- Thu, 22 Jul 2010
The flash that is built into most cameras is adequate for emergencies but suffers from several major limitations.
Firstly it's small and not very powerful; secondly it's so close to the lens that its light quality is poor and, in dim light, red-eye is a major risk. See Flash modes for more information on this.
A separate flashgun will not only give you more power, but also, with the higher-spec guns, the ability to bounce the light off walls or ceilings to diffuse it (for a more natural look) or use it off camera altogether for more creative lighting effects.
Some flashguns offer more advanced features such as the ability to adjust the output for more subtle effects, or be fired remotely, or produce strobe bursts for multiple flash images on the same frame.
Possibly the most useful accessory you can own, and if you're into landscapes it's an essential item.
Tripods enable you to shoot at slow shutter speeds where otherwise you'd get camera shake.
This makes them great for when you want to use very small apertures for maximum depth of field (e.g. landscapes) as well as night and low light photography, shooting indoors, shooting panoramas, and also for posed portraits, since it will enable you to communicate more easily with your model without having the camera obscuring your face.
Tripods come in all sizes and prices.
A sturdy one is best, but if you're going to have to carry it you may prefer to sacrifice some stability for portability.
Carbon fibre tripods offer the best balance between weight and stability, but cost more.
A remote release enables you to fire the camera's shutter without touching the camera itself. This reduces the risk of camera shake and helps produce sharper images.
With a wireless release you don't have to be next to the camera to trigger it, making it ideal for nature and wildlife for example, when you can retreat to where you won't be seen by your subject.
Filters screw on the front of your lens, and there are many types available, all with specific functions.
UV / skylight filter
This filter is virtually clear and is designed to reduce haze and ultraviolet light, which can cause a bluish cast on your pictures. It's also often used to protect the front element of your lens from possible damage.
One of the most useful filters, it reduces reflections on water, glass etc and makes colours brighter and more saturated. Blue skies will be bluer, grass greener.
Image: Example of an image with no polariser and the same image with a polariser
Neutral Density (ND)
These reduce the light entering the lens but don't affect the colour.
These are ideal for when you want to use slow shutter speeds for creative effects but the light is too bright for you to do so.
A graduated ND filter is grey on the top half, clear at the bottom, and is useful for darkening the sky without affecting the foreground. An essential for bringing out sky detail in landscape photography.
Image: Example of an image with no ND filter and the same image with an ND filter
Bags and holdalls
As you start to accumulate extra lenses and accessories, you'll need a dedicated bag to keep them in. There are many varieties, sizes and styles to choose from.
A shoulder bag gives you quick access to your gear when you need it, but if it's heavy it can give you backache after a while.
A backpack distributes the weight more comfortably but you have to take it off to get to your gear, which is not always convenient.