The must-have camera accessories for budding photographers

Carlton Boyce / 12 April 2016 ( 06 November 2020 )

When starting out with digital photography there are a few accessories that'll really help you get the most out of your camera.



The chances are that your camera will do a brilliant job for you straight out of the box. It’ll come with a strap, battery and possibly even a memory card, which is everything you need to start taking great photos.

However, with the possible exception of yachting, there isn't a single hobby that hoovers up money as much as photography, especially if you like to buy the latest gadget or mildly upgraded camera. If you want to take the best pictures you will need to spend some extra money on a few basics. 

Some of these camera accessories will help you to make the most of your camera, helping take your photography to the next level, while others will just make your life easier.

Find out about buying your first DSLR camera

Spare battery and memory card

The first accessories you buy should be a spare battery and memory card. I wouldn’t worry too much about buying a genuine battery from the camera maker; third-party versions are likely to be cheaper and just as reliable. Just make sure you buy from a reputable dealer or retailer who isn’t selling ultra-cheap Chinese-made copies that are unlikely to last. For example, Duracel manufacture camera batteries for Canon, Fujifilm, Samsung and Nikon 

A memory card, on the other hand, is a delicate and sophisticated piece of equipment and for that reason I always buy a brand name. SanDisk has always worked for me, but Kingston and Lexar are just as reputable. Just one tip: it’s better to buy two small capacity cards than one large one. That way you’ll have at least some of the photos if you lose one of them or it gets corrupted. It's only really worth getting the larger cards if you're filming video.

Cost: £5-£40 each

Tripod

I know, modern DSLRs with image stabilisation are capable of being hand-held even in low light, but a tripod means I can use a lower ISO number for a cleaner image. A tripod is a nice thing to have when you are shooting in low light, such as evenings and indoors, and it’s essential when you are photographing at night.

The best tripods are heavy, sturdy things that will keep your camera steady no matter what the conditions. However, you wouldn’t want to carry a tripod like that very far, so you might like to consider a specialist travel tripod that is much smaller and lighter.

Finally, there are tabletop and flexible tripods that can be slipped into a pocket and will still do a fine job of stabilizing your camera during long exposures. This is especially important for smartphone cameras that need all the help they can get as the light fades. The Joby GorillaPod, for example, comes in a variety of sizes and can either be stood upright or use to grip onto fence posts, trees or furniture. Make sure it is secure before letting it take the weight of your camera.

Cost: £10-£150

Read up on garden bird photography tips

Camera case or bag

Once you’ve got a camera plus spare batteries and memory cards to carry, you’ll start thinking about a bag to keep them all in.

Smaller bags from manufacturers like Kata and LowePro aren’t much bigger than the camera itself and have just enough room to keep the bare essentials together, while larger bags and cases from brands like Peli and Billingham will store tripods and spare lenses too.

I’m a huge fan of my large Lowepro shoulder bag, which is big enough to use as an overnight bag with a DSLR, a change of clothing, laptop plus other essential bits and bobs in it. It goes with me everywhere and I love it to bits.

However, it’s a soft bag and it isn’t waterproof. My Peli 1510 Protector Case is waterproof, dustproof and solid enough that you can drive a car over it. I use the foam inserts, which are easy to shape to cradle your gear and can be bought cheaply when you decide to change the configuration after you buy another lens that you don’t really need.

All Pelican cases come with a lifetime warranty (which I’ve tested, and they replaced the faulty clip without a quibble) and you can order a customised insert to slip into the handle assembly to mark your case as belonging to you.

No, it’s not a cheap option, but then nor is my camera kit. Oh, and it just about qualifies as hand luggage. (What? Don’t tell me that you were going to check your camera gear into the hold?)

Cost: £15-£300

U/V filter

Have you ever missed a shot because you’d forgotten to remove the lens cap? If so, you’re in good company as we’ve all done it and this is why the professionals don’t use a lens cap when they’re carrying a camera. Instead, they protect the surface of the lens with something called a U/V filter.

A U/V filter is simply a piece of glass that screws into the end of your lens and is designed to filter some of the U/V, or ultra violet, light. We, on the other hand, are going to use it as a sacrificial element; it will break instead of your lens if you bump your camera.

Cost: £10-£30

Polarising filter

A polarising filter removes reflections from glass, which is pretty much essential when you are photographing cars. It also makes the sky bluer and renders colours more vividly.

My U/V filter protects the lens so the polarising filter sits in my camera bag until I need it, at which point it is the work of a moment to screw it on and adjust it. A polarising filter works best when you’re at a 90° angle to the sun, and you just rotate it until the reflections have gone or the sky is as blue as you can stand.

You can buy a cheap one for £10-20 or an expensive one for £50-150. There probably isn’t a great deal of difference but I’ve always bought Hoya Pro1 filters and have never been disappointed.

Cost: £10- £150

Camera strap

Every camera comes with a strap as standard, but I’d recommend buying a replacement for one of these three reasons.

  • High-end cameras often have the name of the camera emblazoned on it, which advertises the fact that you are walking around with an expensive piece of equipment to all and sundry. This is not a good idea.
  • Small cameras are often better carried on a wrist strap rather than the neck strap that they come with.
  • Some straps are just plain ugly and uncomfortable.

Cost: £5-£50

Cleaning cloth

Yes, you can wipe your lens with a tissue or the corner of your shirt, but you run the risk of scratching it over time. A proper lens cleaning cloth costs pennies and is worth every single one of them.

I buy them by the dozen and sprinkle them around my camera bag, coat pockets, and car to make sure I’ve always got one to hand.

Cost: pennies

Oh, and the one camera accessory you really don’t need is a selfie stick. Seriously, just don’t.

Visit our photography section for more on buying and using cameras.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.