Congratulations! You just purchased your first digital SLR camera. Believe me, you’re going to love it. Digital SLRs are ten times easier to use and much faster than their point and shoot counterparts. But before you head out into the wild and start taking more pictures than you know how to handle, you might want to know a little bit about digital SLR accessories. While some of them are just nice to have, others are absolutely essential and should be purchased with every digital SLR. I’ll walk you through them.
The “Must Haves”
If you don’t get any other accessories for your digital SLR, at least get these. They will help you protect your camera and keep it clean. You just spent a lot of money on a big investment in your photography. It would be foolish to skimp on these low-cost accessories that will help you avoid losing that investment.
To start, you are going to need a standard UV filter for your lens. You won’t just be using it to block the harsh U.V. light that can cause haziness and reduced sharpness in your photos. You will use it to protect your lens. Filters are one extra piece of glass between the lens and the outside world. If you scratch a filter, you lose a few bucks, but if you scratch your lens, you’ll be paying much more.
Get a microfiber cloth and lens cleaning solution
You should only use a microfiber cloth when working with sensitive optical equipment such as your lens. The microfiber does an excellent job of absorbing oils and other very tiny substances on the surface of your lens. You can’t do a better cleaning job with anything else. As an added bonus, both the microfiber cloth and the cleaning solution are very cheap. I paid less than $10, and I have been using the same bottle of lens cleaner for over a year.
Get some kind of travel camera bag
If anything, just do it because it’s nice to have all of your gear in one place. There are some pretty innovative designs out there, and you won’t break your bank if you start small. Oh, and don't choose a camera bag that looks like a camera bag.
Get at least one extra battery
I can’t stress this one enough. Your battery will quit on you when it’s the least convenient, and if you’re shooting in cold weather, you are practically guaranteed to run out of juice. Nothing should get in your way when you’re out taking pictures. Extra batteries don’t cost that much, and the payoff is huge. You can spring for at least one.
Get an extra memory card with a fairly high capacity
It doesn’t have to be a super fast memory card, just something that can hold much more than the paltry memory card that comes with your new digital SLR. Here’s the thing about camera companies. They never bundle nice memory cards with the cameras they sell. If you want to go out for a long shoot and take over 500 photos, you will need a bigger card. And trust me, you know you’re doing it right when you take a ton of pictures and only select one. Get the extra space so you can improve your odds of getting the shot.
The “This Can Wait Till Tomorrow” Accessories
A nice tripod
You don’t need it to take good photos right away, but a nice tripod does open up a lot of new possibilities. Let’s say you want to start getting into nighttime photography and extended exposures (photos where you open the shutter longer than one second). You need a tripod to do that. Granted, you can always use “natural tripod” like a flat surface, but you won’t have nearly as much control over the look and feel of your photos when you do this.
Tripods are practically mandatory for landscape photography. When your goal is to capture a huge scene, you want as much sharpness as possible. The only way to do that is to close the aperture, which reduces the amount of light coming in. This, in turn, forces you to slow down the shutter speed. At slow shutter speeds, tripods become an essential tool for eliminating the blurriness that results from camera shake.
A nice external flash unit
Flash photography can make all the difference when it comes to taking indoor photos and controlling the light that falls on your subjects. The small internal flash on most digital SLRs simply doesn’t give off enough light to get certain kinds of shots. The direct flash also produces a very harsh kind of light that can result in washed out colors and the dreaded red-eye effect.
With a better flash unit, you can bounce the flash off of walls and other objects to get a more natural looking light. You can also extend the reach of the flash to illuminate subjects when there is almost no available light. Some units even come with gel packs that let you choose the color of light you want to shine on your subjects. These are fun to play with, and they let you learn how different colors of light affect your images.
Don’t hesitate to buy the “must have” accessories. You’ve just spent at least $600 on a new camera setup. What’s another $50 if it helps you protect and enjoy the equipment you just bought?
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