Often an intimate connection exists between photographer and camera. No doubt, people have their individual preferences when it comes to this sort of equipment.
Regardless, here are a few things that might help when you consider the photo bug on your gift list (even if that photo bug is you).
Keep in mind — along with the personal preferences — the type of camera the person uses (point-and-shoot v. digital SLR) as well as his or her experience level. Always ask the sales person if you’re not sure whether an accessory is camera-specific or not.
That said, here’s what every photographer needs — besides the camera…
If your photographer already has a DSLR (that is, a digital SLR), additional lenses are a great “next” purchase. Most people start with a nice mid-range lens, something around 28-135 mm (50mm is the most commonly used).
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.
Maximum length depends on the type of shooting a person does. For instance, a wildlife or sports shooter would want a longer (and possibly faster) lens than a portrait shooter (the mid-range lens is excellent for portraits).
You might also want to consider a wide-angle lens (anything less then mid-range), which is great for travel photography, as you can get more of the buildings and up-close scenery.
Lenses are camera specific, so be sure to ask the sales person for the correct lens to go with a specific camera.
Every DSLR shooter will at some point need an external flash. External flashes are also camera-specific, so be sure to check again with the sales person to get the right one.
Other items to accompany a good flash are a flash bracket, which moves the flash up and away from the camera body itself, giving a nice angle of light. See some here: http://tinyurl.com/2kvcoc
A diffuser, which essentially softens harsh flash light, is another useful flash accessory. 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. Find it here: http://tinyurl.com/2kn5ul
CASES AND BAGS:
Every photographer needs at least one bag, and there are lots of options out there. A few popular names in bags are Lowepro, Crumpler, and Kata.
Kata makes an interesting bag called the Torso-Pack, which is like a sling you wear in front of your body. Find them here: http://tinyurl.com/yu5vzv
A more robust bag for the traveler on your list is made by Think Tank. They have 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: http://www.thinktankphoto.com .
One bag I spotted recently and would like to give a test-run is the Boda lens bag, for active shooters who change lenses or carry accessories around with them and need quick- and-easy access. It’s not really for carrying the actual camera, unless it’s a point-and-shoot.
Expect to pay anywhere from $20-$100 for a point-and-shoot bag and from $75 on up for a good DSLR bag. Some bags even have dedicated space for a laptop.
Extra batteries for camera and flash are always in demand and make a great stocking stuffer. Check which kind goes with the camera you’re accessorizing.
Memory cards are another always-needed item. Delkin is a high-quality brand name. Again, be sure to get the camera-specific memory.
A hot new item on the market in the memory category is a 2 Gig WiFi card called Eye-Fi. It can remotely upload images directly to your computer and to a number of photo sites as well (JPEG only).
What this means is that you put it in your camera and it acts as your memory chip — and communicates with your computer without any cords or cables. The card currently only comes as SD Memory however, so check to see if it will work with your camera. It runs $99.99 here: http://www.eye.fi/
BLANK CD’S AND DVD’S:
CDs and DVDs are another necessity and a great gift for the photographer on your list, but don’t just buy the first ones you see. Did you know that normal CDs and DVDs have a life expectancy of about 10 years? Delkin makes an archival gold version specifically for the safety and longevity of photos (they tout 100 years), a DVD 10-pack runs about $30. Verbatim has a 50-pack for around $80.
Small, portable hard drives are especially good for the travel photographer, and one, called the Hyper Drive, is on the top of my wish list. You can plug your memory card into it and back up all your photos essentially anywhere, anytime.
It runs on battery power so you don’t even have to have electricity or a computer. It’s fast, super compact, comes in 4 sizes, 60GB – 250GB, takes 18 different memory card types, and the newest models have LCD displays. What’s not to like about all that? Well, it isn’t cheap, I guess — $279-$459 here: http://www.hypershop.com
Most, if not all, cameras come with a shoulder/neck strap. But this is one item you can upgrade substantially for a more comfortable one. I suggest a neoprene material, which helps to absorb and evenly distribute the weight of the camera. That’s especially important if you’re toting a larger camera and or will be out for longer days. Several styles and brands are available for around $15-$30.
A popular little tripod for travel is a Gorilla Pod by Joby. http://www.joby.com/. It’s lightweight, compact, bendable and comes in three different sizes to accommodate everything from point-and-shoots to DSLR cameras. While I think these work fairly well, I don’t recommend them for larger cameras or heaver lenses.
For larger cameras, I’d suggest you invest in a more expensive, more traditional travel tripod. Giottos makes a great little compact tripod (model GB-1060Pro) with its own travel bag. You’ll have to get a head separately and they make a couple nice options for that — a small ball head or a pan tilt head, both with quick release. For the tripod and the head together, expect to pay $150-$190.
There are a lot of printers on the market — ranging from those that only do small 4 x 6 prints on the go to large-format archival ink art print printers (that’s a mouth full). Of course, the price range is extreme, from less than $90 for a 4 x 6 model to several thousand dollars for the best-quality large-format printers.
If your photographer already has a printer, consider buying more ink. Ink, like lenses, is brand- and model-specific. So be sure to sneak a peek and know exactly what you’re looking for, since often ink is not returnable.
If your photo bug has taken to the digital darkroom (or even if they haven’t yet), you might consider some editing software.
The manufacturers release new versions about every 16 months, so keeping up with the latest software technology can be a challenge. A gift of the newest, greatest in this could be a big hit. But this can also take a big bite out of your holiday dollars.
Adobe Photoshop is the most popular program — and will run you about $649. Adobe Lightroom is another option for photo editing — and at $299 it’s half the cost of Photoshop.
Lightroom is something that you can buy as a companion to Photoshop, too, because Adobe produces the two programs and they work together. You can save about $125 if you buy them together or save even more if you are a student. (Students get great educational rates at Adobe — so if you have one living in your house — or are one yourself — don’t pass up this option.)
FUN AND FUNKY:
Maybe you have a creative person on your list. If so, then how about something totally unusual, fun, and funky? If you’d like to combine a little fun “art” with your photography, consider a Lomo, a Holga, or a Lensbaby. Let me explain…
Lomo (http://www.lomography.com) and Holga are brand names of all-plastic cameras (basically, toys). They produce some really interesting, artsy, unpredictable results (there are a variety of models for a variety of results).
These cameras are film cameras, though, so you’ll have to send your film out for processing. However, lots of film-processing labs can digitize your film for you, so in addition to prints, you’ll also get a CD of your images.
The Lensbaby — another item on my own wish list — is a selective-focus SLR lens camera. It produces quirky, fantastic results, with part of the image in perfect focus and the rest gradually blurred. There are three models available, from $96-$270, here: http://lensbabies.com/index.php.
LEARNING AND INSPIRATION:
Consider a book of great photos of a subject of interest, a location, or an artist. Or, for a person interested in Photoshop, you can’t miss with a subscription to NAPP magazine http://www.photoshopuser.com.
ONE LAST FUN IDEA:
For the person who has everything, consider Jones Soda. You can buy a personalized 12-pack of Jones Soda with your favorite photos printed on the labels. It’ll run you $29.99. But hurry if you want to do this, because Christmas orders are due by December 3rd for on-time delivery: http://www.myjones.com.
[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Perry from Portland, Oregon, specializes in people photography, what she calls documentary or lifestyle portraits, and is a top-notch contributor to istockphoto.com, where her photos sell themselves while she sleeps.]
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]