This discussion is about the tools of trade that we photographers need to possess in order to make professional images. There are some obvious tools like a camera or a lens or a tripod. Every photographer needs these. But beyond these there are a bunch of other tools as well. This is centered around those tools which are less spoken about and yet add a lot of value to your production. This discussion is about seven photography tools, which are absolutely irreplaceable.

Digital Photography is a demanding pursuit. The fact that today’s cameras have evolved considerably compared to the old wooden and metal boxes of yester-years means your job has become that much more difficult as a photographer. Why? Simply because it is that much easier to make acceptable photos. And because of that the standard of photography has also risen as cameras these days can almost shoot by themselves. These days anybody with a DSLR or a Mirrorless or even an advanced compact considers himself / herself a photographer. Basically, it boils down to one question – Why should someone hire you as a photographer when s/he can make the pictures on her/his own? What makes you any different to the thousands of DSLR wielding wannabes?

You’d say, because you have more experience and that you are a professional. Well, that is true and if you are worth your salt as a photographer you would no doubt possess a great portfolio and would be able to back your claim as an experienced photographer. But to be able to achieve that portfolio you need both time and money. In professional photography, at least in genres like wildlife, sports, automobile, real estate and wedding, you need good equipment to be able to shoot great pictures. There is, unfortunately, a limit to what you can achieve with beginner gear.

There is something very basic when it comes to professional photography. Your clients don’t care how you make your photos as long as the photos are exceptional. No one would pay you to make images that anybody with a camera can make. I remember a friend of mine once told me, his portrait photographer makes his photos look as if they are for his driving license. That’s the epitome of negative praise for me. Some of it is definitely attributable to the lack of interpersonal skills on the part of the photographer. But on a large part it is also dependent on the kind of gear that the photographer uses.

Remote Trigger

Remote Shutter Setup by rsaxvc

Remote Shutter Setup by rsaxvc

The remote trigger is a very handy tool to have. It can save your life in more than one ways. The remote trigger is a must have tool if you are into extremely precise photography projects. This would include real estate, architecture, wildlife, product and macro, automobiles, food to name a few. A remote trigger allows you to remotely press the shutter release. Therefore you don’t have to touch your camera physically.



Pocketwizard Squad by Saint Anton Follow

Transceivers are small radio devices. These are basically triggers for your flash, syncing your camera shutter with the flash. These are used for off-camera flash / strobe lighting setups. Two of these are required to sync a flash / strobe unit with a camera. Step one is to have both of them set to the same channel. Next attach the flash / strobe with one and the other to the camera. The one on the camera acts as the transmitter and the other attached to the strobe acts as the receiver. This setup allows you to change the flash power output without having to run to the flash each time. Plus you can set several of these attached to flash units in multiple groups. For example the ones at the reception hall could be on Channel B while the ones at the courtyard could be on Channel A. That means when you trigger Channel A only the flash units in that channel will fire. The same for Channel B. This saves power, quickens work and saves a lot of hassle.

Neutral Density Filters

Neutral Density filters (also known as ND Filters) are basically used for stopping light. The purpose of that being be able to drag the shutter speed. These are extremely useful for creative long-exposure photography. ND filters come in several light stopping powers. They are basically of two shapes – circular and square. Square shaped ones slide into filer holders which are attached to the front of the lens using filter holders. Circular filters screw on to the front of a lens using the filter thread.

Dry Creek Color

Dry Creek Color by Luke Detwiler

ND filters are either graduated or solid. Solid ones have the same amount of light stopping power across the surface of the filter. Graduated ones have, as the name suggests, graduated light stopping power. When you pick them up you will notice that the filter is darker on one side and lighter on the other. Apart from these there are several other varieties. We will discuss about them in a dedicated topic on ND filters.

Circular Polarizers

Circular polarizers are extremely useful pieces of optical tools. Every serious landscape photographer would have one in his camera bag; just like he would have an array of Neutral Density filters. Circular polarizers help in cutting down glare and reflections, something that poses considerable amount of problem for landscape photographers. Plus, they also cut down on atmospheric haze. Circular polarizers saturate colours, making them pop in the final scheme of things.

Motion Control Dollies

Motion control dollies have been in use for a while. Chances are that you have seen a hyper-lapse sequence or a regular video clip that was shot on it. These mechanical devices pull a camera / lens setup over a preset set of rails in a controlled movement. The movement is synced with the shooting settings. Let’s say that a hyper-lapse sequence is being shot.

CineMoco Motorized Camera Dolly & Track by Cinetics

CineMoco Motorized Camera Dolly & Track by Cinetics

The camera is setup over a dolly that is 2 feet. The whole hyper-lapse sequence will be of 5 seconds. At 24 frames per second that would require a total of 120 frames. That means the 60 off centimeters that the camera moves will need to be synced so that the distance travelled lasts all 120 frames.

Hand-held Light Meter

The next in this list of irreplaceable seven photography tools is the hand-held light meter. A hand-held light meter in many ways is the most definite way to meter a scene. That is even in this age of 150,000 pixel RGB metering. All digital camera based meters are essentially reflective light meters. Meaning, they meter the light that is being reflected off of a scene. They are programmed to believing that every scene is evidently of average reflectance (middle-gray). This is a fundamentally flawed way to meter a scene. If you are a landscape photographer you would no doubt be frustrated with the results. No two scenes have the same average reflectance. Plus, if the scene has too much of bright tones (or dark tones) the metering will be haywire.

If the scene is predominantly black, such as a scene that has people wearing black tuxedos, your camera will be fooled to think that the scene is too dark. It will try to boost the exposure and in the process make the black appear gray. On the other hand if the scene is too white, such as when shooting a snow scene, all that white snow will fool your camera to believe that the scene is washed out. It will drop the exposure and in the process make the snow look gray mud.

Sekonic L-358 by Yutaka Tsutano

Sekonic L-358 by Yutaka Tsutano

Even with the spot metering option on most digital cameras, the sampling area is too big to be of any advantage. This is where a hand-held light meter is so good. The hand-held light meter can read a scene in three ways. It can meter the light that is reflected off of it. It can meter the light that falls on it (incident light) and it can also meter a flash. Plus, it allows you to be precise with where you want to place your 18% gray or middle-gray point. Most good light meters have what is essentially a lens. It allows you to see through it and precisely place your point of middle-gray reference to meter the scene. Look through it, zero in on it with the focusing circle and press the button to meter. The best thing is with a sampling area of only 0.5% of the whole scene (about 1 degree) you have accurate reading of any point you think should be middle gray and based your overall exposure on that.

A Set of Reflectors

To round off this list of seven photography tools we have the reflectors. How often have you thought, “I wish i had a way to be able to throw in some light on the model’s face.” Or may be, “I wish there was a way to get rid of those shadows under the nose and the chin.” What you essentially missed is a reflector. Why not a speedlight perhaps? Well, because a speedlight (and for that matter a strobe) is a completely different ball game compared to a reflector. A strobe is like the kitchen sink. It produces an intense beam of light, too much for your requirement. You will then need to suppress it using  other means. Why do that when you need just a subtle amount of light that can be easily produced by reflecting ambient light, I mean using a reflector?


the team by EnriqueMendez

Reflectors come in various shapes, sizes and colors. But I tend to like the large round ones. They are the most versatile. They come in pack containing several colors. The most standard being Silver, Gold, Black and White. The silver one would be ideal in situations where you need to fill in the shadows under the chin and nose and those sort of needs.You can use the white for diffusing light. Such as when shooting outdoors under the mid-day sun and with no shade around. The black one works as a back-drop, and for creating those moody contrast lighting setups.

Ben Novoselsky

CEO and Founder at
Entrepreneur, geek, photo enthusiast.
Ben Novoselsky

You may also like

Rajib Mukherjee July 1, 2016

Nikon D4S Discontinued

Nikon has officially marked the D4S as discontinued. One look at the official Nikon Japan website ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 6, 2016

Basic Real Estate Photo Tips

The following real estate photo tips will help you to get started as a professional photographer. ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 28, 2015

A Guide to Choosing the Right Camera Lens for the Job

Digital interchangeable lens cameras are the preferred choice for shooting professional quality ...

Ben Novoselsky March 25, 2016

The Uses of ND Filters in Landscape Photography

Often, amateur landscape photographers tend to have lots of issues trying to balance an exposure in ...

Rajib Mukherjee June 13, 2016

Google Ara: The Future of Smartphone Photography

Sometime last week during Google I/O, which has now become one of the most eagerly awaited events ...

Ben Novoselsky June 22, 2015

The Comparative Analysis of Outsourcing against Making Your Own Prints

There are a number of reasons for which you may want to outsource printing your images to a lab or ...

Ben Novoselsky October 24, 2016

Using a Softbox as your Key Light

The soft box is your definitive source of lighting a model or an object in order to photograph it. ...

Ben Novoselsky December 25, 2015

Shooting videos with your digital SLR – An Introduction

Today’s digital SLR cameras are extremely versatile. They are ideally suitable for not only great ...

Ben Novoselsky June 9, 2015

Five Reasons to Invest in External Light

People more or less start the same way. Someone somewhere loves us dearly enough so as to send us a ...

Rajib Mukherjee November 13, 2014

Understanding camera metering modes

As a photographer, digital or otherwise, one thing that you need to have a good idea of is the ...

Ben Novoselsky August 12, 2016

About Flash Sync Speed Limitations and How to Work Around It

We often hear about flash sync speed and how we normally cannot use a flash to sync at extremely ...

Ben Novoselsky March 28, 2016

Which Tools does a Beginner Photographer Need?

A typical beginner photographer would ask these questions –
“What do I need to get started into ...

Ben Novoselsky August 18, 2014

Everything You Wanted To Know About Neutral Density Filters

Neutral density filters are primarily used for balancing exposures. By balancing exposure, I mean ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 28, 2015

The five questions you shouldn’t ask when buying your camera

Call it our ignorance or plain laziness, we hardly make the research to find out more about a ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 15, 2016

Don’t Decide on That Second Lens Until You Read This

Let me start by congratulating you. Why? You may ask. The fact that you are here looking for some ...

Ben Novoselsky August 31, 2015

Data Management for Digital Photographers: An Introduction

If you are a digital photographer, which is most likely (well you are here reading this isn’t?), ...

Ben Novoselsky March 28, 2017

How Real Estate Photo Editing Services Help to Sell Your Properties?

Looking to put your home up for sale? Planing to move to a bigger home for your growing family and ...

Rajib Mukherjee February 23, 2017

Pricing Yourself – How Much to Charge as a Wedding Photographer?

In reality it is a question of assessing your costs and then setting a price which covers that ...

Ben Novoselsky July 9, 2015

How to Grow Your Photography Business – Five Marketing Tips

One of the things that photographers don’t pay attention to, when they are just starting out ...

Ben Novoselsky May 9, 2016

What Kind of Wedding Photography Lights Should You Buy?

Lighting in wedding photography is a big thing. Regardless of your budget you have a responsibility ...

Ben Novoselsky July 1, 2015

How to grow your photography business – pricing tips

Pardon me for saying this, but not a good deal of photographers quite know how to price themselves. ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 1, 2014

Image Stabilization: Why It Matters, Types and How to Use

In the overall history of camera technology image stabilization is a rather recent development. ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 28, 2015

Getting to Know Your Camera Lens

The optical piece of equipment that sits in front of your camera is the single most important piece ...

Ben Novoselsky April 12, 2016

Microstock Secrets – What Kind of Images do well as Stock?

There is a lot of misconception among first time stock photo contributors about the kind of images ...

Ben Novoselsky May 10, 2017

How to Make a Good Photographer Online Portfolio

These days an online presence is as important as an offline store or an office. In ...

Ben Novoselsky June 12, 2015

How Would You Respond as a Photographer if You Are Asked to Work for Free?

Often photographers are approached with a request to work for free. The request can come from ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 6, 2015

How to grow your photography business – standing out

A lot of digital photographers make this cardinal mistake when they work on their portfolios. They ...

Ben Novoselsky August 19, 2016

Why You Should Invest in a Tripod

There are probably a hundred reasons why you should invest in a tripod. I am not going to detail ...

Ben Novoselsky January 7, 2016

Product Photography Tips to Get Started

Apart from portraiture, product photography is one of those few genres which can provide a steady ...

Ben Novoselsky April 22, 2016

How to Photograph Birds in Five Easy Steps

Bird photography is a supremely satisfying pursuit if you do it the right way and get results to ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 1, 2016

The Top 7 Compact Cameras for Travelers Under $2000

When it comes to travel photography you need not only to make great images, which is kind of given ...

Ben Novoselsky September 21, 2014

Using Circular Polarizing Filter (a C-PL Filter)

Photographers shooting landscapes in broad daylight or shooting objects with shiny metallic ...

Ben Novoselsky June 11, 2016

Things to Consider When Drafting the Wedding Photography Contract

About a year and a half ago I read an eye-opening article by renowned wedding photographer Gary ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 19, 2016

Choosing the Best Travel Photography Lens

A lot of amateur photographers find it difficult to zero in on the best travel photography lens for ...

Ben Novoselsky June 25, 2015

A Review of Online Photo Printing Options

One of the things that photographers are guilty of and I am referring to both amateurs and ...

Ben Novoselsky March 23, 2017

Shooting Solo vs Shooting with a Photography Assistant

Many among us have often felt the need to employ a photography assistant to help us manage a shoot ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 15, 2015

Advantages of a hand-held light meter over a built-in light meter

In one of the previous articles on this website I discussed in detail the many different metering ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 6, 2016

Huawei Passes Image by 5D Mark III as Shot by P9, Apologizes

There is only one rule in advertising. It is not all right when you imply something in your ...

Rajib Mukherjee May 4, 2017

5 Simple and Free Ways to Find Customers for Photography

Today we are going to discuss about how to find customers for photography. Back in 2006 I ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 13, 2017

Protecting Your Photos in the Digital World

Different techniques of protecting your photos: Watermarking
Watermarking is one of the most ...

Author March 9, 2017

Should I Upgrade my Camera Body or my Lens?

It is all too common for a wide range of emotions to complicate the decision to upgrade the body of ...

Rajib Mukherjee May 29, 2015

Working with the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

One of the least understood aspects of photography is color correction. Even experienced ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 1, 2016

Hasselblad X1D-50c: The world’s first medium format mirrorless camera is here

It’s official! Hasselblad is the world’s first medium format mirrorless camera. After months of ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 23, 2015

How to properly use a pop-up flash

A question that most amateur DSLR users seem to ask is what is the correct use of the pop-up flash ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 9, 2016

Samyang 20mm f/1.8 Manual Focusing Lens Officially Announced

Samyang 20mm f/1.8

Great news for full-frame shooters. Samyang has officially announced the 20mm ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 30, 2016

Introducing Canon Dual Pixel RAW Technology

Last week, the much awaited Canon 5D Mark IV made its debut. The rumor mills have been abuzz for ...

Ben Novoselsky August 27, 2014

5 Tips to Choose an External Flash

Congratulations on buying your first DSLR! Now you are well and truly on the road to photographic ...

Ben Novoselsky September 21, 2015

Five Indicators That Reveal You Are a Photographer

These days with smartphones, camera phones and advanced pocket sized Point & Shoots everybody can ...

Ben Novoselsky July 20, 2015

How to Grow Your Photography Business – Branding and Other Tips

As a budding entrepreneur looking to start your own photography business, you should give proper ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 6, 2017

What to Discuss with Client Before the Photo Shooting

A digital photographer, someone who works on assignments, his greatest friend is the agreement that ...

Rajib Mukherjee October 9, 2016

Advantage Of Shooting Film In The Digital Age

Old But Not Obsolete
The dawn of digital sensor also brought in the demise of film. In many ways ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 5, 2016

Five Ways You Can Use An External Flash In Outdoor Shooting

This article is meant for photographers who want to learn how to use an external flash in outdoor ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 10, 2015

Why You Should Print Your Images

Last Monday it rained the entire morning. It was a particularly off day for me too as I spent about ...

Ben Novoselsky June 18, 2015

How to Price Yourself as a Photographer

A question often asked by entry level protogs is how much to charge for their services. Many find ...

Rajib Mukherjee May 1, 2015

Five features on your DSLR camera that you probably never use

Your camera comes with three handy metering systems. If you are using a Canon system camera yours ...

Popular posts

Amy Grace October 25, 2021

How to Create a Ghost Mannequin Effect in Photoshop

It can be alarming for e-clothing stores when someone adds a product to the cart but does not ...