7 Inexpensive Accessories Every Beginning Photographer Should Have

The other day, my friend Brian (a beginning photographer) asked me what accessories I think he should get for his camera.  The only qualification in selecting these accessories was that they should be relatively inexpensive, and so I wrote up a list for him.  This got me thinking–why shouldn’t I let everyone else see this list, too?

These are all general accessories (meaning that they’re not brand-specific) that, in my opinion, every aspiring photographer should have to be successful.  All of the price ranges listed are through eBay.com or Amazon.com, which I find to be the least expensive and most reliable websites to purchase from.

1.  A sturdy camera strap.  Cost:  $10-30. If your camera didn’t come with one, buy one.  Why?  Well, common sense, honestly.  If you have a camera strap to hold the camera around your neck (or wrapped around your wrist a few times, which is what I prefer to do ;)), you’re much less likely to drop the camera.  Make sure it is well made though–you don’t want to be relying on a camera strap that could break at any moment!

2.  A lens hood.  Cost: $5-10. Lens hoods are great for blocking out glare and preventing lens flare, so if you’re going to be shooting with any decent amount of light (ESPECIALLY if you shoot outside a lot), a lens hood is an inexpensive and smart investment.  I use a petal-shaped lens hood that I’m able to rotate–shorter on two sides, longer on the other two–that way if I WANT lens flare in a photo, I can simply rotate the hood to achieve the desired effect.

3.  A camera lens cleaning kit and clear screen protectors.  Cost:  $5-20. The screen protectors will save your screen from scratches that could make reviewing your pictures accurately very difficult.  As for the cleaning kit, preferably one with at LEAST a microfiber cleaning cloth, a squeeze ball air blower, and some sort of a very soft-bristled brush.  This is another no-brainer–you really don’t want to get dust on you lens or your sensor, and the kits specifically made for cameras won’t scratch either of them like some fabrics might (which means stop cleaning your lens off with your t-shirt! lol).  As far as the microfiber cleaning cloth goes, I have one that is sewn into a tiny pouch, then attached to a clip on keychain-type device that’s hooked to my camera strap (which I never remove from my camera) at all times.  It looks similar to this:

You don’t HAVE to get one of those, but they’re really convenient, and very difficult to lose, haha.

4.  A UV filter.  Cost:  $1-3. This is probably one of THE best investments you can make (and one of the least expensive!).  UV filters won’t really do anything to your photo like other filters would, but if you have one screwed onto the end of your lens at all times, your lens will never get scratched!  Considering the cost of most lenses, a UV filter is definitely something you don’t want to go without.  Lots of lenses come WITH a UV filter though, so before you buy one, check to see if there’s a UV filter screwed onto the end of your lens first.

5.  A decent tripod.  Cost: $15-30. Without a doubt, there will be situations where every photographer will need a tripod.  It doesn’t have to be an expensive brand-name tripod (mine’s a Sunpak, which is a cheap-y brand, but they make good quality tripods), but just make sure that the tripod is sturdy and of good quality.  I would recommend getting one that gives you a lot of control–where you can, at minimum, adjust the height of the legs, the angle at which the camera is pointed, it has feet on it that pivot to adjust to different terrains, and you can rotate your camera on it 360 degrees.   That way, your tripod is never holding you back from getting a good shot.

6.  A small camera bag or backpack.  Cost:  $15-50 for bags, $30-75 for backpacks. The reason why I say “small” is because this article is directed at beginning photographers–ones with very little gear.  For some people, bringing the bag with them might seem a little annoying, but it keeps your camera safe. If you’re out and about with your camera and you don’t have a camera bag, you basically have to hold it or have it right next to you (or around your neck) all the time to avoid damage. With a camera bag, you can put it away when you want to, and have it over your shoulder (like a messenger bag) or on your back (in the case of a backpack) when it’s not in use. They are also definitely necessary for storing accessories (like a lens cleaning kit ;)).

7.  A photo editing program similar to Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom.  Cost:  Free, if you find the right program. And I don’t mean “free if you find an illegal download of it”.  I mean that there honestly are some really decent free programs out there.  I DO use Lightroom, and I absolutely love it, but I realize that this is not an inexpensive item, so I’m not even going to go into how much of a necessity it is for me, but I WILL tell you two other programs that are free that I love.  These are Gimp and Paint.NET.  Admittedly, neither one of these programs has EVERY feature that Photoshop has, but both are excellent for photo editing.  You may not like these programs, so choose one based on features that you are specifically looking for.  Most of the reason why I suggest downloading one of these is because if you have a crappy editing program, or you only hit the “fix all” button on your program, you’re going to come out with some less-than-decent pictures (unless you take your photos perfectly every time and none of them need editing……yeah, in a perfect world :)).  Basically though, if you have a good editing program, you really don’t even need lens filters (which a lot of people love, but they are an unnecessary expense in digital photography, imo).  Download.com is a good place to find programs similar to these–they offer a myriad of downloads, and all are guaranteed to be spyware-free.


8.  A decent (name brand!!) external flash.  Cost:  $200+ (new). Yes, I realize that I said there would be 7 accessories, but this one is not on the actual “list” because this is not very inexpensive.  However, if there’s one thing on your camera you should save up money for, it’s a decent external flash. NEVER EVER buy off-brand, inexpensive external flashes–they are a HUGE waste of money, as I’ve learned from experience. They will never work as well as name brand ones, and they tend to break really quickly and easily (my $100 one broke within my first month of using it, and after I sent it in for repair and it came back, it broke AGAIN a week later). NAME BRAND ONLY in this case, otherwise it’s a real shot in the dark on whether the quality will be good (just a tip–don’t get a Sunpak flash like I did my first time >__O).
Reason why I suggest getting one is because the built-in flash on a camera will never look good enough. It’s almost always too bright and too harsh, so it washes your images out (eew). External flashes give you more control over the angle of the flash, and are GREAT for indoor photos (especially portraits). They can also help you out in lots of lighting situations where you would normally have to have a lighting kit.  So in reality, having one can save you some money if you don’t have the cash for a lighting kit (of course, there are some situations where an external flash just won’t cut it, but having one will produce much better results than trying to use a built-in flash).  I have a Canon Speedlite 430EX II (anywhere from $225-500 on eBay, new) that has been a life saver. It rotates 360 degrees and you can angle it anywhere between 0 and 90 degrees, which is what you wanna look for in an external flash. If you can’t change the angle AND you can’t rotate it, it might as well be a built-in flash. With an external flash, you can “bounce” the flash off of a nearby wall (or the ceiling) and get a softer, more even light on your subject, which makes for much better pictures.  And just a final word of advice regarding the external flashes–as a general rule of thumb, if it’s a brand new flash being sold for less than $150, chances are there’s either something broken on it, or it’s a cheap flash that’s going to fail on you.

Total cost of all accessories (not including external flash):  $51-168
That’s cheaper than the price of a decent lens!

So, in conclusion, there are a lot of accessories that you CAN purchase for your new camera, but there are a select few that you SHOULD buy.  Keep an eye out for people trying to sell things like “macro lens filter kits” for cheap–they usually won’t work that well  😉

Happy shooting!


~ by jeezycreezy on February 28, 2011.

3 Responses to “7 Inexpensive Accessories Every Beginning Photographer Should Have”

  1. A spare battery is great too!!!

    • Very true, and I considered adding that, but I remember when I was just beginning photography, I didn’t have as much use for an extra battery as I do say, when shooting a wedding nowadays. Really, beginning photography is, in my opinion, a bit more casual–a spare battery would definitely be an accessory a photographer shooting for hours on end without being able to charge their battery would need, though!
      Thanks for the suggestion–I appreciate the feedback!

  2. […] 7 Inexpensive Accessories Every Beginning Photographer Should Have (via Renae DuHaime Photography Blog) February 28, 2011 Filed under: Uncategorized — lifeaccordingtotravel @ 8:45 pm The other day, my friend Brian (a beginning photographer) asked me what accessories I think he should get for his camera.  The only qualification in selecting these accessories was that they should be relatively inexpensive, and so I wrote up a list for him.  This got me thinking–why shouldn't I let everyone else see this list, too? These are all general accessories (meaning that they're not brand-specific) that, in my opinion, every aspiring ph … Read More […]

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