Of all the hobbies you could ever pick up, photography is without a doubt one of the most expensive. There are ways to reduce how much it’ll cost you, of course, but there’s no doubt about it: you’ll need to buy a lot of stuff eventually.
However, that doesn’t mean you need to buy all of that stuff right away. In fact, many photography accessories are situationally useful, meaning you may only need certain things for specific types of photography. 80% of the time, you’ll only need the essentials.
But what are the essentials? We’re going to assume you already have an entry-level DSLR camera (save money by buying a used DSLR). Here’s what you should buy next no matter what kind of photography you intend to do.
Few camera accessories are as versatile and necessary as a tripod. Whether you’re thinking of landscape, portrait, night, street, or even wedding photography, you’re going to need a tripod at some point or another.
Tripods are extremely useful for low light settings, as the stability of the tripod allows you to take longer-exposure shots without any blur. This stability is also crucial for things like night sky photographs and even proper selfie shots.
As a newbie, your first tripod should be cheap — one that you can mess around with without having to worry about breaking it or getting it dirty. The AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod is perfect because of its low price and portability.
If you want more tips, check out our newbie’s guide to buying tripods.
2. Remote Shutter Release
A remote shutter release is important in two ways: it lets you “take a shot” without physically touching the camera body, which also eliminates any potential for shaking and vibration. It’s most often used in conjunction with a tripod.
There are two kinds of remote shutter releases — wired and wireless — but it doesn’t really matter which one you get. More advanced remotes will have extra features like half-press support, built-in timers, and LCD screens.
This Neewer Shutter Release Remote Control provides a lot of bang for the buck, but do note that you’ll usually have to buy a remote that’s compatible with your particular brand of camera, whether that’s Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, etc.
You can also try making your own remote shutter release but it may be tough if you don’t have any previous DIY experience.
3. 50mm Prime Lens
As you progress in your photography skills, you’ll end up amassing plenty of different lens types that let you take all kinds of shots, but there’s only one lens that’s so fundamentally important that all newbies should get: the 50mm prime lens.
For those who don’t know, a prime lens is simply a lens that doesn’t zoom. Check out our overview of the differences between zoom and prime lenses.
Why a 50mm prime? Not only does a 50mm lens best replicate how humans see with their eyes, but the inability to zoom can also teach you a lot about proper composition techniques. But most of all, no lens is cheaper than a 50mm prime.
4. External Flash (Speedlight)
Every photographer is going to need flash at some point, even if you never take shots in the dark. Indeed, there are many reasons to use flash even when you have a lot of ambient light! A photographer without flash is a gimped photographer.
But don’t use the built-in flash on your camera body. It’s simply no good. Instead, spend a little bit of money on an external flash unit (sometimes called a speedlight or flash gun).
You’d be surprised how much more you’ll be able to do, even with a single external flash unit. Check out our newbie tips for speedlight use to get a glimpse of the possibilities. You won’t regret it, I promise.
The Yongnuo YN-560 IV Wireless Flash is an inexpensive off-brand flash unit that’s cheap enough to be affordable but still powerful, feature-rich, and stays useful no matter how skilled you become.
5. AA Batteries + Charger
Once you start using external flash units, you’ll be going through batteries like crazy — and that’s why you should invest in rechargeable batteries as soon as you know that you’re going to be serious about photography.
6. Memory Cards
In photography, it’s better to have a handful of smaller SD cards than a single big SD cards. That way, if a card ever gets corrupted, you still have others you can use. There’s nothing worse than being unable to shoot because your only card died.
Make sure you buy the right kind of SD card for photography, which will differ depending on what kind of photography you’re shooting. You can’t really go wrong with a handful of these Transcend 32 GB Class 10 Memory Cards, which are big, fast, and cheap.
You should also consider getting a Water-Resistant SD Card Holder Case to keep your memory cards safe, both for storage and for travel.
7. Cleaning Kit
Photography gear is expensive. Dirt, dust, and moisture can get into the nooks and crannies of camera bodies, lenses, and accessories — and in the worst possible case, can cause permanent damage.
Neglecting camera maintenance can be the most expensive mistake you make in the long run. Plus, dirty sensors and dirty lenses make for ruined photos.
Unfortunately, taking your gear in for a professional cleaning is also expensive. That’s why you should learn how to properly clean your camera gear yourself. Of course, when there’s a serious issue, you should take it to a professional.
The Altura Photo Professional Cleaning Kit is the best-selling kit on Amazon and for good reason. It comes with all of the important bits — e.g. cleaning solution, microfiber cloths, air blower, etc. — and it’ll last you a long while.
8. Camera Strap
Your camera probably came with its own branded strap, but you probably never use it. Maybe it’s too small, too weak, too worn, too ugly, or too uncomfortable. Straps are important though, both for safety and for practicality.
As soon as you have all of the other stuff listed above, you should spring for a quality camera strap. The difference between a kit strap and a quality strap is like night and day, and you really won’t regret it.
The BlackRapid Cross Shot Sling Strap is one of the best in its price range: comfortable, adjustable, and durable. But if you can pay a little more, you might want to look into the Peak Design Slide Camera Strap, which is a little more robust and professional.
9. Photography Bag
The last essential item that photographers should have is a high-quality bag. After all, once you’ve bought all of the aforementioned items, it’s going to be a pain in the butt trying to carry it all without a properly designed bag for the job.
If there’s one thing you learn from this article, let it be this: camera gear is only useful when you have it on you when you want to take photos! What good is a camera if it’s too heavy to take with you? No camera, no photos. Yuck.
I have this AmazonBasics Large DSLR Gadget Bag and I’m extremely happy with it. For the price, you won’t find another bag that feels this robust and durable. Plus, it’s roomy enough to hold a lot of gear (several different pockets, pouches, and compartments).
If you intend to carry a laptop around with your, for post-processing or what not, then you may want to consider this AmazonBasics DSLR and Laptop Backpack instead.
Skills Are More Important Than Gear
The most important thing to know is that better gear won’t make you a better photographer. Don’t buy these things because you’re tired of sucking and you think these will help. The only answer to that is to learn, study, and practice.
That being said, if you’re curious about what kind of camera gear the pros use, check out these sites that show the insides of professional camera bags. It’s a great way to get inspired and find new photographers to follow.
Which photography items are you hoping to buy next? Which items do you consider absolute essentials for all photographers? Share your thoughts with us down in the comments below!