Every photographer has camera gear that they cannot live without. Usually, these items evolve over time and with experience in the field. Choices of camera accessories can be overwhelming, as there are thousands of products on the market for every need imaginable. Over the years I have tried a multitude of camera gadgets and have subsequently narrowed down my must have camera accessories to the list below. Keep in mind, these accessories do not include cameras or lenses themselves.
1) Quality Camera Backpack
A quality camera backpack is one of the best camera accessories you can buy. It can also be one of the most difficult! As you progress as a photographer, your needs change and your backpack will likely change as well. I went through five backpacks before finding what I consider the best all around camera backpack available today, the F-Stop Gear Tilopa 50L pack.
My main priorities in a camera bag are:
- Large size, but still carry-on friendly for airlines.
- Extreme durability.
- Adequate external pockets.
- Accepts internal organizers.
- Water resistance.
- Quality straps, hip belt and support system with an internal rigid frame.
Your backpack choice will vary based on your own unique needs. Make sure to thoroughly evaluate your top requirements, as backpacks are expensive.
2) Sturdy Tripod & Ball Head
Perhaps the most essential camera accessory you can buy is a sturdy tripod. Just like camera backpacks, tripods come in a wide array of configurations and prices. It can be difficult to select the perfect tripod for you, but my advice is to buy the best model you can afford. It is a purchase that can last for many years if properly maintained and cared for. A tripod is essential for landscape photographers, architectural photographers and any low light photography. Equally as important as the tripod itself is the ball head that holds your camera. Look for a ball head model that has a large clamping surface area and a weight rating at least twice the weight of your camera and heaviest lens combo.
My personal choice is any tripod made by Really Right Stuff. These are expensive, but the quality is unmatched and they are made in the USA. My Really Right Stuff TVC-34L and BH-55 PCLR Ball Head have taken a beating around the world and never let me down.
I personally have several tripods that suit different needs. If your budget allows, this is a good strategy to ensure you always have what you need.
- Sturdiest and Best All-Around Tripod
- Lightweight Backpacking Tripod
- Phone Tripod
- Flexible Tripod
One of my favorite camera accessories is the L-Bracket or L-Plate. An L-bracket mounts to your camera body and is designed to work with whatever clamping system your ball head uses (most commonly Arca Swiss or Arca Type quick release). The beauty of the L-Bracket is that when you want to switch from shooting in horizontal / landscape orientation to vertical / portrait orientation, all you need to do is flip your camera on its side and clamp it. This is much faster, easier and more accurate than tilting your ball head at an angle. This is a piece of gear that I cannot live without!
L-Brackets are made specifically to fit your camera model, so make sure to find the correct model for your setup.
4) Remote Shutter Release
Remote shutter releases are one of the handiest accessories for cameras. They can serve many purposes, including: creating long exposures past the 30 second timer built into most cameras, quickly capturing several shots in sequence without disturbing the camera and of course, taking selfies. My preference is for corded shutter releases, as they are extremely reliable and do not require any sensors to be synced. I have used several cordless models and none have been as reliable as my old fashioned corded release.
5) Air Blower
A clean camera is a happy camera! Any photographer that has shot outside on a windy day can attest to the value of an air blower. These small, lightweight blowers allow you to remove dust and other small particles from your camera and lenses. These are particularly useful when changing lenses, as they can be directed toward the sensor, lens mount and lens glass to remove stubborn dirt and specs.
6) Circular Polarizer Filter
If there is one lens accessory that is an absolute must-have, it is a circular polarizer filter. Polarizing effects cannot be replicated in software like Photoshop, and they are extremely useful for outdoor photography. The most significant benefits of polarizers are reducing reflected light and reflections and enhancing contrast. When photographing foliage and water, a polarizer makes your images much more pleasing, allowing the true colors to show rather than glare.
There are several types of polarizers, including those that screw on the end of your lens, and those that slide into a filter holder. Those that slide or snap into a holder can be used on multiple lenses, which is what I recommend.
7) Spare Camera Batteries
Never underestimate the number of batteries you need. Cameras today have lithium-ion batteries that last a long time, but you will need several for any extended shooting. I have no fewer than 8 Nikon batteries at any given time, as I never want to miss a shot due to lack of charge. I recommend using genuine batteries produced by your camera manufacturer versus generics, as they tend to last longer and have much longer lifespans.
8) Memory Cards
Similar to batteries, I highly recommend having multiple memory cards to ensure you do not run out of storage while on a shoot. High megapixel cameras generate large file sizes, typically anywhere from 25mb to 100mb per image. Make sure to do the math and get enough memory cards to suit your needs. Common memory card types are SD Cards, Cfexpress, XQD, Micro SDXC and CompactFlash.
9) Rain Cover
One of my favorite digital camera accessories is a rain cover system. Although many digital cameras are weather sealed, oftentimes you want to keep shooting in heavy rain, waterfall spray or similarly wet environments. A quality rain cover can allow you to safely shoot while keeping your camera dry.
10) Portable Hard Drive
I always recommend having a solid backup plan for your photos. Even while on a photo trip, I will take the time to backup my memory cards to a separate portable hard drive to ensure I have file redundancy (Once home I have a backup plan that includes storing files on a Synology NAS, external hard drives and in the cloud). There are several options for portable hard drives, including those that do not require a computer to operate. I usually have my laptop with me on trips, so I just use a simple SSD external drive, but find a solution that works for you.