Best of the (Kinda) Little Things
So here’s a list of some useful little accessories you might want to consider picking up. Though before we start I just want to say I wanted to make a simple list of relatively cheap accessories that most photographers would find useful. I decided to check out some lists other sites have made. For some reason I saw several sites say things like “best accessories to have: #1 memory cards, #2 spare batteries for your camera, #3 a camera bag, #4 a tripod”! To me a lot of those lists are pretty useless, cause I don’t think I’ve ever met any photographer that went “Man I love taking photos but I wish there was some way I could keep these photos I’ve taken so I could possibly look at them later at some given time instead of having it constantly disappearing on the back of my camera”. With that said I hope this list is a little more useful as I try to not list anything that is to blatantly obvious, like how you should probably consider buying a camera bag instead of trying to stuff that DSLR in those skinny jean pockets.
Oh the hypocrisy… Not trying to say, hey you know those electronics you own that have these slots that seems to fit some sort of long cylindrical objects, well you might want to consider buying this in order to operate it. Now I know Eneloop has become a pretty well known brand for batteries but the reason why I felt like mentioning them is because of my personal experience with them. Probably one of the best rechargeable AA batteries I’ve ever used. What makes them special is the fact they hold their charge well and are very long lasting. Like they say on their packaging these batteries can sit for years and lose very little charge. These types of batteries are called low self-discharge NiMH (LSD NiMH for short) and Eneloop isn’t the only brand that makes them. Also if you want more power and a faster recharge rate you can go for their new higher performance Eneloop XX model, with 500 more mAh you’ll be able to get more out of them compared to their regular models. My oldest set is over 4 years old and still runs great; I use them regularly with all my speedlights and never had any issue. In fact I actually own… 52 AA Eneloop batteries, and none have exploded and flung battery acid everywhere just yet, still waiting for that to happen.
Again with the hypocrisy. Yes if you buy rechargeable batteries odds are you’ll be smart enough to buy a charger for them as well, but again this is a case of me wanting to recommend this charger in particular. With the biggest reason being it can charge 8 batteries at once. It also can charge AAA batteries if you need it. This smart charger has many cool features. One nice bit is that it can fully charge a battery in 1-2 hours, but if you’re not in a rush you can set it to “soft charge” which takes 3-4 hours. Why would you do that, well batteries are funny things, but simply put a slower charge is better for the battery and helps extend its life. It will not overcharge your batteries and charges them individually. It also has this feature called Deep Conditioning System Charges where it basically revives dead rechargeable batteries you might have. I’ve used the feature once (on some random set of rechargeable I found) and it actually worked pretty well, I now use those batteries for my wireless mouse.
Not going to lie but this was probably one of the best investments I’ve ever made. As an on location strobist photographer it is necessary to have a case for all my AA batteries instead of having them bouncing around everywhere in my bag. It holds 8 AAs and fits AAA batteries as well. I use cases to stay organized, with charged batteries facing with the + side up, and dead batteries with the + side down. It’s a pretty useful system if you juggle around a lot of batteries like I do. Better than just dumping those dead batteries from your flash into your bag, then reaching into that bag to grab new fresh batteries only to grab those dead ones again. See how many times that happens before quitting in rage.
Or frankly any decent flashlight that preferably uses AA batteries and not the more expensive CR123. I recommend this light in particular because its small, high powered, takes a single AA battery and has an “on” button which I prefer over a twist on. One hand operation is very important. So why a flashlight you might ask? Well I can give you two useful tips. The more obvious tip being the fact that it will really help you when you try focusing in the dark, just shine it on your subject, focus, and turn it off. That’s where having a simple “on” button is useful, you don’t need both hands to turn it off. Also if you’re shooting a person you can just hand off the flashlight to them and tell them to blind themselves so you can focus and tell them to turn it off once you’ve locked on.
The second tip is to help get more life in the eyes of your subject. As you might know our pupils get smaller the brighter it is. So when shooting in the dark or indoors, it means our pupils are larger in order to take in more light just like an aperture. So when you photograph someone in the dark you might notice you capture a lot of that dark lifeless pupil in their eyes instead of that colourful iris of theirs (assuming its not super dark brown). The trick is to take out that flashlight and shine it towards your subject’s eyes to constrict the pupils and show more color, then quick snap the picture.
Gels are useful for any photographer using artificial lights.They can be used for colour correcting, or just for effects. They’re cheap but probably one of the more useful things you’ll ever get for you’re lights. You can buy packs specifically made for speed lights or get larger sheets to use with strobes. A little colour can dramatically alter and enhance an image, it’s a simple way to make you background more interesting. They can also be used to control the mood of you picture, cold and dreary, warm and comforting, our just bizarre and full of energy. And they’re just down right fun to experiment with. Playing around is a great way to enhance you skill as a photographer.
Oh my gosh I can not tell you how useful this stuff is, and best part is its dirt-cheap. You can go to a dollar store and pick up a 20×30 sheet of foam core, for a freaking dollar! And they even come with different colours!! If you work indoors a lot these are great to have around cause they are awesome lightweight and cheap reflectors. Mind you they don’t travel as well as reflectors but again if you shoot indoors these things are awesome, especially because they cost a whole freaking dollar.
Why does everyone hate the idea of sticking velcro on anything? Sure when it comes time to take it off there might be some sticky residue left but you can easily get that off with some Goo Gone or something Velcro I awesome, all my flashes have velcro on them and in turn all my radio trigger have velcro on them. See where I’m going? I just attach my triggers on my flash instead of having it dangle by the wire like some people. I velcroed all my gels as well so they can easily attach to my flashes, along with all my other small modifers for my flash. Honestly if you want to be able to quickly and easily attach anything to…anything!? Just velcro it! Though I guess it’s a bit of an issue to some people, the sound of tearing velcro isn’t exactly quiet, talk about a fun way to get everyones attention in a quiet reception.
Honesty this is something it seems not to many people know about for some reason. Now the one big drawback for most adapters is that you won’t be able to auto focus anymore, so if you’re alright with manual focusing using adapters opens up a wide range of lenses for you. Whether you use a Canon or Nikon body you should be able to find an adapter to allow you to use a bevy of old manual focus lenses. You can adapt any M42, Contax/Yashica, Olympus OM, Leica R mount, and every single medium format lens to Canon and Nikon cameras with the right adapter. Also one cool note is that mirrorless cameras like the Sony NEX can use pretty much every lens with the right adapter including those small super expensive Leica M mount lenses. Now here’s the fun part for Canon users, you can use any Nikon lens on that Canon body of yours as well, however it doesn’t work as well the other way around.
Here is another useful thing I can think of that a lot of people seem to be unaware of. I’m sure we’re all aware of how many screw on filters there are out there like circular polarizers, neutral density filters and variable neutral density filters but you know you really don’t need to buy one for all those different size filter threads you have. I hate seeing someone who was silly enough to buy like 3 different sized circular polarizers or something cause that’s a lot of money you literally threw at the salesmen for no good reason. In fact the best thing to do is to buy the largest size, 82mm or 77mm, filter and just buy whatever step down rings you need! That way you only need to buy one filter and can buy whatever step down rings you need and frankly step down rings are much cheaper than buying more filters. Unless you’re really irresponsible with you’re money or have some ridiculous reason for wanting to have a circular polarizer on ALL those lenses you have getting one filter and several step down rings is the smarter/poorer mans choice.
Okay so this is the most expensive thing on this list of random accessories. But its very useful and in my opinion totally worth it. Though to be honest I didn’t realize how expensive these things have gotten. You’re looking at a $100+ investment here but I’d say it’s worth it. Now what exactly is it and why is it worth $100+ you ask? Well this brush here is specifically made for sensor cleaning so you wont need to send in your camera for expensive sensor cleaning. This brush has a few nifty tricks, which makes it excellent for cleaning sensors. It has a little motor in it that causes the brush itself to spin around. The point of the motor and the whole spinning brush thing is two fold. One, spinning the brush will fling any dust it picked up off the brush itself. The other reason is that when the brush is spinning the fibers of the brush will build up a small static charge (give it up for science!), which will attract dust on your sensor to it, just like a bunch of desperate guys when they see an attractive woman enter a bar. Now pro tip here: DO NOT turn that thing on when its in your camera, its not meant for that! If you do odds are you’re going to get a bunch of grease on the brush, then on your sensor, which will be much harder to clean then any stains you ever gotten on that white shirt of yours. Also it has a little flashlight on it… So you can see the dust better! You can even charge you friends to clean their cameras!
Well that’s 10 (relatively) cheap little things that I find useful that not everyone seems to really know or care about. Hopefully that wasn’t too much of a read for you folks, I know I can be extremely long winded and what not but more importantly I hope this helps you to some degree. Saving money where you can is pretty awesome in my opinion but then again I’m just a poor boy…