My 2012 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

I usually roll out one of these every year around this time to help give a few ideas to those of you looking to buy something for the photographer in your life. Of course that could be yourself but I’m sure you are deserving. So here’s a couple of things about my guide that you need to know. First, everything in here is something that I own, have used/read, and would recommend to my friends. Second, and this is the disclaimer part, I have offered up links to these products, most of which are on Amazon. I do get a referral when you buy from the link (this does not raise the price one cent) but don’t think that you have to buy from Amazon. Most of these products can be located in any number of retailers including B&H Photo, Adorama, Calumet/Penn Camera, etc. I list them in Amazon because that’s where I do a lot of my shopping and they usually offer some of the best prices. Please search around and get your best price, or use just use my links. Associate fees help me offset the cost of this website and I appreciate it when you use them. One last thing, I will be pimping my books, but only because I think they make good gifts. I wouldn’t incude them, or write them, if I didn’t think they were any good. Okay, let’s get the good stuff…


Topaz Labs Plug-Ins

Topaz Labs makes some of my favorite plug-ins, with Topaz Adjust 5 and Topaz Detail 3 being at the top of my list. You can buy these two individually for $49 and $39 respectively. You can also purchase the entire bundle of Topaz plug-ins, 11 in all, for $299. You can find out more and download free trials at there website – LINK

AOC 16″ USB Monitor

Have you ever been working on your laptop and wished that you had a second monitor? I do, especially when working in a program like Lightroom. The problem is that most monitors will cost quite a bit and not be all that portable. That’s where the AOC 16″ USB monitor comes in. It is a 16″ monitor that is powered and connected via USB. Just plug it in and you are ready to rock dual screens. It’s not like adding an Apple Cinema display, but it does a great job of offering more screen real-estate when you need it. The best part is that it’s under $100. LINK

Colormunki Photo

Take it from a colorblind photographer, if you want to take all of the guess work out of printing, you need a good color management system and the ColorMunki Photo from X-Rite is the best and easiest system I have ever used. All I have to do is hang it over my monitor and let the automatic calibration software do its thing. When it is done I have a properly color-calibrated screen. Then I create custom printer profiles for my printer and all my different papers using the ColorMunki. Now, what I see on the screen is what I get on paper. No more tweaking from print to print. It’s a little pricey but well worth the $450 price tag. LINK

X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

Of course a calibrated monitor and printer won’t do you any good if you can’t properly render the colors of the images coming out of your camera. That’s why I use the ColorChecker Passport system from X-Rite. It’s really simple. All you have to do is take a picture of the passport before you start your photo shoot. Then, when you are back at your computer, use the software to create a custom camera profile. Once you make the profile you can load it for your images in Lightroom or Camera Raw. You can also use the ColorChecker to get perfect white balance. The great thing about this system is that you can create different camera profiles for different lighting environments, depending on where you are shooting. It will also help to match colors when you are shooting with more than one camera, think second shooter at a wedding. The Passport is small and easily fits in your camera bag or pocket so you can always be sure you will have accurate colors in your images. The cost for the ColorChecker Passport and profile software is $99 LINK. You can save $50 if you bundle the ColorCheck with the ColorMunki Photo LINK

 Epson Stylus Photo R3000

There are a lot of different printers that you can choose from these days but the one that sits on my desk is the Epson Stylus Photo R3000. This is a 13″ wide printer that produces amazing images. Some of my favorite features are the larger 25.9 ml ink tanks, advanced media handling system for printing on different types of media, the 802.11 wireless connectivity, and the auto-switching black inks that let me go from photo to matte black without having to pull ink tanks. The prints that come out of this thing are amazing, which more than justifies the cost (about $750). It’s not for everyone but if you are serious about your printing, you can’t go wrong with the R3000 LINK.

Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper

You might think that paper is a weird gift but if the photographer in your life likes to print their own images, they will truly appreciate the beauty of Epson Exhibition Fiber paper. I usually print on Premium Luster, but when I am making something for my own walls you can bet that it’s going to be on Exhibition Fiber. This stuff is heavy, with the feel of real photographic paper. And the surface is glossy without being overly shiny and reflective. It’s the perfect paper for printing your next work of art. It comes in all sizes including 13×19, which goes for about $100 for a box of 25 sheets LINK


Giottos Rocket Air Blaster

This would make a great stocking stuffer and, at $10, it is a real bargain. The Giottos Rocket Air Blaster is a great little tool for keeping dust and grit out of your camera gear. The unique design only allows air to enter the bulb from the back of the blaster, which means you aren’t sucking dust into it from the nozzle. This is great for cleaning your bodies, lenses, and even sensors LINK

Visible Dust EZ Sensor Cleaning Kit

Speaking of cleaning your sensors, sometimes a gentle puff of air is not going to be enough to remove spots from your sensor. You could spend hours with the spot removal tool in Lightroom or, you could spend just a few minutes giving your sensor the cleaning that it really needs. The EZ Sensor Cleaning Kit from Visible Dust is easy to use and will do a fantastic job of removing all those annoying spots from your images. It’s well worth the $21 price tag. Be sure to choose the right size for your camera sensor – 1.0 for full frame and 1.6 for APS-C and DX sensors. LINK

LensPen DSLR Pro Camera Cleaning Kit

This is the perfect trio of products to keep all of your camera optics clean and clear. There are three different LensPens in the DSLR Pro kit including the original, for your lens, the FilterKlear for cleaning flat glass like filters, and the MicroPro, which is perfect for viewfinders or cell phone camera lenses. There’s also a microfiber cloth for general lens cleaning. That’s a whole lot of cleaning power for just $17. LINK


Hoodman HoodLoupe

The older my eyes get, the more I appreciate my Hoodman HoodLoupe. Not only does it let you get a crystal clear view of your LCD screen in broad daylight, it also has a diopter built in so that you can focus it for a perfect view. If you shoot outside, or just have old eyes like me, the HoodLoupe is the perfect accessory. Version 3.0 (for 3″ displays) runs about $75. LINK

Hoodman HSLRM Cinema Straps

If you like to shoot video with your DSLR you might want this handy little accessory for the Hoodman HoodLoupe. It’s called a Cinema Strap and it lets you attach your HoodLoupe to your camera so you can hold it up to your eye and monitor your lcd during movie recording. It’s only $17 and is the prefect tool for movie making. LINK

Rode VideoMic

Speaking of recording movies, most cameras today allow for the use of an external microphone. That’s a good thing since most internal mics are pretty poor at picking up audio away from the camera. That’s why I like to use the Rode VideoMic. It attaches to the camera hotshoe and uses a condensor microphone with high-pass filtering that provides a much higher quality audio track for your movies. The cost for the VideoMic is about $145, which seems expensive until you start looking at other options and then you will see that it is quite the bargain. LINK

Spider Pro SCS -Single camera System Camera Holster

I prefer to shoot without a camera strap attached to my camera, which is why I fell in love with the Spider Pro Holster system. The system is comprised of a plate that attaches to the bottom of your camera and a slotted holster that attaches to a belt. The plate has a pin that slides into the holster so when you are walking around with the camera, you just slide the camera into the holster and the camera hangs at your side. You can have it locked into the holster or unlocked for even faster access. I was wearing one of these while I was shooting the Gold Cup races and it was a big hit with all the other photographers. It’s a definite must if you are carrying more than one camera. You can purchase the entire system (camera plate, holster, and belt with thigh pad) for $135. LINK


Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom Flexible Tripod + BH1 Ball Head

There are times when a full-size tripod just isn’t practical, but that doesn’t mean that you have to go without. The GorillaPod is a great alternative that lets you stabilize your camera in just about any circumstance. You can use it as a tripod or wrap the flexible legs around a pole. And when you are done, it’s small enough that you can just throw it in your camera bag. My GorillaPod has traveled around the World with me and has helped me grab some great images. The added bonus for this model is the ballhead, which let’s you point your camera right where you want with very little effort. This combo is available for about $60. LINK

Manfrotto Magic Arm with Camera Bracket

Another great tool for securing your camera when a tripod isn’t an option is the Magic Arm from Manfrotto. My buddy RC Concepcion has used this rig to get shots from observation decks high above the New York City skyline, where a tripod would definitely be a no-no. He just attaches it to a railing or pole and then takes his long exposure HDR shots. This is a great item to have if you find that you are sticking your camera in tight spaces but still need to have it stabilized. The Magic Arm costs $105 and includes the camera mounting plate. LINK Be sure to check out the next item to make your arm complete.

Manfrotto Super Clamp

The Magic Arm has a camera plate on one end but the other has a standard stud, much like what you would find on the end of a light stand. If you want to add maximum flexibility to your magic arm, you need to get the Manfrotto Super Clamp. The stud secures into the clamp, which allows you to secure it to just about anything you can get the jaws around. The V-shaped notch in the bottom of the clamp is perfect for attaching to poles and trust me when I tell you that when this thing is locked down, it doesn’t move. You can also use the clamp for a number of other photographic tasks and it is the perfect tool to have in your photographic bag of tricks. The Super Clamp comes with its own standard stud and sells for $27. LINK

Adorama Single Focusing Rail

Here’s a handy little accessory to have in your bag if you are in to macro photography. It’s called a focusing rail and it mounts between your camera and your tripod head. It is used to get exact focus, not by focusing the lens, but by moving the camera back and forth. It is especially useful when using a macro lens or extension tubes. There are a lot of different models but this one is a steal at just $19.95. LINK

Fotodiox Macro Extension Tube Set Kit for Extreme Close-up

If you want a nice macro companion to the focusing rail, check out some extension tubes like these from Fotodiox. Extension tubes are just that, they are tubes the move the optics of your lens further from the plane of the camera sensor. This allows you to put your lens closer to your subject and get higher degrees of magnification. This set comes with three rings of varying sizes that can be used individually or stacked together. Help your photographer discover a whole new world for about $10. The tubes come in both Nikon and Canon EF mounts.

Get Flashy –

Sanyo eneloop 4 Pack AA Rechargeable Batteries with Charger

There are a lot of rechargeable batteries on the market but the Sanyo eneloops are my battery of choice for use in electronic flashes. First, they come fully charged right out of the package. Second, they don’t have any memory so you can recharge them no matter if they are full or empty. Finally, they last longer over a period of time than any other rechargeable I have ever used. A four-pack runs just under $19 and includes the charger. You can also buy bundles of batteries so that you never run out of juice during those long shooting sessions. LINK

Rogue FlashBenders Reflector

One of the best ways to improve the quality of light from a hotshoe flash is to bounce it off of a reflector. The Rogue FlashBender reflector does this in a very unique way. It attaches to the camera with a strap and then you can bend the reflector into just about any shape you want so that you get perfectly sculpted light on your subject. You can even roll it into a tube and use it like a snoot. This is a really versatile tool that will instantly improve your flash photography, all for about $40. LINK

Manfrotto Spring Clamp with Flash Shoe

If you have ever seen Joe McNally give a small flash class then you have most likely seen him using one of these very useful clamps. Joe calls them Justin clamps but the official name is the Manfrotto Spring Clamp with Flash Shoe. It is a pretty simple device but if you shoot off-camera flash it can be indispensable. The clamp portion lets you attach to poles, tables, tree limbs, etc. There is also a way to attach it to a standard light stand post. The real joy of the clamp is the cold shoe on the swivel head. Place a flash on the end and you can place it just about anywhere you need it. It is the perfect off-camera flash accessory at a price of $54. LINK


Digital Photography Boxed Set

Whether you are just starting out in photography or have been at it for some time, you are sure to find all sorts of valuable nuggets in Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Book series. This boxed set contains all four volumes and is a real bargain at just $56. LINK

Exposure: From Snapshots to Great Shots

My Exposure book is all of the photography goodness that is found in my camera specific books but stripped of the camera specific details. In other words, it teaches you how to take great photos using any camera you have. Once you have learned the basics, you can apply them to any photographic endeavor and be successful. This one will run you about $15. LINK

My Camera Books

I have written numerous Snapshots to Great Shots books for different camera models including the new Nikon D800 and Canon Rebel T4i. Each of these books contains information on how to use the specific features of the camera to create better photographs. Be sure to check out my author page to see if there is one for you. LINK


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