Photography requires that you always be prepared – for the unexpected, for the decisive moment, for inclement weather and for when things go unavoidably pear-shaped. And one key to always being prepared is equipping your camera kit with the right tools.
The right tools will obviously vary from person to person, depending on what and how you prefer to shoot. But if you are getting into photography (or planning to), are taking your photography to the next level, or just want each job to go as smoothly as possible, there are a few key camera accessories that many, if not all, photographers can’t go without.
Cameras are almost always sold with at least one battery (and usually a charger). But it pays to have a spare or two handy, particularly if you shoot with anything other than a DSLR. In certain cases—e.g. long shoots or time lapses, and visits to remote or cold locations—spare, freshly charged batteries are a must.
Batteries made by the camera manufacturer can’t be beaten for longevity and reliability. But there are excellent third-party versions—made to really high standards, often with the same components as proprietary batteries—that are also worth considering.
If swapping batteries isn’t practical or preferable (e.g. during a wedding, time lapse or video recording), you might want to consider a battery grip, external power bank or continuous power system for extended and unbroken battery life.
Don’t forget to also carry spare batteries for any accessories (such as lights, shutter remotes, and flash triggers) that you might be using. A lot of these devices just take standard AA or AAA batteries, of which we stock rechargeable versions.
Memory cards come in a wide range of types, capacities and speeds. These factors, as well as the quality of card you use, can have a significant impact on the performance of your camera. So it’s important to invest in a reliable brand (such as SanDisk) and understand the card specifications you need.
The camera you use generally determines the type of memory card (SD card, CF, CFast, microSD, XQD) you require.
Memory card capacity requirements will vary greatly depending on how frequently you shoot, what size files you’re dealing with (e.g. photo/video, JPEG/RAW) and how long you can afford to go without emptying your card. As a very rough guide, 8-16GB should suffice for casual shooters capturing photos in JPEG format. At least 16-64GB is recommended for anyone photographing in RAW mode and/or filming video.
Some photographers prefer to have several smaller capacity cards in case of error, loss or theft, spreading the photos across different cards. Others prefer fewer, larger capacity cards. Any case, it’s worth always carrying at least one spare card. For travel and important shoots, it’s sensible to also carry an external hard drive so you can back up/transfer your data.
The speed of card you need depends on what size and type of files you shoot and how quickly you need to record and upload them. For some, speed is a big advantage as it reduces any lag time between shots and hastens file transfer from camera to computer; for others (e.g. professional action, wedding or wildlife photographers/videographers) sufficient speed is imperative as it minimises the risk of missed photos and ensures sustained, even video footage.
A card’s speed rating (usually prominently advertised in MB/s, e.g. ‘90MB/s’) indicates how quickly data can be written to and read from the card, while its speed class (expressed on SD cards as C10, U1 or V10 or similar in logo form) indicates the card’s minimum sustainable write speed – critical for video recording. 95MB/s is the minimum speed rating we recommend for most photographers, though casual shooters can get away with something slower (albeit with slower results). Minimum sustainable write speeds of 10MB/s and 30MB/s are needed for HD video and 4K video, respectively.
Most (though not all) cameras come with a USB cable to connect your camera to your computer for viewing and uploading photos. Memory card readers are a (typically) faster and more reliable alternative that will save you having to use your camera for uploading files. Card readers will also work for different cameras and (if you get a multi-card reader) different card types.
Whether you buy a point-and-shoot or a top-of-the-line DSLR, some kind of camera bag or case is a must. A good bag offers protection against scratches, dust, moisture and (in some cases) thieves.
Camera bags range greatly, from weatherproof packs fit for hiking the Himalayas to more urban-friendly shoulder bags that could pass as handbags or laptop satchels. The best type of camera bag for you will depend on the nature and volume of gear you have to carry, where you need to carry it, and how often you need to access it.
A small case, pouch or insert will generally suffice for small cameras or individual components, e.g. lenses. They’re designed to fit inside a larger, more protective bag. Sling or messenger bags cater well for those who need quick access to their gear, as do waist bag and belt systems. If you’re carrying a larger load and/or need to travel long distances, backpacks or even roller bags are usually the best way to go.
A camera bag’s size, weight, capacity and comfort are obvious things to consider. But it’s also worth paying careful attention to the bag’s construction, design, and suitability for future gear. Before buying a camera bag, ask:
No matter how careful you are, at some point you’re going to get dust, dirt, fingerprints or water spots on your camera and/or lenses. A little usually won’t hurt, but enough can spoil your images (and take considerable time to edit out).
To avoid such a fate, keep a camera cleaning kit handy – more so if you shoot in dirty or wet environments or around children, animals or food. Just be sure to use the right tools, in the right sequence so as not to damage your gear. For more info, visit our Cleaning Essentials page.
If you have interchangeable camera lenses, good quality lens filters deserve a prime spot in your kit.
Filters not only offer protection for your lenses, but also help to enhance your outdoor photos. Filters come in many varieties (e.g. polarising, UV and neutral density) that—depending on the variety—can enrich colours, reduce atmospheric haze and/or balance extreme differences in brightness and darkness.
Cheap filters do more harm than good so invest in high-quality options that won’t degrade the quality of your images.
Tripods unlock a world of creative and technical potential. They’re vital for long exposures, essential for consistent advertising and portrait shoots, and incredibly handy in countless other situations. They free up your hands and provide image sharpness that you just won’t get when handholding your camera – particularly helpful if you want to shoot in low light. Monopods, tripods’ one-legged cousins, are great alternatives (or additions) if you shoot in very tight/crowded spaces or use large lenses to photograph wildlife or sports.
Tripods and monopods are rated for height, weight, stability, payload and collapsed size. And then there are various choices of heads to consider. A compact, lightweight tripod might seem ideal but might not be tall or sturdy enough for, say, a long exposure on a blustery beach. What you shoot and where will narrow down your options.
The ability to operate your camera shutter remotely opens up all kinds of photographic possibilities. Not only does it minimise any blur caused when you press the shutter, it also frees you from the camera to handle other equipment (e.g. lighting, reflectors or props), appear in the photos you take, and leave the camera while it captures a long exposure or waits for wildlife to wander into frame.
Shutter remotes (a.k.a. remote shutter releases) are either wired or wireless and may offer simple, straightforward shutter control or more complex functions such as a timer, intervalometer, and even motion activation for capturing elusive subjects such as lightning or animals.
Poor ambient lighting—be it insufficient, unattractive, or wrongly coloured or positioned—is one of the photographer’s eternal challenges. So an external flash or continuous light source makes an incredibly valuable addition to your gear selection.
Some (usually more entry-level) camera models come with an integrated pop-up flash. However, while pop-up flashes will enable you to take a photo that would otherwise turn out too dark, they aren’t terribly powerful and emit a harsh, front-on light that rarely, if ever, flatters any subject.
An external flash or continuous light source—whether it’s a speedlight, strobe or LED—is far more controllable and thus able to create a desirable look. While they’re obviously handy in dim or indoor situations, they can also be very useful for outdoor shoots. The type of photography you do will determine if you will need additional lighting or not.
As your photography interests evolve, so too will your camera accessory needs. Likewise, as you acquire more gear your creative and technical options will snowball. But once you’ve got the essentials, you’ll be prepared for most photo opportunities. Invest in decent quality gear, look after it, and it should serve you well through many years and shoots.
Explore CameraPro’s range of camera accessories online or pop into one of our showrooms. There is a lot to consider when you buy camera accessories, but our team is always happy to answer your questions.