Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide 2011!!!

Its that time of year again!  Time to battle the crowds, the slow servers, the traffic, the weather and other shoppers.  Its almost like an Indiana Jones movie, The Quest for the Holy Christmas Present!

If you have a photographer in your life that you need to buy something for, maybe this list will help.  Every year I try to compile a photographer's Christmas wish list of reasonable priced items that would appeal to most photographers, without breaking the bank!

This year's list has some "oldies but goodies" and also some new items that just came out this year.  Also, every product on this list, I currently use or would like to have.  I don't recommend items that I don't like, wouldn't want or don't have any experience with.  Hopefully though, this list will give you some good ideas!

More after the jump!

Here we go in no particular order:

1.  Apollo Strip Light Modifier by Westcott.  Good strip boxes for speedlights are a rare thing, and since Westcott has come out with one of these, I have been frothing at the mouth to get my hands one.

2.  Joe McNally's new book Sketching Light may not be available by Christmas, but I have every single one of his other books, and they are all definitely worth the money.  I'd bookmark this one, and grab it as soon as its available.

3.  If you know a photographer who's just getting started in off camera flash photography, then I can't recommend anything better than this simple to use umbrella flash kit by Westcott.  It includes their famous 43" shoot thru umbrella, with a mount and lightstand, and at $69.50 this piece of kit just can't be beat!

4.  If you're going to buy them this awesome lighting kit, then why not throw in a cool set of gels by Expoimaging for their flash.  These gels work easily and add a really cool dramatic effect to any photo with a multitude of colors to choose from.

5.  One of the best sources of education in photography has to be offered by Kelby Training.  I cannot tell you how much I have learned from this single resource over the years and they have lessons for every single photography related thing you can imagine.  Want to give a photographer a REALLY cool present this year?  Then get them a year's subscription to Kelby Training.  I promise you they will love it!

6.  One thing every photographer needs is a good, reliable case or bag to carry their gear in, and I can't think of a single better provider of every type of camera bag imaginable than Outdoor Photo Gear.  They have bags and cases made in every style, color and brand that you can think of.  Take a look through their inventory and find a bag that's right for your photographer!

7.  One of my all time favorite light modifiers for speedlights is the Lumiquest SBIII.  These fit on to any sized speedlight and are small enough to fit in any bag or case.  They really improve the light from small flashes and can be hand held with your flash for portrait or any other kind of off camera lighting.  I love this modifier so much, I now have three of them!

8.  For photographers that shoot outside a lot, it can be really difficult to see that LCD screen to check how your images are turning out.  Well fortunately, there is a fix for that.  The Hoodman Loupe allows the photographer to see an undistorted, perfectly crisp and clean view of their LCD and is small enough to be worn around the neck.  I absolutely love mine and never leave home without it!

9.  While I am not a huge software user when it comes to editing photos, there are a few programs out there that I really do love.  One of them being Topaz Adjust.  It has tons of presets to enhance your images, works easily and seemlessly with any of your existing programs and produces awesome results.  Plus, for the price, it is hard to beat!  If you are software fan, check out all the rest of the Topaz line up, they have a huge selection of great editing tools at affordable prices.

10.  Another really cool modifier that has just come out on the market is the Westcott Apollo Orb.  Its basically an octabox type modifier for speedlights but collapses down just like any standard umbrella type modifier.  I don't have this item yet, but I will be getting one in the very near future, it just looks too good to be true.

11.  If your photographer likes to read, then the new book by Scott Kelby called Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It, will make a great present!  In this book, Scott demonstrates various shoots, starting with the setup, how he does it, camera settings, lighting setups and then all the way through post processing.  This really is a remarkable source of information and there is nothing else like it out there, so check it out!

12.  Another tool that every photographer will need at some point, is a good tripodOutdoor Photo Gear carries every kind of tripod imaginable and at every price to suit anyone's budget.  Check out their huge selection and pick up one... or two!

13.  While we're discussing tripods, we might as well discuss the new little gem by Interfit, the Strobies Boom Arm.  This is an absolutely awesome tool to have in your bag and is probably the best priced boom on the market today.  Its a small boom that can hold all sorts of lighting gear, expands to 82 inches and collapses down to be stored in just about any medium sized camera bag.  I have one of these and love it!!

14.  Something every single photographer should have in their bag is a roll (or two, or three) of a good quality gaffer's tape.  This stuff can be used for everything from taping modifiers to your flash or strobes to taping down backgrounds and leaves no sticky residue like other tapes.  I've literally used 100s of yards of this stuff over the years and I always have a couple of rolls around.  They're cheap and definitely useful tools of the trade!

15.  Another great resource for any photographer learning to use off camera flash is the new Strobist Lighting in Layers DVD boxed set.  I personally don't have this one yet, but I have the first Strobist DVD set and I can't tell you how much information is packed in to these DVD's.  David Hobby's Strobist blog is probably the single best resource for off camera lighting on the net, so I imagine his latest DVD's are right at the top of the list.  I've been a really good boy this year so I'm hoping to get this latest set of DVD's myself. :)

16.  Ok, I'm going to admit that this last one is a straight-up shameless plug, but if you know a photographer who's interested in improving their off-camera flash photography skills, then why not buy them a seat at my upcoming Advanced Off Camera Flash Photography Workshop on December 11th at Outdoor Photo Gear?  This will be a full 6 hour day packed full of off camera flash techniques that is sure to help any photographer improve their craft.  Don't delay on this though, as seating will be limited!

So there you have it, my 2011 Holiday Gift Guide for photographers.  Hopefully this list will ease the pain of shopping for photographers that are on your Christmas list.  Hope everyone has an awesome holiday season!

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