There are thousands of equipment buying guides out there but not many that recommend the accessories that are truly helpful to take your photography to the next level. No, I am not talking about White Balance cards or Bubble Levels although they are useful on occasions. I am not talking about the cheap accessories bundled with the camera. But accessories which help on a day-to-day basis for crafting your art. When you are starting out into photography or are looking into expanding your skills beyond what the cameras and lenses have to offer, you would need certain accessories that professional photographers vouch by. Here are my top five “tried and tested” accessories for the emerging photographer.
1. 5-in-1 Reflector: This is one of the most economical and portable light modifiers one needs to have. I have the Godox 43-inch circular 5-in-1 reflector which when folded gets to the compact size of around a foot. When shooting into the sun (backlit shots), the reflector can act as your primary source of light. The Gold and Silver sides of the reflector throw a lot of warm or cool light respectively and can help fill in the shadows. Silver works great if you want to create high contrast and enhance highlights while gold creates warm glowing skin tones. The white side is perfect if you just need to fill in some soft low contrast light and especially when you are shooting products. Black, as you know, absorbs light (in the simplest of terms) and helps reduce reflections and cuts unwanted light. The 5-in-1Reflector also has a diffusion panel to soften the light. Some versions come with a soft-gold side instead of Black.
2. A good strap: This may not seem like it fits among the top 5 most important accessories for photography. After all camera manufacturers do provide straps with cameras. Those thin, uncomfortable and boldly branded straps are serving only the camera brands in popularizing their equipment. Those straps do not serve you by providing ease of use and comfort while carrying the camera for long hours. And that’s why you will benefit from investing in a good strap right from the beginning. I didn’t realize the benefit of a good strap till 5 years into photography as a profession and now I wonder why I didn’t shift out of the stock straps earlier! Being a wedding photographer, my job involves long hours on the field all the while lugging around a heavy camera and lens (sometimes even two cameras/lenses). The concern with a stock strap is that all the weight is hanging on your neck which is in no way ideal to carry around a camera. I switched to Blackrapid Sport Breathe single strap and it has made me a lot more comfortable while shooting, moving around. The most notable advantage of using this strap is that it distributes the weight of the camera across the shoulder. It attaches to the tripod mount on the camera making it easy to pull up the camera when you need to take a shot and otherwise lets the camera hang by your side. They also make brilliant double straps for people who prefer to shoot with two cameras at a time. I wish I had discovered the convenience of a good strap early in my career!
The idea is simple, the longer you are comfortable to carry your camera around, the more time you are allowing yourself to make those perfect shots.
3. External Flash: Does your camera come with an inbuilt pop-up flash? Have you used it and then been disappointed that your pictures don’t look anything like the ones you have seen and admired online? Do you wonder why the expensive, professional cameras like Canon 5D series etc do not even have an inbuilt flash? Most of the professional pictures you see online are shot with a variety of external lights (flashes and/or strobes) and almost never with the inbuilt flash. In-built on-camera flash gives out harsh and direct flat light that is not appealing. Light on any subject looks good when it is used indirectly by either bouncing off a white wall/ceiling (on-camera) or at an angle to the subject (off camera) adding dimension through shadow.
Wait, did you say you are an available light photographer? And that your camera ISO can be pushed to an absurdly high number? Pick up an external flash now and use it either by bouncing it or even better by taking it off the camera and see how much difference it can make to your pictures. In order to capture both the background and foreground with the correct exposure, to ensure a good contrast in your image, to freeze your subject, to highlight the subject’s best features and to create the gorgeous golden hour light any time of the day, an external flash is extremely useful. Before you decide to be an available-light-only photographer, use an external flash and experience the creative control it gives over your photography. I use a range of flashes starting with Godox V860II, to portable strobes like AD200 to the indomitable Godox AD600Pro. V860ii can be used both on-camera and off-camera (with help of a trigger) and is powered by a Li-ion battery which makes it last all day! This is great during wedding shoots because I don’t have to carry extra batteries or get interrupted in the middle of fast action to change the flash batteries. But if you do not shoot a lot or if you mostly do low-pressure shoots like Pre-Wedding Shoots, Kids Portraits etc, you can also consider starting with the Godox tt685 or the new Godox tt585. All Godox flashes are TTL and have HSS (High-Speed Sync) capability up to 1/8000th of a second. And unlike the native brand flashes, Godox flashes are really value for money and cost less than a fourth.
4. Triggers: A Wireless Trigger/transmitter is an essential accessory if you want to explore the creative possibilities of taking your external flash off-camera. While bounced flash is a quick and effective way to light your subjects, you will get the most out of your flash when you use it off-the-camera mimicking the sun during the golden hour. I use the Godox X1T to trigger my Godox flashes. You could also get the newer Godox XPro. All Godox lights have an inbuilt receiver and so you can use the same Godox (X*) trigger on all kinds of lights right from the basic tt585 flash to the powerhouse AD600Pro. You can even fire your existing third-party flashes if you get the X1R receiver in addition to the X1T transmitter. Unlike many other triggers I have used in the past, Godox X family triggers are extremely reliable and inexpensive.
Using flash(es) off camera helps in making images like the ones below. The true beauty of it is when you combine multiple flashes at specific power ratio fired at specific angles to get creative results. If this sounds too complicated, my youtube channel has a couple of BTS videos. Leave a comment below if you are struggling with off-camera flash (OCF) and I will make a video explaining in detail.
5. Magmod Kit: This one as well is related to external lighting. Any artificial lighting source needs modifiers and light shaping tools to control, modify/soften and shape the light according to how we want to light our subject. While most modifiers are bulky and not easily portable, Magmod offers a range of small lightweight, stackable modifiers which attach themselves to your flashes with help of magnetic grips. They have Maggrids to control the spread of light, Mag-gels to add color to the light, Magsphere to diffuse light omnidirectionally, Magbounce to bounce light, Magbeam to light subjects at a distance and also to create patterned backgrounds using Magmasks and Magsnoots to create a more focused beam. Out of these Magsphere, Maggrids and Mag-Gels are my most favorite just because of the sheer versatility of these products and the amount of control we get over light. I also like the Magbeam because it helps greatly when you are shooting wide shots and need to keep your flash out of the frame. Although it cannot replace a powerful strobe like the AD600Pro to overpower the sun, it can still function well on a bright day. Magmod modifiers fit perfectly well on my Godox AD200 which because of its portability is currently the most used external light of mine in Wedding shoots where I need to be quick and agile. Magmod has changed the game completely by reducing the time required for setup and making flash photography easy, quick and highly creative. The ease in switching out modifiers allows us to create vividly different results in no time. You can either pick up the Magmod Basic Kit or the Professional Kit depending on your budget.
If this post was helpful please leave a comment and share on your social networks. I will write in more detail about the lights and light modifiers I use in the next post. Meanwhile, I can assure you that you will not regret your decision to buy any of these accessories and that these 5 are definite must-haves in your kit. Happy Shooting!