Once you have a compact system camera or DSLR there are lots of accessories available to make your photographic life easier or help you take better shots. Take advantage of the seasonal sales and bag yourself a few essentials from our list.
Essential new camera accessory 1: Camera bag
If you’ve got a small camera and a single lens a bag may not seem essential, but it’s a good way to protect them in transport and it keeps rain and dust at bay. And as you build up a collection of lenses and accessories you’ll find that you need something to keep it all together and make it easier to carry.
Photo backpacks are a great way to carry heavy kit over long distances or uneven terrain, but because you usually have to take them off your back to access your gear, they can slow you down a bit.
Shoulder camera bags give speedy access, but as the weight is carried on one shoulder it can be uncomfortable with heavy loads over long distances.
There are also quite a few ‘sling’ bags available now which combine the some of the comfort of a backpack with some of the convenience of a shoulder bag.
Deciding which type of camera bag to go for is a matter of personal preference, but think about how you use your gear when considering the options.
Essential new camera accessory 2: Tripod
A tripod is essential because it provides a method of holding your camera at exactly the right angle and keeping it absolutely still so your images are pin-sharp and full with detail.
Don’t be tempted to buy a cheap, flimsy tripod though. You want something sturdy that will keep your camera still in a breeze and not wobble like a jelly every time you touch it or the camera.
Look for a tripod that extends to near eye-level, yet allows you to shoot close to the ground as well. Clip locks on the legs are good for quick deployment, but twist locks take up less room so are slightly better when you’re transporting the tripod.
As a rule aluminium tripods are more sturdy (and cheaper) than carbon fibre, but they are also heavier to carry.
Essential new camera accessory 3: Tripod head
A tripod head is the bit that goes between the tripod legs and your camera. Many tripods are sold as a kit with a head, but you can also buy them separately, which give you the opportunity to select the head that suits the way you shoot.
Ball heads can be used for any type of photography and are quick to use, but they are especially well suited to still life and macro photography when the camera needs to be held at strange angles.
However, they can be a pain to use for landscapes when you want to tip the camera up or down but keep the horizon level in the frame. This is when three-way tripod heads are useful as the camera can be moved around three planes individually.
Essential new camera accessory 4: Remote release
A remote release allows you to trip the shutter without touching the camera, so it’s useful for longer exposures when the camera is on a tripod as it avoids introducing unwanted camera shake.
Many models also act as bulb timers to enable you to take exposures longer than 30 seconds, and intervalometers that enable you to take a series of images at specific timer intervals for a specified duration.
The ioShutter and TriggerTrap dongles even enable you to turn your smartphone into a remote release with all sorts of cool features such as the ability to fire the shutter with a sound.
There are two types of remote release, those that connect to the camera via a cable and wireless releases. Wireless releases have the advantage of working from a longer range and as you’re not physically linked to the camera, you can’t introduce any wobble.
Essential new camera accessory 5: Additional lenses
The chances are that your camera came with a standard zoom lens which covers a focal length range of around 18-55mm on an APS-C format camera, 14-42mm on Micro Four Thirds or 28-105mm on a full-frame model.
This is a great starting point, but it won’t be long before you find you need something a bit wider for shooting landscapes or interiors, or you need a telephoto lens to allow you to frame action subjects tightly.
You may also want to get closer to small subjects with a macro lens, or get a dedicated portrait lens with a wide aperture to limit depth of field and blur backgrounds.