batteries and memory cards with you. Think about it, if one of these malfunctions or simply runs out of space/energy, your camera and nearly everything on this list will essentially become useless. Prior to a session, always make sure that all of your camera batteries are charged and your cards have enough memory available. For better organization, buy memory card and battery holders to keep them in one easy-to-locate place.

11. Cleaning kit

Needless to say, keeping you gear clean is a must. This is why a complete cleaning kit is one of the most valuable camera accessories you can have. Here are some of the things you want to look for when choosing your cleaning supplies:

  • An alcohol-free solution to clear your lens.

  • Microfiber cloths that won’t leave scratches.

  • A cleaning pen for dusting off small debris.

  • An air blow cleaner to remove all dust from your camera body.

When it comes to cleaning your lenses, remember that overcleaning the glass can hurt its coating and make it more vulnerable to scratches. For a safer alternative, go back to accessory number four.

12. Camera bag

How else would you carry all these accessories with you? When it comes to picking your camera bag, there are many factors you should take into account. These include everything from the amount of gear you want to carry to the type of transportation you want to take it on, and the style that better suits your needs. For long distances, backpacks are usually the preferred option because they are the most comfortable to carry overtime. Shoulder bags are a more appropriate option for those carrying less gear who need to have quick access to it. In the middle-ground sit sling camera bags, which combine some of the main characteristics of each side.

Ready to put all this gear to work? Create a photography website with Wix to show the results!

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