Delve into the world of photography and videography with me as we uncover the best additional camera accessories that can transform your photos from good to great.
Contrary to what 99% of people believe, a good camera does not necessarily equate to stunning photos. What truly elevates your photography are a few must-have camera accessories. So, let’s dive into our top picks.
Drawing inspiration from modern photography and videography maestros like Ben Long, Karl Taylor, Jeff Cable, Phillip Bloom, and Vincent Laforet, my journey into the art form has led me to a profound realization. The camera is merely a tool; what truly brings life to a photo are the accessories that complement it.
After closely studying their work and recreating it, I discovered that you don’t need top-of-the-line equipment to create impressive pieces. All it takes are a few essential accessories, a dash of creativity, and a sprinkle of patience.
Budget-conscious as most of us are, I’ve kept cost efficiency in mind while compiling this list. I hope these recommendations prove to be as useful to you as they have been to me.
The accessories listed below have significantly enhanced my photographic and videographic experience. The attached links will direct you to Amazon where you can access user reviews and pricing information. It’s worth noting that these are affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission from your purchase at no extra cost to you. This helps me cover hosting fees and continue creating more content for you.
Must-Have Camera Accessories
A Tripod For Your Camera
Manfrotto Compact Action
Manfrotto 3-Section Tripod
A tripod is the unsung hero of photography equipment. It’s not just a stand for your camera but a key to unlocking a world of creative opportunities.
A tripod allows you to experiment with slow shutter speeds, which can drastically improve your low-light photography. Long-exposure photos taken at night, for instance, have a unique, magical quality that can’t be achieved without one.
The weight of the tripod plays a crucial role in its stability and portability. While a heavier tripod ensures a stable photography platform, it may make it less portable. Aim for a support weight above 1.5kg as they can usually hold a bit more than specified. Anything lighter than this may not support modern DSLR cameras with a good lens.
If you’re interested in videography, the tripod head becomes a critical factor. It should be sturdy, adjustable in all orientations, and have a smooth pan and tilt functionality. Remember, a jerky pan can ruin a perfect shot.
Don’t get fixated on choosing a tripod that matches your height. Some of the most interesting shots are captured from perspectives different from our usual eye level. A tripod that allows for wide-leg opening can provide greater stability and facilitate low-angle shots.
While price is a consideration, don’t let it dictate your choice. You might end up spending more than you initially planned, but a quality product will provide value in the long run. Brands like Manfrotto and Gitzo are known for their quality and warranty services.
For a budget-friendly travel tripod, I recommend the Manfrotto Compact Action. It’s lightweight, compact, and supports a weight of around 1.5kg, making it suitable for all but the heaviest lenses.
For something more robust, consider the Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro, which offers super adjustable legs for capturing shots from all angles. However, keep in mind that this does not come with a head attached. The Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2 XPRO metal ball head is a great option for photographers, while the Manfrotto 502 Video Head MVH502AH is perfect for videographers.
Additional Batteries and Storage
Extra batteries can be your best friend when you’re out on a shoot. They prevent the panic of running out of power and eliminate the need to find a place to recharge. Personally, I always carry three batteries. This provides ample power for both photos and videos. Note that video production can drain your battery faster.
If you’re planning a long shoot, consider packing even more batteries. Also, while manufacturer-made batteries can be expensive, there are cheaper third-party alternatives that perform just as well. Just make sure you read reviews before purchasing.
Camera Memory Cards
Akin to batteries, extra memory cards are crucial. They’re relatively cheap, so stock up! My rule of thumb is to carry at least three extra memory cards. This becomes especially significant when shooting videos.
Ensure you buy fast memory cards (Class 10 and above) for video shooting to maintain speedy write speeds. As we move into the era of 4k and beyond, the size and speed of memory cards become more critical. Do your homework on your specific camera brand before buying a bunch of cards.
I favor purchasing multiple medium-storage cards over a single large one. This way, if a card corrupts, you only lose a portion of the day’s work, not everything. For reliable storage options, I’ve had excellent experiences with Sandisk Extreme Pro cards and Lexar Professional cards.
Circular Polarising Filter
A circular polarising filter is a must-have. It can remove glare, reduce haze, darken the sky, and enhance colors. This is particularly noticeable around water or in forests where leaves lose their reflective qualities, resulting in a richer green.
Remember, a polarising filter works best when the sun is at a 90-degree angle to your camera. They aren’t as effective when shooting into or away from the sun. I began with the Tiffen 82mm Polarising filter, which served me well without any loss in sharpness.
Neutral Density Filter
Neutral density (ND) filters are another fantastic addition to your gear. They reduce the amount of light hitting your sensor, which is vital for achieving a shallow depth of field in bright light when shooting video. ND filters come in varying levels of darkness.
A 10 Stop ND Filter is a particularly creative tool for photographers. It allows you to take long exposures in daylight, creating nighttime-like effects. For this, I recommend the HOYA 10 Stop Filter.
Filters, like most photography gear, can vary in price. Just make sure to read reviews and consider multi-layered filters if your budget allows. It doesn’t make sense to put a cheap piece of glass in front of your high-quality lens.
Remote Shutter Release
A remote shutter release is a cheap yet essential piece of kit, especially for creative work like long exposures or time-lapses. There are two types: ones with an intervalometer and ones without. The former is useful for time-lapses.
If you’re a Canon user, consider the Magic Lantern firmware. It allows you to set up time-lapse photos at any interval and duration, all in-camera.
External Sound Recording
Most DSLRs don’t offer great sound recording. To enhance audio quality, consider the budget-friendly Zoom H1n audio recorder. For a higher-end option, check out the Zoom H4n.
If syncing sound manually sounds daunting, consider a shotgun mic. RODE is a trusted brand, and the Rode VideoMicro Pro is a durable, reliable choice.
Before buying an external microphone, ensure your camera accepts external audio. RODE microphones usually connect with a standard 3.5mm audio jack.
Best Budget Microphone
So, you’re a photographer with a keen eye for stunning visuals but your budget is a bit tight. No worries! The Zoom H1n audio recorder has got your back. At under $100, this audio dynamo is a real bang for your buck. It’s the most affordable audio recording device on the market that doesn’t compromise on performance.
No, it doesn’t offer multiple channel recording, but there’s a workaround. You can achieve multiple channel recording by plugging a lab mic into your camera and using the Zoom H1n for ambient recording. Just be sure to protect the microphones from wind noise with a windshield. Otherwise, you’ll end up with an annoying popping sound that makes your recording unusable.
Looking to beef up your audio recording? Consider upgrading to a higher level of Zoom products. The Zoom H4n is their top-tier offering that has won high praises from users, making it an industry standard.
One piece of advice from personal experience: sync your audio recordings with your video promptly after the shoot. Trust me, it’s important. I highly recommend setting up the time on both recording mediums so they sync as tightly as possible. Start each take by speaking your location and what the shot is, then follow up with a clap or two to create a spike in both the on-camera audio and portable recording device.
To make syncing less hair-pulling, use a software like Plural Eyes or Final Cut Pro X. Stay tuned for an upcoming post where I’ll outline this workflow.
Best Shotgun Mic for DSLR
If manually syncing your sound seems like a chore, how about a shotgun mic for your camera? Ever since vlogging became popular, shotgun mics have become a staple in many camera kits.
When it comes to on-camera microphones, there’s only one brand I trust: RODE. I’ve had a Rode VideoMicro Pro for about 4 years now. Despite putting it through rigorous use, it never fails to deliver amazing audio each time I turn it on.
Rode VideoMic Pro R
If the Rode VideoMicro Pro is a tad pricey for you, the Rode VideoMicro is a great alternative. It’s more compact and costs less than half the price. Its audio quality isn’t as high, but consider your audience and the medium they’ll use to watch your videos. If your work is intended for YouTube and viewers will be watching on smartphones with varying headphone quality, then the Rode VideoMicro is more than enough!
Rode VideoMicro Compact
Before making a purchase, check if your camera is compatible with external audio. RODE microphones typically connect with a standard 3.5mm audio jack. Just double-check that your camera has one of these under the little rubber flap on its side. If it does, then you’re good to go!
An off-camera flash can do wonders for your photography. It’s especially useful in low light situations at night, but it can also serve as fill-in light on bright days to reduce harsh contrasting shadows on your subject. By controlling the light in your photo, you gain full control over the exposure, contrast, blur, multiple points of lighting (with multiple flashes), and ISO.
What to look for in a Flash?
As always, price is a major deciding factor. External flashes can be pricey, so it’s a delicate balance between what you’re willing to spend and the features you need. I’d say the most important features are Power and Recycle Time. You can always dial down the power of your flash but can’t increase it past its max value. Recycle time, simply put, is how long it takes for the camera to fully recycle and be ready for another flash at full power. Pro tip: Invest in good batteries for your flash. It directly impacts both power and recycle time.
A must-have for creative photography is full manual controls on the flash. Paired with manual exposure mode on the camera, you can create high-contrast images with ease. The flash should have TTL metering, which lets the camera and flash communicate and adjust the flash power to achieve correct exposure.
Auto-zoom is another key feature. It allows the camera to determine the correct width of the beam for the right exposure. Lastly, ensure the camera has the ability to tilt and swivel. This feature enables you to bounce the flash off nearby walls to create softer light on your subject.
Other features to consider include Wireless TTL Flash Control, High-Speed Sync, and Rear Curtain Sync. Wireless TTL Flash control lets your inbuilt camera flash control the external flash for two-point lighting. High-speed sync allows the shutter to be triggered at higher shutter speeds than usual (typically around 1/200 of a second). Rear-curtain sync allows the flash to fire as the shutter closes, offering room for motion blur and other creative opportunities.
Best Off Camera Flash
I personally use the 430 EX III Speedlite for my Canon camera. It’s a mid-range option with a decent level of power and a relatively quick recycling time. It’s reasonably priced, and even better if you can grab it on a cash back deal. A cheaper alternative is the Yonguno YN-560 III, which is comparable (if not better) to the Canon but at a lower cost. It’s also compatible with any camera brand.
Yongnuo Professional Flash Speedlight
Canon Flash Speedlite 430EX III RT
The Canon 430 EX II comes with a warranty, eTTL, high-speed sync, built-in wireless signaling system, and performs well both on and off camera. I ended up choosing the Canon and have been impressed ever since.
Patience and Practice
Above all, patience and practice are your best allies in photography and video making. It takes time and effort to improve. I’m no expert (just an enthusiast), but with patience and practice, you can definitely enhance your skills.
Photography and videography are visual mediums, so you can literally see your progress over time, which is immensely rewarding. Critique your own work, question how you can improve, and learn from others’ work. Plan your shoot, set a goal, and go for it!
As always, the links to Amazon above are affiliate links. Buying through these links doesn’t cost you extra, but I earn a small commission from the sales. Any money made will be used to cover next year’s hosting fees and create more content for you. Thank you for reading this far.
Feel free to leave any questions or comments below, and I’ll respond as soon as I can. If you’re interested in learning more about photography gear, let me know in the comments. If you take a photo using any of these must-have camera accessories, post a link to your blog and I’ll review and rate it for you. And if you have any questions about your own workflows or gear, I’m always here to help.