These are the best camera accessories for your DSLR. From tripods to lights, straps and mounts, find everything you need, regardless of your DSLR brand to help you take better photos. All these accessories are pieces of gear I’ve used myself over the years. They are tried and tested in a studio environment and in the rugged outdoors.
Table of Contents
Introduction to Camera Accessories
As a professional photographer for over 10 years, and an amateur for much longer, I’ve slowly accumulated a collection of gear and equipment which can make a photographer’s life so much easier. After being asked over and over for specific tips by friends and professional peers, I’ve put together this guide on gear upgrades every photographer should have.
I work extremely hard to reward myself with nice camera gear, but I also want to use and enjoy my purchases – not just baby it. I search out high quality equipment which will last many years of use.
For the purposes of this guide, I’ve remained camera brand agnostic. With many fellow photographers and bloggers using a multitude of exceptional cameras, from my own Nikon preference, or Canon or Sony, these upgrades are meant for any camera brand choice.
Many recommendations here are for gear I’ve used for a significant amount of time. Over time, the recommendations may change or adjust as I discover new things or find something that doesn’t quite work how it should over time. If I haven’t used the gear, I have trusted friends who have used the items and have provided excellent feedback.
Regarding generic of knock-off brands. This is one realm where I’ve found it is important to buy known brand names for camera accessories. Aside from specific one-time use products like the cleaning tools, these choices are meant to last you a long time and take care of your camera gear. Cheaper alternatives, such as tripod, can very easily result in broken cameras and lenses.
Camera Cleaning Tools
These are the most essential camera accessories and tools to keep your camera and lenses as clean as possible. When you’re taking care of sensitive equipment worth thousands of dollars, using these tools while building maintenance and cleaning habits into your photography regimen are absolutely worth their weight in gold. In fact, probably more than their weight since this whole set of accessories are ultralight!
The Rocket Blaster Air Blower is the de facto air blower just about every camera cleaning service uses. I shouldn’t have to sell you on it more than that. This is the only air blower you need.
This is the first step in cleaning your camera gear.
Use the air blower to remove large debris from your lens without making contact with the lens, reducing the risk of creating small scratches. This is the first step to any camera or lens cleaning.
I use the Zeiss brand pre-moistened wipes, as they are safe per camera cleaning services.
The second step to cleaning your lens glass, these wipes are damp and sealed in individual packets. Based on price per count, I usually get 400 at a time, 6 cents per wipe, one time use per lens, and still struggle to go through them quickly.
As a bonus, you can use these for your eyeglasses too.
Whether you get these microfiber cloths or a different type, make sure they are the small superfine variety that mention cleaning camera lenses, filters, or other fine equipment.
One word of caution – some may mention being cleanable, but in reality, you will want to just toss these after a few uses. Once the cloths become dirty, you run the risk of scratching your lenses, even if you wash them. The microfiber really clings on to dirt!
The LensPen is one such product you don’t want to cheap out on with generic versions. If you find your wipes or clothes are causing streaks, especially with large lenses or touch screens, the LensPen is your savior.
These will last for about 500 cleanings. If you think you can’t keep track, use it with the wipes and time your purchases together.
All in all, budget to pay around $50/year for the essential camera accessories to keep everything clean and in excellent working condition. I consider this well worth it to increase the longevity of your equipment.
Cases and Pouches
For when you need to store miscellaneous batteries, cords, memory cards, adapters, or any other random gear, this organizer offers a ton of versatility for your needs.
Peak Design Slide
I’ve spent countless hours and miles hiking up and down mountains with the camera strap that came with my camera. It wears on the neck and isn’t comfortable for long periods.
When you are wearing your camera for a lengthy amount of time, or need something more comfortable than the strap that comes with your camera body, this is the ultimate strap. Made by Peak Design, the Slide Camera Strap is incredibly durable and versatile. Leaving the camera hanging around your neck is really bad for your spine.
A sling strap like this one allows you to quickly move the camera out of the way or back into your grip for shooting. If you have multiple cameras, get the extra clips and quickly move the strap from one body to another. As an added bonus, the strap comes with tripod attachment capabilities.
I’ve owned mine since 2018 and it has held up exceptionally well. There are a few creases in the foam from folding, but it is still comfortable as ever, with no wear to the adjusters or anchors.
Protective Camera Body Case
Over the years, I’ve acquired a sizeable collection of camera backpacks. I don’t use them. I really don’t like them. The problem I have is that they are heavy with all of their protective padding. I’m often traveling to places which require miles of hiking. Carrying that extra weight, plus camera gear, plus food and water, and other hiking supplies, means I have way too much weight. Cue, the backpack insert.
After spending a lot of time testing gear packed in a variety of materials, from towels, to neoprene sleeves, to different cases, I settled on the Tenba BYOB 9 DSLR. It holds my camera, a second lens, extra memory cards and batteries, and a microfiber cloth for quick cleaning. The zipper is excellent, and the insert fits into my hiking backpack perfectly alongside all my other gear.
A typical hiking bag setup is sleeping bag on bottom, insert on sleeping back, extra clothes and first aid kit on top. My other hiking bag compartments hold food and liquids safely away from the camera. I could never reach such an ideal setup with a camera bag.
From an added safety perspective, I’m not carrying around gear with camera logos that scream “steal me” to potentially unsavory characters or bears in the woods.
Waterproofing Adventure Upgrade
Water is your camera’s arch nemesis. I’ve tested this theory and it didn’t turn out well for me. Grab a Seal Line Dry Pack and keep your gear protected. I always use a dry pack when kayaking for my camera gear, keys, and phone. This type of gear is a great idea if you’re spending time at the ocean with saltwater in the air.
Neutral Density Filters
A neutral density filter is a key camera accessory to bringing your photography to the next level when taking photos of moving water, sunsets, sunrises, and nightscapes. The filter allows you to capture long exposures without blowing out your highlights and overexposing lighter elements. The ND filter provides excellent balance and that epic look you may have been struggling to capture.
- Moving clouds turn into soft white objects against a vivid blue sky
- Waves turn smooth in choppy water
- Waterfalls turn into fuzzy water
- Car headlights become streaks of color
- Blur moving tourists or make them disappear with an extra long exposure
- Photograph multiple lightning strikes during a thunderstorm
There is a whole range of prices for neutral density filters – from $20 to $200. In the end, you’re going to be better off buying more expensive ones. These will reduce vignetting in the edges of your photos and bring you greater color accuracy. I ended up going with the Breakthrough Photography 10-Stop filter, however B + W and Hoya are other reputable brands some other photographer friends of mine use.
If you want to specialize in sunrise and sunset shots specifically, you’ll want to pick up a Graduated Neutral Density filter. This will taper the filter and allow you to pick up colors with much a more accurate balance. B + W produces some excellent quality GNDs.
Shopping strategy: Buy the biggest size ND filter you have lenses for, then adapter rings, or step up rings for your other lenses you might use this on. For example, I bought the Breakthrough 82mm filter, then a 78mm adapter and 58mm step up adapter for two other lenses I use often. I also purchased a lens cap for the larger filter to provide some extra protection. A filter case with a zipper will help keep your filter and step up adapters padded and dust free when not in use.
No matter the type of memory card your camera takes, you’re going to benefit from having a high capacity high speed card plugged in. If you’re using a card which came with your camera, this is a good chance you’re using a cheapo memory card.
While a high capacity card means you will almost never worry about running out of room when you are presented with that once in a lifetime shot, make sure to transfer photos to your computer on a regular basis.
Memory Card Holder
This is one very specific area where buying generic or off-brand is totally okay. I prefer the waterproof memory card holder, but anything you find that fits the type of memory card your camera uses will be okay.
I currently own three full size tripods. One is an old 60’s aluminum tripod with metal spikes. This is my favorite tripod – it is sturdy, lightweight, and can throw some crazy environmental conditions. However, its irreplaceable and I’ll never be able to get the same one again. My second favorite is a Manfrotto. It is extremely high quality, but pretty heavy, so I mostly use it when shooting at home and not adventuring due to the weight. My third tripod isn’t good, nor is it in working condition. It was one of those cheapo $25-40 tripods that come in a bundle. I used it several times and it broke pretty quickly.
So what is the best kind of tripod? It depends on what you’re using it for and if you’re inside or outside. You most definitely want high quality. The worst thing that could happen is your tripod malfunctions or breaks and drops your camera and lens. The $25 tripod will quickly turn into a several hundred or several thousand dollar replacement.
A tripod like the Manfrotto BeFree, is a great balance between features. Sturdy enough to hold your camera and lens, lightweight enough to travel with at 2.43 pounds, a ball head for flexibility, and multiple leg configurations for setting up your composition.
Really Right Stuff TFC-14
The RSS TFC-14 Mk2 is an incredibly beautiful tripod and by far the most expensive. It also gets the lowest to the ground without mounting the camera upside down.
- Load capacity: 50 lb
- Minimum height: 2.7″
- Maximum height: 47.2″
- Folded length: 18.1″
- Weight: 2.47 lb
Many forum comments can be found talking about how they have owned this tripod for decades.
- Load capacity: 22 lb
- Minimum height: 12″
- Maximum height: 58.5″
- Folded length: 14″
- Weight: 3.1 lb
Peak Design Carbon Fiber
While the tripods above excel at specific things depending on your type of photography, the PD tripod is a best travel tripod overall for the class of top tier quality.
- Load capacity: 20 lb
- Minimum height: 5.5″
- Maximum height: 60″
- Folded length: 15.5″
- Weight: 2.8 lb
Remote Shutter Release
When you’re trying to take photos of yourself or long exposure photography, a remote shutter release is the first step to success.
I no longer use a remote shutter cord. Wait a minute – how is this an upgrade? Well, I now use my phone paired to my camera with WiFi for a remote. I can shutter release, change basic camera settings, and stand much farther away.
Most new cameras all offer pairing capabilities to your phone. I highly encourage using and playing with the apps. The images are far superior to a selfie-stick and if you are patient enough, you can end up with some really cool shots of yourself cameoed in the background.
In the above image – I’m incorporating every camera upgrade listed in this post, with my remote camera app being the arc-de-triomphe.
PhotoStructure is a free/premium app for Windows/OSX/Linux/Docker that manages your photos and helps you organize. All data is kept local. Your data stays yours. The app has some incredible features. Its essentially a non-cloud version of Google Photos or Apple Photos. Face detection, object tagging, powerful searches, and quite a bit more. Best of all is the software is open source and your library portable to any system, from now and into the future, with no lock-ins.
PhotoStructure has generously offered a discount code to my readers: MKLIBRARY10 for 10% off a year.
Starry Landscape Stacker
This paid OSX app is meant for astrophotographers. The software combines multiple photos of the sky, analyzes the horizon and foreground, then stacks the photos together, removes noise, and masks areas for you. Ever wondered what some of those epic milky way photographers are doing to get those shots? This is one of the key components.
From recipes using locally sourced ingredients and terroir-centric cooking, craft cocktails, to the latest in tech and home DIY projects, Michael yearns to share his learned and found knowledge of the world.