10 Creative Photography Accessories and Tools Everyone Should Own

creative photography tools and accessories everyone should own

Looking for the perfect creative photography accessories to spice up your photos? You’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I share my favorite fun photography tools, all of which practically guarantee creative images. I’m talking about filters, lighting accessories, toys, and more to take your images to the next level.

(You’ll also find a few more basic items on this list, some of which you may already own – but I make sure to explain precisely how you can use each tool in a new way to capture unique, beautiful, and artistic images.)

So if you’re ready to discover the coolest photography accessories on the planet, then let’s get to it!

1. Several strobes

Strobes are a great piece of creative photography equipment. Yes, they’re a little intimidating to learn, so beginners often eschew strobes in favor of natural light – but if you can master the strobe, you can revolutionize your photography.

Here are a few techniques you’ll need a strobe for:

  • Water droplet photography: You can capture a water droplet in midair by photographing it with a strobe. The idea is to bounce the light off a background behind the droplet, then take a photo as the droplet falls. As you can see in the image below, the results can be wildly creative – and quite spectacular!
  • Low-key photography: You can use a strobe and a darkened background to create low-key photos. Modify your strobe with a snoot, then use the bright flash to light your main subject. If you can carefully angle the light so it hits your subject but avoids the background, you’ll end up with a well-exposed subject on a pure-black backdrop!
  • Stroboscopic photography: You can get repeated shots of the same scene with a high-speed pulse, then you can blend the files together in Photoshop. For instance, you can capture a tennis ball as it flies through the air, a cat running through the room, or a person in a variety of different poses. Note: A tripod is essential for this technique!
water droplet photography accessories
A strobe is required to take this type of water droplet photo.

By the way, don’t just buy a single on-camera flash and call it a day. Instead, invest in radio triggers and receivers so you can do off-camera flash photography with multiple strobes. And experiment with modifiers like snoots, umbrellas, softboxes, and color gels for even more artistic flexibility!

If you’re not sure what strobe to buy, a Yongnuo YN560 IV speedlight is a great beginner pick – not only is it reasonably high-quality, but it’s also very inexpensive, so you can purchase a few without breaking the bank!

2. A LED light stick

There are lots of ways you can create beautiful light paintings, but the LED light stick is a game-changer for this genre. It’s such a cool photography accessory that, as soon as you try it, you’ll be hooked.

LED light-stick photography pretty much always involves using lengthy shutter speeds, so a tripod will be required. You can use your light stick to create abstract light paintings, like this:

LED light sticks are a fun creative photography accessory

The great thing about some light sticks is that they’re fully programmable. You can input the exact light you want to paint and whether it will feature colors, stripes, pictures, or patterns.

What light stick should you buy? The Aputure MT Pro is a great choice for beginners – not only does it offer plenty of color and brightness settings, but it’s also pixel-mappable! It’s on the smaller side, but it should definitely be enough for all sorts of creative photography.

3. A tripod

Yes, a tripod is a basic photography accessory, and maybe it doesn’t seem that fun. But I have to mention it, because without a tripod, you’ll fail to pull off many of the techniques on this list – and with a tripod, your creative photography will explode with awesomeness.

Let’s look at some of the techniques a tripod will allow you to try:

  • Digital blending: This technique involves blending multiple images for a beautiful result. You can do it handheld, but your results will be greatly improved by using a tripod.
  • Cloning: You can capture several photos as you move throughout a scene. You can then layer them together to create a single photo with “clones.”
  • Light painting: Use flashlights or external light sources such as car light trails to light paint across your photo.
  • Astrophotography: You can create stunning shots of the Milky Way, but you’ll need lengthy exposure times.
  • Long exposure photography: Long exposures look great at night, and they can look very interesting during the day, too. You’ll need a sturdy tripod to keep your camera steady as water and clouds zoom on by.

Here’s a photo that combines digital blending and long exposure techniques:

long exposure of a bridge at night

Quick tip: Avoid getting a cheap tripod that has unsteady legs, and instead invest in a heavier, sturdier tripod. If you’re traveling and need a light backpack, you can compromise a little. You’ll still want a strong tripod, and preferably a hook on the central tripod pole so you can add more weight once the tripod is set up.

If you don’t already own a tripod, then I do have a quick recommendation for you: the Benro Roadtrip Pro is sturdy, lightweight, and even comes with a ballhead so you can get started shooting right away. Plus, at $250 USD, it’s a steal!

4. A lensball

The lensball is quite possibly the most fun photography accessory on this list, because it lets you take wild shots that are otherwise impossible. It’s quite cheap, too, and it’s simple – just a crystal ball that you place in front of your lens:

lensball landscapes

But lensballs are insanely versatile, and here are just a few of the techniques you can try:

  • Floating ball: Capture the ball in midair, as I did for the picture above. This requires some Photoshop work, but the results will be worth it.
  • Portrait: This one’s a little trickier to achieve. You’ll need to avoid showing the background as you focus in on the ball (assuming you want the portrait to appear only within the ball). Alternatively, you can use the ball as more of a prop within a regular portrait photo.
  • Landscape: Use the lensball’s fisheye-like properties to capture a unique lensball landscape; you can give a creative twist to popular locations.

You can find a variety of different lensballs to choose from on Amazon, but our recommendation is the Lensball Pro, which is high quality and cheap!

5. Filters

Is there a need for filters when post-processing is so powerful? The answer to that is certainly “Yes,” especially if you wish to spend lots of time photographing (as opposed to post-processing on the computer). Plus, there are some filters that just can’t be replicated by editing software.

Filters can be used for the following forms of creative photography:

  • Infrared: Infrared filters filter out all light except for – you guessed it! – infrared. You’ll need a long exposure, and you’ll probably need to post-process your results. The in-camera photo will appear red, so you’ll need to adjust the color channels in Photoshop so the red areas of the photo become white.
  • Long exposures: The use of a strong neutral density filter will allow you to take long exposures even in the daytime.
  • Adding color: You can use filters to make your photo sepia or add more color to the sky during sunset. This is an area where post-processing is an equally powerful alternative, though.
  • Starburst effects: Some filters make points of light into a starburst. The same effect can also be achieved by using a smaller aperture.
  • Soft shots: Portrait photos can be enhanced with a softening filter; they’ll give your subject a Hollywood glow. Alternatively, you can stretch a stocking over the front of your lens, which will also soften the photo.
infrared filters are a great creative accessory
Infrared photography can create interesting scenes on a sunny day.

6. Prisms

Like the lensball, the prism refracts light – but it offers a completely different effect.

For one, you can redirect the light to create interesting doubling effects. And you can also use a prism to project a rainbow onto a surface (maybe even someone’s face!). Really, it’s all about experimentation, so grab a prism, hold it in front of your lens, and go wild!

Here’s an example of the prism’s interesting double-exposure effect:

prism photography

Pretty much any standard prism will work for this; just pick one (or more!) off Amazon to get started. (Note that different prism shapes and sizes will give different effects, so I encourage you to test out a few different models.)

You might also consider fractal filters, which offer all sorts of cool, fun, prismatic results (especially for portrait photography). This set is a great buy, and it’ll give you three different filters to play around with!

7. Steel wool

Steel wool allows you to light paint, but with an urban industrial twist.

You can use the wool to create lots of flying metal sparks, which will light paint across your photo as they hurtle through the air. This is a really fun technique to try out, but you need to be careful; you’re creating thousands of red-hot metal shards, and each has the potential to start a fire. You’ll need to exercise lots of caution when taking this type of photo. Be sure to avoid locations that could start a forest fire.

Steel wool can also be used for portrait photography – but ensure the safety of those involved in your photoshoot by thinking through all eventualities, ensuring the portrait subject stays far away from the sparks, and by making sure water is on hand, just in case.

steel wool photography
Steel wool is fun to use, but you need to be extremely careful!

What’s another fun photography tool you can hold in front of your lens? The metal tube! The diameter of the tube will affect the result you get, but it’s pretty typical to use a copper pipe (you can get one in the plumbing section of your local hardware store).

The idea is to photograph through the tube, which creates a “ring of fire” within your photo. This ring of fire is actually flare, and you can use it to frame something or someone in your scene.

9. An umbrella

Portrait photographers use umbrellas all the time as props, and for good reason: they look great, plus they’re often full of color.

There are several different ways you might use an umbrella with a model. If you’re photographing your subject’s whole body, the umbrella will take up a small part of the frame. Alternatively, you can use the umbrella as a background, with the model’s head and shoulders featuring in the photo.

Personally, I’d recommend rainbow-colored umbrellas, traditional paper umbrellas, or transparent umbrellas.

(Pro tip: Transparent umbrellas can be held by your subject, but they can also be positioned in front of the lens, with the spokes acting as a frame for your main subject!)

using umbrellas as a creative photography accessory
Here’s just one example of how you can use umbrellas to creatively frame your subject!

10. Water

Is water really a creative photography tool? Absolutely!

I recommend you carry water with you at all times, which you can use for all sorts of interesting effects. For instance, if you find a cool building, you can create a small puddle on the ground, then photograph the reflection. Note that the puddle doesn’t need to be large; a good wide-angle lens can make the most of a tiny splash of water.

Water has other uses, as well! Here are a few ideas to try out:

  • Splash: Add dynamism to your portrait work by throwing water at your model (but only with their permission, of course!).
  • Droplets: Create some droplets (with a spray bottle or a syringe, if necessary), get your macro lens out, and photograph some little refracted worlds.
  • Ice: Take photos of objects frozen in ice. It’ll give your still life photos a very different feel!
water droplet refraction photography

Hopefully, now that you’ve finished this article, you’re feeling inspired – and you’re ready to grab some cool photography accessories!

So go out and purchase your tools. Then have fun capturing unique photos!

Now over to you:

Do you have any creative photography tools you recommend? Which of the items on this list is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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