Research: Useful Basic Photographic Equipment

Another objective that has formed part of my ongoing practical considerations for my independent photographic practice was outline and consider some general equipment I will need to acquire upon starting freelance work.

For this, I consider my previous area of research in reference to the first article I noted, discussing a variety of useful insights to consider when starting a photography business. This in included a section on equipment, making practical considerations in terms of buying an excessive or unnecessary amount of photography gear.

5. Unnecessary Gear and Business Purchases Can Be Crippling

It’s very easy to get caught in the never-ending cycle of buying things to “help your business”. With photography, it’s even more dangerous because the purchases are fun and exciting! It’s not hard to convince yourself that if you just had that better lens, you’d take better photos, and your business would be more successful.

I don’t even want to think about how much money we’ve wasted by buying gear that we didn’t really need. It all ended up collecting dust in our closet until we sold it for a serious loss. After a few years of that nonsense, we got wise and started being very, very, very thoughtful about purchasing anything. Our gear might not get many jealous stares from other photographers, but as long as it’s creating the images we want, that’s all that matters.

It’s the same deal for business purchases. Think carefully before pulling out that credit card. It’s hard enough to make a solid profit with photography without huge expenses to deal with.

Therefore, identifying a simple list of core equipment was the most cost-effective and sensible option.

From this, I started to think about equipment that will be cost effective but practical when working independently. Often, I have borrowed items from the studio such as reflectors, external flash, triggers, macro lens and more advanced SLR models. But I will be efficiently equipped when this resource is no longer available to me.

Upon the same site, I found a useful list of overlooked essential photography equipment highlighted below:

Many of which were of significant interest to me, although simple, this helped formulate ideas about equipment that elevates the practice of photography and/or reduces potential issues – missed opportunities, camera maintenance, inexpensive alternatives etc..

For more in depth context, see article below:

11 Overlooked Photography Accessories

It’s easy to get wrapped up with cameras and lenses and forget some of the small things that make shooting a little easier. Here are 11 accessories that Lauren and I have started to use over the years and can’t live without!

1. Canon Hand Strap with connector – The leather Canon hand strap has worn in beautifully. Lauren prefers to use a handstrap rather than a neckstrap, so this Canon one was a very nice option. And since she also likes shooting a camera without a battery grip (smaller and lighter) we needed to get something that would screw into the tripod mount so that you could attach the hand strap. The connector linked to above comes with it’s own hand strap, but it’s not very good quality. This system works out really well.


2. Focusing Screen – Have problems keeping your horizons level and your straight lines straight? We were, so we picked up a few of these and they’ve helped a ton! They come with a tool to remove the current focusing screen, and a handy container to store the spare in. I included a link to one for the 5D mk II, but they exist for all camera body types.


3. Flash Battery Pack – This flash battery pack is a little pricey, but when you need your flash to recycle much faster (first dance, bride is coming down the aisle, etc) it can be a life saver. It holds 8 AA batteries and comes with that little pouch. Nikon users have a nearly identical option – though I haven’t tried it myself.


4. Intervalometer – This device will allow you to create time lapses. You plug it into the remote shutter release port, and program it to take a photo at certain time intervals (i.e. every 10 seconds). Then walk away and come back an hour or two later and presto! You’ve got your time lapse. Canon makes one for over $130, yikes! Pick one of these generic ones up (looks identical) for under $25. From what I understand Nikon users are lucky enough to have built in intervalometers. P.S. You’ll need to make sure you get the one that fits your camera model.


5. Battery Conditioner / charger – I couldn’t find the exact model shown here so I linked to a similar product. If you have to charge a lot of AAs picking yourself up a good charger is definitely a must. These chargers have soft charging and conditioning modes which really help extend the life of your batteries ensuring you’ve always got a full charge! Along with the flash battery pack this was a pricier accessory to pick up.


6. Wireless Remote – Control the shutter from far away. Another no-name option to save a bit of money, since Canon branded accessories seem to be very expensive! We photographed our own wedding using these! Again make sure you get the right one for your camera model.


7. Video Light –  This handy little light is how we do a lot of our ring shot for weddings. We also use them for portraits at night occasionally. It looks like it’s been discontinued from B&H so I linked to Adorama.


8. Firewire Card Reader – Do you spend a lot of time uploading cards after a wedding or shoot? These FW 800 card readers (4-stackable) are indispensable. They’re also pretty pricey, but pay for themselves in the time you save over the course of a wedding or portrait season.


9. Lenspen – If you have a smudge on your lens that you want to get rid of, these work perfect. We always have a few of these in our bags and always pick a few up with every gear order. From what I understand the cap contains a special charcoal sponge, so every time you put the cap back on, give it a half twist and it will be good to go for next time.


10. Rocket Blower – We use this all the time to blow off bits of dirt and dust. It seems we frequently get stopped when going through security with this, they always want to see what it is. 🙂


11. Macrorings – Turn any lens into a macro lens. It will be manual focus, but that’s fine. Way cheaper than purchasing an actual macro lens, and a great tool to experiment with.


I continue to explore other external references, searching for lists of essential photography equipment that might help someone trying to start their career or just practical items useful to photographic practice in general.

From this, I found a relevant article that outline a very basic list of SLR camera accessories. I already I had a generous amount of these essentials, however there were still a few that highlighted potential gaps I needed to consider:

  • Dust Blower (good quality)

  • Audio Adapter for Video

  • White Balance Lens Cap

  • External Hard Drive

  • Ballhead (tripod)

For further clarity, see article below:



on 4.12.10


Photography accessories – the options are endless: cases, lenses, filters, diffusers, etc., etc. Of the multitude of accessories out there, we find that some are necessary – and others are simply taking up room in the camera bag. The Gear Patrol crew gets a lot of experience behind the lens, and we have sifted through many of the photo accoutrements out there.

The following list of gear contains items that we feel will actually make a difference in your photography…


Neck Strap

10 Essential DSLR Camera Accessories #1

tech-strap-11OEM straps are typically non-padded and made of irritating fabric, so a neck-strap upgrade is key – if you are not comfortable carrying an SLR, then it will most likely stay at home. Op/Tech USA manufactures many different styles of straps, with the Pro Loop Strap being a great choice. The strap is made from neoprene, and acts as a shock absorber when carrying an SLR with a long lens. A non-slip fabric on the underside keeps your camera in place when slung around the shoulder.

Buy Now: $16

Camera Bag

10 Essential DSLR Camera Accessories #2

crumpler-bag-1A padded camera bag is a must when hauling an SLR around – it protects your investment, and makes room for extra lenses and other paraphernalia. Crumpler makes a well-designed line of bags that don’t look like camera bags, which comes in handy for a bit of stealth. You don’t necessarily want a bag that screams “hey look, I have $3,000 worth of camera gear in this sack!” The “Five Million Dollar Home” bag has enough room for an SLR with a lens attached, a spare lens, an external flash, and plenty of pockets for batteries and spare Compact Flash cards. Available in five colors.

Buy Now: $80

Dust Blower

10 Essential DSLR Camera Accessories #3

rocket-blower-1Dust is attracted to lenses and filters like a magnet, as well as your camera’s sensor. So a dust removal device is vital to good photos – canned air works well, but is expensive and bulky. The Giottos Rocket-air Blower is the solution: durable, powerful, and easy to use. Just a couple blasts sends dust flying. The rocket-shaped base keeps it upright, and an air valve keeps dust from collecting inside it. Available in small, medium, and large.

Buy Now: $9-$13

Polarizer Filter

10 Essential DSLR Camera Accessories #4

polarizer-1A polarizer is a great solution to reduce reflections on glass and other shiny objects, while simultaneously deepening blue skies and intensifying color saturation. B+W makes a great polarizer, as does Hoya, and Heliopan. Higher quality polarizers will have coatings on the glass to reduce reflections, and to repel dirt and scratches. Priced according to filter diameter; for example a 58mm B+W Multi-Coated Polarizer is $90.

Buy Now: $50-$180

Tripod and Ballhead

10 Essential DSLR Camera Accessories #5

tripodA tripod is crucial when taking photos in low light or when tack-sharp focus is desired. There are many configurations out there, but carbon fiber tripods are extremely sturdy and lightweight. Top it off with a multi-adjustable ball head and you have a rig that can’t be beat – the ball head allows the camera to be firmly attached to the tripod with near-infinite adjustability. Feisol makes a well engineered, reasonably priced line of carbon-fiber tripods and ball heads such as their top-of-the-line CT-3472LV tripod with a leveling base that makes it easy to get shots lined up properly, and their durable CB-70D ball head. Feisol tripods are available in several sizes.

Buy Now: $210-$599 | Ballheads: $109-$239

Audio Adapter for Video

10 Essential DSLR Camera Accessories #6

beachtek-2The emergence of HD video capability on some DSLRs is great news – shoot video and stills in one package. And, the ability to shoot video through the multitude lenses available for DSLRs makes it easier to get professional results. What could be better? Well, the on-camera audio could use some flexibility in most cases. DSLRs are typically limited to using an internal mic, or an external one via mini-plug. BeachTek offers an ingenious solution – the DXA-5Daaudio for video adapter that not only allows for the use of professional mics with XLR connectors, but features a stereo LCD meter to show audio signal strength, a headphone amp, and it disables the automatic gain control built into the camera. The “AGC” in DSLRs can cause swings in the audio level, and can generate a bit of hiss in the background – both are purged with the DXA-5Da. Works best with high-sensitivity microphones. Available for the Canon 5D MK II and Panasonic DMC-GH1, and can be used with camcorders as well

Buy Now: $329

White Balance Lens Cap

10 Essential DSLR Camera Accessories #7

white-balance-cap-2Getting the correct white balance on a DSLR can occasionally be challenging, and not everyone wants to take a white balance reading off of a grey card. The solution? A white balance lens cap. Having to correct for white balance for dozens of photos can get tedious – simply pop the lens cap onto your lens, set your camera to custom white balance mode, fire off a shot, and the result is a great looking WB profile for warmer and more vivid photos. As a bonus, it can be left on-camera and serve as a lens cap – one less item to carry. Prices range depending on lens diameter.

Buy Now: $45-$65

Low Light Capable Lens

10 Essential DSLR Camera Accessories #8

lensTaking photos in natural light can give stunning results, especially when the light gets low.

Many standard “kit” zoom lenses that often come packaged with DSLRs can not handle low light situations very well, yet an alternative is a lens of f/1.8 aperture, such as the Nikon Nikkor AF-S 35mm f/1.8G, or an even more light-capable f/1.4 aperture like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. Most camera manufacturers offer fixed lenses in these aperture ranges, they are relatively inexpensive to boot.

Buy Now: Nikon Nikkor AF-S 35mm f/1.8G ($200) | Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM ($344)

External Hard Drive

10 Essential DSLR Camera Accessories #9

guardian-maximus-ext-driveProtecting those photos that you have worked so hard to get is crucial – so back them up with an external drive. For that extra sense of security, go with a RAID-1 set up. Two drive “mirror” each other, i.e., both drives get the same data in real-time so there are two copies of the same information in case one drive fails. Newer Technology makes a great one – the Guardian Maximus “Quad Interface”. This black box offers connectivity via Firewire 800/400, USB 2.0, and eSATA ports. Available as an “add your own drives” kit, or preloaded with a range of drives from 300GB + 300GB up to 2TB + 2 TB.

Buy Now: $220-$750

Spare Battery

10 Essential DSLR Camera Accessories #10

nikon-en-el3e_frontRunning out of juice while shooting photos is frustrating. All DSLRs and many point and shoot-style cameras use proprietary batteries – yes, they are expensive, but bite the bullet and buy one… trust us, you will need it someday. Batteries such as the Canon BP511A battery for a 40D, or the Nikon EN-EL3e battery for a D700 are both approximately $39-$45.

Buy Now: Nikon ($39) | Canon ($45)


I have also started to identify some of my own lists of acquisitions for consideration that I have found to be useful in the past which I believe will continue to helpful in independent practice. With this, I have also highlighted cost effective options to consider on a resource I have found to be reliable, Amazon.

  • Reflector kit


  • Speedlite Flash for Canon build

  • Flash trigger & transmitter kit for Canon SLR

  • Battery Grip

  • Wide angle & macro conversion lens
Overall, I feel as though this area of research and reflection has allowed to consider some essential items of equipment I will need or may be useful to me within my independent practice.

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