What accessories do I need for my camera?

It seems a lot of you out there either thinking about getting into photography, or have got a camera but still getting started with it.  One of the things I found challenging when I got my first DSLR was “what else do I need?”  There are so many accessory options to choose from and I was confused as to which ones were really necessary and which ones were just nice to have.  There is only so much money to go around so I had to consider carefully 🙂

Because I want to explain more about these accessories I am going to split this post into two parts, this is Part 1 – Accessories for the camera.  Part 2 will be Accessories for the Photographer.

So what accessories do I *need* for my camera?

Photo taken by Steven Erat http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenerat/

As you can see from these photos there are many options for accessories, and even these photos only cover part of the range.  I am a general purpose photographer with a focus towards landscape and nature/wildlife photography so based on my experience these are the accessories I think should be included in a basic kit – it will vary depending on personal preferences of course :

1.   Camera Bag

The most basic accessory required, something to put your camera and lenses in, to store them and to enable you to carry the gear with you and use it.  There are many brands of bags made, and many different styles of bag.  My personal preference is for the backpack style, my normal bag is the Tamrac Adventure 7 but everyone will have different requirements and there are many bag options to suit.  Here are the things I have learned about what a good bag should have:

– good padding in the shoulder straps- be the right length for your back (I am an average height woman and a lot of bags are too long for me)
– have enough pockets to keep useful stuff like filters and batteries and for them to be easily accessible
– be as light as possible
– stand up by itself when you put it down
– be waterproof (water resistant material, flaps over the zips and the best bags come with a built in rain cover)
–  enough room to store all your stuff safely with sufficient padding and dividers
– cheststraps and waist belts (they take up a surpising amount of the load off your shoulders if you use them)

I will note that I think the perfect camera bag is like the Holy Grail – it doesn’t exist and you can spend a lot of money trying to find the right one.  Take your gear into the camera shop and load it all into the bag and walk around with it, fiddle with the straps to make it fit right before you decide.  Good luck 🙂

2. Lens filters/protection

I have these on all my lenses, basic UV lens filters and the main reason I have them is to protect the glass of my lens.  There is a bit of controversy around this practice, some people say ‘why spend thousands of $$ for premium glass and then put a $100 filter on the front?’ and its a fair enough point.  It may impact on the quality of the image you take but I would rather protect my expensive glass this way.  They also filter UV light and cut through haze as well.

3.  Lens Hood

Lens Hoods are tricky things, I usually forget to pack them and therefore don’t have them with me to use.  They are useful in blocking light shining directly on the lens (sunlight or spotlights inside) that can cause lens flare.  If I am using my tripod I often use my hand or my hat to shade the lens because then I have a hand free for that purpose – not so easy when you are shooting handheld.

4. Tripod

Probably the most important and useful accessory you can buy after you get a bag. Also a scary item to get, its expensive and you have to carry it around and you can feel a bit self concious using one in public.  I have to confess I was afraid of mine and didn’t use it for months until I realised that I suck at hand held steadiness in anything less than bright sunlight.  Now I love my tripod and it is always in my car, ready to be used.

Now buying my first tripod was really hard, there are so many different options and I didn’t know what I needed because I had never used one.  I wrote this post back when I purchased mine that explained my process and experience.  I have since upgraded to Manfrotto legs after my first ones were damaged in a car accident.

Here are some tips I learned when I started to embrace my tripod and use it

5. Specialty Filters

OK there are lots of options for specialty filters but there are a couple of basic ones I think everyone should have in their kit

Polarising Filter (usually a circular adjustable one) really good for minimising bright reflections on wet foliage or on still water.  Professional car photographers use these a lot I have heard.

A useful explanation on why you should use a polarising filter

And another one

Neutral Density filter – these come in two kinds, either standard or graduated.  The standard has an even coating all across it, where the graduated have only half of the filter covered, this is so you can use it to darken up a bright sky or foreground

Info on using an ND filter

Info on using a graduated ND filter

I have a Circular Polariser that I must confess I usually forget to pack and take with me, and therefore never use.  I also have a variable ND filter which I got to shoot waterfalls with (you can see examples here)

6.  Extra Batteries

So important!!! I have one extra battery which I keep charged and in my camera bag for when it is needed.  I also have a portable battery charger to take with me on long trips.

7. Flash

Mostly likely your camera will have a popup flash which does the trick for basic requirements.  Once you start to want a better quality flash image that doesnt make someone look like a deer caught in headlights then you need to get a proper external flash.  To really get the benefit of it, you need to use it *AWAY* from the camera – mounted on a stand off to the side of the subject.  If you get really serious about it, you can have several flashes or light sources, and umbrellas and all sorts of scary stuff!

Studio example shooting a pineapple 

Another example done at home with a wineglass

The Strobist guys specialise in educating us about good lighting with inexpensive options

8. Memory cards

I have three cards 2 x 8GB and 1 x 16GB.  These are the best compromise I can make between capacity and price.  My 7D takes quite large RAW files and it can fill up an 8GB card quite quickly.  So I advise you to buy the largest size of the best quality and the fastest tranfer speed card you can afford.  I recommend having at least two.  I find three works quite well, only once have I shot so many images in an outing that I nearly filled up all of them 🙂

So there you go, there are lots of other options, camera straps, fancy grips, GPS units, other specialty filters and cables.  A lot of that will never be necessary unless you decide to go into a more specific type of photography, but today I have covered the basics I think most new photographers would find useful to have in their camera kit.

Did I miss anything important?  Is there something else you would recommend?


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About lensaddiction

Mad keen photographer figuring it out as she goes!
This entry was posted in For Beginners, Tech Tips and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to What accessories do I need for my camera?

  1. Sherri Stone says:

    Great post! I think extra batteries are a must.

  2. I really feel like this topic would have made a good post for the “Lost in the Details” word press challenge this week. The first accessory I got was an extra battery. The second was additional memory cards.

  3. choppy123 says:

    That is one heavy bag needed to carry all that 🙂

    • lensaddiction says:

      True, I don’t carry all of it around in my bag all the time, I actually have two bags, one to store stuff in and one to take out with the kit I need for the day/shoot 🙂

  4. Katka says:

    And this is for beginners in photography? :-). I have to admit that I hate carrying around too much weight and thats why Im about to purchase Nikon J1.

    • lensaddiction says:

      Well not all of it all at once, but having options to choose from when you *need* it is really handy. Of course photography is all about what you want it to be, so if you don’t want to fuss with filters and stuff, then you don’t have to. Good luck with the new camera!

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