Starting to build a photographer’s arsenal of ever changing, high-tech (and, not to mention, expensive) tools can be a daunting task. Even seasoned pros who have gone through many generations of equipment cringe a little at the idea of replacing a broken lens or bulb.
Although the list of tools and accessories, camera lenses, camera bodies, lens babies and more that a photographer can (and probably should) employ is truthfully endless, here’s a list of must-haves for every photographer.
1. Camera bag
If you’ve got a small camera and a single lens a bag may not seem essential, but it’s a good way to protect them in transport and it keeps rain and dust at bay. And as you build up a collection of lenses and accessories you’ll find that you need something to keep it all together and make it easier to carry.
Photo backpacks are a great way to carry heavy kit over long distances or uneven terrain, but because you usually have to take them off your back to access your gear, they can slow you down a bit. Shoulder camera bags give speedy access, but as the weight is carried on one shoulder it can be uncomfortable with heavy loads over long distances.
There are also quite a few ‘sling’ bags available now which combine the some of the comfort of a backpack with some of the convenience of a shoulder bag. Deciding which type of camera bag to go for is a matter of personal preference, but think about how you use your gear when considering the options.
Tripods are extremely useful for low light settings, as the stability of the tripod allows you to take longer-exposure shots without any blur. This stability is also crucial for things like night sky photographs and even proper selfie shots.
3. Light Reflector or Reflectoboards
This simple tool gives you the ability to create evenly dispersed lighting in both indoor and outdoor scenarios. Don’t want to buy a second strobe head for your newly formed studio? Simply put a light reflector on the opposite side of your subject to fill in some of the shadows. If you are shooting outdoors on a sunny day, you may find that the harsh sunlight leaves dark shadows and bright light spots on your subject’s face, including their eyes.
These shadows can be filled in with a reflector as well. Reflectors come in a variety of hues so you can choose whether you’d like to add a touch of warm light or stick with a neutral shade. Depending on how metallic the reflector is, you can create a stronger or softer light as well, giving your image more or less contrast as needed.
When it comes to photography—especially digital photography—batteries make the world go ’round, and when you run out of juice, your world basically comes to a halt. This is not a good thing when you’re out on a job, wedding or otherwise. For this reason, it’s obligatory that you have, at the very least, a complete set of back-up batteries for every item in your bag that uses batteries.
Although most cameras are powered by dedicated lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, accessories such as flashguns, transceivers, etc., still rely on AA, AAA, 9V, C, D and any number of button-type batteries. At the very least, you should always carry a minimum of one spare set of batteries for each of your battery-powered devices.
5. Remote Shutter Release
A remote shutter release is important in two ways: it lets you “take a shot” without physically touching the camera body, which also eliminates any potential for shaking and vibration. It’s most often used in conjunction with a tripod.
There are two kinds of remote shutter releases — wired and wireless — but it doesn’t really matter which one you get. More advanced remotes will have extra features like half-press support, built-in timers, and LCD screens.
6. Memory Cards
In photography, it’s better to have a handful of smaller SD cards than a single big SD cards. That way, if a card ever gets corrupted, you still have others you can use. There’s nothing worse than being unable to shoot because your only card died.
7. Additional lenses
The chances are that your camera came with a standard zoom lens which covers a focal length range of around 18-55mm on an APS-C format camera, 14-42mm on Micro Four Thirds or 28-105mm on a full-frame model.
This is a great starting point, but it won’t be long before you find you need something a bit wider for shooting landscapes or interiors, or you need a telephoto lens to allow you to frame action subjects tightly.
You may also want to get closer to small subjects with a macro lens, or get a dedicated portrait lens with a wide aperture to limit depth of field and blur backgrounds.