The holiday season is finally over, and now you can put aside all that gift-buying stress and settle into the new year.
Wait, you mean it's the holiday season again, already? How did that happen?
Yes, it is true, the months have flown by practically without you noticing and it's now time to shop for the holidays again. You're a photographer, so you likely have friends who are also photographers. If not, you probably enjoy getting gifts yourself (who doesn't?) but you may not really have any ideas about what you might want this year. Whether you're in the first category or the second category, I'm going to make this easy for you. Because at the rate at which the holiday season comes and goes, you need all the help you can get.
Gifts over $50
The Foldio ($55)
Good light is hard to find. If you're the sort of person who likes to photograph small things but hates having to wait until the golden hour, you could use a Foldio. This little portable light box has its own set of LED lights and can be folded flat when not in use. Foldio retails for about 50 bucks and is a great gift for anyone who enjoys taking macro photos but doesn't have the space or the inclination to set up a professional studio. Note: The Foldio2 is a Kickstarter project which is a site for crowd funding. You won't receive this before Christmas, and also be aware of the risks.
Game Camera ($60 to $160)
If the photographer on your list lives in a rural area and spends a lot of time telling you about the raccoons that knocked over his trash or the deer that ate his tomatoes, consider getting him a game camera. Game cameras don't require any actual photographic skills, but they're still pretty cool. Mount one on a tree and leave it there overnight, and it will automatically take photographs of any animals that happen to cross its path. Some models can shoot time-lapse and video, too. Game cameras cost anywhere from $60 to $160, depending on features.
A camera bag that doesn't look like a camera bag ($100 to $200)
The trouble with camera bags is that they look like camera bags. That's fine for most situations, but there are some scenarios where you may not want to look like a camera-toting tourist. Or maybe you would rather have something posh and stylish to carry your gear around in. It used to be tough to find camera bags that fell into this category, but today there are more and more manufacturers who make camera bags that look like purses, messenger bags or backpacks. Epiphane makes a series of camera bags for men and women, but you can also find similar bags by Kelly, Jill-E and Jo Totes.
Oh! Wow. LED Ring Light ($99)
If you've spent any time shooting macro you've probably also spent time pining for a decent ring-light system. The sad truth about macro is that sometimes the light and the weather just don't work in your favor—on windy days, you can't shoot at those smaller apertures you need to get good depth of field across your tiny subjects, because those slow shutter speeds lead to motion blur. And direct flash doesn't help either, because a) you're too close to get even light and b) it's direct flash. Until now, ring lights have been out of your price range, but now you can get this simple ring of LED lights. It only costs $100 and fits both Canon and Nikon DSLRs. It plugs into your hot shoe and gives you soft, even light at three different levels of brightness. Use it for macro, or use it during indoor, evening events—any time when you might otherwise be tempted to use your popup flash.
Gifts $50 and under
Holga Filter Wheel ($30)
Lomography is really cool but not everyone likes mucking around with film. If your photographic friend or family member loves that lomo look but has never shown interest in a Holga, why not get her this cool attachment for her DSLR. The really cool thing about this little device is that you don't have to waste your time digging through your filter pouch to find just the right one—the Holga Filter Wheel gives you 18 different filters and prisms and all you have to do to switch between them is turn the wheel.
Selfie Stick ($30)
You may love them or you may hate them, but selfies are a feature of our time. If the photographer on your list is a younger person, the chances are pretty good that a lot of the photographs he takes are selfies. And because almost no one loves to see their arm in a selfie, why not get your selfie-shooting niece, nephew or otherwise one of these super-cool devices. This telescoping extension tool doesn't require bluetooth or extra batteries—just plug it into your Smartphone's headphone socket and "click" to take the photo.
Gifts $25 and under
The Photographer's Pouch ($12)
Even modern camera bags don't always have those small pockets that we need to store little, easy-to-lose items such as memory cards, filters and cables. But don't be tempted to put those memory cards in your back pocket, instead get one of these little pouches that you can stash inside of your camera bag and use to keep those little things on hand. These pouches attach securely to the inside of your camera bag with a velcro back, and are made out of soft felt in case you want to store things that might cause inadvertent damage to your equipment, like your car keys.
USB film roll ($20)
Yes, it is true, some of us are still pining for the days of film. We miss smell of a brand new roll of TX 400, we miss those little gray and black film canisters—the only thing we don't miss is how long we had to wait for it all to come back from the lab. If the photographer on your list is one of these types, consider getting him a recycled film canister USB device. With one of these cool little things, he can be retro and modern all at the same time.
Close up filters ($12)
Everyone loves macro photographs, but true macro lenses are expensive. If your photographer friend or family member is on a budget (and you are too), why not consider getting him a set of close-up filters? These filters screw onto the lens you already own and cost a fraction of what you might spend on a macro lens. This set comes with four filters in different strengths: +1, +2, +4, and +10.
Gifts $10 and under
Snack Caps Lens Covers ($10)
There's no way around it, lens caps are boring. They're plain black and they have a logo on them. Yawn. Let's face it, it really doesn't get any more boring than that.
But there really isn't any reason why you or any of your DSLR-toting friends should have to be stuck with boring. You can liven up your camera with these "Snack Caps," which fit 52mm, 58mm, 72mm and 77mm lenses (52mm, 58mm and 72mm versions also come with a lens leash, so you won't accidentally lose your cool new Snack Cap). How about one that has a burger on it? Or a donut? These lens caps make great gifts and are inexpensive, too.
Birds on a Wire Picture Hangers ($9)
Everyone loves to display photographs, but most people don't go out and buy a frame for every 4x6 print they're particularly proud of. Here's a simple and fun way to display photos: "Birds on a Wire" picture hangers, which feature four different bird shapes and simply let you clip your favorite photos to a line. Birds on a Wire make it much easier to swap photos out for new ones, too. The package comes with eight clips and a 36 inch cord to mount them on.
Gear Ties ($3)
These are cheap, stocking-stuffer variety gifts and are surprisingly useful for the money. These gear ties can be used like hardware store variety zip ties, but they're a lot more easier to take on and off and adjust when you need to. Use them to tidy up cables or to help you keep stuff neatly packed away in your camera bag. Put one around your lunch bag to avoid getting crumbs inside your DSLR. The only limit to the usefulness of these things is your imagination.
Heavy Duty Photographic Sandbag ($6)
Have you ever tried to use a tripod on a windy day? At best, you get camera-shaken images, at worst, your whole rig might tip over, resulting in a tragic case of smashed DSLR. If you've got a camera bag with you, you can hang that off of your tripod, but these sandbags are designed just for that purpose and can be added to or subtracted from as needed—a little weight on a breezy day, or a lot of weight on a gusty one. Keep a few of them stashed in the trunk of your car for those times when you need them.
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