So you have a family member or friend who is a photographer OR you're a photographer and you have no idea what to say when people ask you what you want for a present this holiday season? Check out this list of great photography gifts for under $50.
This is the quintessential stocking stuffer for the photographer in your life. A photographer can never have enough SD cards and they tend to have a limited life so you want to replace them on a 1-3 year rotation. You just have to keep a few things in mind. First, make sure you get the right kind of memory card for the camera. It could be an SD card, a Compact Flash card, or even one of the newer XQD cards. The link above is for an SD card, but a simple online search will easily find the other types.
As for brand and model, I recommend the San Disk Extreme Pro for two reasons. First, you (or whoever you buy this for) will be happy to have the high transfer speed, especially if they have a newer camera that creates large files and can take advantage of the speed. Second, San Disk includes with every “pro” card a code giving you access to their data recovery software. This software is invaluable if you ever have a problem with your card or accidentally delete some photos from it.
Goes without saying that if you use memory cards, you are going to need a card reader. If you, or the person you are buying for, is using an old or cheap card reader, then they are risking file corruption. That means potentially losing some images and that's bad news whether its the first dance at a wedding or the kids on Christmas morning. Get a good card reader and the chances of that happening go down significantly.
You can never have enough of these. I use them to clean lenses, to wipe down the camera after a shoot on the beach, and even to clean my sunglasses (those have lenses too!). They are extremely useful and having a big box of them at home will guarantee that you never run out.
These are bigger and more heavy duty than the lens wipes above, but no less useful. You can use these to clean your camera or lens, cover it to keep it dry in light rain, use it to soak up water collecting on the front element without having to aggressively wipe it (great for preventing smearing of the water in situations like shooting on the beach or near a waterfall), and even use it to keep yourself dry if necessary. Pick up an 8 pack like the one linked here so you can rotate them in with your laundry and always have a clean one available.
This is one of the unsung heroes of my camera bag. Got a little bit of dust on the lens but don't have the time to break out a lens wipe and do a full cleaning? Just have some loose particles on the lens? This tool is perfect. You don't want to be using your breath to blow things off your lens or your camera sensor because your breath contains moisture. And you certainly don't to use that can of high pressure air that cleans the cookie crumbs from your keyboard. That thing will do more damage than good. Grab a rocket blower and your gear will thank you (well not really because it can't talk, but you understand).
The duct tape of the audio/visual world! I have used this tape to secure light stands, make a homemade snoot for my speedlights, organize the mess of wires behind my computer, cover exposed ports on electronics after I lost the cap, fix things, and even secure my Christmas lights down so no one will trip over the wires. Unlike duct tape, and other kids of strong tape, gaffers tape will not leave a sticky residue or pieces of tape behind. It is also made of a cloth (or cloth-like) material so it doesn't rip off in pieces. I keep some wrapped around an old defunct credit card in my camera bag so I don't have to carry around the huge roll. A must have for photographers. But this is not just for photographers, everyone should have a roll of gaffers tape at home.
If you use speedlights, remote triggers, or just about anything around the house that uses AA batteries, a good supply of these can be invaluable. There are generally two kinds: the standard ones and the high output kind. Both are great to have. The standard ones can be used in just about anything. You can put them in flashlights, a wireless mouse, a remote flash trigger, audio recorder, kids toys, or just about anything that you use frequently. The high output versions (typically called “pro”) are designed for devices that require a higher level of energy at one time, such as a speedlight. You can use the regular ones in a speedlight but you will experience slower recycle times and get very frustrated.
The link above is for the standard version. Want to know which kind of high output batteries to get for your speedlights? Check out this great analysis of which batteries to use with your speedlights HERE.
You can get most rechargeable AA batteries in a package with a 4 bay charger. If you are just getting started with these, then that may be a good option, but if you are planning to procure an arsenal of rechargeable batteries to power every device in your home and/or a few speedlights, then you will need to be able to charge more than four at a time. Afterall, one speedlight typically uses four AA batteries all by itself.
This charger will charge 12 AA batteries at a time. It is also a “smart charger” that will show progress on an LCD, stop charging when the battery is full, and even detect a faulty battery so you can replace it. I have one already and am planning to get a second so i can charge 24 at once!
Keeping with the battery theme…these cheap little cases are awesome! You can store your rechargeable AA batteries in sets of four (perfectly corresponding to the number you probably need in a speedlight). It also comes with labels so you can turn the batteries to indicate whether they are used or not. If you do any traveling with your batteries, then you also know the importance of keeping them in cases and preventing them from contacting each other.
This is the perfect kit for someone getting started with off camera flash. It includes a stand, a mount, and three types of umbrellas. If you start doing more off camera flash photography, you may find the need for additional sets or even upgraded, higher quality gear. But if you are just getting started, this is all you need to learn. Don't let budget hold you back, dive right in to the amazing world of off camera flash!
So you've got your brand new flash stand and umbrella and you want to go outside and overpower the sun for some dramatic photos of your schnauzer. If it's just a little windy then that umbrella stand just turned into a sail and your neighbors now have a brand new speedlight in their backyard. The best way to secure that light stand from flying away is with some sand bags.*
*sand not included
Shooting outside in in the rain or snow can lead to some very dramatic images. It can also lead to some very dramatic water damage to your camera. Even if you have a weather sealed camera, you should do your best to keep it as dry as possible. That is why I always have one of these in my bag when there is even a threat of rain. Usually, just remembering to pack it prevents the rain, so that's helpful too.
Extra Camera Battery (price varies)
Ok, so right off the bat, I'll tell you that some (most?) camera batteries are probably over $50. But having an extra battery can be invaluable. If you are using a mirrorless camera, then you might need a small army of batteries if you want to shoot all day. But even DSLR shooters can benefit from having a few extra batteries.
Although I recommend sticking with the same brand as your camera, you can also try 3rd party battery makers like Watson or Wasabi if budget is a big concern. You will save a good deal of money and get about 90% of the performance.
If you are still using the camera strap that came with your camera, then you are missing out. This strap is easily adjustable and allows you to carry the camera either around your neck or over the shoulder and also attaches in such a way to allow quick access to take a photo without the strap getting in your face. They have two versions, the regular and the lite. I use a full frame DSLR and the lite is plenty strong enough for that so save your money unless you specifically like the feel of a wider strap.
So the most expensive thing so far is a clamp? No, I'm not crazy. If you do any shooting at events then this little gadget is worth every penny. It can clamp to a multitude of surfaces and had a flash mount attached to a ballhead so you can point the flash in any direction. Whether you combine it with a small modifier or just use a bare flash, this can help you get some light in hard to reach places and also avoid the hazard of having a big light stand where people are walking.
This one is difficult to give you a link for because every camera will have a different plug and therefore different corresponding model. So make sure you get the one that matches your camera. The one I liked to is made by Pixel and is a great value for the money. You can also swap out the cable if you change camera systems, so you won't have to buy a new one.
If you do any landscape photography then you understand the value of a remote trigger. If you want to shoot the night sky, Milky Way, star trails, or time lapses, then a dedicated intervalometer is an absolute necessity.
I am a huge fan of square filter systems. The filters themselves will set you back a lot more than $50 but you can get the holder for only $49. Skip the expensive LEE filter system, this one is great quality at a lower price.
Doing any traveling this holiday season? This year? If you are just throwing all your clothes and gear into a big suitcase then you aren't doing it right. Packing cubes can help you organize your gear and your clothes for your next photography trip. Keep your intervalometer and batteries away from your underwear. Pack a separate cube for that day trip off the island so you don't have to find everything you need when the boat is leaving in 5 minutes. These simple little cubes can take away the stress of packing for any trip.
If you have ever shot in the cold then you know that frost and condensation can ruin all of your images and getting condensation inside the lens can put it out of commission for days and even lead to mold or fungus inside the lens. None of those things are any good. You can avoid all of that just by keeping your lens warm with this little device. It plugs into a USB battery pack (sold separately).
Books on Photography
I saved my favorite for last. No fancy tech here. Just some good quality books on photography. After all, you can have all the gear in the world, but without the knowledge and skill, you're just taking snapshots.
Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson
Mastering Composition: The Definitive Guide for Photographers by Richard Garvey-Williams
The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression by Bruce Barnbaum
Picture Perfect Posing by Roberto Valenzuela
(if you want to go a little over that $50, check out some of these cool items)
If you are getting started with video, then you need to make sure you are getting good audio. That tiny little microphone attached to the camera isn't likely to do a good job so pick up a recorder like this to get high quality audio in a variety of situations.
I picked up one of these last year and I love it! It's not going to give you lab quality prints or even prints bigger than 4×6 but it is quick, affordable, and portable. I have used it for on-site printing at events, quick prints of family photos, and even making up thank you cards and gift certificates for my business. It is a dye sublimation printer so the prints come out dry and ready to handle.
Ready to abandon Lightroom? Check out Luminar. At $69, it's worth a try. Want to learn more about it check out Luminar 2018: Is it Your New Photo Editing Solution?