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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 on your holiday gift list this year.

You’ll find her advice below in our 2009 Photographer Gift Guide

— Bonnie

Bonnie Caton
Great Escape Publishing

P.S. You won’t believe how many people show up to our workshops with a new camera still in the box. If you join us at one of our live events (see our Workshop Schedule)  — and we hope you will — we encourage you to try out your camera before you get on the plane. But even if you don’t, you’ll leave knowing how to use it to take pro-level shots you can sell.

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November 25, 2009
The Right Way to Travel, Weekly Photo Tip
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Photographer Gift Guide: Lenses, and Flashes, and Cases — Oh My!

By Shelly Perry in Portland, OR

Do you know what’s on your favorite photographer’s wish list this year?

With photography, the basic gear remains the same from year to year — a camera and accessories including lenses, flashes, bags, tripods, straps and so on. But each year there are a few new twists that come on the market, and some are worth a second look. You’ll find a few of those below… as well as some basic items to consider this holiday season for the photographer on your list.

CAMERA:
Usually in this annual photographer gift guide, I assume the photographer has a camera and so go on to recommend accessories. But this year I’m going to make one camera recommendation, too, because this new arrival offers some great features other cameras simply don’t.

If you are in the market for a nice compact camera (great for travel)… take a look at the new Panasonic Lumix GF1. It provides the convenience of a compact point-and-shoot with the quality and versatility of a larger DSLR (or digital SLR — those are the larger, professional-grade cameras with detachable lenses). The Lumix GF1 has a larger sensor than most point-and-shoots (important for quality) and interchangeable lenses. Yet it is 1/3 the size and weight of a typical DSLR. I have seen some absolutely stunning shots taken with this camera, shots showing incredible detail and quality. It’s definitely on my list for a travel camera.

LENSES:
If your photographer already has a DSLR, additional lenses are a great “next” purchase. Most people start with the lens that comes with their camera. But a nice mid-range zoom 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 (or opening of the lens), the faster the lens is considered to be — and the better it’ll do in low-light situations. An f/2.8 lens opens wider and lets more light in — thus being 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, which creates a shallow depth of field.

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.

FLASHES:
Every DSLR shooter will at some point want an external flash. Like lenses, 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 Cloud (which works on most external flashes), which sells for $50. He also has 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. There’s the $20 Delta, too, which works on many point and shoot cameras (it comes in 4 sizes so be sure to check the size guide).

LIGHT MODIFIERS:
After using Rich Wagner’s reflector at our Ultimate Money-Making Photo Workshop in New Orleans this year, this one has been on my list. (Rich, by the way, is one of the other professional photographers here in the Great Escape Publishing.) It’s the Lastolite 30” TriGrip, 8 in 1 reflector. You get everything from a gold to black reflector as well as a 2-stop diffuser. As far as reflectors go this one has it all. You can get it for $118 at Amazon.com.

SHOULDER/NECK STRAP:
Most cameras come with a standard neck strap, but this is one item that can easily be upgraded.

I prefer a strap that relieves some strain and tension by absorbing and distributing the weight of the camera, which is particularly important if you’re carrying a larger camera around. Try a neoprene material. Several styles and brands are available for around $15-$30.

The “R Strap” (the R stands for Rapid) is particularly useful for event photographers and people shooting in a fast-paced environment. One model, the R5, has compartments in the strap for an extra battery, memory cards, business cards or ID, even a cell phone pocket that will fit an iPhone. They also have a double strap so you can have a camera on each side — the first I’ve seen like this. But the real beauty of these straps is their ease and functionality.

There are straps for the hip and environmentally conscious photographer on your list as well. Just type “camera strap” into the search bar here, and you’ll get a number of sellers with a wide variety of beautiful and unique straps to choose from. Another idea are straps made from recycled seat belts — at least you know the camera won’t be going anywhere.

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 suited to different occasions. Here are a few ideas…

** Think Tank Bag. These are more robust bags for the travel photographer on your list.  Both Rich and I have one of these bags. 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. The Airport AirStream is on my list this year.

** Jill-e Bag. This one’s for the Fashion
ista on your list (Stock photographer Lise Gagne arrived in Santa Fe, fashionable as ever, with a couple of these bags. You would never know they were camera bags). They come in stylish colors and designs, with options for small point-and-shoot cameras as well as large professional cameras and roller bags for travel. The Jack Bags are more masculine with the same incognito appearance.

** Shootsac. Another bag for the fashion conscious (Stock photographer Jani Bryson, who was also with us in Santa Fe, loves her Shootsac) with a variety of covers that can change its appearance day to day or over time.

** If you like to travel, taking your laptop out at security can be a pain. There are a number of checkpoint-friendly bags on the market now, which let you keep your laptop securely covered as it goes through screening. Skooba Checkpoint-Friendly Laptop Bag is one such example.

FUN AND FUNKY:
If the person you’re shopping for likes to get creative and play around with fun lens options, check out the Diana F+ Lenses from Lomo, with adapters for both Nikon or Canon DSLRs. The Diana will reproduce the look of a cult classic toy camera. Diana’s are known for their low saturation, soft surreal blurs, and unpredictable colors. (Be sure to get the right adapter.) The whole set up will run you about $60.

Here is even a little something for those on your list who have been heeding my advice to play around with their phone camera. There is a whole line of little filters made specifically for phone cameras (like the one on my iPhone) called Jelly lens. I especially like the polarizing filter, for how it might improve the image quality. And there are also some fun ones, like the Starburst, Stretch, or Kaleidoscope. They run from $3-$10 at Amazon.com.

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.

[Ed. Note: And, of course, you could send your loved-one (or bring him or her with you) to one of our Great Escape Publishing photo workshops or expeditions. We pack a LOT of hands-on learning into just a few days… so your photography really kicks up to a pro level. Check out our Workshop Schedule.

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.]

INSPIRATION:
To help inspire your favorite photographer, you can always get him or her a photo book that covers a subject of interest, a location, or a specific artist. Photojojo!: Insanely Great Photo Projects and DIY Ideas is chalk full of fun ideas to get anyone’s creative juices rolling. You’ll find it on Amazon.com.

Happy Shopping!

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