15 of My Favorite Photography Products Under $50.00

Fall is in the air again, which means– among other things– that I’m back in the classroom, teaching my digital photography class for kids. I have some great students this year, ranging in age from 10-14, who have already impressed me with their curiosity, talent, and desire to learn. One of the things that separates my class from other photography classes is that I don’t require my students to have a particular level of camera. As a result, I have students with DSLRs working side-by-side with students who photograph with the most basic of point-and-shoot models. By making it less about the equipment and more about how they see the world around them, some pretty cool stuff happens.

ThinkTank PPR

For starters, nobody is looking at anybody else in the class as if they are any less of a photographer simply because of their camera. Students with DSLRs learn to sometimes simplify their approach, while students with p&s cameras learn how to work their way around hurdles, creating great images with no regard to the perceived limitations of their gear.

The biggest thing they all have in common, though, is their desire for high-quality results. As we all know, sometimes it takes more than just a camera to achieve those results. Obviously, these are kids and budgets loom larger for them and their parents than for those of who need gear to do our jobs. I realized recently, though, that some of my favorite accessories and bits of gear fall reasonably within almost any budget. So, here is a list of my Favorite 15 under $50…in no particular order.

1. Pixel Pocket Rocket

ThinkTank Photo’s signature memory card wallet comes in multiple sizes and configurations, ranging in price from $16.75 to $19.75 for standard versions and $25.00 for limited editions. The Pee Wee PPR holds up to four CF and three SD cards, while the SD PPR holds up to nine SD cards. The original PPR holds up to ten CF cards. The PPR keeps me organized, so it’s well worth the price.

thinktank ppr

2. Spudz Microfiber Lens Cloth

The Spudz Ultra, from Alpine Innovations, is one of the best lens-cleaning alternatives I’ve ever met. It’s a 6″ x 6″ microfiber cloth that rolls into its own 2″ x 2.75″ neoprene pouch for clean, convenient storage. The cloth can handle almost any lens-cleaning situation without the need for additional solvents or solutions. It’s reusable, washable, and also works great on eye glasses, smart phones and tablets. This could be eleven of the best dollars I’ve ever spent.

Spudz Lens Cloth

3. LensPen

While we’re on the subject of keeping lenses clean, the LensPen is another one of my favorites. The retractable brush on one end removes loose particles and dust, while the pad on the other end uses a unique carbon compound for removing and absorbing fingerprints, smudges, and other tough-to-remove problems from your lenses or filters. $15.00 for over five hundred uses is a pretty good return on a pretty small investment.

LensPen

4. DSLR Battery Holder

Another entry from ThinkTank. Kind of like a PPR for batteries, this battery holder comes in two sizes, accommodating either two or four standard-size DSLR batteries. The pro version holds two professional-size DSLR batteries. These battery holders are ideal for keeping the electrical contacts on your batteries scratch-free, which can also help extend the life of your batteries.

ThinkTank Battery Holder

5. Westcott 40″ 5-in-1 Reflector

This is one of those must-haves for any photographer, regardless of whether you shoot with strobes or natural light, in a studio or on location. At about $40.00, this 5-in-1 Reflector gives you lots of options and an added element of control over many different lighting scenarios. Silver, gold, white, black, and translucent panels in a single set-up provide simple solutions to many common lighting challenges.

Westcott 5-in-1

6. Nasty Clamps

Nasty Clamps have become a vital piece of equipment, letting me connect speedlights, reflectors, light-weight LED panels– pretty much anything with a standard 1/4″ mount– to just about any available surface. I’ve mounted speedlights from book shelves, door frames, ceiling tiles, and trees in order to get light exactly where I need it. Most recently, I’ve started using the Nasty to hold a bounce card for food and other table-top photography.

Nasty Clamp

7. Black Rapid Metro Strap

It’s been a little over two years since I ditched traditional camera straps in favor of the Black Rapid sling-style strap and I haven’t looked back. There are several different straps in the Black Rapid product line, but at $39.95 the Metro has the distinction of being the only one that qualifies for this list. While the RS-7 and Sport models are two of my favorites, the Metro is lighter and thinner, making it a great solution for street photographers and those using some of today’s smaller camera systems.

Black Rapid Metro

8. “Photography Q&A – Real Questions. Real Answers”

When Atlanta-based Zack Arias started his wildly popular Tumblr blog last year, he set the lofty goal for himself of answering 1,000 reader-submitted questions on anything related to photography. 106 of those questions and their answers form the foundation of “Photography Q&A.” While just about everything else on this list can help improve your photography, this book can help improve the quality of your life as a photographer. I know– it’s a bold statement. I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out if it’s true.

Photography Q&A by Zack Arias

9. LenzBuddy

I really like these rear lens and body caps from LenzBuddy. Available with a wide variety pre-printed focal lengths, these are a great tool for keeping your bags or equipment shelves organized. I’m also a big fan of the custom caps with my logo, website, and phone number.

LenzBuddy

10. frio Cold Shoe Adapter

I always have at least three or four of these in my bag when I’m shooting on location. Designed to fit anything with a hot shoe, frio lets you mount your flash, light panels, or hot shoe microphones on anything with a standard 1/4-20 or 3/8″ thread. That lets me mount speedlights on Nasty Clamps, tripods, monopods, and light stands. Unlike a lot of cold shoe adapters, this one is designed to ensure that once attached, your accessories aren’t going anywhere until you’re ready to take them off.

frio coldshoe adapter

11. DIY Ring Flash

The smooth, even lighting that only comes from a ring flash doesn’t have to cost thousands, or even hundreds of dollars. At about $25.00, this DIY Ring Flash kit will offer a huge boost to your portraits, as well as product or food photography. While perhaps not the most durable ring flash alternative, it is certainly the most affordable. Treat it well and it will do the same for you. I’ve been using the one in the photo regularly for a little over a  a year and I’ll put its light quality up against any of its more expensive alternatives.

DIY Ring Flash

12. Rogue Flashbenders

Small flashes can pack a big punch, and Rogue Flashbenders from ExpoImaging can help make sure your light goes exactly where you want it. Designed with the location shooter in mind, the Flashbenders come in assorted sizes and are some of the most versatile flash modifiers I’ve ever used. The large Flashbender cashes out at about $40.00. An optional diffusion panel (sold separately) turns the reflector into a small softbox.

Rogue Flashbender

13. Gaffer’s Tape

Perhaps the single-most versatile tool ever. All the benefits of duct tape without the nasty residue. The possible uses you will encounter for gaffer’s tape will never cease to surprise you. I’ve used this stuff for everything from keeping cords safely secured in the studio to fixing a bridesmaid’s wardrobe malfunction two minutes before she had to walk down the aisle. You just never know. Don’t leave home without it.

gaff tape

14. White Foam Board

Just like gaff tape, you never know when a new use for white foam board will present itself. You can use these for a high-key tabletop set for product photography or– like in the photo below– as bounce cards. I always have one on location with me to help prevent lens flare (Unless, of course, I just can’t help myself and  I’m shooting an old vintage couch in the middle of a corn field!). The bottom line is it’s inexpensive and you’ll find so many different uses for it.

white foam board

15. Camera Cookie Cutters

Okay– maybe they won’t do anything for your photography. But sometimes you just gotta have cookies.

camera cookie cutters

About The Author

Jeff Guyer is an Atlanta, GA photographer specializing in commercial
and portrait photography, as well as weddings, sports, and street
photography. You connect with him on Facebook and Twitter, or check out his work at Guyer Photography.

  • http://www.nastyclamps.com/ Mister Nasty Clamps

    Jeff: A great lil’ article, and –– AND –– so glad to see Nasty Clamps included in your list of favorite photography products. Thanks so much for helping to spread the (not so) Nasty word.

  • Frank

    Great list, though the 5-in-1 reflector seems a bit pricey to me. I have one that’s made by Neewer that was only $18 from Amazon. Apparently Monoprice just released their own for about $13 too. I can’t imagine there is any difference in quality between all three of them.

  • http://www.leftboot.com/ Ryan Peterman

    One correction to your article. The picture of tape you posted is actually “board” tape. Normally used for placing on a sound/lighting board to mark channels, this stuff is also a must on the list! Better than masking tape, I use it for various reasons around the studio. The best thing I use it for is marking client names down on with a fine point sharpie. I then place it on the battery cover and when I forget (it happens in large groups) I can glance at it. (Board tape to masking tape is the same as duct tape to gaff….less sticky mess.)

    Gaff tap is also a must!

  • vtam1992

    No, seriously, it’s called a -tripod- socket for a reason….

  • Eddie Peterson

    Nasty Clamp are good but the price is way too much……way ….way took much.

  • Bill McKenzie

    Scary how many of these I have. Agree with @Eddie on the nasty clamps. Pretty easy to make your own with Loc-line tubing.

  • http://www.nastyclamps.com/ Mister Nasty Clamps

    The price of equipment is obviously a concern for folks in both the amateur and professional photographic community, which is one of the reasons (out of many reasons) why the DIY Photography site has such a large and loyal following. Building your own gear is both fun and cool, and there are some pretty substantial savings to be had (at least from a monetary standpoint) putting together your own camera, lighting, and audio rigs.

    Now, a common complaint heard from photographers in the DIY community goes something along the lines of this: “Why does that piece of gear cost so much? I could build it for one third the cost!”

    Yes… Yes, you probably could.

    But you’re not running a business. Or, if you are running a business, chances are you won’t be for long.

    Here’s some simple (and hopefully eye opening) economics: If a piece of camera equipment sells in a store for $50, then that store likely purchased the gear –– from either a distributor or the manufacturer –– for around $25. And if that store purchased the equipment from a distributor, then the distributor probably purchased the item for about $12 to $13 from the manufacturer.

    And whether the item is being purchased for $50, $25, or $12 –– or a mix of all three –– there had better be enough overall profit margin in there for the manufacturer to pay for an office, advertising, assembly costs, packaging, warehousing, shipping, payroll, accounting, and taxes. All of these add up quickly AND, by the way, never, NEVER forget the taxes.

    Again, DIYing your own gear is fun and cool, and a great way to save money. But the price of DIY’d equipment, assembled by hand and at home, bears no relationship at all to the financial aspects of manufactured equipment –– with all the associated costs, margins, and taxes.

    And –– again –– never forget those taxes.

    • Albin

      Good point except that a lot of the margin is prestige and branding. Even 20 years ago I read that for cars, the profit margin above all-in cost of production on a $20k Toyota was about 15% while that on a $60k Mercedes or BMW was about 100%. I don’t think that’s changed for cars, and consider it similarly applicable to the currently very “social” and therefore high school competitive world of camera equipment.

      • http://www.nastyclamps.com/ Mister Nasty Clamps

        Albin: The problem with that analogy is you’re confusing expensive cars with relatively inexpensive accessories. A 15% margin on a $20,000 car brings in $3000 . There’s not a photo accessory manufacturer in the world who would sell their inexpensive line of under-$50 products at 15% margin.

        Let’s say that you yourself had a photo product of some sort that you were manufacturing for a material cost of… Ohhhhhh… Let’s say $15. Giving yourself a gross margin of 15 percent means that you’re selling it for $17.25, which means that you’d (hopefully) bring in $2.25 per sale.

        Knowing that you’ll have to pay for office space, personnel, heat, accounting, packaging, shipping, and taxes, just how many accessories per day will you have to sell in order to stay in business? And would you be paying yourself at this point, or simply covering expenses? And how long do you think you’d stay in business simply covering expenses?

        I will say that margins are quite a bit different when talking about high-priced cameras because…. Errrrhhhhh… Because they’re higher priced. A $2000 camera with a 15% margin brings in $300. I shouldn’t have to explain how this is a completely different situation from the (theoretical) $17.25 accessory bringing in $2.25

    • KurtVan353

      you are a bore