5 pieces of photo gear under $30 that will change the way you shoot

Yes, I have a lot of professional equipment as a wedding photographer, from cameras and lenses to software and computers, even the shoes I wear when I work are expensive. But I have also made some fabulous smaller investments that have made a huge difference in the way I work.

Here are my top 5 upgrades under $30:

1. rechargeable batteries

A few years ago rechargeable AA batteries would take 2 hours to charge and then loose their juice quickly in a camera flash. The problem is that a flash is a very high power device, so it basically needs the maximum battery power to function properly. While a flashlight could still work on half-drained batteries, a flash will not. Enter the new breed of 15 minute rechargeable batteries. They are made for high drain devices (cameras, flashes, video games, etc), they recharge in 15 minutes, and they are around $28 at target for 4 AA batteries and the charger. Now I just bring several bunches of pre-charged batteries, and if I need to recharge during the reception, I can do that too.

2. A good camera strap

Most cameras come with a branded strap, and it totally works if all you want is something to wrap around your neck when you shoot a few photos. But if you are going to have a camera on you for any period of time, investing $25 in a padded and flexible camera strap is a must. Mine is also easier to remove with quick clasps, and distributes the weight well over my back and shoulders.

3. velcro + foam paper

Most people, when they see me shoot for the first time, ask what the paper thing on my flash is. It is foam craft paper, cut to fit and attached to velcro. It is also the best go-to reflector I have ever used. You can buy many flash modifiers for $40 to $120, but I have never found one as versatile, quiet, and efficient with light as the foam paper.  It allows most light to bounce up off the ceiling, and then also reflects some back at my subject. If bouncing is not an option, I have a larger one that reflects more light forward. If I have a lot of bounce possibilities, I will sometimes put the black one in front of my flash to keep any light from traveling forward, and bounce the light for directionality. Total cost: around $8

4. flickr pro account

A pro account from Flickr costs $24.95 per year and includes unlimited uploads and storage, stats on your account, and the cool little “pro” tag next to your name. Basically, you can use it to store all your photos while you network and look more professional at the same time. Some clients have even found me on flickr through my photostream, and the forums are great.
5. card reader
I am amazed at how many photographers download photos by plugging their camera directly into their computer. Not only is that inefficient (your camera just can’t be as fast as a dedicated USB2 reader), but it also slightly increases your chance of damaging your files and your camera (the longer the read function is happening on your card, the higher the chance for corruption). A card reader can cost as little as $15 or $20, but upgrading to a name brand might be worth your while if you download a lot of cards.

2 Responses to “5 pieces of photo gear under $30 that will change the way you shoot”

  1. January 4, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    You’re the first person who’s given me a reason beyond speed to get a card reader, despite many huffy “just get out of the dark ages already!” when I download photos directly from my camera. I get it now and will pick one up.

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