Protective Accessories for your Photography Kit

Find out the must-have accessories for serious photographers that protect their camera from rain, dust, fall, scratch and flares.

Lens Hoods

These are also known as lens shades and are the devices used at the end of a camera lens to block the light, therefore, preventing lens flare or glare. A flare occurs when a stray light either from the sun or from another source strikes the front element of the lens after which it bounces around within the lens. The hood will also protect the camera lens from materials such as moisture, dust, or pollen that may damage the components of your camera.

Carrying of lenses between different venues may expose your camera to obstacles with the protruding lens likely to hit the object first. The hood, which is mainly made from a plastic material, will ensure that your lens will be protected in case of such incidences. The hoods are designed to fit into the lenses facing either backward or forward and are flexible to enable compressing during storage.

To help you choose the best hood for your camera lens, a long and wide hood is a better choice than a short and narrow hood. This is because a small hood will allow stray light to hit the lens front element, which will in turn cause lens flare. A wide and long lens will block the stray light before it bounces back to the front element. The good news is that some digital SLRs may come equipped with lens hoods, which means that you may not need to buy one.

Filters

As technology advances, having a creative filter is almost rendered redundant as photos can be corrected with computer software. That said, bear in mind that a photo captured under a filter is a dozen times more attractive than those done in Photoshop. For instance, having circular polarizing filters reduces glare and reflections as well as enhances colors in images. Most photo editing software may not successfully perform such corrections without loss of image quality.

As a landscape photographer, you definitely require a circular polarizing filter since it adds punch to the sky and thus reducing possible reflections from shiny surfaces or water. When you mount a filter on your lens, you can freely rotate to control or change the effect of the polarizing of flares. Basically, there are two types of polarizing filters, the circular polarizer denoted as PL-CIR and the linear polarizer depicted as PL.

Both circular and linear filters perform the same function though all are circular in shape. The main distinction between the circular and linear polarizing filters is how they create the effect. If you are using a camera with an auto-focusing feature and an internal flip-up mirror, you definitely require a circular polarizer to ensure autofocusing functions properly.

On the other hand, a linear polarizer is only appropriate for manual focusing or for cameras that have no internal mirror. Such cameras include the modern mirror-less interchangeable lens system and the compact camera models.

A landscape photographer would still require a graduated Neutral Density filter, which slowly darkens across the photo, ranging from tinted at one side to the clear at the other side. Every filter has its unique level of tint effect, which affects how graduation appears, though the graduated ND filters are very useful in outdoor photography. The filters monitor the effect of a bright sky and balance it against a dull foreground, though may be used with a polarizing filter to achieve maximum effect.

The recommendable way of using a graduated neutral density filter is in the form of a rectangular or square filter such as the Cokin or Lee system. This is required since you need to position it at the right place for the image. Following this rule should help you slide the filter up and down in a holder to position it properly. As a photographer, you still can choose a straightforward Neutral Density filter instead of the graduated one based on your preferences.

Neutral Density filters that aren’t graduated act in a similar manner as sunglasses to the camera lens, by lowering the brightness of an image without affecting its color. A couple of occasions may demand wider aperture settings to reduce the depth of field. In case of bright light at fast shutter speeds, there’s is excess light for your lens even at the lowest ISO settings. Thus to shoot a portrait at a bright sunny day, you’d need an ND filter to lower the light and allow for wider apertures.

In addition to regulating light entering the lens, ND filters facilitate the use of slower shutter speeds by lowering the light that enters the lens. With a filter, you can achieve motion blur effect even with slower shutter speeds say 1 second, an effect that is mostly possible on a fraction of a second. The motion blur effect is important in bringing creativity in photography, especially in sceneries such as waterfalls to blur the movement of water. Motion blur is also useful in waves to result into the milky texture of water, an effect that demands longer exposures enabled by ND filters.

The most used filters are the Full Neutral Density filters, Graduated Density filters, Circular Polarizing filters, and Skylight UV Protector. In addition to these filters, there are other varieties of filters among them diffusers, colored filters, and other unusual or bizarre effect filters. These, too, have their own uniqueness and are worth considering.

Neck Strap

A number of camera manufacturers may offer a neck strap for your DSLR, which may not feel very comfortable in use. You may, therefore, need to upgrade to a more reliable neck strap especially if your camera would stay at your neck for a long time. There are some simple features that can guide you before buying a neck strap.

First, consider how frequently and for how long you will need to shoot. If handling a small camera for a short period, you will need a simple neck strap that is comfortable and less costly. Similarly, for a large DSLR camera, you may consider buying a large sling strap, which will suit your requirements. Ensure you experiment with the particular neck strap you need to buy to test the comfort versus the quality the accessory can offer.

Choose a neck strap that only offers what features you require, as models offering quick release clips and storage pockets may only inflate the cost price for nothing. The only important factor is choosing a neck strap that will secure your camera while at the same time offering maximum comfort. Also, consider your budget before settling on what to buy.

To start you off, try Dream Strap which is one of the few camera straps featuring a sheepskin neck liner. You can also get the Dream Strap in camouflage or zebra print designs. It can assist in feeling comfortable for longer and will make you feel warmer if using it in a cold-weather setting. The neck strap is of high-quality design and comes with “quick release” straps that are optional. The only downside is the relatively higher price that is worth it based on the features.

UV Filter

When shooting landscape, you may notice a blue cast from images that you have taken in extra bright and sunny conditions. To prevent such haze from damaging your photos, consider buying an ultraviolet filter for your camera. The filters are designed to prevent ultraviolet rays from reaching your lenses.

The filters that are made to fit the camera lens can also be used as a protection against damage that may be caused by mishandling of the lens just as the hood. They can also offer protection against scratches or dust and smears and are preferred due to their low cost. Ultraviolet filters do not affect the exposure of the shot, though they must be maintained clean to prevent loss of image quality.

Lens Pen

This gadget has a microfiber disk that is filled with a dry lens cleaner at one end of the lens, and a retractable brush at the end of the other. When you use a brush to dust your camera lens, you only remove the large particles of dust. However, the lens pens are good at removing finger-prints, smudges, and other spots. All you need is twist the lens pen that has its caps on the spot you’re to clean. The pens are very cheap, retailing for about $10.

Filter Wrench

This accessory is used to remove the screw on filters that get stuck on your lens. These filters get stuck from the pressure from your fingers when attempting to unscrew them. The tricky part is that as you grip harder to try and unscrew the filter, the more it gets stuck and harder to remove. A filter wrench is designed to diffuse the pressure from your grip around the entire edge. It grips the filters firmly without bending them.

Bulb Blower

The blower is useful at removing the large grains of sand and dirt particles when you wipe off your lens or the camera. Some particles have been known to scratch lenses as you wipe, and you can correct this using a bulb blower for this. The blower features a clean supply of air to remove or blow away large particles. Your camera may come with a blower combo or brush combo together with the kit lens, which can shed some dangerous blisters on your camera lens.

Backpacking Hand Towel

When shooting outdoors, you need this to whisk water droplets before getting into the camera and causing possible damage. The towel also helps in giving your gear a fast wiping to prevent the accumulation of dust. Such buildup of dirt is risky as it can get into the camera when you’re changing lenses. The Backpacking Hand Towel is small and compact, meaning that they don’t occupy or require a large space to store.

Sandbags

These are useful if you have lighting equipment that has light stands. The sandbag will stop the wind from blowing over your softbox, umbrella, or light strobe.

DSLR rain-cover

Every outdoor photographer needs a rain cover especially when it’s raining or misty. Instead of taking cover during the stormy or rainy times, the rain cover can help you take some of the most amazing shots from the “dramatic skies”. Even when shooting at a waterfall, you can use the DSLR rain cover to keep off the spray or splashes from the water. Most of the entry-level cameras you own as a first-time photographer aren’t weather-sealed, and some professional cameras aren’t safe either. You can choose between a cheap disposable rain cover and a strong and re-usable cover for long-term usage.

Pec Pads

This is another option to clean the camera lens without adding lint or other particles onto the delicate lens. Most of the fabrics you use may get some lint on it from being tossed into the camera bag, regardless of how clean or lint-free it is. The best thing about them is that they are disposable and very cheap, with a package of 100 pec pads retailing at about $10. Such pads may last several years.

Dust Blower

Dust can be attracted to your filters, sensors, and lenses and eventually damage the imaging components of your camera. A dust or air blower can help remove even the stubborn dust. It’s made with an air valve that hinders the accumulation of dust inside as well as a rocket-shaped base to keep it upright.

A favorite product you should check out is Metro Vacuum DataVac blower. This air blower is effective in cleaning the sensor of your camera lens as well as cleaning other gadgets such as Blue-Ray, a mouse, a keyboard, or a computer. The blower has a good selection of nozzles and simply saves you money as it keeps most of the electronics clean. The blower retails at around $10.

LCD Protector

Your camera might come equipped with a plastic protector for the LCD, but you need to protect the rear LCD using a screen protector. This is because dust may enter between the plastic screen protector and the LCD causing scratches. Scratching of the LCD definitely lowers the resell value of the camera. After attaching an LCD protector, don’t forget to place the plastic protector back in place.

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