Part of learning how to use that new camera is learning what to buy to make it work for you. Here are a few gadgets that I like to have around to help me, depending on if I’m using a point and shoot for family shots, or a my DSLR with a full blown flash unit for portraits or product shots.
Gary Fong’s products are great. They are cheap, easy to use, and come from a photographer trying to build things he needed, and then seeing a market for them. All of Gary’s products include a very well written tutorial card, and he also has complete video instructions on his site – very helpful for the beginning photographer.
I use the Flip Cage for my P&S, the Puffer for my DSLR, and the Lightsphere collapsible for my flash unit. The Flip cage gives you a ton of options for how you hold and use your P&S, including working as a stand, macro setup, and even a protective cover in case you drop your camera. For $19.99, you can’t beat it. There’s even a version for the iPhone 4, which you probably won’t leave on your phone all the time, but it’s great for taking pictures.
The Puffer. It works with almost every DSLR out there, and helps create a nice soft light from a source that normally doesn’t provide one. At $19.99, it’s a great gadget for a photographer who maybe hasn’t taken the leap and bought a full blown flash unit yet. Typically, the pop-up flash on your camera is the worst light source you can use – but in a pinch, you can use it successfully with a Puffer.
The Lightsphere is a bit more expensive at $59.99, but if you use a full-size flash, you really can’t live without this gadget. It fits over the head of your flash unit and turns a sharp unflattering light into a nice soft glow. Ideal for portrait photography; I also use mine for most of my product shots.
Gary Fong also came out with the GearGuard security system. Designed to protect your camera, bag, or lenses, the GearGuard system provides extra protection for your stuff. The GearGuard uses two interlocking plates, which you feed a braided steel cable into. You can then tether your gear to a nearby immovable object, giving yourself that extra piece of mind when you have to leave your equipment unattended. The cost varies based on the number of plates and cables you buy, but the basic set will run you $9.99 plus $10.75 for the lock and cable.
No, I’m not getting a cut from Gary Fong sales. I just think he makes good stuff.
Next up, carrying systems. I remember when I first bought my DSLR. I took a trip to San Francisco with my family, and spent several hours wandering around the zoo. By the end of the day, my neck was rubbed raw by the stock camera strap, and I didn’t particularly like advertising the fact that I was packing around a very expensive camera. One of the first things I did when I got home was start researching alternative straps.
I found it’s actually better to actually go to a walk-in store and see what they’ve got. Don’t be afraid to spend $20 or $30 on a good strap with features you think you might need — quick release clips, gel padding, and so on — because remember, you’ll be using this every single time you shoot.
Alternatively, you could get something like this:
The SpiderPro system is worn around on your waist like a gunslingers belt. It works with pretty much any camera you might have, but you’d look a little bit silly using a P&S with it. I use it with my DSLR and it’s great – your camera is secure and always ready for the next shot. Spider is currently running a special on the Pro system where for $109, you get the holster, plate, belt, and pin. Most importantly, you get the weight of your camera and lens off your shoulder (or neck) and onto your hip.