What Photo Accessory Can You Not Live Without?

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While cameras and lenses create the base of any photographic kit, there are a few photo accessories available without which many photographers they cannot live. The term “photographic accessories” covers a wide swath of what you’ll find at the B&H SuperStore and online, but it includes tripods, camera bags and cases, memory cards, batteries, filters, flashes, and more. In the world of digital photography, the computer and its accessories are now mostly a requirement for photographers.

We asked some B&H staffers, B&H Creative partners, and B&H affiliates what is the one accessory that they could not live without, and what follows are their replies.

Autumn Schrock, B&H Creative — @autpops

“My favorite camera accessory currently is the Colorado Tripod Company’s Aspen Ball Head. It’s an absolutely revolutionary ball head, which is not a sentence I thought I’d ever write. The range of motion is second to none in a design that seems so simple on the surface. Not only is it the most mobile ball head, but it’s also absurdly strong and lightweight—strong enough for the hefty Sony G Master telephoto primes like the 400mm f/2.8 and light enough to backpack with. It’s quickly become the only ball head I use, and I can’t ever imagine going back to a normal, limited ball head!”

Colorado Tripod

Ben Matthews, B&H Creative — @bentommat

“The Peak Design Leash Camera Strap is so light and easy to adjust. I like to keep the Peak Design Anchors on all my cameras, so that I can switch out straps whenever I want. I like how thin this strap is, so it's not getting in the way of any clothing or other bags that I may be wearing while I'm shooting. It also doesn't look like I'm wearing a seatbelt, which is nice.”

Peak Design Leash Camera Strap

Brad Shutack, B&H — @bradshuu

“I have a few! The first is a good flashlight with red and green modes. Great for night hikes, and the red mode is helpful while setting up for night photos to keep your eyes exposed for the dark. I am still using a Fenix TK32 that I bought a few years back. Also, a side note is setting an accessibility shortcut on iPhone to turn your phone screen red while using it at night. I think Android has a night-mode feature.

Fenix Flashlight TK32 LED Flashlight

“I also rely on a carabiner, a soft shell water bottle, a power bank for charging my phone in the field—the mophie Powerstation wireless XL, and a cigarette lighter to AC adapter power inverter.”

mophie powerstation plus XL 10,000mAh Portable Charger

Brandon Alexander, B&H Creative — @goforbrandon

“My favorite photo accessory-but-kind-of-a-necessity is definitely a high-speed SD/CF Express card. Sometimes to capture that split-second photo is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If your camera has the speed capabilities but you don’t have a fast enough card, you won’t get the shot!

I was shooting with a Canon EOS R5 and a 70-200 f/2.8 and managed to catch a seagull perfectly in line with a man sitting by the bridge. If I didn’t have the CF Express card that was fast enough, I would’ve missed the shot! But thankfully I got it!

The Man, The Bridge and The Bird

Bryan Carnathan@bryancarnathan

“When asked what my favorite photography accessory is, I immediately asked myself, ‘Whoa, only one?’ The next question was, ‘What qualifies as an accessory?’ Certainly, a camera does not qualify. While a lens makes a camera more useful, fitting the accessory definition, it is not optional; and, therefore, doesn't seem to fit the spirit of the question. Ditto for a memory card.

“My most important photo accessory is a tripod. It’s typical for photographers starting their photographic journey to choose a cheap first tripod. Unfortunately, that experience seldom goes well, and might even dissuade future use of this important accessory. However, as knowledge is gained, the value of a high-quality tripod becomes clear.

“While I have numerous tripod models, the Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod with a Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ball Head would be my choice if required to select only one. My favorite tripod is not an inexpensive model, but I use it constantly, and it performs extremely well, creating solid value.”

Jessica Santos, B&H Creative — @missjessbess

“The one piece of gear I can’t live without: the Sony RMT-P1BT Wireless Remote Commander.

“This handy little remote does all the shooting work for you when Focus Stacking. It’s no secret that almost all my images are focus stacked, and this remote saves me time with any of my Sony cameras. It allows me to work quickly through a scene and capture the images needed to stack together in post for super-sharp focus, from the very front of the foreground to the back with a couple of clicks. You just set you camera to manual focus, your lens to autofocus and the remote to ‘focus,’ then start clicking away, shifting your focus from the closest object to the farthest object. Plus, it connects through Bluetooth so there’s no need to hold the remote in a certain position like you would need to with an IR remote.”

Jill Waterman, B&H — @nightpix

“When it comes to camera gear, I am generally a minimalist. Heck, I still enjoy shooting with a fully manual camera and film! Given this predilection, one of the first photographic accessories that came to mind was the humble threaded cable release, particularly this elegant yet sturdy metal weave covered cable release by Gepe. This unassuming gadget was an essential carry during forays into the great outdoors to shoot multi-hour nighttime exposures. However, my favorite memory of traveling with this tool is when it got pulled from my camera bag after passing through the x-ray machine at a backwater Florida airport. While his colleagues observed with bated breath, a particularly unfriendly TSA agent held it up by the tip for closer examination, as if it was some kind of detonator. I barely made it onto that plane with my gear intact!

Gepe Metal Weave Covered Cable Release with Disc-Lock

“But, in terms of current use value, another item that has become a trusted favorite is my Watson 8-Bay Rapid Charger and Panasonic eneloop Pro AA NiMH Rechargeable Batteries. Stocking enough standard AA batteries to power my strobe during extended shoots in foreign cities used to be a major headache, or even worse, an expensive proposition when faced with a dwindling supply. Yet, with the rapid charger and a few rechargeable battery 8-packs, I’m now ensured of a steady supply of power for the duration of my trip, no matter how much use my flash gets. And for efficiency in the field, I use brightly-colored STORACELL 12 AA Pack Battery Caddies to keep everything easily visible and organized in my bag.”

Watson 8-Bay Rapid Charger
Panasonic eneloop pro AA Rechargeable NiMH Batteries
STORACELL 12 AA Pack Battery Caddy

John Harris, B&H — @jrockfoto

“My favorite photographic accessory is a metal lens hood. I’ll admit it, I do a lot of damage to my camera and lenses because I carry them with me all the time, usually around my neck when walking, cycling, or just going to work. It’s inevitable that the front of my lens is going to take a bump and I want that sturdy metal hood to protect the system. Currently, I have the Sigma LH576-01 Lens Hood on the Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN lens, which I use with the Sony a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera. While a lens hood can obviously block unwanted light from entering the lens and, therefore, minimize flare, for me the hood is constantly on the lens to protect it from the elements and mostly from my own rough and rowdy ways.”

Sigma LH576-01 Lens Hood
Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary

Joshua Fischer, B&H — @joshuamfischer

“You’re not going to believe it. Bounce. Really anything I can bounce light from. I like a good hard punch of light, but there’s something about pooling light on a bounce that makes great hard light somehow better.

“So yeah, a bounce is my favorite accessory.”

V-FLAT WORLD Foldable V-Flat

Levi Tenenbaum, B&H — @ibelevi

“A good computer—this is hands-down the best photographic accessory investment I can think of. It comes right after the time investment to learn the software. The amount of time, heartache saved, and the flow you can create when you can quickly cull, sort, and edit photos is highly underrated. I try to update my computer to the best I can afford every 2–3 years. This way, I get cutting edge and, therefore, longer lifespan out of what I am using. And no, I don’t think Mrs. Tenenbaum is in love with my computer spending habits.

Apple 13.3" MacBook Pro M1 Chip with Retina Display

“Secondly, my iPhone 12 Pro (or any other leading cell phone)―Lightroom Mobile to sync with my LR Classic catalog; the amount of basic culling and editing I can do from anywhere in the world has my photo-editing life so much faster!”

Robert Sansivero, B&H — @rsansivero

“I don't get down with too many accessories, but the ones I do are pretty essential for me. Here's one... aside from the normal accessories that I can take or leave, I cannot shoot without my Tether Tools JerkStopper. I shoot in the studio 99% of the time and when I was first starting, I had countless instances where I'd snap off some shots, look over at the computer, and the “looking for camera” wheel would be spinning because the tether cable was loose. I quickly picked up this handy little piece of plastic and my life has been forever changed.”

Tether Tools JerkStopper Tethering Kit

Thomas Simms, B&H

A “Camel Hair” Brush. I carry just the necessities these days: gray card, lens cloth, sensor brush, pre-moistened wipes, and a camel hair brush. That last item is sort of a carryover from film days when I would use it to brush out the film path inside the camera. A camel hair brush lasts a long time. I use it now to dust off the lens and, sometimes, the top of the camera. There are other, more modern lens brushes like the Lenspens, which do a fine job and come with a microfiber end. But I like the simplicity, durability, and feel of the handle of the camel hair brush.

Delta 1 Camel Hair Brush

“Interestingly, camel hair brushes are not real camel hair. Most camel hair brushes are made from squirrel hair; some are made from goat, ox, or pony manes. So, why are they called camel hair? Legend had it that the first person to commercially sell them was a fellow named Mr. Camel, but, more credibly, the first experiments in brushes with handles, Chinese ink brushes, were camel hair.”

Todd Vorenkamp, B&H — @trvphoto

“I have a lot of accessories for my camera (I work at B&H!) and I have waxed poetic about my unabashed love for L-brackets and a certain shutter release cable, but the only accessory that I really cannot live without is my tripod… er, my five full-sized tripods and two tabletop tripods.

“I find that the tripod is the single best way to improve one’s photography, and it is, for all intents and purposes, a mandatory piece of equipment for photographs that require slow shutter speeds—nighttime images, astrophotography, pinhole photos, neutral density filter exposures, etc. I am even not afraid to use my tripods during bright daylight hours because I appreciate the added stability of the rig!

“Do you love tripods too? Check out my article, The Tripod Explained and my lighter piece, Ode to the Tripod!”

Yaakov Adler, B&H

Spudz! This is a product that I always carry with me. It may be small, but it is my favorite. With this clipped onto my camera strap, I always have a lens-cleaning cloth on hand. Also because it stays in its own pouch, it stays clean, and never gets lost. And the I love the name!”

Spudz Microfiber Cleaning Cloth with B&H Logo

Your Turn!

Tell us the one accessory that you cannot live without in the Comments section, below. Do you have more than one? I guess you can share the extras as well!

Or, if you have a question about what accessory to buy next, you can also leave us a comment down there! Let us know if there are other questions you have for B&H photographers, our affiliates, or our Creative partners. Click these links to read about our favorite camera/film combinations, “desert island” lenses, and favorite camera bags!

For more information on the B&H Creative Partnerships Team, subscribe to the Creatively Yours newsletter here or email us at [email protected].

8 Comments

A tripod, obviously. A solid tripod properly used is indispensable. 

OR

A good light meter. 

Hi Kevin,

I am 1000% with you on the tripod!

Thanks for reading!

Best,

Todd

A more comfortable camera strap. I bought an Optech strap with padding on the neck and shoulders to replace a basic cloth strap for my Canon A-1. I liked it so much that I bought another one for my F-1N. When I got my 5D III, I replaced my Canon billboard cloth strap with another Optech. 

I'm buying a camel hair brush and a Spudz. Thanks Thomas and Yaakov. 

I have a tripod, an electronic release for the 5D, a double firing pin cable release for the Canon Auto Bellows. The tripod gets more use.

When I added the camel hair brush to my cart, other items related to film scanning showed up. This is dual purpose because I now have less than 30 years of film to scan.

Hi Ralph,

I am delighted to hear that my article has boosted camel hair brush and Spudz sales! :)

I am also a fan of those Optech straps. Very comfortable!

Thanks for reading!

Best,

Todd

   I don't consider it an "accessory" if it is absolutely required to make an image, so a data card doesn't qualify.  That said, the most useful item I use for birds-in-flight photography is a gunstock-type mount (the Stedi-stock 2); it more or less turns me into a "bipod" (my two legs, as opposed to a mechanical monopod or tripod) and dramatically improves my hand-held shots of fast action with essentially no sacrifice of mobility.  Also useful is an electronic shutter release; pushing buttons on the camera itself will introduce some shaking.  Fortunately needed much more rarely, a filtered-air blower is at times highly useful for getting dust or pollen off the sensor. Least important is a camera strap,   convenient for carrying the 11-pound camera-lens-gunstock system around between shots, but not actually in use while shooting. That's all the accessories I use.

Hey Matthew,

Great stuff!

I suppose film or a memory card is actually an accessory to the camera. But, like tires and wheels on a car, they are pretty much mandatory!

Thanks for sharing your must-have accessory!

Best,

Todd

I wasn't going to mention memory cards or film, because without those the camera would be a shelf queen. But there is still a wide variety of films that have an impact on the image. 

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