I personally don’t like to drag a lot of equipment with me when I’m out shooting, but there are a few things I simply can’t do without. I have listed my top 5 pieces of equipment that every photographer (amateur or not) should consider adding to their camera bag.
Epson’s Multimedia Photo Viewers
These small, portable backup/storage/display devices can truly save the day if you are out shooting and find yourself with filled up memory cards and lots left to see. You can transfer photos (as well as video and music) straight from your camera or through the built in card slots. The viewers come in three different configurations: the P-3000 has a 40GB hard drive, the P-6000 80GB, and the P-7000 160GB. All measure 3.5×5.9×1.3 ” and weigh 1lb, and some of the features include 4″ screens, long life rechargeable batteries, and A/V output. $299-$699.
These flexible, funky looking tripods are amazing little gadgets. Sturdy and durable, their legs twist and bend so that they are able to attach to almost anything (your bike, a car, a pole, a branch, etc.). They come in 5 sizes to suit everything from cell phones to heavy video cameras, and are really lightweight: 1.6oz (the “Go-Go”) to 1.1 lbs (the “Focus”). The SLR model weighs in at 5.8oz and costs $44.95, and the Original model (for point and shoots) weighs 1.6 oz and sells for $24.95.
Homemade Flash diffuser
On-camera flashes usually produce some pretty horrible results, and not everyone wants to spend money on an external flash (and take the time to perfect using it). I have found two homemade remedies that work really well:
For popup flashes, use an old film canister (not the black ones obviously, the hazy white ones). Take the lid off, cut a strip out of it from top to bottom, just wide enough so that it fits snugly over your flash, and just slide it in place so that the flash is being fired through the canister. You’ll have to play around with the camera settings a little bit to get the exposure to where you want it. If you don’t have any old canisters lying about, ask at a photo printing shop if you can have one.
For point and shoot flashes, I use a small piece of tape, regular Scotch Magic Tape (not the totally clear kind). Put one piece over the flash, test and see what you think. If it’s still too strong, just put another piece over it. Weight: negligible. Cost: Around $2 for the tape.
It might seem like an unnecessary expense, but these small, lightweight disks are invaluable for adding light to the shaded part of a person or object, both indoors and out. I use the 22″ Photoflex disk in Silver/White for just about everything, but they come in several different colors. Give it a try yourself: place a person parallel to a window and take a head shot without the reflector. Then take one with your subject holding the reflector (outside of the picture of course) so that it bounces the light from the window into the shaded side of their face, and look at the difference. If you want to do the test shots before investing, try it with a white piece of cardboard. It works just as well, but it’s not as easy to pack in a bag. Weight: 1.75 oz. (22″ Photoflex) Cost: Around $25.
The Shutter Hat is like a raincoat for your camera (SLR) so you don’t have to pass up shooting outside just because it’s raining or snowing. It’s held in place by Velcro and a rubber piece that fits into the flash hot shoe, and covers lenses up to 8″ long. It also has two slits for the strap, so you can still carry it around your neck with the Hat on. It folds up really small, so you can carry it with you and have it on hand all the time in case of a sudden downpour. Weight: 2.28 oz. Cost: $39.95
For point and shoot cameras, your best bet is to invest in a waterproof case such as Aquapac or DiCAPac. Not only will they protect your camera in the rain, you can also take it snorkeling or diving. 2.7oz, $29.95-$49.95. For a land-only low cost alternative, use a shower cap or a ziplock bag with a hole cut out for the lens.