My Annual Holiday Gear Guide is Here!

Welcome to my 12th Annual Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide (from Photoshop User magazine).

> Download the PDF version here

Believe it or not, when I first started this gear guide, Gerald Ford was still President, we were watching Happy Days on TV, and we were all driving around in AMC Pacers. Although many things have changed since then (now we’re watching Little House on the Prairie), the wholesome goodness of a carefully selected piece of holiday gear still glistens in the crisp morning air (I have no idea what that actually means).

Anyway, let’s refocus on this year’s list, which is compiled from my own gear, and it’s stuff that I can’t possibly live without, even for a single moment, and I’m hoping to pass that uncomfortable dependence on to you and your loved ones this holiday season.

My Gear guide is in three 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.

Stuff you buy for the NBA player on your holiday gift list. This is the stuff that makes them burst into spontaneous tears of joy. Well, at least I would.

Neewer Professional Metal 360 Degree Rotating Panoramic Ballhead
Want to make ’em think you spent a bundle? Get ’em this awesome little ballhead, with a quick shoe plate and built-in bubble level. It supports a camera rig up to nearly 18 lbs., and if their camera rig weighs more than 18 lbs., it’s possible they have an entirely different problem that holiday gifts won’t fix. Anyway, believe it or not, it’s just $12.99, which is insanely cheap

Price: $12.99 (link)

The Joby Flash Clamp & Locking Arm
It’s kind of like a cheaper, lighter, simpler version of the Manfrotto Magic Arm, with two articulating ball joints so you can position it just how you want (it rotates a full 360° and can pivot 180° side-to-side). It comes with its own flash shoe mount, and you can attach it to all kinds of surfaces (like the back of a chair, a table, a railing, whatever—as long as it isn’t thicker than 2″). At just $39.95, it’s cheaper than it oughta be.

Price: $39.95 (link)

3-Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket
The 3 Legged Thing Universal L-Bracket is perfect for the landscape, nature, or outdoor photographer on your gift list who uses a tripod because it lets them change from shooting wide to tall in two-seconds flat. The problem has been that L-Brackets have traditionally been ridiculously expensive—until now. It comes in gray or really bright orange.

Price: $49.99 (link)

Moose Peterson’s New Book: “Takeoff: The Alpha to Zulu of Aviation Photography”
How do I know this is the most awesome book ever on aviation photography? Well, (a) I read the reviews on Amazon, and (b) because we worked with Moose to produce this book and he absolutely knocked it out of the park (which is a baseball metaphor, and an aviation metaphor would have been better, but it’s late at night, so we’re going with this). Anyway, if the photographer on your list loves taking photos of planes, this will help them take way better pics from this moment on.

Price: $19.79 (Kindle)
$28.32 (Paperback)

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.

Platypod Ultra with Multi Accessory Set
This tripod alternative has taken the photography world by storm: It fits in your pocket, you can screw a small ballhead on it, it holds your camera steady as a rock, and you can place it where tripods either aren’t allowed (which sadly is pretty much everywhere these days) or where they can’t fit. Everybody wants a Platypod Ultra. They’ll love you for it. It’s $59, but splurge a little and also get them the Multi Accessory Set (it’s awesome) for an extra $20.

Price: $59 (link)
$79 w/Multi Accessory Set (link)

Oben BE-117 Ballhead
If you want to get them a quality ballhead, but without paying $300+, check out the Oben BE-117—I love mine, and it works great with a Platypod or a tripod (or anything with a -pod at the end). It’s really well made and compact. They’ll love it.

 Price: $99.99 (link)

TetherBlock Arca
If your photographer has a home or office studio, chances are they shoot tethered, and if they do, they’ll love the new TetherBlock Arca from Tether Tools. It’s a quick-release plate for their tripod that threads their tethering cable between it and their camera, keeping them from accidentally pulling out the tethering cable during the shoot. It’s so darn clever!

Price: $99.95 direct from Tether Tools (link)

B&H Gift Card
This is always a perfect gift because: (a) B&H Photo is the greatest camera store in the world, and (b) whatever the photographer on your gift list wants, B&H has it in stock, ready to ship. They are the magical unicorn of camera stores. Get them a gift card from here and they’ll follow you anywhere.

 Price: Starting at $20 (link)

A Roll of Savage ‘Fashion Gray’ Seamless Paper
Everybody needs a great roll of seamless, and if the photographer on your list ever shoots fashion, this is kind of the official “fashion gray” of paper: Savage’s #56 Fashion Gray 107″ wide by 36′ long roll. Your photographer will love you for it, and if you’re a KelbyOne member, B&H Photo will even ship it for free if you order from our Discounts page on the KelbyOne member site.

Price: $49.99 (link)

MagMod Basic Kit
This one is for the flash user on your holiday list, and it doesn’t matter which kind of flash (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Yongnuo, Phottix, etc.) they have, this system will work and it’s pretty darn brilliant because it’s all based on magnets. You slide on their MagGrip and now their MagGel or MagGrid just slaps on/off instantly and magnetically. So clever! Your photographer will fall in love with ’em (like I have).

Price: $89.95 (link)

Elgato Thunderbolt 3 Dock
This one’s for the MacBook Pro user on your holiday list—it’s a dock with about every possible port you could want to make up for the fact that Apple took most of them away on the MacBook Pro. It has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a DisplayPort (so you can connect multiple displays), an Ethernet port, three USB 3 ports, and headphone and mic jacks. All this, and it comes in a slim size that connects with just one plug into their laptop. They will super dig it!

Price: $299.95 (link)

WD 4TB My Passport Portable External Hard Drive
Everybody needs more photo storage, and WD’s 4-TB My Passport USB 3 portable external hard drive totally rocks at just $120. Think about it—4-TB of storage that fits in the palm of your hand. Crazy! But, it’s a really important, thoughtful gift. You’ll get lots of hugs.

Price: $119.99 (link)

Skylum Luminar Plug-in for Lightroom/ Photoshop
This is the hot new effects plug-in that everybody’s talking about, and now Skylum (previously Macphun) has a Windows version as well (and the original Mac version, too). It pretty much does everything, and these guys are on the cutting edge of interface design and effects. Great presets, and it’s the “heir apparent” to the beloved Google Nik Collection. (photo by Kalebra)

Price: $69 (link)

Perfectly Clear Complete Plug-In for Lightroom/ Photoshop
I don’t use a lot of Photoshop or Lightroom plug-ins, but when I do, I use this one. It uses intelligent image analysis to quickly fix your images. I mainly use it for portrait retouching, and it does an amazingly good job, for a pretty decent price. Totally worth it.

Price: $129 (link)

Hoodman HoodLoupe Outdoor Loupe (H30MB or H32MB)
This is the latest update of a classic, and this is probably the third or fourth time this has been on my holiday list because it’s such an indispensable tool for any photographer who shoots outdoors in direct light. It covers your entire LCD screen so you can see your images perfectly outdoors (when everybody around you can’t). It’s $89.99 and totally worth it. (There are versions for 3″ screens or Canon’s 3.2″ screens.)

Price: $89.99 (link)

Westcott 43″Apollo Orb Octabox
There’s a reason the Westcott 43″ Apollo Orb Octabox is probably the biggest selling light modifier from one of the world’s largest light modifier companies. If your photographer has studio lights, this is a killer gift. Big soft beautiful light, with a quick setup/tear down, and a price that’s right at $129.90 (and if you get it from B&H, they throw in a 40° Fabric Grid, which is normally $69.90 on its own). Hard to beat.

Price: $129.90 (link)

Stuff you buy for the NBA player on your holiday gift list. This is the stuff that makes them burst into spontaneous tears of joy. Well, at least I would.

Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
This is the lens…of the gods. It’s a super wide-angle, but it’s not big and bulky, and it’s really sharp, and it’s mega awesome, and your photographer will dedicate his or her life to somehow paying you back for this life-changing, photo-making, love-taking gift. I take mine pretty much everywhere, and I love it so. At $2099, this is why this category is called “Cha-Ching.”

Price: $2,099 (link)

Nikon D850 DSLR Camera Body
I had to include this one because I haven’t talked to a Nikon shooter who doesn’t think this isn’t the greatest camera body Nikon’s ever made. They’re literally over the moon about this one. (I’m not a Nikon shooter myself but based on the specs, and reactions from shooters I’ve talked with, this body is the real deal for the Nikon shooter on your list.) It has a 45.7-megapixel sensor; it does 4K; and it, well, pretty much does everything. It oughta—it’s $3,296.95 at B&H. Give them this and your photographer will accept a marriage proposal, or at the very least, they’ll move in with you.

Price: $3,296.95 (link)

Drobo 5D3 5-Bay Thunderbolt Enclosure
The Drobo 5D3 is a photo storage device for pros (or pro-quality photographers, or anyone really serious about keeping their images safe). I’ve been using this one for over a year and it’s been awesome (and flawless). I’d given up on Drobo years ago, but their new CEO, new designs, new technology, and most importantly, new warranty (two years on the standard 5D3, but up to five years if you splurge on either the Gold or Platinum Edition), changed my mind. Stellar gift and the price is actually great for this robotic safeguard of your images.

Price: $694 enclosure only (link)

DJ I Mavik Pro Drone ( Fly More Combo)
If there’s a hotter gift in general out there this season, I’ve yet to find it. Everybody wants a drone (not just photographers), but this is the best one ever made at this price point. It’s the“dream drone,” and you won’t find a Mavik Pro owner who doesn’t think this isn’t the greatest thing since free lm. I would get them the Fly More Combo, which comes with an extra battery and important stuff they’ll actually need. Honestly, it’s a deal for what it does (it flies up to 4+ miles, shoots 12-megapixel photos, comes with its own camera, shoots 4K video, and it’s a freakin’ drone. How awesome is that?).

Price: $1,299 (link)

Canon, Nikon, or Sony Teleconverter
This is probably the lowest-price gift under the “Cha-Ching” category, but don’t let that throw you because this is a seriously awesome gift for any photographer who shoots things at a distance—such as sports, aviation, or wildlife— because it gets them 1.4x closer to the action without losing quality. Don’t go with the 2x—stick with the 1.4x so they don’t lose too much light or quality. If your photographer is a Canon shooter, go with the Canon brand; if they’re a Nikon shooter, go with the Nikon brand; and if they use a Sony camera, go with Sony (I’m usually cool with third-party stuff, but not when it comes to teleconverters). A really killer gift without breaking the bank.

Canon Extender EF 1.4x III $429.00 (link)

Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III $496.95 (link)

Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter $548.00 (link)

This is stuff, from us, that’s cool. I don’t know what else to say. 

My Brand-New Book, The Flash Book
If you know the photographer on your wish list already owns flash, then this is the book to make them finally fall in love with their flash. I wrote this book, which teaches a system I use for getting fantastic results with flash every time. It’s for anyone who has struggled with flash and isn’t getting the results for which they bought their flash. The book is brand new—printed copies are shipping early December, but the eBook edition is available right now.

Price: $19.34 (Kindle)
Price: $20.36 (Paperback)

Photoshop World Conference 2018 Full Conference Pass
Want to blow their mind and give them an experience they’ll be talking about for years? Give the photographer on your gift list a Full Conference Pass to the three-day Photoshop World Conference 2018 early next summer in Orlando, Florida. Get the pass before April 27, 2018, to take advantage of the Early Bird special, and you’ll save $100. And if you’re a KelbyOne Pro member, you’ll save an additional $100 on Early Bird pricing. You’ll have a friend for life. Maybe longer.

Price: $599 (KelbyOne Pro Member Early Bird Pricing) Link

One-Year KelbyOne Pro Membership
If you’re already a member, you know firsthand about all the incredible online courses, the online Community, the digital magazines, the webcasts, the discounts, and more. Now you can share all that with a photographer you super dig. It’s only $199 for a full year, with full access to everything! They will devote the rest of their natural life to letting you know how thoughtful, caring, and generous you were to change their life in such a meaningful way. Plus, you’ll just look cool.

Price: $199 (link)

Well, my friends, that’s it — my 12th Annual Gonzo Gear Guide. I hope you enjoyed the gonzoness. :)

 Have a great weekend (and happy shopping!). :)



  1. Don’t keep us in suspense. What spell checker changed all the instances of flash to ‘ash’? As in “fall in love with their ash.” I’m still laughing.

    1. I think I tracked down what happened – the text was copied from a PDF the editor sent me, and that PDF came from an Adobe InDesign doc. In that document, the fl and fi letter combinations are replaced with typographically correct ‘ligatures’ (an elegant single letter that combines the two letters). I guess WordPress (the software powering my blog) doesn’t support converting ligatures back into the two letter they represent, so it just leaves them out altogether. I went back and fixed it manually, but I’ll keep an eye out for this moving forward for sure. :)

  2. I actually didn’t really love the Canon 14mm f/2.8 ver II. The outside 1/4 of the image got too distorted and left stars looking long. I used it once on a trip but then went back to my 16-35 f/4. I think for sharpness and similar price, the 16-35 f/2.8 ver III would be the better option. My 2¢.

      1. I am extremely happy with the f/4. I can’t see dropping an extra $1000 for the 2.8 ver III unless you REALLY need the 2.8.

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