5 Affordable Pieces of Kit to Up Your Game

Thursday, 21 January 2010

So you've invested in a DSLR, getting to grips with how it all works, even starting to take a few half decent pictures, feeling motivated and enthusiastic. What next? Here are 5 inexpensive gadgets you might want to consider to help you up your game and continue improving the quality and variety of your shots.

1. Card Reader
A great little number which really speeds up
downloading time and saves fighting through a tangle of cables each time you want to get to your pictures (or is that just me?). I was given one for Christmas and it's since taken up permanent residence in my handbag. Some models accept a variety of memory card shapes and sizes and will also function as a regular USB. Cheap and multi-functional - now that's pretty handy in my book!

2. Gorilla Pod
I also got one of these in my stocking (there was a bit of theme going on last Christmas as you might be guessing!). This is a cool, futuristic-looking gadget which you can wrap around almost anything to hold your camera steady (seen here on one of my kitchen chairs). Smaller and lighter than a tripod, I carry it twisted around the strap of my camera bag so it's always within easy reach. So far I've used it around a tree for a shot of my family and myself in the woods with some great scenery behind (no-one else was about to take a photo and there weren't any handy posts or gates on which to perch the camera). It also worked well around a chairback in a cafe for another family group shot. You do need to get used to the technique for having it to stay in place properly and keep the camera at the right level/angle - I'm still working on that. The hot shoe that comes with the DSLR model contains a cute little spirit bubble to help you get things on a level, making it all a little easier. A smaller version is available for compact cameras.

Remote Trigger
I used this with my first Canon SLR and happily it's also compatible with my new DSLR! Great for self-portraits, shooting in low level lighting and with close-ups. When you need to keep things very still a tripod does a great job, but for really delicate work you can achieve so much more when you don't have to touch the camera at all, combining the tripod with the trigger. Using my close-up lenses (see below) I just couldn't get the level of detailed focus I wanted without using the trigger. Next stop for me: a wireless version - more convenient as you're not limited by the length of the release cable.

4. Mobile Storage Drive
I used to have my photos stored in so many places: multiple USBs, CDs, laptop, work PC...Then I got an external drive and finally everything was together in one place - bliss! Now my pictures are easy to find and I have that all-important back up of my work (I admit I still have the USBs and save recent photos on a couple of different computers). Light and relatively compact, this is my photographic 'bible'. And just in case something happens to this precious little box, I regularly back up its contents on my Dad's drive - not that I'm obsessed with back ups or anything... ; )

5. Close-up Lenses
Being born in January does have its advantages - more camera gadget gifts at the beginning of the year! These funky lens sets give you a taster of close range photography at a fraction of the cost of a macro lens. They screw onto the end of your camera like a filter and can be layered to increase or decrease the magnification. The depth of field achieved is pretty shallow so you need to use manual focus to get precise results and I find a tripod/remote trigger are pretty much essential. I've had some good results shooting flowers with these lenses. Great fun and a nice way of expanding your range of shots while you squirrel away the pennies towards a big macro lens!


  1. Hey!

    Good ideas...I didn't even know those close-up lenses existed!

  2. I was wondering if you had a link to a specific set of close up lenses that you recommend? I've been looking, but it's hard to tell which are good quality or not.

  3. Here's a link to the set I have. I guess you can get the same on US Amazon?


    I didn't do that much research to be honest as these were given to me as a present, but the results so far seem to be pretty good. I'd definitely recommend a set as one lens on its own doesn't offer the same level of magnification - you need to screw all 3 together for the best effect. It depends on how much money you want to spend - I've seen that there are other more expensive brands out there but so far I don't have anything to compare to. If anybody out there has used a different range do let me see your results!


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.