There are accessories that photographers covet, and then there are accessories they need. Happily, this list of hand-picked photo goodies should satisfy in both cases. Here are our suggestions for essential items such as straps, clamps, tripods, triggers, cases, and light modifiers. But why stop there? Why not add an item or two just for spice? And so we did.
Black Rapid Curve Strap The Black Rapid Curve ($59) is a simple, comfortable, strap that keeps your camera ready for action without being a pain in the neck. The adjustable strap is plenty long, allowing you to wear it cross-body for better weight distribution across your shoulders. Its pad is designed with an ergonomic curve so it stays securely in place. You can attach the Curve via the tripod socket in the bottom of your camera. Like a gun slinger from the old West, you’ll never miss a shot.
Lowepro Lens S&F Exchange Case 100 AW Tired of holding one lens under your armpit while you attach the other? The Lowepro S&F Lens Exchange Case 100 AW ($45) is cleverly designed to hold one standard-size zoom while providing room to temporarily store another when open. The idea is to detach the zoom from your camera, put it in the temporary compartment, remove the other lens stored in the case, and mount it to your camera. When you’re finished, you can zip up the Lens Exchange with one hand. The case comes in two sizes: one for standard zooms and the other for 70–200mm telephotos. Attach it to your belt or use the included shoulder strap.
Lexerd TrueVue LCD Screen Protectors Protect your camera’s LCD screen with a Lexerd TrueVue crystal clear screen protector ($10 to $15). The colors and tones on your LCD look natural, yet you no longer have to worry about scratches and nicks on the screen. TrueVues also work with LCDs that have touchscreen technology.
CowboyStudio Wireless Flash Triggers How about a set of wireless flash triggers that work with virtually any hot-shoe flash, wirelessly “communicate around corners,” and cost less than the filter you have protecting the front of your lens? CowboyStudio Flash Triggers ($21 to $155) include a transmitter that slides into your camera’s hot-shoe and a receiver that connects to your flash. Turn them on and take a picture, and the flash fires. For this price, you don’t get TTL metering; you have to set your flash manually. But if you want to use off-camera flash on the cheap, Cowboy is the way to go.
Nasty Clamp This sturdy, durable clamp grips onto just about anything; then, via its flexible arm and 1/4-inch threaded bolt, you can attach a variety of accessories including off-camera flashes, LED light panels, audio recorders, and more. You can fit a Nasty Clamp ($44) or two inside your gear bag, and they take up far less room than traditional light stands.
Induro Carbon Fiber Tripod Carbon fiber tripods can cost you an arm and, well, a leg. One of the better values in this category is the Induro ($299), which extends to 55 inches, holds up to 11 pounds, but weighs only 2.1 pounds. That’s a lot of stability for a little bit of weight. And even though it costs $299, that’s more reasonable than most of the competition.
Rogue Master Lighting Kit With the Master Lighting Kit from Rogue ($200), you can modify the light output for up to four flashes using the included FlashBender reflectors or Honeycomb grid. Yet, the entire kit fits inside most camera backpacks. That’s because the FlashBenders store flat, but once you attach them to your hot-shoe flash, you can shape them to modify the light to your liking. The master kit includes two gel kits, and a diffusion panel for the largest Flash-Bender, turning it into a superportable softbox.
Westcott 5-in-1 40-inch Reflector Kit Circular reflectors are immensely useful in the studio and on location. This large 40-inch reflector ($100) collapses down to a fraction of its full size for easy packing in your gear bag. You have five configurable surfaces to work with: gold, silver, white, black, and translucent. And if you don’t have an extra set of hands available to hold the reflector, just mount it in the included adjustable pivot arm and attach it to a light stand. Nifty!
Joby Gorillapod Focus with Ballhead X The Gorillapod Focus ($149) is Joby’s most serious tripod. It supports up to 11 pounds on its flexible, coiling legs, which can free-stand like a traditional tripod, or wrap around poles, tree limbs, and a variety of other supports. Included in this bundle is Ballhead X, which uses a standard Arca-Swiss-compatible mounting plate. Even though the Gorillapod is only 11.4 inches tall, you’ll find that you can use it just about anywhere.
Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blaster Keep dust off lens surfaces with the simple but effective Giottos Rocket Air Blaster ($10). Squeeze the rubber bulb to direct a blast of air toward your target. Since the Rocket Blaster doesn’t use propellants, you don’t have to worry about damaging sensitive mirrors and delicate electronics.
Photographers Rights Gray Card Set On one side you have a handy white-balance card set that includes white, gray, and black targets. The plastic cards ($10) measure 2.1 by 3.3 inches and are attached to a white lanyard via a detachable clip. On the other side you have a copy of the photographer’s rights in case someone challenges you while you're out taking pictures. It’s a thoughtful, affordable gift for the photographer on the go.
F-Stop Watch Tell what time it is via f-stops on the face of this quirky watch for photographers ($36) with a sense of humor. The watch face is 1.3 inches in diameter, with a quartz movement for the timepiece. When someone asks you what time it is, you can answer, “It’s f-5.6 past 11.”