November 27th, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas for Photographers

It's that time of year again - and maybe you're stumped for a gift idea for your favorite photographer.

I'm here to help out. Here's my updated list of relatively inexpensive gift ideas to share.

Gift Ideas for Photographers

- Subscription to Rangefinder magazine (FREE!) - this is the magazine of Wedding & Portrait Photographer's International (WPPI). Visit www.rangefindermag.com to subscribe.

- Subscription to Vogue ($15) - Okay, maybe you're wondering about this one. Why subscribe to a fashion magazine? Simple - it's 700+ pages each month of great photography! It's like getting a book every month full of the latest work by the best commercial photographers. Visit www.vogue.com and follow the "subscribe" link.

- Gels - this one may come as a surprise. Maybe you've been wanting to get into using more gels or you're just not sure where to start. How about you just get them all for a couple of bucks? That's right, Rosco - THE name in gels - offers two swatchbooks filled samples of their gels in a 1.75" x 2.75" size - perfect for taping to the front of your speedlight. Each swatchbook runs about $2 at B&H.  If you want gels that are a little bigger (3"x5"), spring for Rosco's Roscolux Designer Color Selector Swatchbook for $22.50.

- Softlighter - of all the umbrellas out there, this is one to be sure you have in your collection. The Photek Softlighter is a favorite of many top photographers. You can use is as a shoot through or reflective umbrella, with or without a black cover. It has 10 spokes instead of the usual 8 and the shaft unscrews at its midpoint for positioning close to your subject. It also comes with a removable diffusion panel to create a softbox light quality. Sizes range from 36"-60" with prices from $50-$80. This is a great modifier for studio and location work due to its portability and versatility.

- Giottos Rocket ($8) - do you have little spots on your images because your sensor has gotten dust on it? Maybe you don't need an expensive cleaning, you just need to blow the dust off. The Rocket creates a blast of air that's clean - just squeeze away. A special valve makes it so the rocket doesn't suck dust back into its chamber only to blast it back onto your sensor. Cool, cheap and fits easily in your camera bag. You either have one or need one.

- Photovision calibration targets - I'm always beating the drum about these targets because they're a great way to nail both exposure and white balance. They come with an instructional DVD to walk you through step-by-step on how to use them. Best of all, they're on sale through 10/29 at www.photovisionvideo.com.

-X-Rite Colorchecker Passport - This little device appears simple but does some really cool stuff - it allows you to create custom camera profiles for any shooting situation. That sounds complicated but it's really easy and you'll be amazed at how dialed in your colors will appear. Typically these go for about $99 but you can find 10% discounts if you search.

- Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera by Bryan Peterson. This book is simply a joy to read for every photographer. You'll learn tons about what you can do with just your camera. It's better than any manual that came with your camera. Under $20 at Amazon.

- Manfrotto 3095M Mini Backlight stand - this is a little stand for use with a monolight. I get tons of questions about this stand at workshops. Own your own for $28 from B&H.

- Rosco Slit Drape - ignore this crazy name - this item is usually called a rain curtain. It's a sheet of mylar that has been cut into little streamers for use as a backdrop. Think of a cheesy Las Vegas magician and you'll know the type of backdrop. It's not for everyone but it's an easily-stored backdrop that you can combine with other backdrops and gels for a variety of effects. A single drape is $12.50 at B&H but you'll want to get two or three to get enough width for shooting. A definite "fun factor" item.

- Itoya Art Portfolio Advantage Book - looking for a great binder to show off your prints? This is simple and the pages won't interfere with viewing your prints. Prices range up to $30 for the 11x14 size at B&H.

- Manfrotto Background Paper Counterweight - I have to admit that this item is a little odd for a gift. You'll love it and the giver will wonder why. This item clips onto the bottom of seamless background paper and adds the weight necessary to keep it smooth. A real time saver. About $33 from B&H.

- Studio rental - Waveform Studio (www.waveformaustin.com) now rents photography studio space for $20/hour. Imagine your favorite photographer's reaction when you tell them you've rented a fully equipped photography studio for them to use!

- Gizmos galore!  Visit www.photojojo.com/store for a wide selection of unusual photography gizmos that cover everything from lens adapters for your iPhone to lenses to turn your DSLR into a Holga (your photographer buddy will know what a Holga is). My favorite - coffee mugs that are exact replicas of popular lenses.

- Go local - Precision Camera is Austin's place for everything photography. Give your photographer a gift certificate and they can use it for equipment, lights and accessories. If they have all the gear they need, they can use it at Precision Camera's photo lab for professional quality prints. Gift certificates can also be redeemed for a wide range of photography classes. Visit www.precision-camera.com.

Finally - if you're stuck on what to get your mom this year I'll tell you what she really want - a new photo of you!  Book a session with your best photographer friend, get some big prints, frame them, wrap them up really nice and watch mom cry when she opens it!

Happy holidays!

Austin Texas Photographer Tim Babiak