Professional quality photography doesn’t have to cost a lot. In fact, so many of the tools and accessories that we use are extremely inexpensive. In this article, we will introduce you to 5 of our favorite little must-have accessories in our photographic toolkit.
Reflectors are not only inexpensive, they are one of the most versatile and effective photographic accessories. Reflectors work wonderfully as a main light, fill light, hair light, scrim, and even make for a wonderful little mat to sit on when your clients are worried about dirtying their clothing. Not bad for an accessory that can be picked up for less than $40. In fact, if you are skeptical of just how powerful reflectors can be, check out the two videos below.
In this first video (the iPhone Photo Shoot), we show that you can capture professional quality images with simply an iPhone and its stock camera.
In this second video, we show you all of the reflector techniques used during the iPhone photo shoot.
We use the Westcott 301 40″ 5 in 1 which can be purchased from Amazon for $40. It is a good balance between an inexpensive yet fairly durable reflector.
Flash Diffusers ($10+)
Flash diffusers are an inexpensive method of turning on-camera flash into a much higher and softer quality of light. While there are many types of diffusers, our two favorites are dome diffusers or white card diffusers. If you have to choose one, choose the dome type diffuser over the white card diffuser. However, both have their uses. In indoor situations, we typically will get better results from dome diffusers, while in outdoor situations we stick to white card diffusers because we can direct more light exactly where we need it.
Keep in mind that when it comes to diffusers, there really is little tangible difference in the results between different brand name and non-brand name accessories. We find that a brand name light diffuser generally gives us essentially the exact same look as an Amazon or eBay knock-off. So, if you are looking to save a little cash, search eBay for the generic versions.
When purchasing a dome diffuser, I would however recommend that you get a translucent dome as opposed to a white dome. Translucent domes will allow more light out of the diffuser than white versions. Amazon carries Dome Flash Diffusers starting as low as $10, which is what we used for the shots shown below.
Before starting, let me be clear, adding filters onto your lens will slightly reduce image quality. The nicer the filter, the less it will affect your images. So, that being said, we don’t shoot with filters on the lens, unless we need a filter for a specific purpose. Also, you want to make sure you always get a filter matching the quality of your lens. It doesn’t make sense buying a $10 filter with cheap quality glass to put over your $1500 Nikkor or Canon L lens.
There are three types of filters that are staples in our camera bag which are listed below.
Polarizing Filter – In harsh mid-day sun, a polarizing filter will serve to limit light coming in from different directions giving you better overall contrast and colors. In addition, it is vital for shooting through reflective surfaces such as water or glass.
Neutral Density Graduated Filter – A neutral density graduated filter is the first filter you nature lovers should put into your bag. Once you attach the ND graduated filter onto your lens, you move it into position to cover the sky and have it graduate down to the horizon. The lens filter will block light from the bright sky while allowing you to raise the exposure on the darker ground. This will allow you to properly expose your landscapes without having to blow out the skies or clip the shadows.
ND Filter – A standard ND filter is wonderful for more advanced photographic effects. For example, if you want to shoot in bright daylight while shooting at a wide open aperture, your camera shutter speed will be too high to use off-camera lighting triggers such as a Pocket Wizard which is limited to a max sync speed of 1/250th of a second. That is where an ND filter comes in. An ND filter can reduce the amount of light coming into your lens by anywhere from 2 – 8 stops of light, allowing you to lower your shutter speed as needed.
With this filter, along with some off camera lights, you can create effects like that shown below.
Fishbomb Filter/Accessory Holder ($10 – $15)
One of my favorite accessories is this little detachable pocket called a FishBomb. It is made by Undfind, and it is used to add a pocket wherever you need it. On a bag, a strap, a belt, etc. It is made to hold filters, batteries, CF cards, but I love using it for holding my lens caps which I used constantly lose during shoots. At only $10 for a basic FishBomb, it is a steal. It can be purchased at Undfind.com or on Amazon.
Cable Release ($5+)
Cable releases are a simple and cheap option when it comes to creating sharper images. Wireless cable releases can even be used to trigger away cameras allowing you to setup multiple angles and fire them from a single point. Cable releases are absolutely crucial for us in shooting HDR and long exposure imagery. Not bad for an accessory that you can buy for $5 on Amazon. Of course, do expect to pay more for higher end programmable cable releases. Obviously, you will want to use a cable release in conjunction with a tri-pod which can be cheap, or expensive for a nice durable tri-pod.
With our trusty cable release, tripod, and some creative in house processing, we shoot HDR shots like those below:
We love these inexpensive little tools in our toolkit and we hope you all enjoy them too! Have fun!