Photography tips – lenses, accessories etc

Mount Taranaki-001

Today’s post on photography is the fourth in a series I have done sharing tips about photography.. Thus far I have covered a number of topics, including depth of field, composition techniques and thoughts on filters and digital editing of your files.

Whilst every article can be read on its own, I’d recommend you give the others a look through if these are topics that interest you.

Today I’m going to cover more topics, namely the subject of lenses, thoughts on useful accessories for your photography, as well as a couple of other tips that I have found useful for learning more about the art. Enjoy!


If you have a point and shoot camera, your lens choice is probably not much greater than that which came with your camera. If, on the other hand, you have an SLR, then your options suddenly become very expansive indeed.

What I would suggest is that you consider the sort of photography you are likely to be doing, your budget, how you use your camera and what you are willing to carry.

Beach at Francois Perron National Park

The beach at Francois Peron National Park. Landscape photography often needs a wider angle lens to get everything in shot.

If you do a lot of landscape photography, then a dedicated wide angle lens would certainly be a wise investment. Conversely, for a lot of portrait photography, a prime lens with an aperture that will open up nice and wide will let you have great control over your depth of field. Nature photographers would probably want something that provides them with good zoom capability for far away shots, or something macro capable for close up work.

So decide what you are likely to be shooting, and get a lens appropriate for that. Remember that it is likely to be a long term investment, so don’t skimp too much if you can afford it. The kit lens that comes with your camera is probably a great place to start from, and if you find that it is hampering your style, start to think about upgrading.

Bird on a branch near Cathedral Cove

A bird on a branch near Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsula. If I had a proper telephoto lens at the time of taking the shot I would have been able to get a much clearer shot of this little chap, instead of the slightly noisy crop of a much larger shot that I am showing here.

blue footed boobies Galapagos

And here are some boobies shot at 210mm on a proper telephoto lens, no cropping required.

Whilst on the subject of lenses: I’d always recommend you get a filter for the end. Even if it’s just a clear filter, it will protect the expensive glass on your lens from minor scratches and is a lot cheaper to replace than a whole lens if damaged.

When buying, you just need to check the size of your lens, and buy an appropriate filter to match. Lenses come in all sorts of widths, so be prepared to have to buy filters to match each lens you have.

Holocaust Memorial HDR 1

A final thought on lenses. More expensive kit does not necessarily lead to better images. Composition and practice are more likely to result in images that you are happier with than an expensive bit of glass – to start with the lens that comes with your camera (most come with a kit lens) will more than likely tide you over for a while.

However, once you have mastered the basics, and you feel that the equipment is really holding you back from shooting how you want to, or isn’t letting you get close up or wide enough for your favourite type of shots, then do your research, set yourself a budget, and go for it.

Other accessories

Spare battery and memory
I would advise that at least one spare battery and spare memory card are essential accessories. Running out of battery life half way through a trip is a hassle that can be easily avoided, much the same with memory card.

Wat Arun temple Thailand Bangkok sunset close up

A camera bag
A decent bag is also a good investment. It will protect your camera from knocks and scrapes, and give you room to carry around all your lenses and other gear that you may accumulate. When buying, work out what you are likely to be carrying in terms of gear, and buy something that will fit everything in cosily.

A tripod is another invaluable accessory, even one of the smaller options. Sometimes there just won’t be enough light to take photos with, or a convenient rock to balance the camera on. Even when there is plenty of light to work with, a tripod will still reduce any blur resulting from hand shake, and deliver crisper, sharper images. Plus it will let you take the same scene multiple times, perhaps for composing an HDR shot, or achieving interesting effects in post processing.

Remote switch
One other accessory I find useful for certain shots is a remote switch for the camera. This lets me take pictures without having to depress the shutter, which is useful for two reasons.

First, the action of depressing the shutter release button can cause movement, even when mounted on a tripod. This is especially the case for longer exposures.

Second, taking shots that require exposures longer than 30 seconds, the BULB setting on my particular camera, are not possible without a remote. So those long exposure night time shots wouldn’t work quite so well.

Sky stars milky way

The Manual

I know. Manuals aren’t amazing fireside reads. They are often weighty tomes filled with obscure technical information. The thing is, modern digital cameras can be pretty complex beasts. Sure, you can stick them on automatic and let them do everything for you, but it won’t be long before you want to get underneath the skin and start editing settings to see if you can’t improve your shots.

The manual is the place where you will find out what all those dials and buttons and settings actually mean, and how you can use them to improve what you are doing. So find a moment, and take a bit of time to get acquainted with the kit you have bought.

Ship wreck - Fraser Island - Queensland - Australia

Wrecked ship on the beach of Fraser Island. This shot was deliberately over exposed to wash out the sea and sand, leaving just ship. Most cameras can over and underexpose – and the manual will tell you how.

Take it with you!

The last thing I'm going to say in this post is that you should try, wherever possible, to take your camera with you. However great a photographer you are, if you don’t have your camera with you then you’re not going to be capturing great images. The more photos you take, the more you will learn how the light works, how to compose shots and how to use it. You will improve no end.

Finally, for more on gear, and what we travel with, take a look at our photography gear post, which has an always up to date list of all the gear we travel with, from tripods and accessories through to camera bodies and lenses.

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  1. I've run our of battery in the middle through a day trip too many times to count, it's such a disappointment when that happens! However I just bought an extra battery to prevent it from happening again.

    Amazing photos!

  2. Running out of battery is just the worst thing that can happen. ps - no idea how I missed this comment :( sorry it took so long to reply, and thanks for the compliment!

  3. Great post (along with your other photography posts). I bought my first dslr over a year ago with the 18-55 kit lens. I have since purchased the 55mm prime lens specifically for food photography but now am torn regarding travel photography lenses. My boyfriend and I are planning a 2 year Asia Europe backpacking trip to start this fall (which we'll document on our travel blog and I wanted to purchase a better lens. Unfortunately the 17-85 is a little pricy for me. Do you know anything about the 18-135 cannon? If it's a good travel lens? Any advice/tips would be great!

    1. Thanks Vicky :) I don't know anything about that particular lens, although I believe that lenses are something that aren't worth skimping on - you take that photo once and you wouldn't want it to fail because of the lens. Usually it is very much a case of you get what you pay for - if a lens is cheaper it is cheaper for a reason :(

      On the other hand, it does depend on what you want to do with your images. If it's predominantly for posting on your site, and not selling in a magazine or anything seriously professional, then you'll not notice, and be more than happy with the upgrade. You could drop a big ton of money on the Canon L version of a similar range lens, and then just spend your time worrying about it being stolen...

      An 18-135 lens would be a great lens range for travelling with, allowing you to keep it on your body pretty much all the time, and therefore serve as an awesome "walk around" lens. Since writing this post, I've switched to my main walk around lens being a 10-22mm wide angle Canon, as I generally found myself at the wide end of my 17-85 all the time! I also pack a 1.8 50mm prime which is awesome for depth of field and is a good compliment to the wide angle.

      So that is all my generic response to your query done. Some searching of the web indicates that the lens in question is actually pretty decent, and you should be more than happy with it :)

      I think, bottom line, that if I was you, and this lens was within my budget, then I would take it with me as a lens to travel with :) Hope this rambling response helps!

  4. It certainly does! Thanks so much. I'm thinking I'll purchase the 18-135 unless the 17-85 goes on super sale before we head off in September and I'll bring my 50 mm prime for close ups and food shots. Thanks again for your help!

    1. No worries at all, and delighted to help out. Do keep in touch and let me know how you find it!

  5. This is awesome i really appreciate your post. love it.

  6. Really awesome post, thanks! Just stepped past the point n shoot and picked up an Olympus OM-D EM-5 and a compact Panny 14-42mm. Needed to stay compact as I'll be backpacking through Asia for an extended time next year.

    What are your thoughts on MFT? Any tips to maximize a MFT investment?


    1. Hey Brandon. Well, with any camera system, the best way to maximise the investment is to thoroughly learn how it works - there's nothing worse than missing a shot because you forgot how to change a setting fast enough.


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