We all know that a camera (and lens) are essential tools for a photographer, but what other equipment is an absolute must for me?
Now each and every photographer when asked to name one piece of photography equipment they can’t live without will have different answers. Some will say props while others will tell you off-camera flash is a must! There is so much equipment out there that it can become overwhelming as to what you need. I know I’ve been in the “oh, I need to buy x, y, and z to be a better photographer!” because I saw fill-in-the-blank photographer recommend it. It is kind of a trap and I’ve finally figured out (mostly) what I need and what just becomes expensive paperweights and/or sits in a corner, never to be used.
My number one equipment that I have on me at all times are polarizing or ND filters.
I have polarizing filters for every lens I own and ND filters for the lens I use the most (although now that I am switching to Fuji I either need new ND filters or at the very least a new adapter for them).
But why are polarizing filters the item I cannot live without?
I cannot always shoot at the “superior” times of the day. I try but it isn’t always easy for me to get out to shoot around sunrise and sunset. I am not afraid of shooting in full sun. But I don’t want a washed out sky. I want the sky to show as blue as it looks in real life. With a polarizing filter on the end of my lens, I can help darken the sky while keeping the rest of the image properly exposed. The polarizing filter can spin, for lack of a better word, and I can see the sky darken and lighten. I took my shot when I have the filter where I want it.
I have ordered polarizing filters from B&H Photo and Amazon. I have a Tiffen, Hoya, and Zeikos. Some people will tell you to get more expensive brands but I have never had an issue with any of these. I think my images still turned out with the filters attached. The only thing I have had to watch for is vignetting but you can fix that by spinning the filter or, worse case scenario, in Lightroom or Photoshop.
An ND filter is a little different. They are square and go from dark to light. There are various levels of ND filters to choose from. The set I have contains three different filters, which you can also stack in the holder. I used these exclusively for our last trip to the Big Island. I love the set but it’s more cumbersome than the polarizing filter. I can’t just get a quick photo like with the polarizer because I don’t leave the filters in the holder. Because they are square they take up more space and I can’t just pull the camera out of the bag and shoot. I have to stick the filter in, shoot, take it out, and then put the camera away. The filters aren’t too bad if you are just driving around and stopping to shoot but if you go to other places you aren’t taking images it becomes harder since I’m not leaving my camera out. The set I have is here, but no longer available. These are also a lot more pricey than the polarizer but definitely a good investment.
What is one piece of equipment you can’t live without for your job and/or hobby?
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