So many of us know that feeling! We’ve just bought a shiny new camera and are now looking at a daunting array of accessories. While it’s true that photography can be an expensive hobby, not every piece of equipment you buy has to cost a fortune.
Here’s a list of must-have camera accessories that ranges from top-of-the-line to bargain basement DIY, and something in between.
1. Medium Grey Card (also known as 18% Grey Card)
While post-processing, it makes sense to get creative and clean up your best shots, and not waste time fixing basic issues with white balance and exposure. This is easily solved by using a medium grey card to set your exposure. This prevents over or under exposing in very bright or dark set ups, making this a cheap and awesome camera accessory
Fun fact: This card is also called an “18% Grey Card”because it is designed to simulate a standard photographic scene by reflecting an “average” amount of light which is about 18%.
2. White Foam Core Board
This is the least expensive of any lighting equipment you may purchase. It’s available at every stationery or craft store and you can actually buy more than one to keep within easy reach. Why is this a must-have camera accessory?
The white surface is used to bounce light into shadows, thus softening contrasts. It can be used to create dramatic shadows by placing it between the subject and the light source. Or just use it as a clean backdrop for your favorite portrait. Either way, for sheer value it’s hard to beat
3. Camera Strap
We use this basic piece of equipment all the time. However, you know very well that the strip of black nylon that came standard with your DSLR is about as comfortable around your neck as a steel cable.
It always a good idea to invest in a comfortable, wide strap that distributes weight evenly over your neck or shoulders. The fact that these straps come in a wide variety of material, including custom woven fabric or hand-tooled leather, make them a really cool DSLR accessory.
4. Light Reflector
A good light reflector is a critical component in any photographer’s kit. What makes this a cool camera accessory is its versatility. You can use circular pop-up light reflectors in situations where the flash is just not going to cut it – typically strong sunny days with deep shadows.
Another way is to use thermal blankets. These are really reflective, and are made of Mylar, which is also water-proof, making them the ideal protection from surprise showers.
5. Spare Lens Caps
Yes, we’ve all done it. In our haste of capturing the perfect photo-op, we snatch the cap off the lens and put it somewhere. A table, a jacket pocket, on top of a branch, inside an empty coffee cup (yes, that does happen!). And once we’re done gleefully inspecting the results of our handiwork, the frantic search for the lens cap begins – backtracking and upturning everything in our path, all the while leaving our precious lens unprotected.
Do yourself a favor and get the essential camera accessory of all – a spare lens cap set.
6. Bulb Blower
The last thing you want to see is nasty blurred smudges or spots on your photos. These are often caused by dust or dirt on the lens surface. It’s a good idea to make sure these grains don’t come between the lens and your wiping cloth – scratching your precious lens in the process.
It’s a good idea to invest in a quality bulb blower. This is a simple tool that pushes a blast of air to blow away any particles, keeping your lens clean and your photos sharp
This is one of those really awesome camera accessories that is so popular, it’s known by a brand name LensPen. What’s it called generically? That’s not important. What is important is how it can magically clean dust and grease smears from your lens without scratching it.
There are many different styles and sizes to choose from. Take your pick and toss it in your camera bag, because everyone loves a sparkling clean lens.
8. Camera Bag
This is a no-brainer. Based on how much gear you have, you can actually own more than one type of camera bag. Maybe a huge one that holds all your photographic equipment, so you can transport or store your entire collection in safety.
You may also choose to get a smaller bag that holds the camera, a couple of lenses and a flash or other important accessory for a short shooting session, or when space and weight is a constraint. Either way it’s important to make the right choice when it comes to camera bags.
9. Cleaning Cloth
This is also one of those DSLR accessories that needs to have a home in your camera bag. Many of us actually have more than one cloth, and will switch to a new, clean one between wipes.
These cloths are typically micro-fiber, woven in a closed loop pattern so that they’re lint free. Use it to wipe down your camera, lens or flash before putting it back to prevent dirt from accumulating in the bag and getting all over the rest of your precious equipment.
These are easy to care for as well – just toss them in the washing machine and they’re good to go.
Choose a set of filters to manipulate the light coming in. A polarizing filer will increase the color saturation, and also minimize reflections from glass, metal or other shiny elements in your scene.
Filters are also an interesting creative tool. Used appropriately, they can impart a unique ‘feel’ to your photos. For example using a graduated filter to get the right exposure for different areas in a photo. For dramatic results, photographers often experiment with color filters as well
If you want to get that razor sharp image quality, the only way is to use a tripod. This must-have DSLR accessory is a crucial component of getting that perfect shot. It helps keep the camera steady, minimizing vibration and the resulting blur in your photos. It’s particularly useful in low light situations like sunsets or night shots with longer shutter times.
Most tripods telescope down for storage, and have multiple mounting options, including the much-loved ball head. Make sure you get one of good quality – you’ll be using it a lot.
This cool camera accessory is one of those things that you don’t realize you needed until you actually own or use one. Tripods can be bulky and impractical in some situations. They also require a few minutes to setup correctly. Also, many attractions like museums etc. have banned tripod photography.
Enter, the Monopod. It’s small, practical and easy to use. Though not as stable as a full-fledged tripod, it makes things simpler and also provides sharper shorts than handheld. Best of all, they’re pretty cheap. There’s no excuse not to own one!
13. Photoshop and Lightroom
This is one of the most significant changes when the world of photography switched from film to digital. A must-have DSLR accessory is a photo-editing software. Adobe Photoshop has become the standard for beginners and professionals alike. Recently their pricing shifted from an enormous one-time software purchase to a very reasonable monthly subscription model.
This has obviously removed a huge barrier to entry and Creative Cloud is great news for enthusiasts. Being able to edit and correct photos is a huge plus for professional photographers as well, since they have to adhere to specific guidelines for their clients.
14. Flashes and Speedlights
Having an artificial source of light is important while taking pictures with low or no natural light. There are many types of flashes, like studio flashes or strobes. The flashes that are mounted on camera hot-shoes are called flash guns or speed-lights.
These are typically triggered by signals from the camera. Speed-lights are a must-have accessory for DSLRs since most of them do not have a pop-up flash, or the ones they have are too puny to provide a reasonable amount of light.
The other advantage of speedlights is that they can also be powered by their own batteries, or by an external source. Having the ability to light up the room is crucial for photographers!
15. Camera Creatures
This may seem a little whimsical, but to everyone who has ever taken photos of their kids, it’s worth its weight in gold! It’s essentially a plush toy, or figurine that fits around the camera and directs the child’s eye toward the lens. These are available online under different brand names.
No need for any more desperate “Watch the birdie” entreaties. Pro-tip: This also works fantastic with pets! If you want to take a picture of Fluffy, this is a surefire way to get her attention.
16. Memory cards
As the quality of photos goes up with every iteration of your favorite digital camera, so does the size of those jpeg and RAW files. Sometimes when traveling, and you’re unable to move your photos to your computer, you’ll find that your memory card will fill up surprisingly quickly, especially if you’re shooting video.
With UHD and 4K becoming the norm for many DSLRs, the awesome camera accessories for travel are actually high-capacity memory cards. Make sure you stock up on a few before heading off on your next vacation.
17. External Hard Drive
As you move your photos from your memory card, you’ll find that they take up a lot of space on your computer. Even more so if you’re shooting and/ or editing a lot of video.
If you do have a lot of photos and videos, or if you just want to create a back (and you should), the obvious choice is an external hard drive. You can keep your photos on a high-capacity desktop USB drive with its own power source – these are great for archiving and redundant backups.
If you want to carry them around with you and have them accessible all the time, then pick up a portable USB hard drive. Try getting a USB 3.0 drive – they’re significantly faster than the previous generation, and this becomes an important factor when you’re transferring large volumes of data.
18. Audio Adaptors/ Converters
While DSLRs are growing in leaps and bounds in terms video quality, the audio capabilities for most cameras has not been able to keep up. While some high-end cameras have onboard audio interfaces, most DSLRs are limited to basic stereo mics, or at the most a hot shoe that allows an external boom or shotgun microphone.
In such scenarios it really helps to have an external Audio Adaptor that connects via the mic interface and opens up access to professional audio plugs like the industry standard XLR as well as the ubiquitous 3.5mm jack. The improvement in sound quality can be surprising.
19. Remote Shutter Release
If you’re looking for that tack-sharp photo, you obviously need a tripod to hold the camera steady. However even the minor physical act of pressing the shutter release transfers vibrations to the camera at the moment of taking the photo – just when you want everything to be perfectly still.
One way of taking pictures without actually touching the camera is by using the camera’s self-timer, but you lose the flexibility of choosing the exact moment of taking the photo. The other way is using a remote shutter release.
This is a really cool accessory that connects to the camera by a cord, and prevents any vibration from getting through. There are wireless versions available too, which provide even more flexibility.
20. Backup Battery
Having a set of backup batteries for your DSLR may be the single most important expense you make. There are countless stories of photographers who missed that perfect shot because their camera ran out of juice when they least expected it.
Most camera batteries are not very expensive, and it’s always a good idea to have a spare set and also make sure they’re charged. Batteries have a sneaky habit of gradually losing power even when they’re stored. By far, they are the most important camera accessory for travel
21. Rain Cover
Say “Rainstorm” and you can expect your average DSLR owner to head in the opposite direction. And with reason – there’s a significant investment in most photographic equipment, and everyone knows electronics and water don’t mix.
However, there are rain covers designed specifically for DSLRs and that makes them an awesome camera accessory because they allow outdoor photographers to capture amazing photos of clouds and skies just before a storm. There are many sizes and styles, at different price points as well.
It’s a good idea to keep on in your camera bag – you never know when your next dramatic landscape shot will happen.
This tool helps you keep photographs level, even when you’re taking handheld shots. There are a few versions of this cool little camera accessory, but the one that works best is a small bubble level cube that fits into the hot-shoe mount.
Typically not very expensive either, this accessory is a must-have for all photography enthusiasts, especially for those sweeping landscape shots.
23. Light Tent or Lightbox
This is a great tool for photographers who like to experiment with macro shots. In a professional environment, this is used for product or food photography. It’s a cheap and effective way to achieve soft, even lighting for small subjects.
These tents may have multiple background colors and are usually made of a light diffusing fabric like nylon. Most light tents also fold up when not in use, so they are a great camera accessory for travel as well.
24. Photo Vest
The sleeveless photo vest has become synonymous with photographers all over the world, and with good reason. There are many pockets to carry your gear and have them at hand when you need them, instead of rummaging around in a camera bag or backpack.
The sleeveless design means that keeps you cool, it’s easy to put on and take off, and it fits over whatever you’re wearing.
That plus a little geek-quotient make this a must have accessory for every photographer.
25. Additional Lenses
We’ve left this one for the last because there’s no real “perfect lens.” Many photographers use different types for different applications. Many get by with just the lens that came with the kit. But as a must-have camera accessory, there’s no doubt that lenses are the most popular.
It’s a good idea to get a set of decent lenses if you’re planning on pursuing photography in any serious way. Telephoto or zoom lenses are an obvious, as are macro lenses for close up photography. Challenge your skills by investing in a prime lens, or get creative with a fisheye lens.
This is not an exhaustive list at all. There are so many cool accessories for DSLRs out there. From the professional to the whimsical, to the downright whacky! If you want to make your gear unique, don’t be afraid to explore and experiment.
What do you think about the list itself?
Maybe you know of an accessory that we haven’t covered here.
Let us know if you think something should be on the list and why!