15 Must Have Photography Accessories Under $25*

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A Guest post by Kat Landreth from Pare and Focus. This post has been updated to help those looking for last minute stocking stuffers! *All prices and estimates in USD.

Photography can be an expensive hobby. Cameras cost a bundle and lenses for DSLRs often cost a lot more than the camera body. Once you come to grips with the money you spent on the bare necessities it can be daunting to think about spending another fortune on accessories.

The good news is there are plenty of photography accessories that costs less than $25 (US). I’ve put together 15 of my favorites, and they often cost a lot less than $25. But I don’t think of them as “cheap” or “budget” items. These are valuable tools I would want in my kit even if money was no object. The combination of value and low cost means they make great gifts too.

1. White Foam Core At around $5 this is probably the least expensive lighting equipment you’ll ever own. The white surface can be used to bounce light into shadows, softening hard contrasty light. Or, place it between your subject and the light source to cast shadows where you want them. You can even place it behind your subject for a clean distraction free background. Buy just one from a craft store for a few dollars, or get a pack of 5 boards on amazon.com for about $15.

31B1-WG8RcL._SL500_AA300_.jpg2. 18% Gray Card (AKA Medium Gray Card – Use your post processing time to get creative, not fixing basic exposure and white balance problems. A medium gray card helps you get it right “in camera” for just $10. An 18% gray card is designed to represent the average photographic scene by reflecting an average amount of light (18% give or take). Cameras are designed to reproduce average scenes, but not every scene in real life is average. Your camera can be fooled into under or over exposing pictures of very bright or very dark scenes. Using a gray card to set exposure will give you much more accurate results. You can also use an medium gray card to set a custom white balance for more consistent color in your photos.

3. Spray Bottle The trick to shooting fresh and dewy spider webs, fruit, and flowers isn’t waking at the crack of dawn. It’s having a spray bottle handy. It might feel like “cheating” at first but when you see the results you won’t care anymore. You can’t argue with the price either. Fine mist spray bottles can be found for about one dollar.

31MnFMTtzqL._SL500_AA300_.jpg4. Lens Pen Leave the lens fluid and papers at home. The “pen” has a microfiber disk filled with dry lens cleaner on one end. The other end has a retractable brush. Dusting with the brush removes large particles of dust. Lightly rubbing the disk on your lens will remove smudges, fingerprints and spots. A half twist of the pen with the cap on cleans the disk. I swear by this thing. I bought one for a trip to dusty Africa and used it extensively. They’re easy to use, they work perfectly, and they’re pretty cheap (around $10). I can’t believe I didn’t have one before.

5. Cloth bag of rice/beans If you can’t or don’t want to carry a tripod around, having a bag of rice can be the next best thing. Use it to prop up your camera or rest your lens anywhere. Keep the cloth bag empty when traveling to save space and weight. When you get to your destination buy some rice or beans and fill it up. When you’re done, either eat the rice/beans, or give them to someone in need. You can buy dedicated “beanbags” filled with plastic pellets for exactly this purpose starting at about $8.

6. Remote Shutter Release Make tack sharp photos and no fuss self portraits for around $20. A remote shutter release lets you take the picture without touching the camera. This reduces motion blur caused by camera shake. Since the cord is a couple of feet long, it can make taking self portraits a little easier too. If you spend some time on Amazon you may even find a wireless remote shutter release that gives you even greater flexibility in the same price range. The camera’s self-timer is a less flexible but free option.

51Yf6v+-cIL._SL500_AA300_.jpg7. LED Flash Light These things are multi tasking marvels. Experiment with light drawing and light painting at night. And while you’re out there in the dark, you can use it to see where you’re going. They’re not just for night photography though. LED lights can look pretty close to sunlight. If you’re shooting outside they can be an inexpensive stand in for an off camera flash. You can get a small LED Maglite for around $20.

8. Nikon (or similar) Lens Caps I love my Canon, but they make the worst lens caps. Nikon caps are a lot easier to use. The pinchable area on the sides of the Nikon cap are at least twice as wide as the Canon caps. You can pinch from the center of a Nikon cap as well. This makes it easier to remove/replace the cap when a lens hood is in place. The easier it is to use the more likely I am to use it. The more I use the cap, the safer my lens is. They come in a variety of sizes (make sure you get the right size for your lens) and generally cost a few dollars.

21DcB4JfU-L._SL500_AA300_.jpg9. A Flash Diffuser (or Wax Paper) If you have to use the on-camera flash, you can at least soften its effects with a flash diffuser. These come in many styles but they all use a white translucent material to diffuse light. Want to try before you buy? Tape a ring of waxed paper around your pop up flash next time you use it. In principal this will do the same thing as a diffuser, though it’s not durable and certainly not professional looking. When you’re at home taking family snapshots it probably doesn’t matter if you look professional. But, fair warning, it might not be a good idea to let the bride catch you with wax paper on your camera at your next wedding gig.

10. Filter Wrench If you have any screw on filters, one day, one of them will get stuck on your lens. It’s a sad but true fact of filter use. Filters often get stuck because the pressure from your fingers bends the filter a little when you try to unscrew them. Gripping harder to un-stick a stuck-on filter just makes it worse. A filter wrench distributes the pressure of your grip around the entire edge, gripping the filter tight without bending it. Get a filter wrench before you need one so you’re not tempted to force off a stuck-on filter and make it permanently stuck in the process. A set of two wrenches costs about $5.

21T+dJMsr+L._SL500_AA300_.jpg11. Reflective Emergency Blanket and/or Circular Reflector Both of these can be used to reflect light into shadows. The nice thing about the emergency blanket, aside from it being very cheap (a pack of four blankets costs a little over $5), is that the mylar it’s made of is waterproof. Throw it over your gear in a sudden downpour, or toss it on the dewey ground when you need to get low. Circular reflectors can’t pull triple duty like the emergency blanket, but they can still be had for under $25 and unlike the emergency blanket they can be held in place with one hand. Ideally, you would have both and at these prices that’s actually practical.

12. Bulb Blower It’s important to blow off any large grains of sand and dirt before you wipe your camera or lens. You don’t want grains of sand to scratch your lens as you wipe it. A bulb blower delivers a powerful blast of clean air to blow away any dangerous particles. Skip the wimpy brush/blower combo they try to sell you in cleaning kits. The only thing they really do is shed bristled on your camera. Giottos makes a great bulb blower called the Rocket Blower for about $10.

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13. Compact Backpacking Hand Towel This is a must have if you shoot outside. An absorbent lightweight backpacking towel can whisk drops of water away before they become a problem. It’s also nice just to give your gear a quick wipe down at the end of the day to prevent dust and grime from accumulating. Keeping dust and dirt off the outside of your camera may even help keep it from getting inside your camera when you change lenses. These towels take up very little room and they’re worth every penny of the $10 they cost. *Note: I don’t use this for the front or rear element of the lens.

14. A Flickr Account Use for archiving, getting feedback, showing off, and tracking your progress. A free account gets you 100MB of photo storage every calender month. For about $25 a year you get unlimited uploads and storage space which is awesome if you want to archive your digital photos. I really like Flickr for the community (which you get access to wether you go pro or not). Photographers start “groups” to share photos and discussions with other, like minded photogs.

Wether you want to ask questions, start a group or just have an online home for your photos Flickr’s got you covered.

31Uh34puYBL._SL500_AA300_.jpg15. Hot Shoe Mount Bubble Level Keep your horizons straight even when hand-holding. It’s just a small bubble level that slips into your camera’s hot shoe. Not having to constantly straighten and crop your photos could easily be worth the $5 this bubble level costs.

These make great gifts! Is there a budding photographer in your life? A gift basket stuffed with a lens pen, compact hand towel, and bulb blower is perfect for a traveler. Are they shooting family events and holidays? Lighting accessories like reflectors, diffusors, and white foam core really come in handy for portraiture. Just bought their first DSLR? A basket with an 18% gray card, filter wrench, and remote shutter release is better than any cheap “get started kit” sold at the camera store.

I’m always looking for ways to do more with less. So, what are your favorite inexpensive photography accessories?

About the Author: Kat Landreth runs a blog called Pare and Focus – it has simple, inexpensive tips to make digital photos look better. There are “in camera” tricks along side tutorials for the free image editor GIMP.

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  • This is excellent information for all of those getting into photography. Thanks for sharing.

  • We’ve got photographer-tested remotes: https://istockonline.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=remote

  • auntie

    Love this! Clever and helpful. I’ll use most of these.

  • Bert

    Tried 2 different bubble levels. Both were noticeably off level. These are made cheaply in the third world, maybe China? If you get one, you may want to check its alignment before using it.

  • Steve

    Regarding #8 (lens caps), Canon has switched to the Nikon-style lens caps for all of its lenses now, so you can safely remove that from your list.

  • The Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens has the old cap :/

  • David

    What?
    Unless the plastic that attaches to your hotshoe on both is off level, then there’s no way these things can be off level. They are one of the simplest devices ever. Air bubbles float to the top of oil no matter which part of the world the thing was made in. If you think the markings are uneven, set the level up on a perfectly level surface and draw your own markings on the outside; they’re for photography, it’s not like you’re going to use it to build a house from the ground up so parallax shouldn’t be a huge issue.
    Personally I’d be sceptical and say that the hotshoe on your camera isn’t perfectly level, unless you’ve tested it over multiple cameras.

  • Zitto Gambe

    I was surprised when I got mine. It had the new type lens cap.

  • Santosh Kumar

    What were differences these two caps?

  • Led flashlight, also good for focusing in low light situations, I always carry one!

  • Jeff

    A couple of items I carry are some simple hardware store clamps , white and black sheets , and the indispensable gaffers tape

  • Gaffer tape or at least electrician’s tape (which comes in different colours, which comes in quite handy). As for a pop-up flash diffuser, I never used the pop-up flash in any of my cameras, I’d rather use 5in1 type of reflector and no flash. But yes, a lot can be done without spending a fortune 🙂

  • Filippo Giadrossi

    Flickr gives you 1000MB of free storage, not 100MB!
    Pro account is just to remove advertising…

Some Older Comments

  • Maglite Mandy April 25, 2013 05:29 am

    This is excellent information for all of those getting into photography. Thanks for sharing.

  • george slusher March 27, 2012 05:20 am

    @porter kasprak:

    *What is a good camera for a beginner under $200?

    Almost any. Don't worry about "megapixels." Do get image stabilization (or whatever the manufacturer calls it). If you want to really learn, look for a camera that allows you to use aperture priority or even manual settings. (They will all have auto settings.) If you can, handle the camera before you buy it. Some are quite awkward to use. Also, read reviews online, starting with this site. Steve's Digicams is another good source of reviews.

    *What should i google or learn about cameras and photography?

    That's not the way to learn. The way to learn is to
    1) read the manual, with the camera in your hands, going through the steps;
    2) practice the basic operations;
    3) take pictures;
    4) evaluate those pictures: what looks good, what doesn't (this is the single MOST important step!);
    5) find information, starting with the manual, that might give you suggestions;
    6) using that information and your own ideas, take more pictures;
    7) repeat steps 4-6 over and over and over and over. Digital photos are essentially free. Don't take a few--take thousands.

    In a bit over a month, I'll give a seminar on equestrian photography--taking pictures of horses and riders, including at shows. Last year, I took over 66,000 photos at equestrian events--and I'm not a pro.

    *What are good websites to learn about photography?

    Why not start with THIS one? After all, it's the Digital Photography School.

    *What are camera accessories that i would have to buy??

    1. At least 2 memory cards. (I'd suggest 4GB each, as those are quite cheap.) This is the only thing you will HAVE to buy, as many cameras don't come with cards. I suggest 2 cards for a reason, even if it were 2 4GB cards rather than 1 8GB card. Keep one card empty and carry it with you. That way, when you do fill up the first card, you know that you are "half-way" through and should do something. Otherwise, you could eventually fill up the card without realizing it.

    2. An extra battery. (Don't bother with the manufacturer's batteries. Get an inexpensive battery. Amazon is a good source.) Keep it charged and carry it with you so that you won't be caught with a dead battery when you want to take pictures.

    3. A card reader, if your computer doesn't have one. You can download photos from the camera, but that uses the camera's battery and is usually slow. Card readers are cheap.

    "No stupid answers.'

    That's a good way to turn people off. You should be thankful for any information you get. It requires that someone take the time and make the effort. When I read that sentence, I thought, "To heck with him." I teach horseback riding, both professionally and as a volunteer, mostly to teens and pre-teens--i.e., people about your age and a bit older. (That's my second "profession." I retired from the US military.) Someone with that attitude wouldn't be a student very long.

  • Porter Kasprak March 25, 2012 11:47 am

    Hey, ok so i recently got very very interested in photography. I do not know anything about it at all. But i want to start learning. I just want it as a hobby && was wondering what i should know. Im going to ask for a camera on my birthday, september 7th && just want to know these:

    *What is a good camera for a beginner under $200?
    *What should i google or learn about cameras and photography?
    *What are good websites to learn about photography?
    *What are camera accessories that i would have to buy??
    Please Please any information about photography is wanted.
    No stupid answers.
    Remember im 13 && only beginner.
    Thanks.

  • george slusher March 9, 2012 01:52 pm

    @Victoria:

    Check Staples, Kinko, Office Depot, Office Max, and craft stores. The local Kinko's uses foam core to mount posters and signs, for example.

  • Victoria - Washington Boudoir Photographer March 7, 2012 12:31 am

    I have been looking for a place to buy white foam core for ages, who knew you could get it at Amazon!

  • george slusher December 23, 2011 04:51 pm

    @random photographer:

    I'm afraid that's a bit like asking for tips on using a lens. Reflectors can be used for fill light, highlights, to change the light color (by using a colored reflector, e.g., gold), and lots more. There are quite a few video tutorials on YouTube. You might search on "reflector" or "westcott" or "Rick Sammon" or "Lastolite" for example.

  • Random Photographer December 21, 2011 11:00 am

    Any tips for usin a reflector?

  • George Slusher December 1, 2011 07:47 am

    @quantum:

    A bag of rice--or other similar "beanbag"--can be used to support a camera by putting the bag on something and resting the camera (or long lens) on the bag. I've used beanbags (various kinds) on the ground, the roof of my car (critical with a lens at 400mm PLUS 1.4x teleconverter), over a fence rail, on a fence post, over a tree limb, and over the door of my car, with the window down. There are lots of commercial beanbags--check Outdoor Photo Gear, for example. In some cases, a couple of ziploc bags (one inside the other, with the zippers on opposite ends to prevent accidental spillage) partially filled with beans, rice, or plastic granules can do quite well.

  • quantum November 29, 2011 04:24 am

    Good list, in general. Only, how can a bag of rice be a substitute for a tripod, I can't quite make out :-)

  • jill July 17, 2011 12:08 pm

    Just this week learned that the stick on body warmers (by the same co. that makes hand and foot warmers- Grabber) are just perfect for wrapping around a camera's battery pack area to keep it warm during outside winter freezing temperature shots. The cold sucks the battery dead on 20 mins., with the warmer the battery lasts for an hour or more. Costs a buck or so.

  • madison raine July 17, 2011 05:54 am

    This is such a good list! I might invest in some of theses when I get the money.

  • jill February 25, 2011 03:48 pm

    Also: a head strap mounted mag light. One less thing to hold on to.

  • jill February 25, 2011 03:45 pm

    I liked getting a lens cap leash; my brain just isn't up to remembering where I parked the cap each time. Wasn't much cost, and super easy to attach to cap and lens body.

  • Gareth Tibbles February 9, 2011 01:50 am

    I carry a bungee cord with me to steady my tripod in wind by using my bag on one end of the cord and the base of the centre column of the tripod on the other end.

  • Randy January 25, 2011 01:53 am

    Dave, even though it's over $25, the iPad makes a great addition to review photos on location. But now I'm thinking maybe the Xoom from Motorola might even be better! Another $24 item is an aluminum platform. Better than the ladder I suggested earlier. Because you can step up on it without having to balance so much.

  • Dave January 25, 2011 01:32 am

    Kat, ipad? Why?

  • Kat Landreth January 24, 2011 09:03 am

    @Randy- Lol, the iPad costs decidedly more than $25 but I wouldn't mind adding one to my kit as well :)

  • Randy January 18, 2011 11:56 pm

    I forgot to add to my list. I also carry a very small collapsable stool and table and a small step ladder. These don't fit in the bag but they're very light and come in handy when there is no where to sit and rest or lay stuff on. And I'm going to add an iPad latter when version 2 comes out.

  • Larry Lourcey January 18, 2011 04:50 am

    And all this time I thought I was the only one using white foam core!! I also spray painted the other side black to give me more options!

    Great article!

    @larryphoto

  • Hana K. January 16, 2011 07:19 am

    I make lens cap pockets to store the lens cap in while taking pictures. [eimg url='http://ny-image1.etsy.com/il_570xN.207379373.jpg' title='il_570xN.207379373.jpg']
    I've gotten feedback that it's a problem other people have too and now I'm selling them for $12.

  • photoman022 January 13, 2011 03:16 am

    My "Q-Strap" purchased off Ebay for about $17, postage included. It slips over your shoulder and is a sling strap. I've used in all day long in a variety of settings and my neck doesn't hurt (like it did with the Nikon strap) at the end of the day. The camera is always accessible and ready to go.

  • photoman022 January 13, 2011 03:08 am

    I purchased an off-brand wireless remote for my Nikon D40 (it also works on my recently purchased D3000). It was one of the best (and cheapest purchases) I've made. I use it for self-photos, but it is also comes in handy for any low shutter speed situations (even with the tripod). Bought mine on e-bay and have never looked back!

  • Trep Ford January 10, 2011 08:56 pm

    The thing I love about lists like this is that they either provide you with new ideas you hadn't heard of / thought of before OR they remind you of great ideas you've forgotten about. This list was filled with really great stuff. Thanks!

    Trep

  • lblake January 7, 2011 06:28 pm

    what a great list! I got two of the same filter for the holidays and will be returning one for additional equipment. This is the year of not just great photography for me, but Better photography and more experienced photography! While i have a few items on this list, I now NEED a filter wrench. Just started using screw on attachments and a week later - i have an adapter ring stuck on my lens. This is staying bookmarked for holidays and birthdays to come!

  • Dorothy January 7, 2011 05:20 pm

    About the filter wrenches. I had that exact thing happen. I had a screw on filter and I don't know if it got cross threaded or what but there was no way I was going to get it off without wrecking my lens too. I took it to McBain camera and they got it off in no time. The tech there gave me this awesome tip.
    If that ever happens to you just use a pliable extension cord and wrap it around the filter and it gives the even pressure needed to unscrew the filter without any damage.

  • Tim January 6, 2011 06:41 pm

    The bean bag idea. You can buy a bag of beans at your local grocery store and put them in a sack, first put them in a plastic bag then put the plastic bag in the tube sock for exta protection. Now you have something to steady your lens on when your on location doing light trails, if you can find a table or something to place your camera on.

    Good Luck.

  • Luis Garcia January 5, 2011 01:13 am

    Great list! Though they're more general-purpose (vs. photography-specific), I'd recommend adding a few other items:
    - ball bungees: when you need to secure your bag to a light stand, a flash to a branch, etc.
    - BluTac Black or something similar, maybe clay: for keeping small / light objects in place
    - clamps: you have your reflectors, but how do you hold them up if you're holding the camera?

  • Hennie de Lange January 4, 2011 07:09 pm

    A serious hazard to your camera and lenses is heat. Try to avoid having your equipment in a hot vehicle. At times it may be unavoidable, ie travelling slowly through a game reserve etc. When living in a warm or hot climate, allways carry a blanket or large towel in you car boot. Whenever your camera may end up in a hot backed vehicle, cover your camera bag with this blanket or other thermally insulating material. A jacket or newspaper also helps. When in a game park in high temperature, game viewing and having long lens out, I find covering the lens with a small towel or scarfe keeps it relatively cool and does not really impact my response time when a subject becomes available.

  • Michael Minick January 4, 2011 01:44 pm

    Instaed of using a towel, I take a real chamoise along. Works either to 'sop up' water or to spread water (as in cleaning) and drys really fast. A very handy tool for camera and camera man.

  • Maximillian R. January 4, 2011 02:44 am

    Flickr now has 300mb of free storage per month for free accounts, although once you get past 200 photos, only your most recent 200 will be visible/

  • Leslie January 4, 2011 02:36 am

    I liked the list a lot, I do a lot of shoots for family and friends and have found that the sun shade that I have in all of my cars as i live in hot sunny Ca., works very well for a reflector also. the one I use the most is silver on one side and black on the other. They are light and fold up fairly small if you use the round ones. you can find them at any automotive store or your local Walmart. Thanks for a very informative site...

  • BreAna January 3, 2011 05:34 pm

    For those who use off camra flash, I bought some of the padded lunch bags from the dollar store and a box of ziplock freezer bags. Went to the beach (I live in Fla.) and filled the freezer bags with sand. Put them in the lunch bags and Viola!! instant sandbags for your light stands! I ended up with 5 of them for $6!

  • Kendall January 2, 2011 07:35 pm

    The Wax Paper is a great idea, but I use one or two layers of Kleenex and just hold over the flash element. I discovered this during my honeymoon to Italy. I was taking pictures of the food, but the built-in flash would bleach out the entire image. So I took a piece of tissue, tried one sheet and was pleased with the reduction of the flash, but two seemed to work better.

    Now a small pack of Kleenex is part of my kit bag.

  • Donald December 31, 2010 09:39 pm

    I been using one of those baby snot suckers for years now. Works great!. Also, a plain white facial tissue or even a couple squares of toilet paper make a pretty good spur of the moment flash diffuser. Moisten (lick) the top of the pop-up flash and the tissue will stay in place and drape over the flash quite nicely. Use colored tissue paper for some interesting and sometimes weird results.

  • Erik December 31, 2010 07:21 pm

    Another budget must-have in my bag is the Op/Tech rain sleeve:

    http://www.amazon.com/Rainsleeve-Digital-Cameras-Lenses-Diameter/dp/B000PTFDYO

    They're not going to be as good as a proper fitted body/lens cover, but for under $10 for a pack of two they do a great job of protecting your gear from moisture and dust. They come in different sizes to accommodate various bodies and lenses, and don't take any more room in your bag than a filter pouch.

  • Elissa Mayo December 31, 2010 06:40 pm

    Here's a few more:

    -small dry erase board and colored pens to note important shots or comments./reminders. $3-5. Take a shot of the board and erase it on site when done.

    -hospital or airline socks make great lens protectors-basically free. Use a different color for each lens or label them so its easy to distinguish lenses.

    -folding chair-$10 at Walmart. I use it to keep my gear up off the sand.

    -too many times have I seen photographers have brides navigate rocks at the beach to get down to the sand. Bring a cheap sheet or two) to cover the rocks so their dress does not get dirty and use clothespins or spring loaded paper clips to pin up the dress while they walk. $5.

    -2 lb scuba weights (the soft kind filled with pellets) to hold down stuff. $3 each...or get them used for less from locals on Craigslist..

    -For all my fellow underwater photographers-buy a collapsable rinse bucket at a camping store to use as a camera housing rinse tank $5. Bring an empy plastic milk jug. fill with fresh water on site to fill the bucket and rinse the housing.

    -rubberized (Rubbermaid) shelf liners. Use as a protective mat to line the place where you lay out your gear. This serves a dual purpose as you can use it to wrap and protect your gear when stored. $5 Walmart.

    -tip for working on boats or in areas with water spray. Use various sizes of ziplock bags (pint, quart, gallon) depending on lens size. Attach lens to camera. Cut a hole on the bottom to fit the diameter of your lens. Extend the bag over the end of the lens and close the zipseal. Easily pulls off when you want to use the camera. Bring extras...everyone around you will want one. Costs a few pennies each.

  • Brian December 31, 2010 04:00 pm

    The 'rice' tip is brilliant! Thanks!

  • Rob Hickey December 31, 2010 04:43 am

    Great and inexpensive ideas everyone!

    I also like having a backup / second CF card in case I run into problems with my primary card or happen to fill it and can't download it right away. Just ensures that you can keep firing away!

  • robin December 31, 2010 02:39 am

    A mesh pop up laundry hamper and a white sheet make a great lght tent for table top photography . I made 2 of them with backgrounds for the inside of them for $10.

  • Steve December 30, 2010 09:53 pm

    I have had one of those lens pens for two years and love it, but I never heard of the half twist to clean int until now. I took a look in the cap and voila there is the cleaning surface for the pen. Thanks!!

  • Darlene Young December 30, 2010 06:50 pm

    forget the wrenches. Rubbermaid shelf liner. You can even get them at the dollar store already cut into circles. $1 gives you 4 and you can give the extras to your fellow photographers. I had a filter stuck on for two weeks and even my husband couldn't get it off. No wrenches to be found. So I did a dyi search on the net and the shelf liner was the #1 thing I found to get off a stuck filter. It worked in seconds and now there is one permanently in my camera bag.

  • Dave December 30, 2010 05:43 pm

    I gave up on lens caps ages ago, I've lost a million of them (cause they won't stay on!) and how often have you been hiking and come upon someone else's cap? All of my lenses have a cheap (like $3 on ebay) uv filter on the front, usually in front of a polarizing filter. To make sure I don't mistakenly shoot through the cheap uv, i put a big X on it with white out. You should see the looks on people watching me set up my tripod with that huge white X on the front of the lens!

  • EllenK December 30, 2010 05:04 pm

    @Jackie: Padded lunch bags...why didn't I think of that? I am always trying different configurations to consolidate camera gear with other stuff when hiking and I think this might be the answer.

  • george slusher December 30, 2010 04:36 pm

    "You can also use an medium gray card to set a custom white balance for more consistent color in your photos."

    Yes, if you don't mind a colorcast in your shots. There are two problems with that bit of advice:

    1.The 18% grey card is too dark. It's well below the middle of the sensor's response curve when properly exposed. A somewhat lighter reference would be better, but not "white," which would blow out some pixels in the sensor, "clipping" the signal and giving a false indication. "Black" is even worse, as it drives the signal down to the point where noise becomes an issue. (Look at a high-ISO shot that includes something black and you'll see even more noise in the black areas than in mid-tone areas.)

    2. The card isn't neutral. You can see this if you compare it to a certified neutral reference. (The WhiBal is one, but there are others.) I've done this with three cameras (Canon 30D, S3 IS, and G9) and a scanner. (Take a photo--RAW is best--or scan both cards. Use the certified reference to set the white balance in your RAW software. Use a graphics program to check the actual RGB values of the card.) The gray card had a very definite blue cast. That would result in a yellow cast to the photo--and it does. (You may not see it, as our brains compensate for minor color shifts.)

    "White" is a worse reference. Some people use a piece of "white" paper, not realizing that it has been treated to reflect blue light more--that's what makes it appear "bright white." (Some of us remember our mothers using "bluing" to get white shirts brighter.) On the other hand, sometimes, the sclera of a subject's eye can be a reasonable reference for "click balance," if the eye is in the same light as the rest of the subject.

    Black is the absolute worst supposedly "neutral" reference, as it is seldom even close to neutral. For example, black clothing often has a blue cast, though some has a green cast.

  • PHugger December 30, 2010 04:28 pm

    The Flash Slaves that work by sensing the main flash may not work with your camera any more. Canon's TTL flash system uses a pre-flash (before the mirror lifts) to establish the exposure settings. They can also use the focus distance from the lens if it's available. The pre-flash will cause the slave unit to fire prematurely. This is great for red eye reduction, but not for lighting.

  • Tim December 30, 2010 03:49 pm

    Pick up cheap slave flashes from B&H or Adorama (or Amazon) for under $25 a peice...They trigger from another flash and can be used for a variet of purposes, I have a couple of the cheap small gorillapod knockoffs that I mount them on.
    Also check out the White Balance Lens Cap, you can get them cheap on ebay or Amazon, help you set a custom WB if needed.

  • Randy December 30, 2010 03:08 pm

    I've been putting together a kit lately. One thing I noticed is that the more small things you get the bigger of a bag you need. I also like the $22 sun shade that you attach to the camera back. It comes in handy outside. I made a diffuser from a plastic cup and hotglued a tupperware bowl inside it and I attach that to my flash head. Makes beautiful flash photos. that costs about $4 to make. There's a similar one you can buy for $40. Then last week I saw a coffee cup that looks EXACTLY like a canon zoom lens, 24-105!! It even has a cover that looks like a lens cap! Ok, that's not really a necessity but it was worth $25! ...and I need coffee.

  • Susan December 30, 2010 02:45 pm

    Camera bags to protect from rain, mist. Slips over thre entire camera body and lens.
    Inexpensive.

  • PHugger December 30, 2010 02:40 pm

    I love you list. Keeping things under $25 is a real challenge. I also put together a list earlier this year, but my definition of inexpensive meant mostly under $100. We even had some of the same choices.
    Here is my list - http://hugger.us/?p=885

  • Jim DeLa December 30, 2010 02:31 pm

    Instead of wax paper, which can tear at the worst time, try cutting a notch in a white plastic film canister, which then slips over the pop-up flash. It's low profile and carries in the bag well.

  • Arun December 29, 2010 04:47 pm

    Pretty damn useful list! Thanks a ton for these...

  • Arun December 29, 2010 04:47 pm

    Pretty damn useful! Thanks a ton for these..

  • Avis Maxwell December 24, 2010 06:49 pm

    This is a pretty darn useful list. Also, budget-friendly (comparatively speaking at least :) ). Thank you!

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer December 24, 2010 09:34 am

    I need to get one of those hotshoe bubble levels from Santa......

  • Tom K October 7, 2010 06:17 am

    I used to work in camera shops before the whole digital thing erupted, and while we did sell filter wrenches, I never once sold any nor used them myself. I had many many customers bring in a lens with a cracked stuck filter on it. I'd use a wide rubber band to remove it. Took a lot of elbow grease and cussing, but I never failed to remove one of those stuck b@sterds. Then sell them a new filter, and they were good to go!

  • Rooby1 October 6, 2010 04:01 pm

    This is a pretty darn useful list.
    Also, budget-friendly (comparatively speaking at least :) ).

    Thank you!

  • R Frost September 25, 2010 09:23 am

    some really great tips for a noob like me!
    there's should be a DIY tips section, this photography malarky can get expensive rather quickly!!

  • Nicolas September 21, 2010 10:28 pm

    Hi, I will search for a lens pen right now sounds like real top idea, have been using a blow pen up to now and it does work, but the pen sounds a lot better. Thanks

  • Giley September 15, 2010 06:54 pm

    Cooking/oven foil is very useful as a reflector especially for portraits. To give the reflected light a softer edge just scrunch the foil into a ball and then flatten it out again.

  • liz September 8, 2010 05:29 am

    I bought a shutter release on amazon.ca for 4.99!! And I love all the ideas thanks!

  • Christopher Fernandes September 7, 2010 03:05 pm

    Great ideas.. specially the emergency blanket.. very useful for monsoons in India.. also a shower cap to protect ur cam..works for me..

  • Gena Melcer September 5, 2010 08:26 am

    Luuuuv the lens pen idea; especially after coming home from a day of shooting in Philly with some nice shots (in my opinion) with blurs spots on every one due to some 'shmutz' on my lens filter! Won't have that happen to me again!

  • Jasmeet September 3, 2010 09:45 pm

    Great article.

  • Kristi aka FiberFool September 1, 2010 07:01 am

    Different thicknesses of mylar film in parent size sheets are available at art stores for pretty cheap and can be attached to canvas stretching frames for cheap diffusers of varying degrees.

    Alternately, if you need a small diffuser such as for macro shots while hiking you can stretch sheer fabric in larger embroidery hoops.

  • John Fentner August 31, 2010 01:51 am

    Heh...so I have this stuck filter...and I didn't even know there was such a thing as a filter wrench. Ordered (both sizes) today. :)

    I'd add a few of those little, bitty bungee cords to the list. Always handy for tying down that loose junk that flaps around when you're out with the full kit. And definitely a card reader.

  • Johan August 30, 2010 06:53 pm

    Great read! Just stole a pair of nylons and a sock from my girlfriend to make a nice bean bag :-)

  • Ian Berg August 29, 2010 01:19 am

    Windows Live from Microsoft gives you 25 GB of free Photo Album storage. It's easy to use and the photos look great on any device, smartphone, iPod, iPad, laptop or desktop. I backup my photos to hard drive and CD-R too.

  • PatriciaD August 28, 2010 04:58 am

    Great article and something I'll have to share with friends and family who want to get me a little something for holiday or birthday...and stuff I wouldn't have thought to buy for myself. Can you tell I am so not a professional but I do love my photography.

  • Kat Landreth August 27, 2010 12:39 pm

    Sam, I would love to help out if I can.

    #2, #4, #6, #8, #9, #10, #12 and #15 can all be found at a good camera store. If you don't have a camera store in your area, try B&H Photo or Adorama Camera. Both are online retailers and I know B&H ships internationally with just a few exceptions.

    #1, #3, #5, and #7 can be found at a drug store, craft store, or big box store like Target.

    #11 and #13 would be at an outdoor or sporting supply store. If you want a real circular reflector rather than an emergency blanket check the camera store or Adorama/B&H.

    Hope that helps!

  • sam hicks August 27, 2010 11:38 am

    Great information, i went to order some of these items on amzaon to be told i cant get them shipped here,,, any ideas for buying them locally?
    cheers
    S

  • Cindy August 27, 2010 05:45 am

    Forgot one. You can get bags of about 5 microfiber clothes at a dollar store for a couple of bucks.
    These are great for all kinds of uses.

  • Cindy August 27, 2010 05:42 am

    I love the use of the bean bag, when hiking and do not want to carry the tripod. Place it on a surface then place the camera on top and move around till level.

    I bought a whole set of black sheets, on sale for around $6, that I use as back drops, also used to place on ground to sit/pose on.

    If you use cokin filters take them out of their bulky boxes and place them in a cd booklet, a great space saver. You can pick them up at dollar stores for around $5.

    Use little "jewelry" boxes to store batteries, cords, remotes etc.

  • bcfoto70 August 27, 2010 04:26 am

    Useful list, thanks!

    @ Jackie: The padded lunch bag idea is great!

  • Jackie August 27, 2010 03:42 am

    GREAT list, thank you for sharing! i am a HUGE DIY hack. i have the white foam board!

    Has anyone mentioned the airline barf bag for a hotshoe flash diffuser? i just got my 1st one...actually 2 :-)...the people around me on the flight looked me funny.

    also, the bulb blower for $10... go to the infant section of your local store and get one of those bulbs that suck the snot out of the baby's nose - they're cheaper :-).

    i used clamp lights for years before buying my softboxes. they are GREAT.

    flat sheets are cheap fabric for backdrops or even for making clothing ;-). along the same lines, the soft blankets (i forget the fabric...it's like velveteen, but it is a cheap blanket in blue, white, beige, pink) found at any wal-mart...great for baby photography.

    cheap, padded lunch bags are great for holding lenses and even most cameras w/out the lens attached. i use a larger one for my Canon 7D and then place it into my backpack. i also use a lot of bubble wrap and bubble wrap pockets for my lenses.

    i'm also a mom...so instead of expensive sandbags, i have a small reflector bag (reflector out! :-> ) that i put a plastic p-nut butter jar filled with craft beads onto my tripod to keep it steady. lol. you could do the same thing w/ a cheap canvas grocery bag....anything with a loop or handle. i cannot, however, use this for any boom lights!

    happy DIY photographing, everyone!!
    j

  • Alison Craig August 27, 2010 03:20 am

    Plastic freezer bags. Cut off the sealed end and insert camera for shooting in the rain.

  • Bobby Mayberry August 27, 2010 03:16 am

    Tamron also has fantastic lens caps...

  • Joshua Frink August 27, 2010 03:10 am

    Sony lens caps are very similar to Canon caps (with the large pinch areas toward the center of the cap) but are a few dollars cheaper than the Canon ones. Plus your Nikon will have an artistic "alpha" on it rather than a conflicting Canon logo.

    PetaPixel has a grey card set (white, grey, and black) for $15 and free shipping, plus they have the rights of a photographer printed on them, and come with a fancy lanyard.

  • Renato Fernandez August 27, 2010 01:08 am

    If you shoot outdoors, a dry bag...I learned the hard way and lost a camera in heavy rain...

  • Biswajit Dey August 26, 2010 03:03 pm

    I really liked #4 and #7. I'm going to get them soon! :)

  • Chris August 26, 2010 12:40 pm

    Nice list. I bought white and black foamboard/Foam core. I use mine as backdrops on some of my outdoor floral macros. Make a studio like shot while at the same time preserving nature's gifts.

    An example:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cwbates/4921663089/lightbox/

  • Jacqui T August 26, 2010 06:44 am

    Awesome list. Thank you!
    It is good to know that there are affordable options for someone who is new to DSLR.

  • Naomi August 26, 2010 02:58 am

    I'm a big fan of hand warmers and rubber bands. Wrap them around your lens to prevent fogging of your lens when you're shooting at dusk or dawn for long periods of time!

  • Denise August 26, 2010 01:29 am

    I have a couple of inexpensive card readers-can be found for $0.99 with free shipping on Ebay! Bought a few at a time! These are fantastic, and great if you don't have the space for cords or want to worry about tripping. They are also great if you are at someone's house and just want to show them a preview of your pics, but not download. I keep 4 in my kit! That way, I know what has been downloaded and what hasn't-they come in multiple colors, and can also be used for regular files, not just pictures. They turn all of your cards into flash drives. I just slip the SD card(the card my cameras use) in the back and pop it in. Almost all computers have a USB port(usually more than one). They are also a great gift if someone doesn't know how to install expensive or difficult to use transfer software. My father received a cheap digital camera from a friend and used the software it came with without calling me first. Next thing I know, he was calling me because his computer crashed! The extra software can have Homepage Hijackers, ads, and extra software that is not needed. With the readers, I just use whichever software I want. A PEZ dispenser is great, also-trim the edges and use it on the hotshoe-great to get kids' attention. get a smile, and get a treat!

  • Kat Landreth August 26, 2010 01:13 am

    Thanks for all of the kind comments and additions to the list. I really appreciate being able to do more with less and a comfortable neck strap, card reader, circular polarizing filter, and spare cables are all great suggestions.

    Thanks for the great additions Caroline. I use craft store backdrops and love them. I can't believe I left them off the list! Keeping yourself out of legal trouble is certainly worth the low cost of knowing the laws in your area.

    Lizabeta- hope your friends and family enjoy their future birthday gifts! Some of these accessories are inexpensive enough to bundle them into gift baskets. Pretty cool.

  • Kelly August 25, 2010 10:43 pm

    Love this article! So many great ideas. Thanks!

  • hfng August 25, 2010 05:02 pm

    Great list.

  • Leo Angelo August 25, 2010 03:44 pm

    A $20+ circular polarizer filter (CPL) is great to have, especially if you're shooting landscape.

  • Leo Angelo August 25, 2010 03:44 pm

    A $10+ circular polarizer filter (CPL) is great to have, especially if you're shooting landscape.

  • Mei Teng August 25, 2010 01:26 pm

    Great list of items. I have the remote shutter release and spirit level bubble. I hardly use the latter when shooting hand held (and viewing through the viewfinder).

  • Shanna Duffy August 25, 2010 12:10 pm

    As someone who has loved photography for 12 years now, but has a budget of exactly 0, Every cent of my photography budget goes into the "must haves" an excellent body and quality glass. I LOVE to hear that I'm not the only one in the world using foam core, and "alternative" light sources. Aluminum worklights and daylight bulbs make a surprisingly good light source for 5.00, and I've never used emergency blankets, however I have used those things people put up in the windshield of their cars in the summer, for only 1.00 at the local dollar tree. you can also do some pretty great stuff with pvc, as far as diffusers, backdrop holders, and large gobos with just a few dollars and some creativity.

  • MSunflower August 25, 2010 04:59 am

    I'd like to add: a card reader. Pretty cheap these days and ever since I got one as a present my life is changed! No more USB cam to comp, no more wasting camera battery on transferring photos, just slip the card out and plug in, so fast. Love it.

  • Caroline August 25, 2010 04:35 am

    These are great ideas! I get my white foam core at the dollar store. :)

    I recently discovered it's good to have extra cables and lens caps on hand, as both are easy to lose. I currently have a bunch of photos stuck on my camera that I can't transfer because my camera's USB cable is nowhere to be found. After tearing apart the house looking for it I finally broke down and bought a new one for $3.99.

    If you do a lot of tabletop photography it's helpful to have a variety of backdrops (posterboard, scrapbook paper, fabric, weathered boards, etc.) and a homemade light box, all of which are inexpensive or free.

    Another almost-free item it's good to have is a printout of the photography laws for the area(s) you'll be shooting. Good for personal reference, and good to show to anyone who questions your rights.

  • Numan August 25, 2010 03:27 am

    Great article with really nice recommendations.
    Things that I would add:
    - lens hood (non-original brands) which performs exact same duty
    - HDMI cablel to see your photos on HD TV (of course if your camera has an HDMI output). Can be found under $25 on Ebay.
    - USB Card Reader for easily connecting different types of cards to any computer (Kingston or SunDisk make the best ones). Easily found under $20.
    - Lightscoop, especially for users of built-in flash (found at www.lightscoop.com $25)
    -

  • Phil August 25, 2010 01:54 am

    I bought a lenspen a few months ago and have found it to be invaluable. I love it and highly reccomend it.

  • Vesa August 25, 2010 01:54 am

    Great stuff.

    I'd add one of those disposable raincoats in the kit also.

  • Deirdre August 25, 2010 01:25 am

    So nice for once to see affordable items in an article like this. Thank you.

  • Jason Collin Photography August 25, 2010 01:08 am

    I would add to the list a good comfortable camera strap like the OP/TECH PRO STRAP:

    http://optechusa.com/product/detail/?PRODUCT_ID=23&PRODUCT_SUB_ID=&CATEGORY_ID=11#

    I used the strap that came with my Nikon D300 for about a day before I decided to get a strap that does not dig into my neck.

  • lizabeta August 25, 2010 12:54 am

    Packed full of ideas for GIFTS is what I see! This answers the questions of "What do you want for your birthday?" *and* "What am I going to get my dad for Christmas?"

  • Murali August 25, 2010 12:51 am

    I just ordered my First DSLR and was wondering what all accessories i have to buy, this list is so neat that I need not search for any other place. thank you so much :)

  • Jim August 25, 2010 12:44 am

    Excellent ideas. Cameras and lens are expensive enough. Chosen accessories make good photography better but they don't have to "break the bank". I love sharing my photos on flickr and watch the comments coming back. Dedicated websites are good too for those photographers who have professional aspirations.

  • Lori August 25, 2010 12:41 am

    Fantastic list! LOVE the bean/rice bag idea. Would have never thought of that. Thanks so much! I now know the perfect gift for my Aunt!

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