If you're reading this article you've probably already realised that photography isn't a cheap hobby. In fact, it's one of those sectors where just adding the word 'photography' to a product instantly doubles it's cost!
Sometimes the substantial cost of a piece of kit is justified and unavoidable, such as when buying a specialist lens or a new camera. Not every new photography purchase has to break the bank though - It's possible to enhance your photography with a potentially game changing accessory even on a really tight budget!
This list features our 11 favourite photography accessories that don't make your bank account weep, and some can provide a gateway into a whole new genre of photography that you hadn't even considered!
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1. Portable 5-in-1 Reflector
Lighting setups for portrait and studio photographers can often run into the thousands, but often this humble accessory would do the job just fine. Neewer are a well known brand for producing affordable photography accessories, and they've continued the trend with this incredibly useful piece of kit.
The 5-in-1 reflector is used to redirect, or 'bounce' light into specific areas within your frame. It can be used to fill in deep shadow areas in a portrait or macro shot, for example. I have found plenty of other uses for it though, including as a backdrop for macro photography and as a great light diffuser on sunny days.
This particular one comes with five different surfaces which can be changed to alter the warmth and strength of the reflected light. It also folds down to 49cm x 49cm and is light enough to take on any expedition!
2. Macro Extension Tubes
You know I mentioned that some of these accessories can be complete game changers? Well this is one of them!
Macro photography is notoriously expensive to get in to due to the specialist lenses required, and spending hundreds on a lens when you're not sure if you'll enjoy it definitely puts a lot of people off. That's where these come in.
Macro extension tubes fit between any of your current lenses and the camera body, increasing the distance between the rear lens element and the camera sensor to effectively give your lens macro capabilities. The different lengths of tube provide different levels of magnification, and these particular ones have electrical contacts to preserve all the autofocus and metering capabilities.
Unlike a macro lens, you will be limited to only macro photography when these are attached - The maximum focusing distance will be reduced substantially. They do, however, offer a cheap gateway into the often unseen world of macro photography, and at around 10% of the cost of a dedicated macro lens you have to expect some trade-offs! If it turns out you enjoy using them you can go on to buy a dedicated macro lens, but don't throw the extension tubes away yet. They can be used on macro lenses to give an even greater level of magnification.
3. Camera Rain Cover
Shooting in bad weather often yields excellent images rife with drama and originality, but your gear can take a battering in these extreme conditions.
Some professional level DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras are completely weather sealed, but even then you still have the problem of keeping the rain off your lens. For those without weather sealed camera bodies and lenses, protection for your gear is an absolute must in these situations.
Fortunately, our good friends Neewer have provided us with another budget friendly solution. Some people opt for an even cheaper version, this is still ludicrously affordable and the added convenience of the arm holes and transparent backing make this well worth the tiny bit extra. Considering the Canon version of this costs over £100 this is an absolute steal, and you'll be thanking your lucky stars that you bought it the next time you're capturing a dramatic storm scene without destroying all your expensive gear.
4. Photography Light Tent/Softbox
This is a really fun little accessory that can provide you with hours of entertainment, not to mention it can actually be used in a professional photography sense too!
In essence, this light tent and softbox is an open sided cube of translucent plastic with an LED light strip attached, and it can be used for all sorts of photography when you're stuck in the house. It comes with a reversible backdrop so you can have either a white or black background, and you simply place your subject inside and get shooting!
Many photographers use this sort of accessory for product photography where you need a clean and defined background, and it's perfect for those of you who photograph small products and have no need for a large studio setup. Personally, I use it for indoor macro photography, with the clean, blank backgrounds and even lighting allowing me to completely separate my subject from any distractions and attract all attention to it.
5. Hotshoe Spirit Bubble
Do you know one of the main mistakes that beginners make in landscape and nature photography? Crooked horizons.
Nothing ruins a photograph quite like an uneven horizon when it's unintentional. It's one of those things that you can't unsee after you've noticed it. Of course, it's very easy to correct this in post processing, but in doing so you are forced to crop parts of your image out. It's preferable to just get it right in camera. Prevention is always better than needing a cure.
Some camera models do come with an in built spirit level that you can bring up on your LCD screen, but I've found that even then it's more intuitive to just use one of these dirt cheap accessories. This is simply a tiny spirit bubble that slots into the flash hotshoe of your camera, allowing you to ensure the camera is completely level before you press the shutter. There really is no excuse not to get one or two of these.
6. OP/TECH Camera Strap
If you've never considered changing from the manufacturer supplied and branded strap that was shipped with your camera you probably don't realise just how inconvenient and uncomfortable they are.
I know I didn't. The only reason I bought this strap was because my Nikon branded one suddenly snapped and almost demolished my camera on the beach. Fortunately the camera survived, and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
I opted for this OP/TECH over the shoulder sling strap, and I have to say that I would never go back to using the default straps.
The advantages are numerous - It's more comfortable for starts, and the over the shoulder design means the camera rests on your hip rather than bouncing off your chest. It also has a handy quick release, which is great when you're using a tripod and don't want the strap flapping about in the wind. Honestly, I'm struggling to think of a single disadvantage compared to the standard manufacturer straps, and considering it's likely to last you years and years it's well worth spending the money for the added convenience and comfort.
7. Spider Black Widow Camera Holster
If you're still not happy with using a camera strap then this could be just the solution you were looking for.
The Spider Black Widow Camera Holster attaches to either your own belt or their special Black Widow belt and provides you with a strapless solution to all your camera carrying needs. You simply clip your camera body into the Black Widow and continue about your day.
This is for all those photographers who are sick and tired of knocking their expensive kit when bending down or reaching up. It leaves your entire upper body free to move about, without the worry of swinging your camera into a rock face.
Admittedly it can take a little bit of time and a lot of trust to simply forget about your camera, but the equipment from Spider is top notch and has never failed on me. After a few outings you'll fully trust it to keep your gear safe, and that's when the convenience of it really comes to the fore.
8. Circular Polarising Filter
Lens filters have been around in the photography world for decades, and there's a reason they persist to this day despite all the post processing techniques available to us: They can completely transform an image, and some of the effects aren't easily replicated in the digital darkroom.
The polarising filter is perhaps the most transformative and most difficult to replicate in post processing, and it's one filter that I never leave the house without. As the name suggests, it drastically reduces the amount of polarised light hitting your lens, and that results in deeper blues in the sky, reduced glare on water and metal, and decreased atmospheric haze. You can see it's effects in our Ultimate Guide to Landscape Photography.
I've used dozens of polarising filters over the years, ranging from bargain basement to almost offensively expensive. This is my favourite by far, and that's without cost taken into effect. The Hoya PRO1 Digital CPL is, in my opinion, better than any of the polarisers shipped with the professional filter kits, and to make matters even better it's a lot cheaper.
This was actually the first polariser I ever bought back when I was using a kit lens, and I still have it today. Not only that, but I also have it in two different sizes to fit my other lenses as well! You won't regret making this purchase.
9. Camera Cleaning Kits
Even if you take all the precautions possible with your kit, the chances are at some point it's going to need a good clean. After all, if you're not pushing the limits of your equipment you're missing out on some great opportunities in my opinion.
But with all that precisely manufactured glass and metal it can be daunting to even think about touching it. Get yourself a lens cleaning kit, follow these instructions, and you don't have to worry at all!
This comes with an air blower, a fine lens brush, a lens pen, cleaning fluid, and microfibre cloths. They are best used in that order. The blower is used to remove any big particles without having to apply pressure and risk scratching the glass. The brush can then get into the edges and remove any dirt there, before the lens pen is applied to loosen any smears and general dirt. You then finish off with a microfibre cloth lightly dampened with lens cleaning solution, and you're good to go!
Before you know it you'll be cleaning your own sensor as well.
10. Joby Gorillapod
This is another one of those photography accessories that can be a complete game changer. If you've ever considered taking a tripod out on a shoot with you but opted out due to the weight, size and inconvenience then this is for you!
The Joby Gorillapod is a tiny, lightweight tripod that can be easily carried in a normal bag. That in itself is enough of a sell for most, but the real beauty in the Gorillapod is the ball-jointed legs.
These bendy legs allow you to basically attach is to anything. You can wrap it around railings or tree branches to get that unique viewpoint or perspective, or you can simply use it as a mini tripod. It's fantastic for city shoots, where many of the popular tourist attractions don't allow tripods but don't bat an eyelid at this diminutive little accessory. It's also great for vloggers and videographers filming B-roll footage or timelapses.
11. Remote Shutter Release Cable
Camera stability is absolutely crucial in certain situations, such as long exposure photography or timelapse photography. Even just pressing the shutter release by hand can be enough to ruin an image with camera shake, so the best solution by far is to get yourself a remote shutter release.
This particular version, from our friends Neewer obviously, simply plugs into your camera and allows you to release the shutter using the remote. In addition, it also offers intervalometer functions, which means you can actually programme timelapse sequences with this budget friendly device!
Do you know how much Nikon's version of this costs? Over £100. Does it offer better build quality? Yes. Is it worth spending over five times as much on? No.