After you get familiar with a DSLR, you will start to wonder how to get those incredible shots that you see plastered across the Internet on amateur blogs. There are a few essential “cheater” accessories that can take your photographic awaking to the next level and help you achieve superior quality in your shots. From DSLR lenses to camera lens filters to a host of other tools, the right equipment makes a huge difference from what you can produce with the starter kit.
1. 50mm Prime Lens
This is the first piece of “cheater” equipment everyone who knows anything recommends to a budding amateur photographer. The most popular Canon option, for example, is lovingly referred to as the “Nifty Fifty” and it is only an affordable $125. This lens has a fixed focal length of 50mm, meaning it can’t zoom in or out, and boasts a very wide maximum aperture or f.1/8, enabling it to function at very fast shutter speeds even in low light conditions. This makes it ideal for a lot of casual indoor photography and stills, as well as for shooting normal life like children playing.
The wide aperture offers a shallow depth of field, making it great for artistic shots of a subject with a blurred background. Many photographers also feel that this type of lens adds a slightly ethereal quality to the light in outdoor shots, which is desirable. With just a bit of practice with the king of beginner DSLR lenses, you’ll find your shots turning out beautifully, full of rich, natural colors and vibrant details that almost feel like you’re cheating.
2. Polarizing Filter
Lens filters are already a must, ranging in price from $15 to hundreds depending on quality. A mild UV filter costs $35 and protects the actual glass on a $250 lens so scratches don’t ruin your investment. But a polarizing filter adds a desirable effect to your shots beyond just protecting the lens. Polarizers serve two purposes. They reduce glare and reflections on glass, water, and metal objects, which helps keep the focus on your subject and lets you control the lighting and composition of outdoor shots better. Second and more relevant, they pump up the color saturation so blues in the sky, natural greens, and the warm yellows and oranges in skin come through with more power. This adds an energy and vibrancy to shots.
3. A Tripod
If you want those beautiful, artistic night shots of low-light subjects like the moon or which show streaming city lights, you need a tripod. Professional-looking landscapes and even macro stills are all about crisp details and perfect composition, and a tripod helps you achieve that. You can get all these shots holding your camera in your hand, but you will know the difference when you look at a group of shots taken with a tripod compared to those you took without. The crispness and details of the stable shots will have people wondering where you got your awesome camera and when you got so good at photography.
Upgrading your equipment and DSLR lenses is far from cheating. But for how affordable they are and how easy improving your shots is with these accessories, you just might feel like you’re cheating compared to friends who put in the hours in classes and walking around trying to “get to know” their camera and gain “a feel” for light.