Camera Accessories for the New Camera Owner

Did you receive a new camera for Christmas? Millions of folks did… and regardless of whether it’s a DSLR or a point-and-shoot style device, one should consider what accessories are going to help create the best images, keep the camera in the best condition, and help make the most of the photography experience. Here’s a list of some accessories you should consider for your new camera:

Photo Storage & Backup

  • Spare Memory Cards – one can never have too many memory cards, and if you run out while shooting you’ll be faced with the unfortunate task of having to delete images in the field. If your camera uses SD cards, I like the SanDisk Extreme 30MB/s SDHC cards. If your camera uses Compact Flash (CF), get the SanDisk 16GB 60MB/s Extreme Compact Flash Card.
  • Backup Hard Drive – Don’t risk losing your images if your computer’s hard drive crashes. Get the habit of routinely copying photos to a backup drive (and ideally storing that backup drive at an offsite location such as your office, a family member’s house, or even a safe deposit box). The Western Digital My Passport Essential SE 1 TB Portable External Hard Drive works great – I’ve used this exact model for several months.

Camera Cleaning

Software

Digital cameras often come with “starter” software, but if you really want to enjoy your images, I recommend the following software, purchased in this order:

  1. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 – Lightroom works on either Mac or PC systems and allows for easy import, cataloging, and editing of RAW and JPG photos from a digital camera. You’ll be able to easily browse your collection of images, add captions and keywords so that you can find things later, and perform a ton of editing adjustments including cropping, color adjustments, exposure adjustments, black/white conversion, and more.
  2. Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 – Lightroom handles 95% (or more) of all of my photo editing. Occasionally I want to do some skin retouching or perhaps remove a distracting object from a scene. That requires a tool with a bit more fine editing power, and I recommend Photoshop Elements. Unlike it’s $700 big brother, Photoshop Elements is focused on tools just for photographers. Like Lightroom, this will run on either a Mac or Windows system and works great.

Learning

Want to learn more about photography? Here are some recommendations for ways to increase your knowledge.

Gear

  • A good camera strap – the straps that come with cameras are okay at best and painful at worst. A small investment in a good padded camera strap will result in your neck thanking you for years to come. I like the Op/Tech Pro Loop Strap.
  • Spare battery – most cameras use a lithium-ion battery that can be recharged from a wall outlet. Look into a spare battery to keep with you so that you won’t miss a shot due to a lack of power.
  • A good camera bag. I like the Lowepro Classified 160AW for a shoulder bag and the Kata DR-467i is a great backpack for carrying a camera, a lens or two, and a laptop. I have both of these items and love them.

What other accessories or add-ons would you recommend for a new camera owner?

Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers: 2011

As we approach the Christmas, Hannukah, and other holiday gift-giving season, I’ve compiled a list of a bunch of great gift ideas for photographers of all abilities.

Under $10 or so…

Under $30

  • iPhone 4 Lens Kit – a set of three lenses that attach to an Apple iPhone 4 to allow for some creative photography.
  • Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It – I’m a huge fan of Scott Kelby’s books and this one is a good set of material that covers the entire photographic process from setting up lighting, creating a portrait, and then retouching that image. Scott couples his knowledge with his humor to provide a lot of information on making a successful image.
  • Lighting Digital Field Guide – another book suggestion, this one by my friend Brian McLernon who dives into an overview of all things lighting, and then provides details on how to make the most of natural light, small flashes (such as speedlights), and studio lighting.
  • Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom – It seems the Gorillapod makes it onto gift lists each year, and it’s for good reason: it’s a great product. I love using my Gorillapod when I want some camera stability but don’t feel like carrying my big tripod. By attaching the Gorillapod to a fence post, tree brance, or setting it on my car, I can get the shot.

Under $100

  • Alcatraz Views, my new photo book documenting the history of Alcatraz. Yes, this is self-promotional but it’s a nice collection of images about an interesting place. The book will be available within a couple weeks.
  • Kata E-702 Large Digital SLR Camera Raincover – This will fit pretty much any DSLR and is a great item to have especially if one lives in a wet climate like where I usually shoot (Washington/Oregon). I have this item and I use it quite frequently this time of year…
  • LEGO Digital Camera – It’s a three megapixel digital camera made from Legos. Awesome, right? I have this one on my personal wish list.
  • Lowepro Classified 160 AW – My current go-to camera bag for most shoots around town (basically anytime I’m not taking my big roller bag). Rather than give you a couple sentences here, read my review of the Lowepro Classified 160 AW.
  • Topaz Adjust – one of a variety of great image editing options from Topaz Labs, the new version of Topaz Adjust can take just about any photo and give it a bunch of pop.
  • Westcott 5-in-1 Reflector Disc – reflectors are a great tool for a photographer working with either natural light or that created by flash. This versatile reflector offers a variety of surfaces to best reflect and diffuse the light for any situation.

Go Big or Go Home

  • Kelby Training – a year of great multimedia training is less than $200 and is appropriate for photographers of all skill levels.
  • Lytro Camera – a new camera that allows a photographer to adjust the focal point **after** the image has been captured. A great experimental device.
  • Want to *really* go all-out? Offer to pay for a workshop for a photographer. Regardless of their interest in a particular area of photography or their skill level, there are great workshops that would be a perfect fit.

Have a recommendation question? Contact me using one of the methods over to the right.

Some of the links above are affiliate links; if you click through and make a purchase I’ll receive a bit of beer money.