Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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(inspired by AJ's question)

It's that time of year: family and friends are starting to ask what we want for the holidays. I usually try to have several suggestions at various price ranges. AJ's question had some great suggestions for under $50, but it seems that everything else in photography costs hundreds or thousands of dollars.

What are some things that people can give their photographer friends (professional, hobbyist, or just starting) that costs between $50 and $100 dollars?

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Should this be a community wiki? –  seanmc Nov 22 '10 at 12:42
1  
I am honoured ;) –  AJ Finch Nov 22 '10 at 15:10
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12 Answers 12

up vote 35 down vote accepted

Small accessories that will get the photographer trying out a new technique (though you should expect they might replace your gift if they really get into the technique), some examples:

  • A GorillaPod mini tripod (if they have no tripod or only a huge one)
  • A cheap tripod (assuming they don't have a Pro camera/lenses)
  • A shutter release cable
  • A shutter release cable with inbuilt timers (for time-lapse or timed long exposure)
  • ND (neutral density) filter (or a set of a few they can combine)

Any of these will allow/encourage some long exposure experimentation.

Filters or flash accessories:

  • Circular polarizing filter
  • Graduated ND filter
  • tinted or coloured filters
  • tinted/coloured gels for a flash unit
  • flash diffuser (maybe a simple one, maybe a nice Gary Fong or equivalent)

Some filters are more useful, others are just novelty, but they can be fun to play around with. Flash accessories are also quite useful or maybe just a bit of fun. Either way it can encourage a bit of artistic messing around, outside the box of their usual photographic style.

Cheap prime lens:

  • 50mm f/1.8

I know Canon & Nikon have pretty cheap 50mm lenses (around $100 or a bit over). They're very nice lenses if they don't already have a prime around 50mm.

A camera bag

  • First camera bag (how do they not have one?!)
  • A smaller, one-camera-with-lens bag (snout?)
  • A larger backpack style (might break $100 though)

They might have a bag already, but perhaps they need a smaller bag for when they're just taking the SLR with attached lens or a bigger bag that fits their expanding collection (the latter is probably getting past $100 though).

Specialist photog software, for example...

  • HDR software (Photomatix?)
  • Noise reduction (Noise Ninja?)
  • Anything by Nik (there's a variety of apps)
  • Panorama stitching program

It's not photoshop, but there's some good software around that'll do one specific technique very well. HDR is pretty fun and accessible and Photomatix is about the right price.

Second hand gear off eBay or from your own collection

  • An old Film SLR + 50mm prime + some B&W film
  • A DIY reverse-lens macro made from an old second hand manual focus & aperture prime lens, a body cap from their brand of camera, some glue/tubes/...

Whether its old gear (you can get some very good stuff for $50-100) or modded gear if you've got the skills, you could give them something fun to play with and learn from. There's a lot to be said for learning from prime lenses and B&W film photography.


Note For most of these suggestions, you'll need to know at least what sort of camera(s) the gift receiver owns, and probably also what lens(es) they own as well. If you can't find out, you might want to make sure there's a good returns policy and give the salesperson as much info as you can.

  • For shutter release cables, you'll need to know the camera brand and model.
  • Filter sizes, you need to know the lens brand/model or its filter diameter (often written on the front).
  • Flash gels and diffusers, probably best to know the flash brand/model, or at least be able to identify a similarly sized unit in the shop.
  • Tripods generally fit any camera (or a small cheap adaptor can allow it to). If uncertain, know the brand/model of the camera.
  • The cheap 50mm f/1.8 lenses are specific to their brand (Nikon/Canon). In general, you'd need to know the camera body model / brand to be sure of a purchase.

And remember, these are things that'll inspire them to try a new technique. If they really enjoy it, they'll probably go and spend 10x what you spent on an upgrade to what you got them, so don't be too offended if a few months later they've replaced your gift (my mum was a bit miffed when I bought a carbon fibre tripod a few months after she gave me a GorillaPod).

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4  
There is an inexpensive adapter for the GorillaPod that lets it hold a flash. Makes it easy to set up a second flash in an unusual location... –  RBerteig Nov 22 '10 at 8:13
    
Oh cool, didn't know about that, looks like my gorillapod might get some loving again now I have ETTL remote flash on the 7D (: –  drfrogsplat Nov 22 '10 at 14:21
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well, that was a pretty comprehendsive answer! +1 ;) –  AJ Finch Nov 22 '10 at 15:11
    
Most reasonable filters though (polarizer, ND, etc) except for UV will certainly break the $100 barrier, mine all did :) –  Itai Jan 12 '11 at 2:10
    
I bet your lenses are all 67mm or wider filter diameters (; I'm pretty sure my first CP filter (kit lens with 58mm filters) was about $75. –  drfrogsplat Jan 13 '11 at 0:56
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Books

For someone just starting out there are plenty of options (see DrFrogsplat's answer) but for serious amateurs and professionals there really isn't much in that price range.

Another problem is that what is available in that range will be very basic / small. Case in point, the next accessory I'm after is a Really Right Stuff L-plate for a 1D, which is $180. Assuming you could stretch that high, it's just a bent piece of metal that doesn't seem very exciting for a gift.

This is the biggest problem I have, to non photographers everything is going to seem absurdly expensive.

Software is an option, but you have to imagine that a pro will have everything they need, and will have at least head of or tried anything that's new or exciting. Plus most of it is not available in a store or in a physical package so you can't wrap it up!

Which brings me to books. Pretty much everything will fall under $100 unless it's out of print. For beginners you're spoilt for choice (I will update this answer with links to good beginners books). For experienced photographers instead of a book on technique you could get a biography, or something inspiring, like Taryn Simon's An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar.

The author/title is pretty unambiguous if you're giving a list to someone so can be sure of getting the correct one. And books are really easy to wrap :)

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Books! I totally forgot about the books (which I ask for every birthday/Christmas as things I think others can easily get). Good call –  drfrogsplat Nov 22 '10 at 14:19
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I would recommend the Scott Kelby series of Digital photography books. I got all 3 in a set for like $45 (CAN$) - really useful stuff and in very easy to understand language –  newfie_coder Nov 22 '10 at 16:38
    
My favorite book for beginners is "The Digital Photography Book" by Scott Kelby –  dpollitt Jun 22 '11 at 13:15
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I just ordered one of these Nikon lens mugs from Photojojo - https://photojojo.com/store/awesomeness/camera-lens-mug/ I'm pretty sure any photographer/coffee/tea drinker would love them. I know Canon had an L-series mug back during the Olympics, but the Nikon 24-70 actually zooms!!

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  • Cleaning Kit
  • Invitation to a photo art gallery/seminar

and some of items listed by drfrogsplat

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I like the gallery idea :) –  AJ Finch Nov 22 '10 at 15:12
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Two gifts I received recently myself included the following:

  • LCD Timer Remote Control: $50
    • Intervolometer cable release, allows unlimited number of photographs to be taken at any interval from 1s to 100hrs
  • X-Rite ColorChecker Passport: $100
    • A small-scale portable color checker card that may be used out in the field (or anywhere) to ensure correct white balance, adjustable white balance from cool to warm, and color checking

Other great items can include the following:

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A ColorHug might make a great gift for a photographer. For those who haven't heard of it, the ColorHug is a monitor calibration tool (a display colorimeter) that is completely open source. At GBP 60/USD 100, it's a fraction of the price of competing products and has most of the functionality.

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I know a gift certificate can feel kind of lame, but I know I would be extremely happy to get a $50-100 gift certificate for B&H Photo or Adorama. I really only need so many trinkets and knick-knack gadgets, but a gift certificate could go towards a larger "dream" purchase which I'd normally put off as too extravagant.

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If you want to try macro (close-up) photography, you could try a set of extender tubes (like these ones). They will open up a whole new world of picture taking.

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  1. Remote Shutter Release Cord

  2. LED Flashlght

  3. Lens Clearing Pen

  4. Equipment Wallet

  5. Cleaning Cloth

  6. Flash Diffuser

  7. Lens Cap Keeper

  8. Books

  9. Magazine subscription

  10. Photography workshop (You can find one in photography magazine under $100)

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Unless they already own dozens of them: a memory card or spare battery for the camera. Will only work once or twice, though. It's not actually an encouragement to try out new things, though.

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A set of Cactus V5 wireless triggers go for $60.
To be sure you should know what type of camera and flash the person has as there are some minor incompatibilities.

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One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet if an off camera flash stand. If they have an off camera flash and don't have a stand for it, that is within the $100 price range as well.

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