Let's face it, us photographers like expensive stuff. DSLRs, lenses, tripods, camera cases - and none of it comes cheap. So how do you please that photographer on your holiday gift list without mortgaging your home to do it? Yes! It is possible, and here's a handy little shopping list to get you started.
If you know someone whose go-to lens cleaning tool is the corner of his t-shirt, consider getting him a LensPEN for Christmas. This is a portable, fluid-free lens cleaning system. It has a brush for getting rid of dust and a microfiber disk that eliminates fingerprints and smudges. Instead of fluid it uses a dry carbon cleaning compound. It costs less than $10 and can be easily stowed away in even the most compact camera bag.
No, the kids did not stick your expensive camera lens in the dishwasher (whew!) This is the LenZcup, one of many similar products on the market - cups that are made to look like camera lenses. Shop around a little and you'll find travel mugs (like this one), shot glasses and thermoses, all in the shape of your favorite camera lenses.
Holga Plastic Camera
If you look at this thing and think, "That looks like a cheap piece of junk," well, you're exactly right. This is a cheap plastic film camera that is hailed for "producing whimsical images that have vignetting, soft focus and the enchanting possibility of light leaks." Yes, light leaks. But if you look at some of the sample images from the Holga, you might be intrigued. This camera takes very cool lo-fi images that are great for experimenting and capturing artsy images. And if you think the photographer on your list might be put off by a film camera, you can get a Holga lens for his Nikon or Canon DSLR instead.
It may not be immediately obvious how one of these will benefit a photographer, but a few minutes in a poor lighting situation will make it all clear. An LED flashlight is closer to daylight than a standard flashlight is, so it can be used as a fill light during the day, or in a pinch to provide illumination in place of a flash at night. A flashlight is a lot easier to maneuver than even an off-camera flash, too. If you've never tried light-painting, one of these flashlights can also be used instead of a glow-stick, and you can even get versions with colored filters.
A less boring camera strap
The strap that comes with a DSLR is perfectly functional, but it doesn't really say much about the personality of the photographer. Fortunately, you can add some style to any photographer's gear without spending a lot of money. Camera straps come in many different colors and styles and are great gifts for almost anyone who has a digital camera.
iPhone Camera Lens
The iPhone 5 comes standard with a pretty impressive digital camera, with photo quality that easily rivals some of today's better point-and-shoot digital cameras. So if your favorite photographer's second camera is her iPhone, try getting her a fish-eye, macro or combo lens that is specially designed for phone photography. These little lenses are easy to carry and inexpensive, and there are dozens of variations on the market.
Recycled film roll magnets
Old Style Film Roll Magnets
Everyone needs a few refrigerator magnets, and these are cool, retro ways to hold those family photos or first-grade drawings in place. You can also find other variations on recycled film rolls, including 4 to 8GB USB flash drives.
Hot Shoe Mounted Bubble Level
If you take a lot of photographs that include a horizon, you've probably been at least occasionally annoyed by images of crooked oceans and cock-eyed landscapes. Chances are the other photographers in your life have been, too. This is a stocking-stuffer worthy little gadget that just slips into a camera's hot shoe and instantly tells the photographer how off-kilter his photo is going to be, thus saving all that cropping and tilting in Photoshop after the fact.
Popup Flash Diffuser
Sometimes there's just no way around it, you have to use your flash or lose the shot. But never fear, photographers no longer need to resign themselves to those ugly flash-induced shadows or washed out faces. Slip one of these diffusers into your loved-one's stocking and she'll have a great little portable diffuser that will soften those dreaded flash images and maybe even save a few Christmas morning shots.
Collapsible Light Reflectors
These are cheap, portable and oh-so useful. Sometimes you just really need fill light, and if you have one of these stashed in your gear bag you can quickly take it out, get the shot, fold it back up and stash it away again. This is a great gift for anyone who does a lot of shooting at mid-day and needs something to help fill in those harsh full-sun shadows.
Camera remotes are great tools, especially for photographers who do a lot of shooting in low light or in other situations where a tripod is necessary. They are inexpensive and very simple to use, just make sure that you buy a model that will work with your friend or family member's camera.
This particular Gorillapod is great for smaller digital cameras (they also make models that work with heavier DSLRs, which are priced between $50 and $60). The beauty of the Gorillapod is that it is flexible, which means that almost anything can become your tripod--from a chain link fence to a tree branch or a metal railing. Just coil the Gorillapod around a stable, stationary object and use your built-in timer or cable release to take the shot.
Photographers love to wander off the beaten track in search of that unusual, undiscovered subject that will make for a never-before-seen image. Unfortunately this may also mean that a photographer who suffers from a less-than-perfect sense of direction may end up getting lost in the woods. At around $50, the Bushnell BackTrack is on the pricier end of the scale but if your budget allows would make for a great gift for someone who does a lot of outdoor photography.
By the way, this holiday shopping guide is actually a wishlist cleverly designed as a gift buying guide. Feel free to print it out and pass it on to your friends and family, who may be looking for good ideas for your holiday gift, too.
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