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Here’s this week’s photo tip… Since Friday is said to be the biggest shopping day of the year, I asked professional photographer, Shelly Perry, to give us some advice on buying camera accessories (for you or for any photographer you might have on your holiday gift list this year). You’ll find her advice below… Lori Allen Director, Great Escape Publishing ******************* LENSES, AND FLASHES, AND CASES — OH MY! From lenses to flashes, cases, and bags, we’ve got all your photography accessory needs covered this week. This gift guide will give you some ideas for your favorite photographer this holiday season (and maybe a little something for you, too). Let’s start with the basics… LENSES: If your photographer already has a DSLR (that is, a digital SLR), additional lenses are a great “next” purchase. Most people start with the lens that comes with their camera. But a nice mid-range lens, something around 28-135mm, is a useful addition. If the photographer you’re buying for already has a mid-range lens, a telephoto lens (anything above the mid-range length) is a good addition. Some common telephoto lengths are 105mm, 200mm, or 300mm. If the photographer already has a 28-135mm lens, I’d go with a 200mm or 300mm. You might also want to consider a wide-angle lens (e.g. 20mm, 24mm, 28mm, or 35mm), which is great for travel photography, as you can get more of the buildings and up-close scenery. Note: Lens speed will be a factor in the price of the lens — as well as its size. The larger the maximum aperture, the faster the lens is considered (and the better it’ll do in low light situations). An f/2.8 lens is faster (and likely more expensive) than an f/5.6 lens. Faster lenses also make it easier to blur the background in your shots because you can open your aperture wider. Note, too: Lenses are camera-brand-specific, so be sure to ask the sales person for the correct lens to go with a specific camera. FLASH: Every DSLR shooter will at some point want an external flash. External flashes are also camera-specific, so, again, check with the sales person to be sure you’re buying the right one. A diffuser is another great accessory gift, which essentially softens harsh flash light. Gary Fong makes a nice and relatively easy one called Light Sphere, which sells for $50. He also has a new one for the pop-up flash on many cameras (like the Canon Rebel, Nikon D40, and many others) called the Puffer Diffuser, which goes for $20. SHOULDER/NECK STRAP: Most cameras come with a standard neck strap, but this is one item that can easily be upgraded. A new product on the market that I can’t wait to try is called “R Strap” (the R stands for Rapid). One model, the R2, has compartments in the strap for an extra battery, memory cards, business cards or ID, even a cell phone pocket. But the real beauty of these straps is their ease and functionality. CASES AND BAGS: Every photographer needs at least one good camera bag, and there are lots of options out there. Sometimes you need a variety of bags with different functions or suited to different occasions. Here are a few ideas… ** Boda Lens Bag. This was on my list last year. Now I have it and love it. I had a few issues with the bag… but I saw on the Boda site that they’re all fixed in the newest version. These bags (there are two models) are for active shooters who change lenses or carry accessories around with them and need quick-and-easy access. They’re not really for carrying the actual camera, unless it’s a point-and-shoot. ** Think Tank Bag. These are more robust bags for the travel photographer on your list. Think Tank makes some sturdy bags for airline travel, so if you have a lot of gear to take with you on flights, you might want to consider one of these. ** Jill-e Bag. This one’s for the Fashionista on your list. These camera bags come in stylish colors and designs, with options for small point-and-shoot cameras as well as large professional cameras. And the Jack bag’s coming soon, too. ** Skooba Checkpoint-Friendly Laptop Bag. You can zip through the airport security lines without taking your laptop out of this bag. It’s definitely worth a look. SOFTWARE: Nik Software has created some really great programs that work together with Photoshop or Apple Aperture to improve the quality of your photos. One that I tried and liked is called Silver Efex Pro, for black and white photography. It goes for $199.95. Other programs by the same company help reduce noise in images, sharpen, improve color, and more. NEW IMAGE STORAGE SOLUTIONS: Drobo, short for Data Robotics, is a new storage solution on the market this year. There are a couple things that make Drobo very appealing. One is that it’s expandable, so you can add more drives as you need them. And, since Drobo systematically duplicates your data across the drives, you never lose your images — even if a drive fails. This is the sort of painless data storage and backup solution I have been dreaming about. VIRTUAL LOST AND FOUND: First you sign up and create an account with StuffBack.com. Then they send you industrial-strength labels to put on your cameras, phone, laptop, iPod, or other devices you don’t want to lose. Should something go missing, the finder can go directly to StuffBack.com, which will arrange to return your item. These labels are an ideal gift for the photographer who is traveling the world or across town with their expensive equipment. FUN AND FUNKY: If the person you’re shopping for likes to get creative and play around with fun lens options, check out the Composer from Lensbaby. As with other lenses from Lensbaby, it’s a selective-focus SLR lens. It produces quirky, fantastic results, with part of the image in perfect focus and the rest gradually blurred. There are three Lensbaby models available, from $100 to $270. LEARNING: For anyone interested in photography and digital processing using Adobe products, you can’t miss with a subscription to NAPP magazine. Your lucky photographer friend will get a year’s worth of magazines, online tutorials, and member product discounts. I’m pretty sure I make my subscription back every year with discounts alone. INSPIRATION: To help inspire your favorite photographer, you can always get him a photo book that covers a subject of his interest, a location, or a specific artist. Photographer Annie Leibovitz just released a new book called “A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005” which is on my wish list this year. Happy Shopping! [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

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