Once you have bought your DSLR, a lens or two and a speedlight, it is easy to get caught up in the moment and start buying all manner of add-ons and accessories. Some are incredibly useful and some are just plain gimmicky and I must admit I am a bit of a hoarder myself so how do we wade through all the bits and bobs out there and find the real useful stuff?
Here are some that I feel are worth their weight in gold:
- Cable Release
- Battery Grip
- Lens Hoods
- Cokin Filter System
- Card Reader
- Flash Diffusers
- Spare Batteries
- Digital Photo Storage Device
We will illustrate when, where and how to use these in the next module but for now, here is a quick explanation of each.
These are great for many things such as keeping the shot steady on a tripod using slow shutter speeds (saves you “stabbing” the camera making it move) at night for example. It is also good for locking in long exposures over 30 seconds, timer release (i.e. take one photo every second for as long as you like…time lapse photography) and many more creative applications.
This is the first accessory I bought back in the early 1980’s when I got my first SLR although in those days it was very basic and more mechanical than today’s electronic cable releases.
Adding an additional battery grip to your DSLR can be both a help and a hindrance. For one thing, they add bulk to your kit making it heavier and more conspicuous. However, I think the good outweighs the bad in most cases.
I love the fact that I can switch from “landscape” mode when holding the camera, to “portrait” mode in an instant and still have all the relevant buttons to hand.
Not only that, but because I am adding an extra battery, I know that the added power supply can last for an entire wedding with no problem whatsoever and the fact that the ergonomics fit my large hands a lot better is a bonus.
However, in saying that, you and your needs may differ so before buying a battery grip, it may be worth you trying one out in a store first.
Lens Hoods (Solid)
Reasons for owning a lens hood for your lenses is two-fold. One, because it does what it is designed to do and that is to block unwanted light from entering the lens and secondly, it can add an extra element of protection to your lens should you decide to drop it.
I know this from firsthand experience when my wife picked up my camera bag and out dropped my 5D and 24-70mm onto solid, marble flooring from about 1 metre. Luckily the impact was dampened greatly by the lens hood…no lasting damage to camera or lens.
Cokin Filter System
If you even decide to get artistic or more involved with your photography, the Cokin filter system is a great place to start. Normally you would have to buy an expensive filter for each lens if the filter thread differed, although you can use a step up or step down ring to accommodate them but that adds more expense.
The Cokin system on the other hand is a lot cheaper and will fit all your lenses once you have the correct set up. Once you have the kit, you just buy each individual filter for a fraction of the cost of a standard filter. The quality is pretty good too.
You can see more on this system in action in the next module.
When you buy or bought your DSLR, you normally receive the cables needed to connect your camera to your PC. This is great if you are shooting tethered (such as for studio work) so that your images go straight to your PC and not the memory card.
But if you simply want to transfer your images to your PC, it can be a pain as well as power consuming for your cameras batteries.
If you get hold of a cheap card reader (they normally come with multi card reading capabilities), it will save you a lot of time and hassle as you simply remove the card from your camera, insert in into the card reader (which is attached to your PC via a USB cord) and your computer should recognise the card and away you go!
Of course, they are compatible with all computers so you can use it for your desktop, laptop, notebook and so on.
Now we are talking, in fact this should have been at the top of the list.
If you are using speedlights in your photography, you may/will find that the light is too harsh and creates strong, unsightly shadows. Adding a good diffuser to your speedlight will make a world of difference as you can see in the images below.
Of course, once you learn how to couple this with bouncing the flash (more in next module), the difference is greater still…
Diffusers come in all shapes and sizes, clarity and opaqueness, I generally use the softer diffusers such as those made by Gary Fong.
Got a speedlight? Get a diffuser!
The worst and most frustrating thing that can happen to you is that your batteries die on you during a shoot whether in your camera or your speedlight. If it happens to you during a wedding…shame on you. If it happens when you have planned, prepared and travelled a fair distance to a fantastic location, that is nasty.
Always be prepared and buy plenty of back up batteries. For your camera I would suggest buying the manufacturers own brand, cheap imitations can deplete a lot quicker. For your speedlight, I would suggest buying rechargeable batteries. They are better for the environment, last longer and will save you a lot of money in the long run. I use and swear by Energiser 2500 or 2700 mAh.
To be on the safe side, always make sure your batteries are fully charged before embarking on any “long lasting” shoot.
Digital Photo Storage Device
Now these can come in super handy especially if you are away shooting or on holiday for an extended period of time. They are also good for wedding photography.
If you choose to use huge 32gb memory cards and “put all your eggs in one basket”, there is a (slim) chance that you could lose the lot in one foul swoop due to card loss or damage.
Hedging your bets and occasionally uploading and storing your photos to an external drive or device could save your bacon. Not only that but they tend to include other useful functions too such as video, document storage and viewing, music etc.
Not totally necessary but very cool!
Next Page – Transferring Images