Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Photography On A Shoestring Budget, Part 3: Tripods and Other Accessories

In Part 1 we introduced the series. In Part 2 we discussed camera options. Now in Part 3 we will look at accessories like tripods, filters and such.

NX200 On Tripod With Homemade ND Filter - Tehachapi, California
Tripods are good to have for low-light photography. Eventually, at some point, you'll wish you had one. A time will come when you'll need a tripod.

But tripods can be quite expensive. Some tripods cost several hundred dollars! However, you don't have to spend even one dollar on a tripod.

First, you may find that you don't need one right away. Digital cameras are getting better and better at controlling noise at high-ISO and anti-shake has become standard. Situations that not long ago required a tripod don't require one now--you can get away with bumping the ISO up and hand-holding. Your need for a tripod decreases with each advancement. So perhaps this is an expense that you can push into the future.

Second, you can make-shift a "tripod" very easily. I do this from time-to-time when I don't have a tripod with me but need one. Here's what you do: a) set the camera on a flat and sturdy surface (such as a rock, wood post, non-running car, etc.), b) put the camera in self-timer mode, c) take the picture, moving yourself away from the camera so you don't accidentally touch it during exposure.

It's a bit more time consuming than if you actually had a tripod, and there is not always a good surface to use or the flat and sturdy surface that you find isn't in the most desired spot. In most situations, however, this method works just fine.

Third, cheap tripods work just as well as expensive ones in most situations. As long as you are not in strong winds or a fast moving river, there is not a big advantage to having a $300 tripod instead of a $30 tripod.

I've been very impressed with my Dolica 62-inch Proline. This tripod is sturdy, light-weight and versatile. The MSRP is $66, but you can typically find it for under $50. I found mine on sale for $35 last year.

Heavenly River - Lake Isabella, California
Filters, which screw onto the end of your lens, are a common accessory. Filters can be used for all sorts of things, and most photographers have at least a few of them. There are cheap brands and there are more expensive brands. You can spend a little or you can spend a lot.

You should strongly consider what filters you want to own (if any), so that you don't spend money on filters that you'll never use. Don't be afraid to purchase the cheap brands to start with, and, if there are filters that you find yourself using often, you can then upgrade those particular filters to a better brand.

Purchasing your filters used is a good way to save money.

Another option is to make your own filters. I used a home made neutral-density filter for the photograph above. You can make polarizing filter. You can make your own colored filters. You can make a "filter" for blurring. A little imagination and work can yield any number of filters that cost little or nothing.

And Such

There are other accessories that you may wish to purchase, such as batteries, memory cards, external flash, film, and camera bag. Unfortunately, there are not too many ways to save money other than shopping around, waiting for sales, or purchasing used.

You can, however, turn cheap luggage into a deluxe camera bag for surprisingly little money.

In Part 4 we will take a look at budget ideas for post-processing software. Stay tuned!



  1. Using filters and Tripods the right way can definitely improved the quality of the pictures your taking. Thanks for the tips!