It’s Here! My 11th Annual “Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide”
Welcome to another magical collection of awesome gear that’s simply too gonzo to live without for another minute but, at the same time, will give you perfect gift ideas for the gonzo photographer on your Holiday Gift list.
Before we get to the list, just remember: The holidays are about giving (who is giving you what, and how much, so you can post pictures of it on social media). So don’t be shy: Act like a millennial, even if you’re actually old enough to still be a fan of Roosevelt.
NOTE: You can download a PDF version of the gear guide (complete with links to stuff), right here. This is the full version with the layout that appears in the new issue of Photoshop User magazine.
As is my sacred Gonzo tradition, I’m breaking things into three distinct categories:
- Stocking Stuffers: But you can use these as actual holiday gifts if you’re not that crazy about the person.
- Great Value Gear: Stuff that’s a really good deal for the money, and even though it’s not a lot of money, they’ll still totally dig it.
- Cha-ching! Stuff you buy for the surgeon/Wall Street banker/rap mogul on your Holiday gift list. This is the stuff that makes them burst into spontaneous tears of joy. Well, at least I would.
Okay, folks, hang on to any loose body parts; here we go!
The ProMaster Clamper Junior
This is a really clever, very sturdy mini-tripod, but what makes it unique is that it has a clamp built in to two of the legs, so you can clamp it on a railing. It’s small, lightweight, but tough.
$44.95 at Amazon
Topaz Adjust (Photoshop and/or Lightroom Plug-in)
Probably Topaz’s most-popular plug-in (for Photoshop or Lightroom), it’s great for creating a wide range of special effects, and it comes with loads of presets, so all your holiday gift receiver has to do is click on presets until he sees one that looks good, and click OK. Of course, he can tweak away to his heart’s content, but by that time, he’ll already be basking in the glow of your generosity for getting this for him in the first place.
Price: $49.99 (at B&H Photo)
A Year of Backblaze Unlimited Backup
There’s more than a reasonable chance that the photographers on your gift list don’t have an offsite backup of their all-important image library, but don’t worry: You can get them one for just $5 a month for unlimited storage. The whole process is automated, and best of all, they can back up external drives. They’ll totally dig this, and one day, if catastrophe strikes and they need to retrieve all their images from this backup, they’ll never forget you! It could be, literally, the ultimate gift.
Price: $5/month; $50/1 year; or $95/2 years (Direct)
Westcott 30″ 1-Stop Diffuser
Put this diffuser between your subject and the sun, and you’ll turn that harsh nasty light into beautiful gorgeous light and it’s only $14.17, which is a crazy low price to pay for beautiful light. Plus, it’s collapsible and folds down to one- third its size, and the whole thing looks like it cost three times the price. It’s all good.
Price: $14.17 (at B&H Photo)
Some Cool Books
If they’re into sports, they’ll love You Will Never Get in the Game by Jimmy Cribbs (the story of Atlanta Falcon’s team photographer). Price: $34.95 (direct)
Or how about Photo Adventures for Kids by Anne-Laure Jacquart, which is a really great photo project book to get kids interested in learning about photography. Very well done! Price: $11.57 (from Amazon)
Hey, they just might like my brand-new book, The Adobe Photoshop CC Book for Digital Photographers (2017 Release). Price: $46.74 (from Amazon)
Or if you want to splurge just a little, get them either of these gorgeous coffee-table style photo books:
AIR by Vincent LaForet (breathtakingly beautiful aerial shots): Price: $59.95 (from Amazon)
Paris by Serge Ramelli: (the city of romance in black and white) Price: $75.00 (from Amazon)
GREAT VALUE GEAR:
Stuff that’s a really good deal for the money, and even though it’s not a lot of money, they’ll still totally dig it.
Westcott 26″ RapidBox Octa Softbox for Flash
These pop-up softboxes are just brilliantly designed: They open and close like an umbrella. This particular one is actually a pop-up beauty dish, and it’s awesome! I think it’s the best designed and most durable collapsible I’ve ever seen, and it fits in such a small, lightweight, soft-sided case that you won’t believe it could even fit. I would call this “ultra portable,” to say the least. Designed to work with your off-camera flash, it comes with a well-made hot-shoe bracket, so you’re ready to go in 60 seconds. I’m a big fan of these, and Westcott now also makes 10×24″ strip bank versions. (I have two of them!) They’re worth every penny.
Price: $169.90 (at B&H Photo)
Think Tank Photo TurnStyle 10 Sling Camera Bag
A friend turned me on to this small sling bag and I love it on a level you can’t imagine! I took it with me on my last photo trip, and now it’s my travel companion—perfect for carrying a couple of lenses and accessories. You carry it like a backpack, but then you swivel it around in front of you for easy access. So well designed, super-lightweight, and built like a Think Tank bag (amazing quality). They’ll love this.
Price: $84.75 (at B&H Photo)
Haida 150 Series Filter Holder System
If the photographer on your holiday list shoots landscape, architectural, or travel photography, they’ll love this filter system that lets you take long exposure shots in broad daylight. Really wonderfully designed and built. (I started using these this summer, and I was just so impressed.) And the price (especially for the quality) is really amazing—much lower than the competition’s—plus the case and overall presentation makes them look like you spent way more than you did. Make sure you know which type of lens your photographer friend uses, get the filter holder adapter ring set that fits their landscape lens, then pick up a Haida 150×150 ND 3.0 Optical Glass Filter, which is a 10-stop neutral density filter, to go in the bracket. You’ll feel much love when you give this gift!
Platypod Pro and Pro Max
This new model grew out of a huge Kickstarter campaign because photographers are either looking to put cameras where tripods aren’t allowed or into spaces that are too small or tight for a tripod; or they just want to shoot at really low angles. (I use one for shooting remotes at football games or weddings, where I can place it behind the altar.) The Platypod Pro Max is probably the best solution ever! Built with lightweight but crazy-strong commercial aircraft aluminum, this is such a clever design.
Lexar 128 GB JumpDrive C20i Lightning to USB 3.0 Cable with Built-in Flash Drive
Okay, that’s a boring name, but this is a really cool, handy device that does more than you might think. Not only can you transfer up to 128 GB of photos, either from your iPhone or iPad to your computer (or vice versa), it also actually acts as an iPhone or iPad charger. So small and lightweight, but backed with power!
Price: $136.99 (at B&H Photo)
Tether Tools Case Air Wireless Tethering System
Photographers have been dying for an inexpensive, reliable, easy way to shoot directly from their DSLR straight to an iPad or iPhone (also works for Android devices), and Tether Tools totally nailed that with their new Case Air Wireless Tethering System. You can even focus and fire your camera using their app (for iOS or Android). So easy to set up and use, and the price is right. Very cool stuff!
Price: $159.99 (at B&H Photo)
This is one of those gifts that they’ll love you for forever because it’s so handy and it makes their camera look and feel more like a high-end pro camera, as it gives them a second battery holder and a shutter button for when they’re shooting vertical. The price starts at around $50 for a third-party grip, but if you buy a Nikon brand for a Nikon camera, or Canon brand for Canon, expect to pay at least 2–3 times as much, so give the Vello brand at B&H a serious look. You’ll be a holiday hero for this one!
Starting at $50.00 (at B&H Photo)
Mpix Premium Panoramic Photo Books
I made my first one of these photo books earlier this year, and I have to say, they scream quality! The thickness of the pages just gives it such an expensive feel (but without an actual expensive price). Your giftees can design their books right on the Mpix site (it’s so simple to create a book; anyone can do it), and they’ll be amazed when their photo book arrives—just beautiful! Either gift them the ability to make one using their images, or make a book of your images and present it as a gift.
Price: Starting at $39.99 (at MPIX)
B&H Photo Gift Cards
Not sure exactly what to get your photographer friends? Yes you are. Get ’em a B&H Photo Gift Card. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want something from the greatest photo store on earth, plus this way they can get whatever they want (within the limit of how much you put on the card, of course). You can order them direct from the B&H site, and they send a card and a catalog, so it looks pretty substantial.
Price: Starting at $25 (link)
Macphun Luminar (plug-in for Photoshop and/or Lightroom)
If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s just because it’s brand new. I think this might be the perfect plug-in for people who are just getting into using plug-ins, because: (a) it has lots of presets; (b) it does tons of stuff; (c) it’s very easy to use; and (d) it’s super affordable at $69. It does everything from photo special effects to editing tasks (even editing RAW images); and again, its big strength is lots of presets that create good looks. It’s pretty full-featured photo-editing software on its own, so you’ll see stuff like Layers, Noise Reduction, Curves, and more, but I just use the special effects—of which there are plenty to keep your giftee busy. The downside is that it’s Mac only at this point, so make sure your photographer giftee uses a Mac.
Price: $69 (at MacPhun)
3 Legged Thing Equinox Albert Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod and AirHed 360
This has become my go-to tripod for travel, because it really packs up small, it’s fairly lightweight, but sturdy as all get-out, and it comes with a really nice ballhead (and a nice ballhead alone can cost more than this entire rig, so that helps make it a great deal). They make an even smaller, lighter travel tripod called the “Leo,” if size and portability is #1 on your list; otherwise, I’d go with the Albert, even though it’s a little heavier, and a little bigger.
Phottix Mitros Flash (and Odin II Wireless Flash Transmitter)
If you want to get the photographer on your gift list a really good quality flash without spending $600, this is what I’d go with. They’re awesome quality flashes, but I have to say it’s the wireless transmitter—the Phottix Odin II Flash Trigger Transmitter, sold separately for around $199 and used for wirelessly controlling one or more flashes—that made me fall in love with this system. It’s like it was designed by a photographer (rather than an engineer). If you’ve seen me out on the road this year, these are the flashes I’ve been using.
Stuff that’s a really good deal for the money, and even though it’s not a lot of money, they’ll still totally dig it.
Impact Venture TTL 600W/s Battery-Powered Monolight Kit
The hot things in lighting right now are these studio strobes you can take on location and, instead of having a separate battery pack, the battery is built right into the light itself, so it’s just the light, on a stand, and that’s it—no cables whatsoever. Of course, the problem has been that they’ve been crazy expensive, which is why I like this Impact version so much: The light, a 32″ hex softbox, the wireless controller, and a spare battery are available as a kit from B&H Photo for just $1,249.95, which is a pretty screaming deal. It has built-in high-speed sync and LED modeling lights. And did I mention the price? It’s less than one-half the competitor’s. Sweet!
Price: $1249.95 (at B&H Photo)
Canon EOS 5 Mark IV
If the Canon shooter on your holiday list is looking for a new camera body, the 5D Mark IV is perhaps the best all-around camera Canon has ever made. It’s a big upgrade over the industry workhorse Mark III, and just about every single aspect is improved or enhanced on this bad boy. It has more megapixels, better sensor, built-in wireless, built-in GPS, more frames per second, and I could go on and on, but the bottom line is this: It makes better images. If you buy them this body, they’ll follow you around like a puppy for the rest of their lives.
Price: Body only $3,499 (at B&H Photo)
Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 500s Flash Head
Want something awesome for the studio photographer on your list? These new strobes from Elinchrom are the best I’ve used from them (and they’re known for their quality/value ratio). Great new design, but beyond that, it fires about as fast as you can shoot with virtually no recycling time between shots. And you can do stroboscopic, sequence, and delayed strobe effects easily—these modes are built in. Very consistent, well designed, and a lot of bang for the buck.
Price: $1,049.99 (at B&H Photo)
Canon EF 16–35mmf 2 8L III USM Lens
This 16–35mm range is one of my all-time favorites for a super-wide-angle lens, and Canon just released a new updated version of this classic lens that’s sharper than ever. If your photographer giftee shoots landscape, travel, architecture or football (I use it for my remote cameras), he’ll lose his mind if you get him one of these. This is the good stuff!
Price: $2,199 (at B&H Photo)
STUFF FROM US
I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least make mention of some of the cool gifts we have over here at KelbyOne.
A One-Year KelbyOne Online Education membership
Wanna give them a gift that they’ll remember all year long? How about world-class, online training on everything from Photoshop to Lightroom to photography. It’s $199 for an entire year (with 24/7 access to literally thousands of lessons), or just $19.95 a month. Not only will they love you for it, so will I.
My “How Do I Do That In Photoshop?” and “How Do I Do That In Lightroom?” Book Bundle
I created these two books for people who are already at least somewhat familiar with Photoshop and/or Lightroom and they want reference books they can keep right at their desk, so when they ask themselves, “Isn’t there a way to do that in Lightroom or Photoshop?” they just turn right to the page in the respective book that describes just that one topic. These books have a been a huge hit with readers (the Lightroom book is already in its third printing), and you can get a deal from the publisher on the two-book bundle for only $30.00.
Treat them to the Photoshop World 2017 Conference in Orlando next April
Treat them to the Photoshop World Conference in Orlando Okay, do you want to totally blow them away to the extent that they need a spinal tap? Give them a full conference pass to the Photoshop World Conference in April in Orlando, Florida. It’s a three-day Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography love fest, and they’ll be talking about this gift, what they learned, and the overall experience, for years to come.
If you’re a KelbyOne member, if you buy it for them now, you get $100 off for being a member, and another $100 off with the Early Bird discount, so it’s just $599. (at http://photoshopworld.com)
For everybody else, it’s $699 (but if you buy it now, before the early-bird discount cut-off) it’s still $100 off). (at http://photoshopworld.com) ■
Well, there ya have it folks. Remember, it’s not how many gifts you get. It’s about how many gifts you get me! ;-)