Some women love shoes. I love gadgets. Especially photography gadgets.
I’m not talking cameras – though they are in a category of mania all their own. I’m talking about all the other periphery. Sure, a camera and tripod are the basis for beautiful photography but there are a plethora of tools (okay, gadgets) that help make the capture easier or more creative. I always love seeing what other photographers have in their kit. Over the years I have tweaked and adjusted, many times incorporating a gadget I discovered via another photographer.
Let’s start with the basics.
These are staples next to tripods that should be in every photographer’s bag. They serve to protect your lenses and perform functions as well. A circular polarizer is a must. This is one filter that can’t be emulated with software. A polarizer helps mitigate glare and intensifies colors. Neutral density (ND) filters help you control light and this translates into crafting creative images. ND filters come in various flavors, including variable stop, drop-in, graduated, and solid. In my film days, I had many filters beyond polarizer and ND. There were starburst filters, close-up filters, warming filters, cooling filters, 720nm (infrared), FLD and FLW filters, softening filters, and more. All of these added a creative touch to an image. Although many of these can be emulated by software, I still use most of these with my digital camera, pretty much all of them are in my filter case except for the warming/cooling and softening filters. This past winter I picked up another, a kaleidoscope filter which was lots of fun on Christmas lights. Photography is all about capturing the light. Filters manipulate this light. Learn about filter holders.
This is another that should be in your kit.
These are inexpensive and can be simple units that just trip the shutter or units that expand your camera’s shutter speed. The fancier types are called intervalometers and for money on the cheap, make your camera do more. The beauty of these gadgets is they extend the length of time the shutter stays open, well past the maximum shutter speed your camera has. They can be programmed to fire your camera at set intervals for as many shots as you want. They also take your hands off the camera, critical when taking long exposures. You introduce camera shake during these types of exposures, even when the camera is on a tripod. A shutter release/intervalometer keeps your mitts off the camera and gets your shot nice and sharp. For the record, go with the off brands. You don’t need a Nikon, Canon, or whatever branded intervalometer/shutter release. Off brands are way cheaper, do the job, and if you accidentally step on one you won’t cry. Pictured is the SMDV intervalometer. I like this one because I can see the values on the screen clearly and it has an on/off switch. Another thing I like about this unit is that the cord is a threaded 2.5 mm universal plug and swappable to another camera body that takes a different adapter.
A note regarding tripods. We all make this mistake at one point or another.
We tend to skimp on this tool and buy one based on price which bites us in the posterior several times over. Why? We don’t understand how much a rock-solid tripod is important until we are out in the field with our spindly sticks and discover the slight breeze has blown our long exposure. We now buy another, more stable tripod. This cycle repeats several times until we finally bite the bullet and purchase a tripod that does the job of holding our gear solidly. By this time, the amount we have spent on the various tripods will amount to, or even surpass the cost of the solid one you finally buy. So, the moral of the story is to buy the best tripod you can afford and don’t skimp. A good tripod will last a lifetime.
You have a tripod, now let’s think about the head. For this post, I will only address the basics as tripod heads run the gamut in variations and applications. Many tripods come with a head but sometimes it could be better. A solid ball head should be a staple in your kit as it keeps your camera where it should be (in other words, no creeping from its locked position), can handle a variety of lenses without said creep, and not be frustrating to use. When shopping for a ball head, go for heads that have a good weight capability. If your camera plus lens weighs 6 pounds, don’t buy a ball head that has a 12 lb. capacity. It will not be strong enough and it will cause you pain. Think “overkill” when deciding on the weight capacity of ball heads. Take into account your heaviest lens in the assessment. Have a “big glass” on your wish list? Include that one in the assessment too. Also, consider ball heads that have more than one tilt notch so the camera can be shifted quicker. There are fantastic brands of tripod heads, some more expensive than others. I use Benro, ,Sunwayfoto, and ,Oben ball heads. These all have a weight capacity of over 60 pounds. Yes, overkill but no creep.
Your first camera case is usually the one that comes with the camera. It holds the camera and maybe a second small lens and an extra battery. It soon becomes apparent this thing isn’t cutting it out in the field. This is similar to the tripod fiasco. As your gear expands, the case needs to be expandable as well. It needs to be rugged, holds your equipment safely, allows quick access to your stuff, and most importantly, can hold more than it appears it can. I have had a variety of cases through the years. Some I have sold off, others I have given away. As your photography experience increases, the tighter your case expectations become. I prefer backpacks and my favorites are made by ,ThinkTank. They wear like iron and they hold my cameras, lenses, and all the other stuff I carry comfortably and safely.
I love hand straps and crossbody straps. These simple gadgets allow you to carry your camera easily, securely, and with little or no fatigue on a long-duration shoot. Crossbody straps also free up your hands so you can take care of things without the need of finding a safe place to put your camera down or precariously pinning your camera under your arm. It also serves as a tether of sorts when your camera is on a tripod. I’ve kicked my tripod more times than I care to admit. My crossbody strap has saved my camera from many a nasty fall. I keep the strap around my neck while the camera is on the tripod. My favorites are Spider hand straps and Joby crossbody straps.
L-brackets are tripod plates on steroids. This gadget quickly gets your camera from landscape to portrait orientation with a quick loosening of a screw.
No need for acrobatics with the ball head to shift the camera from one orientation to another. You don’t need a pricy one either. You can get solid L-brackets on the cheap. Check out these brands for nicely made units. ,Sunwayfoto, ,Sirui, and ,3-Legged Thing.
Tempered Glass Covers
Protect your camera’s delicate LCD from bangs and scratches with a ,tempered glass cover. These are inexpensive and do the job. In my opinion, they are way better than the plastic film type as they stay crystal clear, and are easily replaced. Look for glass that has 9H hardness and 0.3 mm thickness (min). These have saved my cameras many times. They have absorbed an impact and cracked, but the LCD didn’t get damaged.
This is, or rather should be, a staple in everyone’s kit. It is a simple gadget, inexpensive, and keeps your sensor, lenses, and anything else you want to blow air on, dust-free. The less dust attached to your sensitive (and expensive) gear, the better. I always use a blower when changing lenses and before cleaning lenses and filters. Don’t use your mouth to blow off the dust. You introduce moisture or even a crumb from the snack you ate an hour ago. Purchase one that has a good punch of airpower. Pictured is the Giotto Large Air Blaster.
This is a list of the basics. In the next post, I will get into the more exotic gadgets.
Do you have any favorite gadgets? Or are you a lean and mean photographer, keeping a minimalist approach with your gear?
Let’s hear it in the comments or drop me a line. I’d love to hear about it.
#art #photographer #photo #photography #experience #gear #passion #inspiration
© Silvana Della Camera
Disclosure: I am trying out the ThinkTank, Topaz, and LRT affiliate programs as I use and love their products. I am also trying out Amazon’s affiliate program as they have products I have purchased that I use and recommend. That means if you buy an item from those retailers through a link on my website, I may receive a small percentage of the purchase price as a commission and you get a discount on some of them. However, this doesn’t increase your price! Thank you.