When starting out in Photography, you can get bombarded with information about all the different accessories available and wonder about which ones to get. Although everyone will have different needs, I thought it might be useful to some of you to list a few of the little "extras" that I think are extremely useful to have with you on your photography journey. These will either simply make your life a little bit easier, and in is some cases, improve your end result - which can only be a good thing right? These are the ones I think are the most useful for lifestyle photography / portraits, or capturing your everyday life, rather than for those that want to photograph landscapes, and so on.
Just to make this clear - you don't actually NEED any of these - technically you only need a camera and a lens - but these are the things i haven't regretted spending any money on, and most are relatively inexpensive. With that caveat out of the way, let's go window shopping :)
1) A White Balance Tool
Ideally you should have something to help set your white balance. This is very useful when you are starting out as it takes a while to "see' color correctly, so this helps make sure you get it right. Even when you are more knowledgeable on white balance, they are very useful, allowing you to set your white balance quickly and accurately, saving you a ton of time in processing. My favorite is without doubt the Expodisc (and you can read why here) but unfortunately it is also the most pricey. However, you will get the same result with a grey card or white balance filter, which literally cost a few dollars.
Here are some options:
Lightscoop / Speedlight
You have probably heard numerous times that if you are trying to get better quality images and improve your photography, you shouldn't use your cameras pop up flash. I definitely prefer using natural light and strive to do so, but there are times when having flash is handy, for example taking photos indoors when there is little light available - capturing your days in winter can be challenging without one! Here are two options here depending on your budget and camera model.
The Lightscoop Bounce Flash Device is a cheap and cheerful option if you have a pop up flash on your camera. It fits over your flash and softens the light by re-directing it and bouncing it off a wall or ceiling, in much the same way that an external flash unit would (although with less power and control) I had one previously and it works really well, and I would certainly recommend it.
If, like me, you don't have a pop up flash on your camera, or you work in low light situations a lot and want a more professional option, investing in a speedlight is your best bet. I have this model, the Canon Speedlite 430EX II and love it. This adds light to the scene but also allows you to bouce it of a nearby wall or ceiling, softening the light and if done well, you would be hard pushed to guess that flash was used.
If you are not sure why you might either an external flash unit, you can read more about that here.
If you want to be in some of your pictures with your kids, then a tripod is a worthwhile investment. Although you can spend quite a lot of money on one, if you are only using one in the home occasionally, you can pick up a tripod for well under $100. I've written up a guide previously on how to choose a tripod so give that a read for some ideas and recommendations.
This is the extremely budget friendly one I have, and it works just fine :)
Decent Memory Card
You may want to also purchase a faster memory card - I think it's one of the best things you can do when photographing moving children! Most people don't even think about their memory card, but bear in mind your want your camera to be able to "write" the image onto the card quickly, so you don't have to stand and wait whilst the camera is buffering. (See this post on using Burst Mode for more info)
Choose one with decent write speeds - this will be marked on them usually. If your camera has the option for you to use a CF card (the more professional bodies do) you might want to look at that as an option too - these usually have even faster write speeds.
I pretty much edit all my photos, even if it just adding a little contrast or saturation. (You can see some of my before and afters here) A good editing program will allow your images to really shine, so I really strongly recommend getting one - it really will be worth every penny I assure you! I recommend either Photoshop Elements or Lightroom if you are just starting out. (I did a post comporing the two here if you are not sure which one to get)
I personally have Photoshop CC, but probably 90% of what I use PS for could be done using Elements, and I often only edit my photos in Lightroom or ACR only (usually when I have a month's worth of editing to get through in one day!)
However, If you would prefer "Full" Photoshop rather than Elements, please note that it is no longer available as a boxed version, it is only available on license - so you pay a monthly fee to use rather than owning the software. There is a good deal on a photographers version which allows you to use both Lightroom and Photoshop for just $9.99 per month. It does save you money on an upfront purchase, but if you are a hobbyist, this will work out very expensive over the term and of course you can't write off as expenses! You can find out more about the cloud option on the links below.
There are many, many, many more gadgets out there (and I have several of them!) but these are the ones that I don't regret spending any of my hard earned cash on!
What gadgets can't you live without and which ones did you think were a waste of money?