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10 Accessories To Choose And Use

Filters, field storage, tripods, cleaning kits and more—the essential items for a digital photographer

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The moment you're running out of room on your memory card in the middle of the Sequoia National Forest isn't the time to start thinking about getting a portable hard drive—especially when the light and the weather is perfect and you’re missing some great shots!

Sure, you could scroll through the images on your cards one by one, trying to determine the keepers from the ones to delete, but that's not easy to do on a 2.5-inch LCD. It's better to plan ahead and anticipate what you'll need before you need it. This is true for most of life, but especially for photographers.

Whenever you take pictures somewhere, all the unique qualities of that particular place—the way light is illuminating the scene, your subject, the surrounding elements—will never be the same again. You have one chance to record that moment in time. That's the power of photography.

We compiled a list of 10 accessories, which in our experience are must-have items for the digital photographer. Besides a camera and a lens, here's a core collection of accessories that will help you take better and more creative photos in the field or be a benefit when working at the computer.

Tripod
A sturdy tripod is essential, whether you're doing portraits or hiking in Yosemite. There's a wide range of carbon-fiber or basalt tripods on the market that weigh less than five pounds, but still have the strength and stability of much heavier aluminum tripods.

Slow exposures (less than 1⁄60 sec.) and low-light conditions require a steady platform for the sharpest images possible. A tripod-mounted budget lens will consistently outperform an expensive lens that's handheld, especially when you use an aperture like ƒ/16 or ƒ/22 for greater depth of field. This usually will demand slower shutter speeds, as will night photography.
 
Also, if you want to create a motion-blur effect to emphasize the movement of something, a shutter speed of a second or more may be needed. This will require a tripod if you don't want everything else in the photo to be blurry, too.

Lenses 300mm and larger can get quite heavy, so a stable tripod is critical when using one. Your arms can get tired holding a big lens for any length of time, which will make them shake, increasing sharpness problems. Plus, the longer focal lengths in a zoom range will intensify unwanted image shake. The tripod will minimize that and help you get the sharpest image possible.

Gear Bag
When it comes to camera bags, it's good to have two—a small bag for traveling light with a select amount of gear and a large bag that can hold everything.
 
The four characteristics to be most concerned about are comfort, a customizable interior, weatherproofing and the ability to quickly access your camera.

Some large bags allow you to grab your camera without having to take the whole thing off. It’s great for those unexpected photo opportunities when you don't already have your camera out. 

Flash
Regardless of where you're shooting, a flash can be an invaluable tool for controlling light and getting photographs not otherwise possible. For example, consider photographing someone on a beach, backlit with a sunset. Without a flash, properly exposing the subject will mean the sky will be overexposed. All the amazing colors and other details, such as clouds, won't be accurately recorded by the image sensor.

Darkening the exposure in Photoshop isn't going to bring those details back, but a flash can add light to the subject, balancing it with that sunset.

Another factor to keep in mind is that a built-in flash will never have the power of full-sized flashes. Also, there's no way to tilt the built-in flash up or down and bounce light off a subject for better lighting.

When buying a full-sized flash, make sure the head has this capability. We also recommend getting a dedicated flash cord so the flash doesn’t have to be mounted on the camera. That way, you can move and direct the flash independently of where the camera is pointed.



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