Photographer’s Holiday Gift Guide 2019

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff Harmon3 Comments

Jeff, Brian, and Brent offer suggestions on gifts for that photographer in your life this holiday season.

It is that time of year again where everyone is thinking about gifts they can give each other and we have a few suggestions on some gifts that photographers would love in a number of budget categories.

Under or about $25

We are going to start off with the least expensive category of gift ideas at $25 or less.  It is a tough category to think of good photography related gifts because there is so little in photography that is $25 or less!  Going to start things off with Brent:

Get inspired through a book of photos!

Brent: A good book filled with inspirational photos. Can be anything really. I have two books to recommend.  The first is called Masters of Landscape Photography that runs about $30 (https://amzn.to/2QSJtQQ).  The second is called Images of the Seventh Day that runs about $42 (https://amzn.to/2UDNl7v).  I love to just sit back, relax, and get some inspiration by looking at the work of some real masters of photography.

Brian: Any magazine subscription for inspiration! Outdoor Photographer is about $12 (https://amzn.to/2LhGL2o)

Jeff: I am choosing something way under budget here!  Coming in at about $15, I recommend the Duracell NiMH 2450mAh rechargeable batteries 4-pack.  (https://amzn.to/2zFx4WU).  If you have ventured into using flash with your photography you know that you can really never have enough rechargeable batteries.

I can hear a lot of you thinking out there that you don’t want Duracell batteries, it is the Eneloop brand from Panasonic that you go for.  I get that, those Eneloop rechargeable batteries are very good. The thing is, they aren’t really any better than these from Duracell I am recommending.

A little bit ago, my friend Brian Pex did some hands on, real world testing using all of the major rechargeable battery brands in a Yongnuo YN-560IV flash.  He charged the batteries to capacity and then put the flash on full power and trigger the flash as quickly as it was ready to go again at full power and counted how many pops he could get.  These batteries performed as good or better than any other brand and are priced less. Trust me, you won’t do wrong by going with these Duracell rechargeable batteries. I have 20 of them I rotate through my flashes and I LOVE them!

LADDA batteries found in IKEA furniture stores are 

Now, if you are still thinking that you need Eneloop, one other way you can save a few bucks is to buy what looks to be EXACTLY the same thing at IKEA.  That’s right, the furniture store. IKEA has sells rechargeable batteries at a fraction of the cost and some folks have taken a look at them and believe they are the Eneloop batteries in different branding at a much lower cost.  At $7 they are actually even cheaper than the Duracell brand if you can go to the store and not have them shipped.

Under $100

Brian: Platypod Max runs about $100 (https://amzn.to/2SLAtum) and allows me to get those shots really low to the ground that I can’t get with my tripod.  Fairly small, fits nicely in travel bags. Technically not a monopod or tripod so you may be able to get away with using it in places where those things are not allowed.

Lenz Buddy lens caps are a great way to personalize your gear!

Brent: A set of custom lens caps http://www.lenzbuddy.com/Custom-Lens-Caps.  They have some of their own pre-made caps where you can kind of label what the focal length is of the lens.  They also allow you to put your own image on there. If you only bought one it would be far less than $100, but if you bought them for your whole kit then it would be about this.

Jeff: I think every photographer should have a “nifty fifty” lens.  For those who may not know what that means, it is a fast (aperture opens all the way up to f/1.8) prime (one that doesn’t zoom in/out) lens at the 50mm focal length.  Really fun lens to shoot and for people who are starting out this will improve your image quality tremendously over the kit lenses that came with your camera.

Every photography should have a “nifty fifty” lens

I prefer the name brand models for your camera here, but at prices at $130 or a little above they are just out of reach in this budget category.  I can’t go over on these categories, I am the hobbyist photographer pinching my pennies. Instead, I am going to recommend the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 lens.  For Canon mount it runs about $50 (https://amzn.to/2rz7HkT).  For Nikon it runs $65 (https://amzn.to/2PzfR6v).  Yongnuo doesn’t make a 50mm lens in any other lens mount, and I haven’t tried brands like 7artisians for Fuji (https://amzn.to/2PALJrt) to recommend it.

Under $250
Photographers will love this SUPER FAST external drive!

Brent: A fast SSD external drive. I would love to have a bootable clone available to use with any modern Mac to provide a little more insurance I can get things booted up regularly.  Also great for extra storage on the road. I really want to get the SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable External SSD – USB-C, USB 3.1 that runs about $200 (https://amzn.to/2LfDy3c) and if you can go over the budget a little then the $390 (https://amzn.to/2LbF71Y) 2TB model would be even better.

I already use a 1TB drive that holds my Lightroom library.  When I am done with my edit then I move the images that survive my culling process off to another drive.  I can always plug my drives into whatever computer I want and get to all of my images.

Jeff:  I am choosing a starter kit for off camera flash.  Yongnuo used to be my recommendation for this, and Yongnuo is still a great way to get started, but I am switching over to recommending Godox equipment to get started with flash.  

Godox TT600 flashes are a great way to get started into adding your own light as you create photos.

The cost between the Yongnuo and the Godox branded flash is almost exactly the same for getting started, but there is so much more room for growth with the Godox equipment.  So I am going with the 2 of the Godox TT600 flashes that runs $64 (https://amzn.to/2UDG8UZ) and the Godox Xpro trigger that runs about $70 (Canon – https://amzn.to/2QN5sZG, Nikon https://amzn.to/2QLfRVL, Sony https://amzn.to/2rAYxVb, Fuji https://amzn.to/2UHJwOq, Olympus/Panasonic https://amzn.to/2QsnwZv)

With that, my total comes to just about $200.  With $50 left you could add a third flash and go just a little over that budget.  You could also add some light stands. Neewer offers a 6 foot stand for about $17 (https://amzn.to/2QqqH3S) that would get you started, but I have to say that you shouldn’t expect those stands to last very long and you are likely going to find you need taller stands pretty quickly.  Then I would finish it off with two Neewer 33” reflective umbrellas that together run about $12 but at the time of this recording they were unavailable on Amazon so I’ll go with LimoStudio 40” reflective umbrellas for $20 (https://amzn.to/2PEclrG).  All of that puts me $2 over the budget, but I think that works.

Under $500
We love the bags from Peak Design

Brent:  Still on the search for the perfect bag.  I haven’t tried this brand yet, but I really want to give the Peak Design Travel line with at least one insert a good try.  Runs about $300 right now (https://www.peakdesign.com/collections/travel-bags/?rfsn=1826649.46fa86).

Brian: A lot of money to spend at Christmas!  I would go for the GoPro 7 Black that runs about $400 (https://amzn.to/2QMKtpL).  I don’t have it yet, but this is on my wish list.  Great for travel, which I do a lot of.

The least expensive way to have a tremendous photography experience is by joining us at the Create Photography Retreat!

Jeff: I know it is going to sound a little self-serving, but I really think the best thing you can spend $500 on is not gear or computer components.  The best thing to spend it on is a conference or workshop. Now normally I would have to save this gift suggestion for a much higher budget category, but the Create Photography Retreat is one that fits right in this budget.  At just $417 right now it is an absolute steal. If you use our link (https://transactions.sendowl.com/stores/8087/130856) and coupon code MPPodcast at checkout you will even get $30 off that ticket price!

Just so you know, I am offering workshops before and after the retreat as well.  Prior to the retreat I am going to do a workshop that teaches you how to use your camera like a Ninja.  We will go through all of the things that are critical to creating good photos. I have had so many photographers take the course who came into it saying they knew the exposure triangle well and came to learn about some of the more advanced features like bracketing and exposing to the right, but what they found was that they didn’t truly understand that exposure triangle at all.

In the post workshop I am going to teach attendees everything they need to know to be fully proficient in Lightroom.  We are calling it Lightroom 201 because it will be a little better if you are somewhat familiar with lightroom already, but you will still get a lot of out it if you have never really run Lightroom before.

When you sign up for the workshops you will be invited to some special Facebook Groups that we will setup before the retreat to get to know each other and make the experience there the very best it can be.

Both workshops are $250 each, so if you already have your tickets to the Retreat in 2019 then you can get both of those workshops for this budget category as well!  You can sign up for those workshops over at createphotographyretreat.com as well.

Under $1000
A high quality, 27″, 2560×1440 monitor is a great gift for a photographer!

Brent: BenQ photoview monitor, 27”.  Good resolution without being so high it will impact performance.  This one has a 1000:1 contrast ratio, which is really high. Also comes with a monitor hood so that you won’t see lights reflect off the screen.  I currently use Dell screens, but this one looks really good to me. It runs about $600 (https://amzn.to/2LdAy7r) and would be really good for photography.

A stylish bag for your laptop and some of your photography gear plus that great smell of leather every time you open it!

Brian:  I have an addiction to bags. I found a leather bag, called the Saddleback Leather Briefcase that runs about $529 (https://saddlebackleather.com/slim-laptop-briefcase), that I just love.  So stunning. Scratches tell stories.  Gives it a better look. You get this smell of leather every time you open the bag too.  I use it mainly for my laptop, take that with me when I go and meet clients. It is really impressive to them.  Can’t fit all of the camera gear in it, but I do have an insert that makes it so that I can put my camera and a few other things in there.

Jeff:  Now we are talking about some money you can do some serious damage with.  There are a lot of options in the photography world but I am going to go with something I am pretty sure nobody else has thought of.  I am going to suggest an advanced astrophotography kit. A lens and a star tracker.

Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens is incredible for astrophotography and a great way for a photographer to get out of a creative rut!

For a lens, the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8.  Runs about $330 (Canon https://amzn.to/2Pxb6dv, Nikon https://amzn.to/2LfwcMV, Sony https://amzn.to/2QTRqoS, Fuji https://amzn.to/2QMgjmy).  It is a manual lens, meaning you use rings on the lens for both focus and aperture.  If you are shooting night skies you don’t need automatic focus and there is no better lens for coma and distortion so that your stars have the best chance possible of being nice round circles on the edges of the frame.

SkyWatcher Adventurer Asto allows you to track the stars with your camera and take much longer exposures so that you get cleaner astrophotography images.

For a star tracker I have on my wish list the SkyWatcher S20510 Star Adventurer Astro Package that runs $330 (https://amzn.to/2QMnco2) plus the SkyWatcher S20530 Star Adventurer Latitude Base that helps you mount the tracker to a tripod for $65 (https://amzn.to/2SL9E9I) and the SkyWatcher S20540 Star Adventurer Counter Weight for $30 (https://amzn.to/2Pzng5G).

You can try your hand at astrophotography using just the Rokinon lens, and I have done that with a fair amount of success, but that star tracker equipment takes your astophotography to the next level.  It is something I am dying to try, but with it being gear that is so specific in purpose my hobbyist budget just hasn’t allowed for me to get there just yet. I will though, someday.

It total it comes to $755, so you have another $245 to spend on a getaway to go and use the gear.  Find a place out in the dark if possible and get out there. If you are stuck in a photography rut or feel like your photography isn’t improving, go way out of what you are used to doing and try some serious astrophotography.

No limits (Bed of Sweet Cold Hard Cash)
The Fuji X-T3 camera offers incredible image quality in a small and light package.  Perfect for travel and adventure photography!

Brent: I am really considering switching to the Fuji X-T3 that runs about $1,500 (https://amzn.to/2QSPg96) with three or four lenses and a trip to Guilin and Detian falls, China.  I have never been go China and it is really on my wish list.  The X-T3 would make my trip far more enjoyable with it being so small and light.

Brian: This is a budget level that I think absolutely has to be spent on an experience.  I went out a little on some trips with Improve Photography a few years ago and I just fell in love with doing that.  If I had this unlimited budget I would spend it on a First Class ticket to Iceland & Norway. I would go at my own pace and spend some real time there.  I would also get a DJI Mavic Pro 2 that runs about $1,800 (https://amzn.to/2Lc9oOd).  

The Sony a7R III camera is probably the most innovative camera here in 2018!

Jeff: If there was no limit to budget I think I would go to the Sony mirrorless system.  I would start off with the Sony a7R III camera body that runs about $3,000 (https://amzn.to/2Lg7JXO) and then add a Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM for about $2,200 (https://amzn.to/2SIjybV), a Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS for about $2,600 (https://amzn.to/2QSIujC), and a Sony – FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM for about $2,200 (https://amzn.to/2Lc9sO9).  That comes to about 10,000 even and it would be so much fun to give that shiny new technology a solid run in all of the genres of photography I do.

Bonus Pick – New Computer for Lightroom and Photoshop

If your computer is driving you crazy and the biggest thing on your wish list this holiday season is getting a new one, then check out these guides on where photographers should and should not spend their money!

Reminders:

Comments

  1. I just want to request you do this earlier in 2019 since my family finshes Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving (and I have a December birthday) 😀

  2. Do you have a link to settings for the Christmas tree time lapse video? Or possible a how to? Thanks!

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