Getting your first DSLR is a big deal—it really feels like you’ve entered a new world of photographic possibilities. If you want to open up even more options, though, you’ll want to consider investing in a few accessories. Some are inexpensive and essential, like cleaning products, while others could cost you quite a bit more and will change your entire photography experience, like a telephoto lens.
Check out these 9 accessories for beginning photographers, and share the accessories you can’t live without in the comments below!
This is absolutely essential—if you’re going to be bringing your camera with you on hikes, trips, or outings, you want it to be easy to carry, and you want to be able to bring some small accessories with you. Camera bags range widely in size, and you’ll want to give some thought to which size will work best for you. I have a shoulder bag, like this Lowepro Adventura 170:
For the most part, a bag of this size serves me very well—but sometimes I wish I had more space. For example, if I’m going on a hike, I have to choose to either bring the camera bag and a backpack, or put my camera and any accessories that I’m carrying in my hiking backpack, which is less preferable. A larger backpack-style camera bag, like this one from Case Logic, might be a better option for hikers:
Or, if you’re looking for something in in the middle, a messenger bag might be the best option. Many messenger bags include inserts for storing cameras and lenses that can be taken out, giving you the option to use it for non-camera hauling, as well. This bag from Evecase is a great example:
The picture quality that you get from your camera is partially a reflection of the quality of the glass used in the lenses, and keeping your lenses clean will help make sure that your photos are as clear as they can possibly be. A cleaning kit will run you between $10 and $20, and it’s absolutely worth the small investment.
This cleaning kit from Altura Photo includes everything you need to keep your camera clean, from microfiber cloths and cleaning spray to an air blower cleaner and lens-cleaning tissue paper. And it’s only $15.
One part of your camera that you probably shouldn’t clean is the sensor. While it’s important to keep the sensor clean, it’s an extremely sensitive piece of equipment, and should only be cleaned by professionals. Every couple years, take your camera into a shop that offers sensor cleaning and pay them to do it for you. You can do it by yourself, but the risk probably isn’t worth it.
An extra battery for your camera seems like a simple enough accessory, but it can be an absolute game changer for your photography. Out on an all-day expedition taking hundreds of photos? You might run your battery down and miss the best shot of the day at sunset. Not with an extra battery! Just get out to where you’re going, pull your camera out, and get a low battery warning? Not to worry! You have an extra. It’s great.
Buying an extra battery for your camera is simple: just search for “[model of your camera] battery” on Amazon. You should be able to find one for $10 or $15.
Your camera probably came with an SD card, and if it didn’t, you almost certainly already have one that you can use. But keeping an extra around is great for the same reason as having an extra battery—so you don’t have to worry about filling one up and manually deleting all the photos until you have enough space for new ones. When you buy an extra SD card, though, I recommend considering the Eye-Fi card.
Eye-Fi is an SD card with built-in wifi, so you can download your photos to your computer without having to take the card out of your camera (which is especially useful for people who have a tendency to forget that they took it out). Just open up the Eye-Fi app, connect the card to your wireless network, and you’re set to go. At $100 for a 32GB card, $55 for 16GB, or $30 for 8GB, it’s more expensive than a regular card, but it’s worth it.
A tripod is an oft-overlooked accessory for beginning photographers, many times because they don’t quite understand how useful it can be. When you start to learn about adjusting aperture and shutter speed to properly expose your photos, a tripod can really come in handy—if you’re using a shutter speed of 1/60 or less, having a stable base for your camera makes sure you don’t capture camera shake.
This is especially useful in night-time photography, where longer exposures are required. But it can also be useful if you’re trying out landscape photography or if you want to use the timer on your camera to capture a picture of a group of people (including you). A basic tripod, like the AmazonBasics 60″ tripod pictured below, will be sufficient for most beginning photographers.
The AmazonBasics option will only run you $23, but if you want a more durable tripod that will last a long time, you’ll want to consider something like this MeFOTO Roadtrip tripod / monopod, which will set you back $200:
Remote Shutter Release
When a camera is on a tripod, you may want to use the timer function so that your hands don’t bump the body and cause shake in the picture. Another option is to use a remote shutter release, which allows you to take a picture with the press of a button—it’s great for landscape and night-time photography, as well as if you want to take a family picture that you’re in.
To find a remote for your camera, just search for “[your camera] remote” on Amazon, and you should find something. There’s a wide range of prices, but you shouldn’t have to pay more than $15 or $20 for this useful piece of equipment.
Without a polarizing filter, some of your pictures will include a lot of glare—this is especially true when you’re photographing things that reflect well, like glass or water. And while changing the angle of your camera might help eliminate that glare, a polarizing filter will make the job much easier.
A polarizing filter is like polarized sunglasses for your camera—it only allows specific waves of light through. And by properly aligning it, you’ll get better, truer colors in your pictures. Fortunately, simple polarizing filters are quite inexpensive, like this circular polarizer from Goja, which only costs $10:
There are more expensive options that include higher-quality glass, but for beginning photographers, an inexpensive one will work perfectly. Make sure to find the diameter of your lens before ordering a polarizer! The image below, from Goja, shows you were to find it.
When you’re ready to make the jump from photography beginner to photography enthusiast, a telephoto lens is a great investment. It’s not cheap—you can plan on spending at least $300—but being able to fill the frame with distant subjects will help take your photos to the next level.
Most telephoto lenses for enthusiasts have a maximum focal length of 200–300mm. Beyond that, you’ll be getting into very expensive equipment that only specialists need. By searching for your camera brand and “telephoto lens” on Amazon, you’ll see a huge range of options that can be overwhelming. However, if you’re not taking professional-quality pictures, a lens in the middle of the price range will give you suitably crisp images.
For example, I have the Nikon NIKKOR 50–300mm lens, above, and while it doesn’t pack the same quality glass as a more expensive Sigma or Tamron lens might, its pictures are perfectly crisp for my purposes. At $400, it’s not cheap, but it’s also not a bank-breaker.
Again, you’ll need to run a search for your camera brand and “telephoto lens,” and you’ll see plenty of options. Don’t worry about picking the exact right lens; go with one in your price range, and it will be perfectly fine.
While the other items on this list are very functional, replacing the camera strap on your camera is a more aesthetic choice. The camera straps that are included with beginner-level DSLRs work well, but they don’t really look very exciting, and having a fun-looking camera can help motivate you to keep practicing your photography skills and bring your camera with you when you go places.
A quick-release shoulder strap like this one from Altura does make it easier to get your camera into place to fire off a shot, but not all of them will change how you use your camera.
Most people will be interested in getting a strap that’s fun and unique, like these from Orota:
(My personal favorite is the pink strap with skulls on it.) As I’m sure you can imagine, a quick Amazon search will give you dozens of options for getting a new strap on your camera, with most of them costing less than $20.
Upgrade Your Photography
As a beginner photographer, the best thing you can do is to practice your photography skills in a lot of different conditions. The second best thing you can do, however, is to outfit yourself with the accessories you need to step up your game. These 9 are perfect for beginners, and most of them are quite inexpensive, as well.
Which DSLR accessories do you find to be the most useful? Share in the comments below!