May 14, 2020

Five Favorite Accessories | Photography Gear Review

When considering photography gear, the first things that come to mind are likely camera bodies, and lenses.  While these do account for the majority of a photographer’s investment in gear, it is important to consider the smaller investments that make a world of difference in the work of a professional photographer.  These photography accessories may not be considered critical to our work, however, I have found them to save both time and money over the years of using them!

1. Giottos Rocket Air Blaster 

The Giottos Rocket Air Blaster is a little hand air blower that safely blows clean air to eliminate dust from sensitive or hard-to-reach surfaces of lenses and camera bodies. Dust is especially problematic when it gets on the sensor as it can show up in images. If dust is left on lenses, it can eventually work its way into the lens resulting in an expensive repair to get it removed. I recommend getting the larger of the Air Blasters as it allows you to blow more air per squeeze. The Rocket Air Blaster is durable and very effective at removing dust and keeping gear clean. I typically resell my gear whenever I upgrade and have heard from countless buyers how amazed they are at the “near-new” condition that my gear is in!  I attribute much of this to the Giottos Rocket Air Blaster that helps me to keep my lenses and camera sensor dust and dirt free.

2. Think Tank Bags

My camera bags have saved me considerable amounts of time by keeping me organized and able to move quickly throughout a wedding day.  Both my Think Tank Photo Retrospective 30 and my Think Tank Photo Airport Navigator are incredible and serve their purposes well with both their compact size and the way that they are laid out.  I typically use my Think Tank Photo Retrospective 30 (which has since been replaced with the 2.0 version) when I am doing engagement and portrait sessions as it allows me to carry all of my essential lenses as well as any accessories I may need for shorter sessions.  I also love that it has a few extra pockets and zipper pouches that allow me to stash my car keys, cell phone, business cards, or even an energy bar or two!  I searched for a shoulder bag for a very long time and found many to be too rigid and bulky which was why I ultimately landed on the Think Tank Photo Retrospective 30.  It is soft, flexible, and folds nicely at my side making it comfortable to wear with the strap over my shoulder for extended periods of time.  It allows me to move quickly, and open and close the top cover easily when I need a new lens.  Though it is flexible, it is also sturdy.  This is critical in that it is not so flexible that lenses will fall or roll out of the bag.  I also like the material that the bag is made of.  It is high quality and smooth enough that it doesn’t scratch any of my gear.  It is weather resistant and I have found that it does a great job of keeping rain, snow, and sand out of my gear.  It is small enough that it fits under the seat on an airplane and can be carried on as a free personal time with most airlines.  The only downside to this bag is that photographers may find it too small to carry all of their gear.  That said, I actually don’t mind this because I wouldn’t want to carry all of my gear at once, as much of it is unnecessary for portrait sessions or in certain portions of a wedding day.  For full wedding days, in addition to my Think Tank Photo Retrospective 30, I also use the Think Tank Photo Airport Navigator bag.

The Think Tank Photo Airport Navigator is amazing in that it provides a way to roll my gear from my vehicle for longer distances to and from wedding venues.  It is essentially a small rolling suitcase that opens to the front and the top to allow for easy access to lenses, flashes, a laptop, and other equipment as needed.  I place my lenses in the top section so I can access them quickly and load them into my shoulder bag. I love the padded walls that separate each lens, preventing scratching or damage.  In the large front zipper section, I put my laptop, power cable, four flashes, control ring mount adapters, lens caps, batteries, and granola bars. It is weather resistant and keeps my gear protected from harsh elements. The wheels have excellent bearings allowing it to roll very easily. When taking it on flights, it fits in overhead compartments as a carry on bag with most airlines.

3. Holdfast Gear Money Maker Dual Camera Strap

I searched far and wide for the perfect camera strap to fit my needs as a prime lens photographer.  I began my career using a single camera strap but found myself swapping lenses too often, taking up precious time on a wedding day. With the strap pulling on one side of my neck, I also found it left me sore after weddings.  Eventually, I found that using two cameras simultaneously saves me immeasurable amounts of time throughout my portrait sessions and especially on wedding days. 

The Holdfast Gear Money Maker has been my favorite camera strap of all time!  It is made of high quality leather which, over time, forms to the curvature of the body allowing it to fit your shoulders perfectly and making it very comfortable to wear throughout long wedding days.  I also found that using two cameras balances out the weight load on my shoulders so after photographing for 10+ hours on a wedding day, I am not sore at all! The dual camera strap allows my cameras to slide quickly and easily from my side, up to my eye, and back again without any effort or struggle.  The clips and rings that attach to the camera are very strong and come with a lifetime warranty.

4. ExpoDisc 82 mm 2.0

My most recent find has been the ExpoDisc 82 mm 2.0.  This disc saves us time in post processing by helping to get the exposure and white balance correct, or nearly correct, in camera. To use the disc, you position yourself where the subject will stand facing where the photographer will be. Next, you place the ExpoDisc over your camera’s lens (as seen in photo above) to set the exposure. Then, press the shutter to take a photo. Finally, you will open “custom white balance” in your settings and use the image you just took to set the white balance. While this may sound like a time consuming process, after practice, it becomes automatic and the amount of time you spend later on your computer trying to guess what the image’s white balance should be is significantly reduced. The ExpoDisc 82 mm 2.0 is especially useful in situations where there are multiple lighting sources with different color temperatures.  This often happens in indoor settings with a mixture of incandescent lighting and natural lighting.  Challenges can also occur outside if the subject is standing next to structures that reflect competing color casts.  Brick buildings can cast an orange or red hue, and green grass can cast greens, competing with the natural light of the sun, or shade.

5. Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT and Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT

Flashes are an essential accessory for wedding photography. I use them at nearly every wedding for formal family photos, reception speeches, and dances. I use Canon’s pro-level flash, the Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT, along with a Westcott Rapid Box for formal family and group photos. For the majority of the wedding day, I actually prefer Canon’s smaller and lighter, Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT. Being that they are less expensive, I decided to purchase more of them so that I can place them throughout the reception hall to light up the room during speeches. This allows me to capture the speaker, the bride and groom, as well as their family and guests in beautiful light.  These flashes are also lighter which allows me to more comfortably photograph the dance by holding the camera mounted with a flash above my head for extended periods of time.  The Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT has enough advanced features for my use and the menu is very simple to navigate. I can also mount one flash on my camera and with it, independently control the other three flashes that are on stands throughout the room. The flashes come with diffusor caps, however, I rarely use them as they tend to cause the flash to display the “over heating” warning and limit how often it will fire.

Time is money. I have found that these five accessories have saved me time by allowing me to be much more efficient on both a wedding day and in post processing. They are also smaller investments that produce a large return when compared to other camera gear.  Any of the items mentioned in this review are available at the links below. * Purchasing items through these links will help support us as we continue to share additional resources and education for photographers.

For a video review and to see these accessories in action, check out our YouTube review:

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