By now most of us are trained to resist the salesperson’s final question. “Do you need any bags, batteries, filters to go with that camera?"
We know it is the equivalent of “do you need fries with that that?”
Before you politely reply, “no thank you. I’ll take that Canon 5D Mark III to go,” consider purchasing these useful accessories.
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A sturdy tripod is one of the best tools to ensure a sharper image. We typically use our tripods if we are in low light and trying to avoid camera shake. Even in situations where you might have more light available, a tripod can help you improve the quality of your photo.
Cable release or remote control
It's not enough to have the camera on a tripod because depressing the shutter is what creates camera shake. To help avoid that result, use a cable release or remote control when you take a photo. You can use your time delay, but if you want to have the ultimate control over when your camera takes the photo, you'll want to depress the shutter yourself.
Once you have enough light, you will want to make sure you accurately capture the temperature of light - with white balance. Using a white card to create a custom white balance reading is the best way to capture the color of light accurately. Fill the frame with your white card and let the camera use that reference point to determine all the other colors.
Setting your camera to automatic white balance will get you through most average situations, but if you need to make sure your white balance is perfect, you have to get one of these ExpoDiscs. Pop it on the end of your lens, and use it to calibrate a custom white balance. On most cameras that’s as simple as taking a picture.
See the Expodisc interview in the helpful links section.
At some point, you will be in a shooting scenario where you will need more light to get your best shot. When that happens, I hope you don't have to rely on your pop-up flash. If red eye, harsh light, or distracting shadows aren't enough of a deterrent for you, consider this...almost nothing in nature will blast light directly onto your subject in that manner. It will be tough to get your subject to look natural with a built-in flash. Your light will look best when it is off of your camera, bounced or diffused. Sometimes you'll want all three. To best control your light, start with an external flash.
If you’ve taken my photo tour, you probably had to pinky swear that you wouldn’t use the pop-up flash unless absolutely necessary. Nothing in nature blasts you in the face with a burst of light, so that flash will never yield a natural-looking photo.
Spare batteries and memory cards
Once upon a time, I went on a photo shoot with two batteries and drained them both. There is no worse feeling than holding a camera with no juice, explaining to your subject that you have to end the shoot prematurely. Awkward! I vowed that would never happen to me again. I never leave home without three to four batteries. That's overkill for most situations -- unless you need them. Then you're a genius.
Circular polarizing and neutral density filters
You could make the argument that you can use software to recreate most filter effects except two, circular poloraizing and neutral density.
A circular polarizing filter will allow you to cut the reflection and glare from glass and water. As a bonus, it also increases the blue in sky and water.
A neutral density filter will block the volume of light coming into the camera, so you can get longer shutter speeds. If you have ever tried to get the milky effect from waterfalls during a bright part of the day, you quickly realized it was hard to accomplish without over exposing your shot. Pack those two filters to help you create great effects you can only get in camera.
Battery pack - vertical grip
So this is a convenience issue... kinda. If you are shooting in the vertical format for an extended time — a portrait shoot, for instance — you will quickly appreciate the ability to hold the camera without having to wrap your arm awkwardly over the top. I will confess that I thought this was an overpriced convenience before using it. Now I can't imagine going back. Sort of like an iPhone or iPad, I guess.
Add this to the list of things you didn't think you would need until you used it. The loupe blocks the extra light when you are viewing images on the back of your camera. The result, you can get a good look at your pictures even when you are outdoors in the sun.
You spent a lot of money on your camera, please invest in a decent bag to protect your investment. I don't think you can ever have too many camera bags. I have an embarrassing number of camera bags.
Comfortable camera straps
The camera strap that comes with your camera is a nuisance. It tugs around your neck making you look like a tourist and announces the price of your camera to would-be thieves.
I prefer Black Rapid’s sling strap. It lets you keep your camera comfortably at your side, so you can easily slide it up to shoot. Their wrist strap is convenient for street photography.
Lens and sensor cleaning kit
You can't create great photos with dirty glass. Keep a lens a sensor kit close by to wipe those smudges away.
Here is the easiest way to shoot with two lenses. The Lens Flipper lets you swap out lenses without having to juggle and put them at risk.
I know this isn't an accessory, but I put the 50 mm lens in the 'every camera bag should have one' category. You need a lens that has a maximum aperture that lets in a lot of light. That's usually f/2.8 or wider. Unless you are prepared to part with a pile of cash, the most cost effective way to get that light is with a prime lens — one that does not have zoom capability. You will zoom with your feet, but you will capture the most important ingredient, light. If you find yourself shooting indoors without a flash or needing to capture fast moving subjects in low light, this tool will be absolutely essential.
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