March 19th, 2012

Accessorize! Add-ons that will have you photographing in style

When I bought my first SLR camera in the year 2000, I was blown away by the photo quality. The same thing happened a decade later when I bought my first DSLR. The quality, the control, and the creative range opened up new avenues of creative expression.

Perhaps the best thing about a DSLR camera is its versatility: with a combination of settings, lenses, and accessories, my camera is tailor-made for me.

For those who have never considered DSLR accessories, let me assure you: they make a big difference. Accessories are not just for professional or serious photographers. Many add-ons are modestly priced and offer huge benefits to casual photographers.

Here’s a taster of the accessories that are available.

Neutral Density Filters

When you see a photograph with a beautiful blurred waterfall, you are likely looking at a shot taken with a neutral density filter.

Bright sunny days pose problems to photographers. The large amount of light limits camera settings: for a proper exposure, the aperture must be small and shutter speed fast. Neutral density filters block some of the light rays that pass through your lens. When you reduce the quantity of light, you can also slow your shutter speed, which gives you the lovely blurring of moving objects. Increasing your aperture allows you to focus on your subject, with the background and foreground soft and blurred.

See the Cameron Neutral Density Filter, available in many sizes to fit your specific lens.

Circular Polarizing Filter

On a bright day, strong light waves will reflect off a variety of surfaces. In photographs, these wonky light rays appear as a whitish glare. Polarizers block out errant wavelengths, preventing glare, deepening colours, and capturing more dynamic skies.

See Tiffen Circular Polarizer, also available in different sizes to fit your specific lens.

Pop-Up Flash Diffuser

Pop-up flashes ensure you get a proper exposure in low light, but the resulting photos are not great. Pop-up flashes are harsh, flattening details, over-exposing faces, and under-exposing the background.

One way to minimize the harsh effects of a pop-up flash is to use a diffuser. This nifty accessory fits on the hot shoe. Your flash pops up behind the diffuser, and when it goes off, the diffuser spreads and softens the light beams.

A flash diffuser may not give you the same creative range as an external flash, but it is light and portable and certainly improves your picture quality.

See Gary Fong Puffer Pop-Up Flash Diffuser.

External Flashes and Off-camera lighting

Long, cold Canadian winters mean we do a lot of photography in poor lighting conditions. For me, the accessory that packs the most punch is lighting. I have an external flash, which transforms my indoor shots. I bounce the light off my white ceiling, and the result is a softer, more flattering photos. I also have an off-camera light, which I use in my makeshift studio.

When you are thinking about lighting, consider this. The larger the light source, the softer the light. Also, the farther away the light source from your lens, the more interesting the visual effects. As with nearly everything in photography, finding the right light accessory will be a balance between the ideal and the practical.

A beauty dish may be the answer for casual portraits, with a large surface area and portable construction.

See Cameron Mini/Max Beauty Dish Set.

Accurate, Comfortable Shooting

The LCD screen on the back of your camera has its limitations. In bright light, it can be difficult to see and tricky to carefully compose your photos. When you are shooting video, it can be next to impossible to control your shot in sunny conditions.

We have a neat product to help with this. The Hood Crane fits onto your hot shoe and over the LCD screen on the back of the camera. It shields the display from light and magnifies so it is easier to see. Although it looks unwieldy, the Hood Crane is lightweight and moves up and out of the way when not in use.

See Hoodman HoodCrane Kit.

Display Monitor for Professional Results

For those who shoot a lot of video, this accessory is a must. A 7-inch monitor attaches to your hot shoe and gives you clear, enlarged viewing as you shoot. With the large visual, framing your photographs is easier, allowing you to control the different elements of composition.

See Marshall 7inch Monitor.

If you are considering camera accessories, we encourage you to jot down a few things before you come into the store.

  • What is the make and model of your camera and lenses?
  • Where do you shoot?
  • What are your usual subjects?
  • What is your typical lighting?
  • How do you think your photos could improve?

We will look at your individual needs and help find the accessories to suit you perfectly.

By Angela Ford, Amateur Photographer

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