Photography is generally considered an expensive hobby - although it doesn't have to be. Cameras, lenses, flashes. Bags, tripods, memory cards. These are the main, as well as the most expensive items related to photography. But there are also some miscellaneous, "silly" gadgets that, although you can definitely live without, they can still add a little something to your hobby. Today, I'm giving you my personal top 5 of those gadgets. As most of long-time Amateur Nikon readers know, I'm a portrait photographer, so the list focuses on portrait photography gadgets. However, landscape or macro shooters should also take a look. Just because something is designed for a specific purpose, it doesn't mean it can't be used for another. True originality begins when you start trying things nobody else has before. Fog machine for macro shots, anyone?
(clicking on a photo or a title will open a new tab with the product in question)
1. Brick Wall Backdrop
Backdrops can be fun; brick walls can be even more fun! Especially when they're cheap, soft, and fit inside a bag. Yes, what you're seeing below is actually fabric! For about $50, you really can't go wrong
2. Lighting Kit
Few things will teach you the basics of light better than this. Obviously enough, it's meant for static shots - it's quite portable, however. A setup like this in a room of other quiet corner of your house can make an amazing difference in your portraits - once you learn its tricks. Again, for $45 you can't go wrong
3. Gary Fong Speed Snoot
A personal favorite in this list. This is a very handy little "diffuser" (not really a diffuser, rather the opposite) that you place on your external flash to get a very narrow, well-directed output. Practically, you can create some very enhanced dramatic light portraits by darkening everything else but your subject.
This effect is something I use often in my photography:
4. Fog Machine
You might think it's a bit kitsch. Well, you might be right... But it also works well in creating some dramatic light effects (particularly when used with a solution such as the Gary Fong snoot, above). Place your subject against a dark background, use an external speedlight positioned at 10 o'clock and slightly higher, then release some fog. Take pics. See what happens...
5. Wireless Flash/Shutter Trigger
Last but not least, a nice (and cheap) way to fire the shutter as well as your flashes remotely. This does not support TTL, which means you have to calculate the exposure manually. Then again, for portrait photography this is often not a problem - perhaps it is actually even advised to do it manually.
As I said in the beginning of this little article, these are primarily designed as portrait photography gadgets. But I'd like to repeat: that should not limit you. Be creative, daring, and try new things. That's, in the end, the idea behind these gadgets. Strictly speaking, they are not essential. But they can be useful. And they can be fun, too!