My Top 3 Useful Camera Accessories

Gadgets. We all love them, right? But in an ocean of products, what do you actually need? What camera accessories are worth looking into and what will help improve your photography or at least make your life a little easier?

In this article, we’ll go through 3 useful camera accessories that will greatly benefit your photography. The camera accessories mentioned are mostly smaller gadgets that won’t break the bank, the type of accessories you easily can slip into your backpack without worrying about either weight or space. I won’t be talking about tripods and filters but if that interests you take a look at my article Essential Equipment for Landscape Photography.

Spirit Level

I’m going to start this one off with a story; perhaps it sounds familiar to you.

My mother loves photography and she’s had a camera for probably most of her life. She enjoys photographing mostly anything outdoors and since I began with landscape photography here interest sparked again.

However, there’s one thing she’s been struggling with all along, something that I’ve helped her repeatedly fix in Adobe Lightroom (which she’s done a great job learning btw!). Her images are always leaning towards one side, i.e. the horizon is not straight.

Even when the camera is mounted on a tripod and she uses Live View with the Grid Display, the horizon ends up slightly skewed. While this has brought me endless of entertainment, I feel my mother’s pain as it’s an annoying occurrence that she wants to avoid.

So, for her last birthday, I couldn’t resist getting her a Spirit Level to mount on her Canon Rebel T3i (now Sony A6000).

The Spirit Level is a small, cheap and, in lack of other words, genius accessory that is mounted on the Hot Shoe (where you mount an external flash on your camera). Since my mother started using it, she hasn’t had one single skewed image (even when she uses the viewfinder she’s able to get a straight horizon now… I’m not sure how to explain that!).

Note that some cameras do have a built-in Spirit Level (Nikon has named it Horizon Level). These are mainly only the high-end models but it’s worth checking to see if yours has it or not before you choose to get an external Spirit Level.

L-Bracket

As landscape photographers, we often switch between shooting horizontal and vertical images. Sometimes we’re standing in a river leading up to a tall waterfall before realizing that the entire scene won’t fit in horizontal orientation and we need to switch.

The problem with switching between horizontal and vertical when the camera is mounted on a tripod is that we lose our composition. Since you have to tilt the tripod head all the way to one side for the camera to be vertical, we actually move the camera and we have to set the composition all over.

Useful camera accessories
L-Bracket mounted to my Nikon D810

By using an L-Bracket (also known as L-Plate) you avoid this common problem. Rather than making adjustments to the tripod head, you simply unclip the bracketed camera from the tripod clamp and place it back in the other orientation without losing the composition.

Another benefit of using an L-Bracket is the extra protection you have in case you drop the camera. The metal bracket (if you get something of quality) is a solid accessory that shapes around half the camera. I’m pretty sure I’ve avoided a few trips to the camera repair store due to this…

Cardboard for Viewfinder

In my long-awaited upcoming eBook that covers everything you need to know about Long Exposure Photography, I share a problem that I had when learning the technique several years ago. When the shutter speed extended 15 seconds during daytime, or even 30 seconds during Golden Hour, I got a weird artificial color covering more or less my entire image.

Useful camera accessories
Light Leak from using a Long Exposure

To begin with, I thought that my camera was damaged or perhaps the filters I used were of poor quality but I quickly realized that wasn’t the case since it only occurred when it was bright outside.

After some searches online I soon learned that this was the result of light entering through the viewfinder and reaching the sensor. The only way to avoid this was by covering the viewfinder so no light comes through.

Luckily, many cameras have a built in function for this and by clicking a small button next to the viewfinder the “curtains close”. However, there are still many cameras that do not (most Canon cameras).

It’s becoming more standard that cameras come with a viewfinder cover these days, still, if yours doesn’t, the easiest way is to cut a small piece of cardboard that fits in the viewfinder; just make sure it covers the entire thing. The only problem with cutting your own, though, is that they are extremely easy to lose since they are so small.

These are my top 3 useful camera accessories – what are yours? Leave a comment to let us know!

Light leak in long exposure photography