Saturday, September 19, 2009

I Bought The Camera. What next?, Hub's Ideas

Possibly the second most frequently asked question by the beginning photographer (after "Which camera should I buy?") is, "What accessories should I purchase next?" There's no correct answer to this question. Much of a photographer's secondary equipment is determined by his/her photographic specialty, preferences and shooting style. However, that doesn't stop Hub from publishing a recommended "what next" list for those new to photography.

Some attempt has been made to prioritize this list, but undoubtedly there will be those who would shuffle the order -- or offer other suggestions. That's OK. This should get you started.

The list assumes you have this basic DSLR equipment: a camera with a built-in flash, lens and a data card.

  • A "Dummy's" book for your camera. The camera manufacturer's manual is always my first source for answering questions about my camera. But I've found that buying an independent author's book about my camera usually facilitates learning. These books seem to be written in a more photographer-friendly style that complements the manufacturer's manual and are organized in the same way I'm accustomed to learning. A "how to" book for nearly every popular camera model seems to pop up in book stores and camera shops about the same time as the camera is released to the public. This type of book is an inexpensive learning tool when you're just getting started. Store this book in the next recommended item so it's always handy.
  • Camera bag. You've got to have some safe place to put everything, and an easy way to lug it all around. Currently, at least in the Pacific Northwest, camera backpacks seem to be hot. I wasn't on the backpack band wagon until recently. I find they are convenient, comfortable, water resistant and do a good job of protecting your photographic investment.
  • Tripod. A tripod comes in a close second to the camera bag. Although the thought of toting a tripod along may seem "geeky" or cumbersome, you'll soon learn to love this indispensable picture-taking platform for the sharpness it adds to your images and the time it gives you to compose your pictures. Lightweight and sturdy tripods are available to make carrying this accessory manageable.
  • Cable release. This can be a fixed-wire cable release that screws into your camera's accessory socket or a wireless release that frees you to move farther away from your camera. Using a cable release when your camera is mounted on a tripod eliminates camera shake that's caused when you press the shutter release button.
  • Extra battery. Don't miss that once-in-a-lifetime shot at 5:00 p.m. because you've been shooting since 6 a.m. Carry a spare battery (or two).
  • Extra data cards. Ditto.
  • Lens cleaning brush or "bulb" blower to remove dust safely from the front and rear element of your lens(es) as well as the mirror in your camera body. Your camera's glass surfaces are dust and dirt magnets.
  • UV filter. Some will say that adding a filter to the front of your lens can be detrimental to the quality of your images. I prefer to play it safe with the front element of my lens and the coatings it contains by protecting it with a high quality UV filter (like Hoya or Tiffen). Accidental bumps and environmental contamination can result in real lens damage. A UV filter is much cheaper to replace. Any resulting degradation in quality will only be noticeable if you happen to own an electron microscope.
  • Polarizing filter. This is definitely not critical, but I always seem to be pulling this filter out of my camera bag. I use a polarizing filter for its intended purpose -- to reduce glare from reflective surfaces, to create dramatic dark blue skies and, more routinely, as a neutral density filter when I intentionally want to reduce the amount of light entering the camera to achieve longer shutter speeds in daylight conditions. (Great for flowing motion images of our area's world-class collection of waterfalls.)
  • Off-Camera Flash. When you get serious about improving your portrait, event and/or sports photography, an off-camera flash becomes necessary.

Don't think all these purchases have to be made immediately or at the same time. Cheap, bargain basement accessories can significantly impact image quality and hinder camera performance. (I can't tell you how many times I've seen a $20 tripod tip over with a $700+ camera attached.) Save up your money until you can afford to shop for high quality accessory items.

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