Nobody ever said taking up Photography was going to be cheap!
It often costs thousands to just get going with the absolute basics; a camera and a lens. Beyond that, a seemingly endless supply of add-ons and accessories exists to pimp out your gear collection. There are many practical items to choose from, but not all will benefit the average photographer.
Here are 10 practical accessories for under $100 that would be a welcome addition to any camera bag, and might even improve your photography!
The handy rocket blower is an accessory no photographer should be without. With any detachable camera lens system, it is inevitable that dust will eventually make it's way inside the camera body and onto your precious sensor.
A rocket blower will allow you to safely blow away any pesky dust particles that may be stuck on the sensor, or any dirt or sand from a lens that could otherwise be scratched by wiping.
For outdoor natural light portraits or maybe for just a bit of fill light, you can't go wrong with a cheap 5 in 1 collapsible reflector. They come in a variety of sizes, and can be used to either reflect or diffuse light.
White side - for reflecting soft, clean light in bright conditions.
Silver side - strong neutral reflector for use in lower light conditions.
Gold side - for a strong warm reflection.
Black side - The anti-reflector. For casting shadows or completely cutting out light.
Translucent Frame - This is the diffuser. When placed between your subject and the light source, it will soften the intensity of the light.
One of the best tools for controlling long exposures and avoiding camera shake, the trusty remote timer is invaluable to those who shoot landscape or night photography. One of it's main benefits is it allows you to shoot in bulb mode, bypassing the 30 second limit imposed by most cameras for long exposures. Some cable remotes even have built in intervalometers, allowing for time-lapse photography.
Most camera manufacturers sell their own branded remotes, however I find the cheaper no name or Chinese knockoffs do just as good a job.
Wireless remotes are also available, but for reliability it's worth going with a wired option.
Cost: $20 to $30 for a Yongnuo remote on Amazon
The cheapest item on this list, but probably the most versatile.
A cheap LED flashlight not only allows you to find your way around in the dark on those late night photography excursions, but can also be utilized for cool effects like light painting, or stand in for a flash during long exposures to fill in specific areas of your scene with extra light.
Cost: $2 to $10 from a local household goods store
Slot in Filters
Slot in filters allow you to really take control of the light and create some unique effects in-camera.
There are a variety of filters available; the most common being Graduated and ND (Neutral Density) filters.
Graduated filters are either color tinted; useful for jazzing up a boring sky, or a graduated Neutral Density. Helpful when shooting sunrise or sunset shots when there is a large difference in the intensity of light between the sky and the ground.
Solid ND filters are designed to darken your entire frame, and come in a range of varying strengths intended to significantly reduce the amount of light entering into the camera. They are an absolute must have in any professional photographers kit as they can be used to create long exposures during daylight hours.
Cost: Anywhere from $30 to $50 for basic cheaper filters, up to $100-$150 for high quality kits.
For those wanting a cheap way to get into off camera flash photography, there can be no better way than with the current offerings from third party manufacturer Yongnuo.
These guys make some awesome 'knockoff' gear, and are making a name for themselves with their budget external speedlites and wireless receivers.
Yongnuos Speedlites can be had for under $100 and offer all the same features as their Nikon or Canon counterparts like E-TTL flash metering. Couple a few of these with some equally cheap wireless flash triggers and you can have a complete strobist setup for a fraction of the price.
Macro Extension Tubes
Another extremely cheap item on the list, macro tubes can be had for next to nothing on ebay, yet they open up a new world of possibilities for extreme close up photography.
Extension tubes work by increasing the minimum focusing distance of your lens. There are no optical elements involved, so it's a very simple and effective means of getting closer to your subjects, without any drop in quality.
Cost: $10 on ebay for cheapest set of extension tubes, $50-$60 for a set with auto-focus capability.
Flash Diffuser/Bounce Card
Again, another cheap flash accessory. Well two cheap accessories.
A Flash diffuser sits on the top of your speedlite and softens the output from direct flash, allowing for a slightly less 'deer in the headlights' look. Very useful for improving the look of quick flash portraits.
Bounce cards work by directing some of the flash burst towards your subject. If you turn your flash upwards to 90 degrees and fire it indoors, you will achieve a very natural look as the light will distribute itself more evenly as it bounces off the ceiling. By adding a bounce card, to the mix, this allows you to retain that natural look, but add a bit of extra pop by pointing some of that flash burst directly at your subject.
Whilst a tripod is a no-brainer must have accessory, there are times when you simply don't want to lug it about with you. Yet not having a tripod can be a little restrictive when it comes to low light situations or difficult angles.
Gorillapods are great little pocketable tripods that can be carried easily in a small camera bag and are ideal for situations in areas like public observation decks where normal tripods may be restricted.
Due to the design of the Gorillapod, they can be wrapped around objects, making them useful for those tricky angles where traditional tripods may not work. You can even use them to mount an external flash, which can be invaluable for off camera flash setups.
Traditional camera straps can be quite cumbersome and not at all comfortable to use with all the weight of a DSLR hanging around your neck.
A Camera sling transfers all that weight to your shoulder, and as the straps are made from neoprene, it acts as a kind of sponge for when you're walking. The design also makes it easy to raise the camera to eye level, without the straps getting in the way.
For travel photography or events where you need to have your camera on hand at all times, these straps can be a lifesaver.