Capital Photography Center | Photography Classes in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia and Online

Our Favorite Photo Accessories

December 17, 2020 by Admin

With the Holiday shopping season in full swing, we thought we’d share a list of the favorite photography accessories of our instructors and staff. You might find a few to add to your Santa list or get some gift ideas for your photography friends. 

Lenses, Filters and Lens Accessories

If you have not taken the plunge and tried out one of the Lensbaby Lenses, you need to give them a try. The lenses are durable, fun to use, and will add to the standard lens gear in your camera bag.  I enjoy shooting with the Sol 45 and the Velvet but there are many other lenses to try. The lenses are all manual, and each one provides different creative elements, from blur to velvet glow. (Lori Lankford)

A high quality Circular Polarizing Filter to darken and add punch to blue skies and removes glare from water, leaves and other reflective surfaces. (Lewis Katz) 

Neutral Density (ND) Filter: It’s perfect for when I want to use a slower shutter speed, but the lighting conditions or the camera settings don’t allow it. (Corey Hilz)

I love the brand Breakthrough Photography. Their filters are the sharpest quality on the market. The company is out of San Francisco and grew from the ground up with a Kickstarter campaign. It is great to support a small business that has created amazing products. This is one not to overlook. (Lori Lankford)

Extension Tubes are a great alternative to a macro lens. Use them to take close-up photos without sacrificing image quality. (Corey Hilz) 

Step-up Rings: Enables me to attach a larger filter to smaller size lenses. Great for specialty filters (ex: ND filter) that I don’t want to buy in multiple sizes. (Corey Hilz)

Pinhole Body Cap: Use as a lens on most popular brand cameras to take real pinhole photographs. Depth of field is infinite, focus is always fixed from as close as a few millimeters to infinity. (Michael Koren)

Flash, Lighting Accessories and Light Modifiers

Gary Fong Lightsphere I hate raw on-camera flash and just about every diffuser I have used to soften the harsh light. The one exception is the Gary Fong Lightsphere series. The collapsible one is particularly useful for travel and a tightly packed bag on local jobs. And yes, the light is soft and diffused, making it a perfect tool. (Geoff Livingston)

The MagMod Light Sphere  is one of my favorite items, it’s a rubbery material so it’s ‘smashable’ to store in the camera bag and easily snaps on the flash by the magnet mount. (Marie Joabar)

Any product by Lume Cube. Lume cubes are small but powerful lights that you can pack in your bag and use as needed. They are a great option when you don’t want to use Flash. They are perfect for nature photographers when you need just a little bit of light in a dark spot. The Panel Mini is a great price point at only $60.00; this little light packs a lot of brightness. (Lori Lankford)

The shoe-mounted bounce and swivel off-camera flash with a diffuser head for that bit of fill light for people's faces on indoor and outdoor events. (E. David Luria)

Colored gels so the light from the flash (or flash light if light painting) matches the color of the ambient light. The CTO (color temperature orange) is extremely helpful but don’t stop there, use these to add a touch of creative color as well. (Marie Joabar)
Catherine Simmons likes to use colored gels in some of her portraiture to create fun color images.

Diffusers: When the light is too harsh, I will use a diffuser to reduce contrast and create even lighting. Great for everything from flowers to people. (Corey Hilz) 

Reflectors: it’s helpful, especially when doing creative or macro photography, to have these little 12” reflectors tucked away in your bag.  They come in handy to bounce a little light into shadowy places or onto your subject. (Beth Haubach)

A small reflector that is gold on one side and silver on the other handy. It’s very helpful indoors and outside for reflecting light onto your subject which is usually close up or macro work of flowers. (Lewis Katz)

Light Tents are great for product shots or any item that you want the light to be soft and even.  Place the lights on the outside and the white cloth sides and/or top panels will spread it out evenly. Available in many different sizes. (Marie Joabar)

WOWTECH 1040 Lumen LED Flashlight- Flashlight is also small but packs a bright light which is essential for those night adventures. (Emily Carter Mitchell)

Tripods and Such 

An “L” bracket tripod mount: This is ALWAYS attached to my camera and is one of the niftiest camera gadgets.  You can quickly switch the camera from landscape to portrait orientation (or vice versa) without having to do a lot of fiddling with the tripod.  Additionally, it helps keep the weight of the camera over the center of tripod, rather than the camera hanging off the side in portrait orientation. (Beth Haubach)

When I am shooting on a tripod I want to be able to make precision adjustments so I can achieve just the framing I want. The Arca Swiss D4 Tripod Head with a classic knob quick release supports both coarse and fine adjustments and of pan, tilt, and yaw, with exceptional smoothness. And it is more weather proof than its predecessor, the Arca Swiss Cube. For advanced photographers (Roy Sewall)
Another great tripod accessory is the Really Right Stuff TA-3 Leveling Base. Usually it takes quite a few passes with leg lengths to get a tripod absolutely level, such as for panoramic photography. But with the leveling base (under the Arca Swiss D4), you can turn the knob at the bottom of the column, orient the base to horizontal with the built-in level, and turn the knob back to lock it in place. Very quick and accurate. You will choke at the prices of this and the tripod head listed above. (Roy Sewall) 

A remote shutter release is beneficial to prevent camera shake when taking a picture on a tripod. (Mel McNamara)

SmartPhone Accessories

The Joby Gorilla Pod with Smartphone Mount: Small lightweight tripod designed for a mobile phone.  It has legs that wrap around a branch, pole or railing.  A ball head and smartphone mount makes composition and long exposures a breeze. (Michael Koren)

Moment Lenses are one of my favorite accessories for my iPhone 11, great for amazing macro and wide angle imagery. (Catherine Simmons)

Camera Bags, Pouches, Wraps  

PeakDesign SlideThe only camera strap that I will ever buy. Comfortable and versatile, it lets you sling your camera onto your hip, on your back, and never ever fails. I love them so much that I have bought them as gifts for other photographers. The slide ‘lite’ is not as good. (Geoff Livingston)

Do your camera straps get in the way sometimes? I love the quick release strap and hand strap by Peak Design. The strap is sturdy, adjustable and the ability to move it in 2 seconds is perfection. (Lori Lankford)

Domke 19x19" Color Coded Protective Wrap: I love these when I need a protective wrap when my gear is not in my padded camera bag. These are really versatile; great for camera bodies, lenses, flash units and more. They stay closed with velcro. (Marie Joabar)

Vanguard ALTA FLY 49T ROLLING CAMERA BAG The world of accessories for photography is endless, but in my life, it is essential to have a compact kit that is good for international travel. My favorite camera bag I’ve owned so far is the Vanguard Alta Fly 49T. As a rolling bag it’s small enough to fit in an overhead compartment. In it I can fit a full-frame DSLR, 500mm, prime lens unattached, a 100-400mm attached, a 24-105mm and a wide angle 16-35mm. There are wonderful storage sections for up to a 15-inch laptop, two pouches for chargers, etc. and still space to add small items. (Emily Carter Mitchell)
The Tiffen Filter Pouch for 62mm – 82mm round filters and the Ruggard Neoprene Protective Memory Card Pouch
Both are lightweight and can fit into small spaces. (Emily Carter Mitchell)

Card Wallets: I always carry spare cards and batteries, but if I didn't have a card wallet to keep mine in, I'd surely lose my memory cards. And yeah, that gets to be expensive after a certain amount of time. Not the most flashy accessory, but definitely one of the most practical.

OpTech Hood Hat: This neoprene lens cap quickly slips over the front of the lens even if your lens has a hood attached.  Soft neoprene will not scratch the lens or absorb water.  Collapses to fit easily in a pocket when not in use. (Michael Koren)

Miscellaneous: Helpful To Have On Hand

CamRanger Mini so I can bracket the ISO on my studio lighting shots (since I can't bracket f/stop or shutter in studio). This allows me to capture all the shadows and highlights and basically create HDR portraits. (Catherine Simmons)

Altura Photo Professional Cleaning Kit Full Frame DSLR Cameras Sensor Cleaning Swabs with Carry Case: I use the Altura DLSR Cleaning Kit to keep my camera sensor clean and it is a great kit that includes all sorts of goodies like a rocket blower, brush and microfiber cloth. (Emily Carter Mitchell)

For bright sunny days when it’s difficult to see your LCD screen, a hood loupe is a must have item.  It allows you to check your exposure, composition and focus.  (Mel McNamara)
Beth Haubach likes the Hoodman Loupe brand, it’s super handy on those sunny days when it’s literally impossible to view the LCD screen on the camera.  

The bubble level app on my phone to make sure my tripod-mounted camera is level from left to right and front to back. (E. David Luria)

Copper tube and tulle: I keep these tucked in my bag if I want to add a creative touch to flower or macro photography. (Beth Haubach)

The Heat Company makes some incredible gear for shooting outside in the winter. Check out their incredible gloves that keep your hands warm and give your fingers access to use your camera. They are amazing! (Lori Lankford)

Rain Sleeves: This was a “splurge” and an “upgrade” from plastic bags for me!  They are heavier weight than grocery store plastic bags, and great to have on hand if you get caught in the rain.  The not only cover the lens and camera but also part of your arm. (Beth Haubach)

A plastic sheet or large trash bag for whenever I have to set my camera bag on the ground. It keeps the bag free from sand or grit that may work its way into the camera bag and cause damage to the gear. It also protects it from the wet or muddy ground. (Marie Joabar)

A trash bag! A little trick I learned from fellow photog is to always carry a trash bag in my camera bag. While this may sound odd, rain happens and cameras don’t tend to mix well with water. There are many great rain covers for cameras none are as compact and cost effective as a plain ole trash bag. I prefer the clear translucent ones but any will do! (Claire Edkins)

Hair ties! The secret power of the hair tie is a McGyver like use to hold together tripods, fix a broken camera strap, or hold close a battery door! Plus, for the long haired photogs out there, there’s nothing worse than your own hair ruining a shot or getting stuck in a camera strap and a hair tie can be a lifesaver. (Claire Edkins)

Whether your holiday shopping or not, we hope you'll find some handy accessories for yourself from our favorites listed here.