In nearly every class I teach at Tog Loft it seems we find one or more photography challenges that can be resolved with the right gear. People often are under the mistaken impression that they need to buy a more expensive camera, but often all is needed is a lens or other less expensive item. Over and over I make similar recommendations, so I decided I should publish a blog post with these must-have items.

The Nifty 50

If you only buy one lens, this is the lens to buy, AND the Yongnuo 50mm 1.8 is a great value at 40% less than it’s Canon counterpart. What makes this bad boy even better is that thanks to more aperture blades it actually is an improvement on the old Canon lens. Shoot Nikon? No worries, Yongnuo made one for you as well.

Wide Angle Lens

The Cannon 10-18 mm is a great value for a basic wide angle lens perfect for landscape and architectural photography. There is a Sigma for Nikon counterpart, but sadly, it’s more expensive.


It was nice of your camera manufacturer to put a built in flash in your camera, but that doesn’t make it a nice flash. Whenever I hear someone say “I just hate flash photography,” I know they either are using a built in flash, or don’t know how to use a speedlight. Speedlights let you control light so you can get the kind of pictures you want.

Thanks to modern technology these flash units are pretty smart too. If you buy one that is compatible with your camera the sensors in the camera can “talk” to your speedlight, which is pretty cool. This is another place where it’s perfectly fine to stray from your camera manufacturer without fear of loss in quality. Yongnuo, Neewer, and Altura all make good products at a fraction of the price.

One way to ensure that you don’t get that “flash photography look” is to use modifiers. There are infinite options, but a few of my favorites are the Flash Bender and Soft Box.


Over the years I’ve found you get what you pay for when it comes to tripods. The cheap ones are well, cheap….. It doesn’t take long for them to break and it never happens at a convenient time. Do yourself a favor and buy a quality one, and for goodness sake don’t lose the head. Manfrotto has a history of being a quality brand for studio equipment and gear, and they have some tripods that cost less than $100, which is a bargain for quality in my opinion.


Everyone loves natural light, except for all the times it’s too bright, or there is a weird shadow, or… get the idea. The best way to deal with our fickle friend the sun is to have a reflector kit. Most come with silver, gold, and white reflectors, with the white also serving as a scrim.

Camera Bag

Camera bags often reflect personal tastes, the type of photography you’re into, and so on, however, for quite a few photographers I’ve recommended this particular bag. Lowepro keeps selling the Passport Sling year after year, so I suspect I’m not alone in my recommendation. This bag lets you carry the essentials inconspicuously and you can get out lenses or a speedlight while wearing the bag, which is great when you’re on the go and there is no place to set down your bag. It also doesn’t look like a camera bag, which is nice for travel because thieves keep an eye out for bags that have Canon and Nikon written on them.

Of course this is just the beginning, but these essential items make a world of difference in your photography and are an affordable way to improve your photos without buying a more expensive camera.