When it comes to getting everything you need for your new camera, the list often feels overwhelming. From accessories to lenses, there are a few things you’ll definitely need to get for finessing the photography experience. I went through my camera bag and narrowed down truly what is that I use along with a few other key items.
Personally, I love to keep things simple. When I do travel, I limit myself to two lenses, a body, and the other essentials (you’ll find below). You can certainly bring more if you find you need other items but in general, your bag does not have to weigh a ton.
*If you’re looking for a new camera body, I’d recommend reading my blog post on camera gear. It has everything that I personally love.
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Essential Photography Accessories
If you invest any money into anything for cameras, let it be the lenses. I’d rather spend double the amount on a lens than a body. I can wholeheartedly say that my progression in photography can be contributed to investing in better lenses.
One thing to consider when purchasing is that lenses don’t often change in technology as the bodies do. So what you purchase will be most likely something you’ll keep for years.
There are two types of lenses I want to talk about.
Good to Know First: full-frame vs crop sensor lens
When purchasing lenses, it’s good to note whether or not the lens is a full-frame or crop sensor. First, determine whether or not your camera body is a full-frame. Simply put, if you buy a full-frame lens and put it on a crop-sensor body, it will lose some of the edges because the sensor on the body is not large enough. For example, a Nikon 16-35mm lens on a crop sensor camera will take a photo that is equivalent to what a 24-52.50mm would be on a full-frame sensor camera body.
If you had to buy a single lens, let it be a 24-70mm lens. It is the most versatile lens that can be used for indoor photography and outdoor photography. It’s what 95% of my images are taken on. You’ll have two options: an f/4 or an f/2.8. The most obvious difference is in their brightness or maximum light each lens allows to the sensor. The second is f/2.8 gives a more shallow depth of field or a stronger bokeh. My first purchase was an f/4 and when I upgraded to the f/2.8, I wish I would have just purchased that, to begin with. At the time, I didn’t have the money to do so and the f/4 worked great for us for years.
There are two other zoom lenses to consider. If you’re looking for a wider frame then check out the 16-35mm f/2.8 (Sony, Canon, and Nikon). For wildlife and grand landscapes, we always bring along a 70-200mm (Sony, Canon, and Nikon). The 70-200mm lenses come in f/4 and f/2.8, so again comes to how much you want to spend + desire for the extra depth of field and light.
I have a love-hate relationship with prime lenses. My biggest issue is that it is a fixed lens which means you cannot zoom out or in. In return, you get a great shallow depth of field (or sharpness) as the lenses are often as low as f/1.8. My one recommendation is to have a defined purpose for the said prime lens. In the past, I’ve been allured to purchase a prime lens because the barrier of entry for getting a lower f -stop is cheaper than a low f-stop zoom lens. But after using them (for what I do), I found myself frustrated by the limitations of the fixed lens. So the advice is to really define what it is you’ll use it for.
I have the Sony 24 mm f/1.8 lens but hardly use it since I have a 24-70mm f/2.8 and the extra stop isn’t (in my opinion) worth changing the lens out.
I also have the Sony 35mm f/1.8 prime lens which is a beautiful prime and great for food photography and even portraits. It’s a very narrow lens so has a limited range of use. I do love the look of a 35mm photo for certain settings.
The one lens I am considering to invest in next is the latest Sony addition, the FE 20mm f/1.8. It’s super sharp and wider than my 24-70mm. So I would get two things out of this purchase: a wider angle lens + a sharper depth of field.
The first thing I recommend to everyone is to have a tripod. It is absolutely essential for a few reasons. The first being that in low light conditions, you can shoot at a slower shutter speed. Second, if you’re doing indoor photography, it will help get your lines straight. And lastly, if you’re solo and want a photo of yourself, you’ll need one.
You can spend anywhere from $50 to $500 on a tripod. What you choose to purchase should meet your needs. A few considerations are weight, style of tripod, height, and different capabilities.
I have two tripods, one that I travel with (for flights) and another that I use at home and on road trips. The two brands I am the biggest fan of are Manfrotto and Vanguard. Each of these companies offers a range of tripods.
For at-home/road trips, I am using the Vanguard Alta Pro 2 263AB100 Aluminum-Alloy Tripod. I love that I have the ability to do flat lay photography with this one.
For travel and a more compact tripod, I am using an older Manfrotto model, this is the most similar.
The best tripod under $100 is the Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod.
Memory cards are essential to photography — you’ll need a few. Did you know there are major differences between them? The criteria depend on the camera you are using, the amount of memory you want, and the speed of processing you want/need.
For example, I shoot on a Sony A7R series body and I need to have memory cards that process data really fast (if the memory card doesn’t write fast, it can corrupt the data). My Sony has two slots for memory cards — slot one that is UHS-I and one that is UHS-II adding another layer of decision making. Here’s a quick overview (will try to keep it simple):
Camera Memory Card Slot Specifications: UHS-I vs UHS-II
What are UHS-I and UHS-II? It stands for ultra-high-speed. In quick terms, the UHS-II is the newest tech and processes data at a faster speed. A lot of the newer camera bodies from most companies have this memory card slot designated. You can always use a UHS-II card in a UHS-I slot, it just means that it will run the data at the speed of UHS-I (and vice versa). The pricepoint of the UHS-II cards is much higher (3-4x), so if this extra element of processing doesn’t matter to you, then it’s not a big deal to use a UHS-I all the time. The only time it will really matter is if you’re shooting video in 4K.
Memory Card Write Speed/Read Speed
The most vital element to ensure choosing the right memory card for your DSLR or mirrorless camera is the write speed/read speed. For me, shooting on Sony, I need to have a card that writes the data at a strong speed, or else I can run into data corruption. Ever tried snapping photos on a DSLR on an old memory card that runs under 95 megabytes per second? It takes too long to write the data.
My recommendation is to use a memory card that is either 170MB/s or 300 MB/s. I personally use 170MB/s. Remember, every time the tech is faster or has more storage, the price point goes up. Pick and choose what is most important to you.
Amount of Storage + Amount of Cards
I prefer to have a lot of storage and I always carry 3-4 memory cards with me at all times. I opt to have memory cards that have 128 GB plus a few 64GB cards.
The best memory card that suits my needs is the SanDisk 128GB Extreme PRO UHS-I SDXC Memory Card (I have two of these). The card also comes in a 64 GB option which I have a few as my back-ups. These memory cards were rated #1 best all-around memory card by Digital Camera World. I keep them safe in this Ruggard Leda Memory Card Holder.
And of course, the best thing you can do if you’re not sure is to check the manual on your memory card or a quick Google search for the best memory card for your camera!
If you’re taking lots of photos, you will absolutely need them. I have two hard drives that I store and backup my images on. One that I travel with and one that I keep in the safe at home. Photo storage is my biggest pain point with photography.
I use the “unbreakable” LaCie Rugged USB-C 4TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD (available on Amazon) for daily storage + travel (it has gone through a lot). For my backup left at home, I use the WD 5TB My Passport Ultra for Mac Silver Portable External Hard Drive (available on Amazon).
For The Camera Itself
There are few essentials that I keep with me for my camera itself:
- 1-2 back up batteries (often needed for mirrorless and especially if you’re shooting video)
- A cleaning kit. This one has it all: Sensei DOC-CK Deluxe Optics Care and Cleaning Kit
- A sensor cleaner: VisibleDust EZ Sensor Cleaning Kit Mini
- Leather Camera Strap. I feel most secure with one of these rather than a leash.
UV Filters For Your Lenses
I want to talk quickly about the importance of keeping a UV filter on your lens. These are all under $50 and it’s a clear, glass protector that you put over your lens. It protects them and it is surely easier to clean or replace that than to try to fix a smudge or scratch on the actual lens itself. One time I dropped my camera, lens down, and it shattered only the filter. It was a $50 replacement instead of $1500. I highly recommend using a UV filter on all lenses. In fact, it’s the first thing I do when I get a new lens. My brand choice is Tiffen. Remember to check the right size filter for your lens — the numbers are not the same (i.e an 82mm filter is the right size for my 24-70mm lens).
You can also opt to get a polarizing filter if you’re planning on high-light settings. Personally, I don’t love using one. I had one on for years and found out I wasn’t even using it right, so I’d be sure to understand how it works to get the best use out of it.
I love our Incase Designs Corp DSLR Pro Pack Camera Backpack (on Amazon as well). It has served us well and the easy access point at the top of the backpack makes it really convenient. I use this bag for flights and storing all of my gear. I’ll pack it up and toss it into the car. It also has a slot for a laptop making it a multi-use bag. You could certainly get fancier with a camera bag, but for us, it has never been necessary. We use the Incase bag as well for long day hikes where we are trekking with multiple lenses.
When I am out and about for the day visiting somewhere, I go between two bags. The first and certainly not the most protective is the Longchamp Pliage Backpack. I can fit my Sony A7RIII with a 24-70mm lens in it. Again, it is NOT a protective bag. I use this more for when I will put my camera away for a bit and can keep it on my back. I pack this backpack in my suitcase as it packs completely flat and I take it out when I get to my destination.
The second is the Lo & Sons Claremont Bag. It is a discreet leather bag and has more structure. You’d have no idea there is a camera in it. The leather is strong and there is some padding as well.
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Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.
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Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.
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My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are: