10 Great Gifts for the Photographer on Your List

Gifts for Photographers

1. Digital Photo Frame
There’s nothing quite like seeing prints of your photographs for the first time, but sometimes you just need another way to show off your images without having to frame them all. This frame looks like it could hang with the rest of the photos and is a great alternative for someone who is constantly shooting.

2. 500px Plus/Awesome Account
The rapidly growing online photography community, 500px, helps photographers showcase their work while connecting with others and finding inspiration. Give your favourite shutterbug the gift of unlimited uploads and sign them up for an upgraded account.

3. Into Focus Lens Mug
Photographers eat, sleep, and breathe their craft. Now they can drink it too. This lens mug is a fun gift for the truly obsessed cameraperson.

4. SD Card
A commonly overlooked but no-brainer gift, an SD card is a great way to support your image enthusiast’s work. You will never hear anyone complain about having too much image storage and this 32g SanDisk card should do the trick.

5. Camera Keychain
A cute trinket, this keychain accessory is a fun way for someone to show off their obsession without having to wear a camera around their neck. It even makes a shutter sound and has an LED “flash”!

6. GorillaPod
For the photographer who loves to get that crazy angle or hates carrying around a full tripod, JOBY’s GorillaPod is a lifesaver. Sturdy enough to support an SLR with a zoom lens, the GorillaPod’s three legs can be wrapped around almost anything, creating the potential for truly unique perspectives.

7. 100 Ideas That Changed Photography
Creating can be tough, especially in a bustling industry. It is inevitable that, like all artists, a photographer will find themselves in a rut one day.  This book explains 100 concepts that changed photography over the years, giving new inspiration from the origins of the craft.

8. 50mm f/1.8 Lens
Whether they’re shooting Canon, Nikon, or anything else, this lens is a must for any photographer. The low aperture capabilities are essential to creating captivating portraits with blown-out backgrounds and highlighting key focal points. Check out the Nikon lens or the Canon lens.

9. Right Angle Mirror Spy Lens
For the photographer who isn’t quite comfortable approaching strangers or drawing their attention, this super spy lens is super handy. While the photographer aims the lens at one subject, it is actually taking a picture of whatever is 90 degrees to the left or right.

10. 4 Piece Filter Set
Of the many add-ons a photographer can use to create a specific look, filters are one of the easiest and most cost effective. This set contains the four most commonly used filters a photographer could want.

The $100 Portrait Lighting Challenge

$100 flash challenge
The components of my $100 portrait lighting challenge assembled

In the recent past we covered basic three point lighting for portraits and basic five point lighting. That’s all well and good if you have a space big enough for a studio and can afford the equipment. But what do you do when you’re just starting out and can’t afford all that? Or you have to choose between portrait lighting and your kid’s braces? There are also many situations where you want to shoot fast and scoot along without the overhead of setting up big lights.

Today I thought it would be fun to put together an ultra-el cheapo, one light, hand-held system that will still take a decent portrait and try to keep the price tag below $100. Here’s what I came up with and today’s prices.

Yongnuo YN-467 Flash (I had one of these left over from another article) $76.65

A Neewer 33in Translucent Umbrella $7.07

Flash Shoe Holder Type B with Umbrella Holder $7.95

That all comes to $91.67. I picked the components for value, price and versatility. The umbrella you can use as a shoot-through or shoot turn the flash around and shoot into it. It yields a nice soft light that works surprisingly well for portraits.

No flash sync cable or wireless controllers this time, neither one was in the budget. To make it work off-camera, I’m going to set the flash power manually and use my camera’s built-in flash to trigger the external flash in slave mode. But to keep the built-in flash from taking over, I’m going to shoot in Program mode, manual flash operation, and crank the flash exposure compensation down to -2 ⅔.

Now the built-in flash is way underexposed but still bright enough to fire the slave trigger so most of the usable light is coming from the external flash, but there’s still enough from the built-in flash to fill in some of the shadows without being too harsh.

model photo jone
Proof is in the pudding. For $100 in lighting gear I think that looks really good.

The flash bracket is the type that can be mounted on a flash stand, which you can pick up for around $20.

Since I already have a flash stand I’m going to use it even though that, technically, puts me over budget. I could just as easily hand-hold it or get someone to hold it for me, so I’m claiming the $100 price point victory anyway!

Okay, fellow cheapskates, show me what you got.  Let’s see how many of you can beat my $100 rig on price and quality.

model shot three
I think these came out excellent and I didn't have to advertise myself as a "natural light photographer"
model shot two
I used AfterShot Pro for a little touch up, but I would not be embarrassed to charge money for these shots.


Digital Workflow – The Options

I've rarely been in a professional studio that didn't have a copy of Lightroom on hand

Much of your digital workflow is going to be dictated by the software tools you select to do your basic image manipulation and organizing. The tools you select will in part be determined by the type of computer you have and your budget.

Your digital workflow is really composed of two elements: Image organization and image manipulation.

Image Manipulation

Adobe Creative Suite

The gold standard for most commercial photographers is still Adobe Creative Suite, now at version 5.5 with 6 expected soon. The advantage to Adobe products is the fit, finish and integrated workflow. The downside is the price tag. The full version of Design Premium is just short of $2,000, more than many of you paid for your camera! Design Standard is still over $1,200. Recently, Adobe has started sticking it to their user base on upgrade pricing as well and limiting the older versions that qualify for upgrade pricing.

It’s my opinion that Adobe products are over-priced for what you get, but there are certainly compelling arguments to the contrary.


Gimp for Windows

GIMP has been around forever but lacks the sophistication and polish of Photoshop. The advantages of GIMP are the price tag and huge user base of support.

GIMP keeps getting better every year, so do check in it from time to time. You might be surprised.

Image Organization

Adobe Lightroom

Lightroom is the application you’ll find in most professional studios using Windows. You’ll find it in some Mac shops as well, but more Mac users are using Aperture.



Known to users of Linux for a long time, Digikam was recently packaged for Windows users as well. I use Digikam because it runs on both my Linux and Windows boxes and I like it.

Digikam puts professional level image organization and basic corrections in your hands for free. What I can’t live without in Digikam is the automated batch processing.

Hasselblad Phocus

I don’t like Phocus as well as Lightroom or Digikam but I want to give Hasselblad credit for coming up with a very polished application that’s available for the trouble of a free registration. Originally developed to work only with Hasselblad raw images, they have opened it up to other users and image formats.

After some initial issues with DirectX, I found Phocus to be a very nice application for cropping, straightening and color corrections. I’d highly recommend giving it a try.

The $8.99 Flash Snoot, Lunch Included

One of my friends at Pixel-Mesh took a few household tools and the leftover pizza box from his lunch and fashioned it into a homemade flash snoot that yielded surprisingly good results.  A snoot restricts the light and allows you to direct it at a specific location, helping you to eliminate “light spill”

The Tools

Razor knife, builders square, and dark duct tape (it's not a hack without duct tape)

A razor knife, builders square and a roll of dark colored duct tape (you knew duct tape was going to make an appearance somewhere).






Using The Top of The Box

Any flat piece of cardboard will do, but will they also be a pizza scented air freshener?

Cut the outline of the snoot shape and cover the cardboard with a layer of duct tape.





Fold Into the Proper Shape

Tape flat first

Fold into the proper shape and tape it into position.





Then tape into shape








Attach to The Flash

The homemade snoot attached to the flash

If you sized it right it will fit on the flash without taping it.





The Results

With the flash attached to a Canon 5D MKII the results are not bad, not bad at all.

First Steps On Your Journey In Photography

Many of you are just beginning your journey in photography with cameras you received or bought for yourself over the holidays. 2011 may not go down in many record books as a banner year, but it was a great year for discounts on high end camera equipment. Many of you are now carrying in your hand some of the most advanced and sophisticated optical imaging devices ever created!

Starting out is an exciting time. Every photographer remembers their first really amazing image the same way romantics remember their first kiss.

So, from those of use who have been in the business for many years, here are some suggestions for your first steps in your new passion of photography.

Learn About RAW

Jared Polin from FroKnowsPhoto.com looks at the difference between RAW and JPEG. Raw photos save more info about the image, allowing greater control when editing.

While many of you may have a fantastic new camera, you may not have an editing program capable of handling RAW images. It’s okay if you can only work with JPEGs at first but, if your camera supports it, do shoot RAW+JPEG even though it will burn through your card storage space like wildfire. Even if you can’t work with RAW images right away, save copies of your images in RAW format so you can revisit them in the future.

RAW images are everything your camera sensor records while capturing an image and much of that data is discarded by the compression to JPEG. Once that data is gone, it’s gone forever if you don’t have a RAW backup.

Compression artifacts are not the problem they were a few years ago. JPEG compression has improved dramatically over the years but it’s still a good idea to keep those RAW image copies around in case new imaging technologies arise in the future.

Read The Manual

I know I sound like a broken record when it comes to reading the manual, but cameras are so sophisticated today, packed with so many features, that it really is time well spent. You don’t have to memorize where every feature and menu item is located, just know they’re in there. You can always drag out the manual later if you need to look up a particular feature.

Get A Skylight Filter

photo by Ondra Soukup

Look on the barrel of your lens or check the manual (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) for the filter size of your new lens and order a skylight filter right now. It’s really just a clear piece of glass, but it can save your lens.

Every photographer in the business very long has a cracked or crushed skylight filter on a shelf somewhere that would have been their lens without the sky filter.

Get a Rain Sleeve

Photo by Rachel

While you’re ordering your skylight filter, add a rain sleeve like this or this and keep one in your camera bag or jacket pocket at all times.

Weather happens and, even though most new DSLRs have fairly good weather sealing, the amount and quality of that sealing can vary widely. Why risk your camera when rain covers are so cheap? Some day you’ll thank me for that advice when you get back to the car soaking wet but your camera is safe inside its rain sleeve.

Now get out there and take pictures!