There’s no better time than the presents (see what I did there?), so let’s go! It’s my “17th Annual Gonzo Holiday Photo Gear Guide” as featured in the December 2022 issue of Photoshop User magazine (if you’d like, you can download the entire issue for free, right here, as my holiday gift to you).
No one is more surprised than I am about that whole “17th annual” part. When I wrote the first one, Millard Fillmore was President, Bewitched was a prime-time TV show, and Paul Anka had just released his epic Dark Side of the Moon album. It was a wild time, folks. Wild time.
Anyway, there is, once again, some really cool, fun, and tasty gear in this year’s guide (including my throwback pick, Cheetos lip balm, which is actually a real thing. Well, it was. Google it!). Anyway, it’s time to unleash this year’s “gonzoness” upon you. Here are our three gift categories:
Great Value Gear
Just remember, giving one of these gifts by itself isn’t enough. The real magic of the holidays is when you can make others feel less adequate by sharing what you got on Facebook. It’s what separates us from the animals. So, without further ado, I present to you my “17th Annual Gonzo Holiday Photo Gear Guide” and guided path to financial ruin.
Important Note: Before you buy anything on this list, if you’re a KelbyOne member, don’t forget to check the Discounts page on the KelbyOne member’s site. A lot of companies have offered special deals just for KelbyOne members, and there’s nothing wrong with saving a buck or two when buying these gifts.
These are the perfect gifts for people you don’t really care that much about, but it would be awkward if you didn’t get them anything.
Pocket Tripod Pro
This is a little engineering miracle: it’s a tripod for your iPhone (or Android phone) that fits in your wallet. It’s about the size and shape of a credit card, but with a twist and two clicks, it transforms into a shooting platform for your phone, and well, it’s just so darn clever and super handy. It’s also really well made.
Price: $35 (here’s the link)
Hoodman Lens Cleanse Cleaning Kits
These are the same lens cleaners I use, not only for my lenses but also for the screen on my laptop, and what I love about them is that there are two parts: (1) The “wet” wiping part and then the (2) dry cleaning wipe that comes in a separate little pack. They’re great, small, lightweight, and inexpensive.
Price: $9.99 for a 12-pack (here’s the link)
The Book Create by Marc Silber
If Marc’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably from his two appearances on The Grid, and this latest update to his book Create is so great because it talks about a part of photography that a lot of people struggle with: “Overcoming fear to unleash your creativity.” Marc is a great teacher, super creative guy (and he plays a mean blues harp, too). The photographer on your gift list will learn a lot from this book. Highly recommended.
Even Longer (iPhone App)
This app for your iPhone is a mini-miracle in that it lets you do crazy-long exposures right on your iPhone. I’m not talking 5-seconds (though it will certainly do 5 seconds); I’m talking up to several hours. It’s really pretty incredible, and it’s so inexpensive as well. To “gift” an app to someone, find the App on the iPhone’s App Store, tap the Share button, scroll down the list, and tap on Gift App.
Price: $3.99 (Here’s the link)
B&H Photo Gift Card
What could be better than a gift card to the greatest camera store in the world? Whatever the photographer on your gift list wants, they have it in stock, ready to ship. They’re the magical unicorn of camera stores. Get them a gift card from here, and they’ll follow you anywhere (which may or may not be a good thing).
Price: Starting at $25 (link)
A Roll of Gaffer Tape
I’ve listed this stocking stuffer before because it never goes out of style, and it’s better than just a “roll of tape.” It was developed in Hollywood for use in movies and TV shows because this tape does something very special: when you remove it from a wall, some equipment, your mother-in-law, etc., it doesn’t pull off paint (or skin) or leave a sticky residue. That’s why photographers love it; it’s easy to tear, easy to use, and doesn’t mess up stuff when you’re done.
Price: ProTapes Pro Gaffer Tape 2″x 55 Yard Roll: $19.95 (link)
Business Cards for Photographers from Moo
Moo cards are a favorite with photographers worldwide mainly because they’ll let you print a different image on every card (or you can have the same image on all the cards). Anyway, if you can get hold of 10 high-res images from the photographer on your gift list, you could get them a set of 50 cards, with each of those images on a set of 10 cards and their contact info and stuff on the other. You’ll be a superstar for either getting the gift card or being sneaky and doing the work yourself. This is a can’t- miss stocking stuffer.
Price: Starting at $21 for 50, two-sided, full-color business cards (link)
The Photographer’s Portfolio Development Workshop by William Neill
I like this book for so many reasons (one being that every photographer needs a portfolio),
but what I love about this book is how the author has written the book like a workshop: you build your portfolio right along with him as part of the pro- cess. He leads you through the process, and I have to say I learned a lot from it, even though I have a portfolio up and running. I also love that it’s not a long book; he gets right into the process of building and evaluating, and finding the right images, which is a big part of the process. Really good stuff.
Arnarkok Metal Phone Tripod Holder
If you know someone who’s getting serious about their iPhone or cell- phone photography, or if they’re using an iPhone as their second camera when they travel, then they’ll dig this. It attaches to the top of their existing tripod (it has an Arca Swiss plate base), and now they can easily mount their phone right on their tripod for long exposure shots or any low-light shooting situations where the camera needs to be super still. Very well made, small, and lightweight, too.
Price: $26.99 (link)
A Couple of Spare Camera Batteries
Even if they have a spare battery, every photographer would still love another one (or two). It’s one of those can’t-go-wrong stocking stuffers.
For Canon EOS R5 & EOS R6 Mirrorless Cameras: $79 (link)
For Nikon Mirrorless Cameras Using EN-EL15c Style Batteries (Most Nikon Mirrorless & DSLR Bodies): $69 (link)
For Sony Alpha a9 II, a9, a7R IV, a7R III, a7 III, & a6600 Cameras: $78 (link)
BlackRapid 10-Year Anniversary RS-4 Classic Retro Camera Sling
This is another one I’ve included in my gear guides many times before because I’ve tried a lot of camera straps over the years, and this has been my hands-down favorite for years. The strap wraps across your body (great for safety since a thief can’t just grab it off your shoulder and take it off), and the camera is right at your side, ready to shoot at any time. Really can’t say enough about ’em.
Price: $67.95 (link)
DxO Nik Collection 5 Photoshop / Lightroom Plug-Ins
This is a long-beloved suite of eight special effects and production plug-ins, originally developed by Nik Software and taken to the next level by the folks at DxO (makers of many other fine plug-ins), who recently released an upgraded suite, and they’re pretty darn sweet! (See what I did there?) Includes Color Efex, Silver Efex, Analog Efex, Dfine, Viveza, HDR Efex, Sharpener, and Perspective Efex.
Price: $149 (link)
Topaz Sharpen AI Photoshop / Lightroom plug-in
This AI-powered sharpening plug-in (for Lightroom or Photoshop) is so darn good I rarely sharpen in Photoshop or Lightroom anymore. All the photographer on your gift list will have to do is sit back, click a button, and she’ll enter a whole new world of
sharp, crisp images. Really good stuff (and it will help her prepare for when robots steal all our jobs).
Price: $79.99 (link)
ON1 Effects 2023 Photoshop / Lightroom plug-in
This is the plug-in I use for my finishing moves (after my basic edits in Lightroom), and the new Effects 2023 has even more features than my old go-to (Effects 2022). The new masking AI stuff recognizes 12 different categories of objects (people, trees, skies, etc.) it can identify so you can just click on any of them in your image and start editing. Plus, lots of other nice features and tweaks.
Price: $69.99 (Right now, they have pop-up window that appears offering 20% off) Link
GREAT VALUE GEAR
These are gifts that fall into that sweet spot of looking like they cost a lot when, in reality, they’re really pretty inexpensive, so you look like a champ, but in reality, well, you can fill in your own blanks here. Good stuff, cheap. Well, cheapish.
This is the next-level Platypod everybody’s been waiting for. It has built-in extendable legs that let you set up your camera on even the most uneven surfaces, and it has the look and all the goodies of the smaller Platypod Ultra but in a larger footprint. People went crazy ordering theirs when they did their Kickstarter campaign, but now Platypod has them “in stock and ready to rock.”
Price: $149 (link)
Think Tank Photo TurnStyle 10 v2.0 Sling Camera Bag
Another longtime favorite, this is the camera bag I use when I travel. It slings across your body, and it’s just big enough for a second lens or two shorter lenses, a Platypod, some ND filters, a ball head, extra batteries, and some other accessories, but it’s still super-small and lightweight. Been using it for years, and it’s my favorite bag for travel.
Price: $97.75 (link)
Xencelabs Pen Tablet (Small)
This is the new kid on the block when it comes to tablets and pens for use with Photoshop and Lightroom, but it’s already gaining lots of fans. I recommend the small size for photographers, but I’d go bigger if the person on your gift list is doing illustrations. Really nicely made, has a great feel and response, and the price is right.
Price: $199 (link)
External Hard Drive
The prices for external hard drives have come down, and the size of the photos we take continues to go up, and that’s why getting the photographer on your holiday gift list an external drive is always appreciated (especially because none of us ever have enough storage). I have two different options. The first option is if he travels a lot and wants to be able to back up his images while still on vacation, check out the SanDisk 2TB Extreme Portable SSD drive. Super-fast, super-small, and lightweight. For the second option, if he doesn’t have a main external hard drive for his entire photo library, check out this big boy: The WD 12TB Elements Desktop USB 3.0 External Hard Drive. Yup, that’s 12 terabytes!
They’ll love you for this one!
SanDisk 2TB Extreme Portable SSD V2: $179.99 (link)
WD 12TB Elements Desktop USB 3.0 External Hard Drive: $309.99 (link)
2-Pack of Lexar 128GB Professional 1667x Super-Fast UHS-II SDXC Memory Cards
Memory cards are like batteries: you can never have enough of them (especially if your gift photographer shoots video, too), and these super-fast SD cards will be so welcome by the mirrorless photographer on your gift list. This is one of those things that photographers put off buying, so when you buy it for them, it’s hero time. Plus, this is a smoking deal for these high-quality, super-fast cards ($99.99 for the two together). You can’t go wrong (and they’ll think you spent a lot more)!
Price: $99.99 (link)
Send Them One of Your Prints
I think this is one of the best, most personal gifts you can give, and it’s something he or she can’t get anywhere else. Go to BayPhoto.com or to MPIX.com (two great photo labs that I highly recommend). Upload your photo, choose a large size (like a 16×24″ print), and they’ll do the rest. They can even ship it directly to them. This is a can’t-miss gift.
Price: At Bay Photo Lab choose one of their 16×24” Fine Art Prints on Hahnemuhle FineArt Baryta Satin paper starting at $69 (link)
Price: At MPIX.com, choose one of their Giclee 16×24” prints starting at $42.99, but you can get 25% off on your first order (the discount pops up on screen). (link)
A “Scott Kelby” Fine-Art Print
Ya know, you could always gift them one of “my” prints. I have two fine-art images of classic interiors, available (in various sizes) through the photographic gallery YellowKorner.com. Anyway, it would make a great addition to any photography collection (said the photographer who took them, so his opinion is somewhat, if not totally, biased). If you purchase one, please post a pic on social media and tag me in it, so I can also share it.
Price: Starting from $135 (link)
Peak Design Travel Tripod
I don’t actually have this one myself, but one of the students had one in my travel workshop in Tuscany this summer, and man, was it sweet. Super sweet! It was so incredibly light and well-crafted (all the Peak Design stuff is very well-designed, in function and looks). They’re not cheap, but that’s why they’re here in the “Cha-Ching!” section. It has nearly 1,000 reviews on B&H with a 5-star rating, which is so rare.
There are two versions: the Aluminum version and the lighter Carbon Fiber version, which costs a bunch more but, either way, what a smokin’ holiday gift!
Aluminum Travel Tripod: $379.95 (link)
Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod: $649.95 (link)
85mm f/1.8 Portrait Lens
If the photographer on your holiday list shoots people (you know what I mean), then she’ll lose her mind over an 85mm, and she’ll really only need the f/1.8 version, which is surprisingly affordable (well, it is when you compare it to an 85mm f/1.4 or f/1.2). The f/1.8 version has that creamy bokeh she’s looking for, without the extra weight or dynamic price (dynamic is a great word to use in place of “ridiculously high”). You’ll be a holiday hero if you buy her one of these.
Canon RF 85mm (for mirrorless; it’s an f/2, not an f/1.8. Won’t matter): $499 (link)
Nikon NIKKOR Z 85mm S (for mirrorless): $696.95 (link)
Sony FE 85mm: $598 (link)
These are my picks for the gift you’d buy the photographer on your gift list who is a personal injury attorney, anesthesiologist, or perhaps a crypto miner (nobody actually knows what that is, especially the miner). Before buying any of these items, the process will go faster if the bank has pre-approved you for a specific loan amount.
Kase 77mm Skyeye Professional ND Magnetic Filter Kit with Front Caps & Case
When I held my travel photography workshop in Prague earlier this year, all the students were rocking these magnetic ND filters. Well, everybody but me, and let me tell you, I was mighty jealous. I did get to try them out, and I have to say, they’re awesome. They’re not cheap, but they’re really, really nice. They’re so easy to use (they’re magnetic), and the case and presentation is so nice he’ll think you spent more than you did. This set is for 77mm size lenses, but if he has a smaller size, you can buy a step-down ring so he can use them (most folks will never use the 88mm size, so unless you know for sure they have a lens that big, go with the 77mm).
Price: $299.67 (link)
These beautifully hand-painted backdrops are priced far below the competitors’, and yet their quality is spot-on. I have four of these now, and I don’t want to shoot on anything else. These are giving photographers access to a level of backdrops that were out of reach price-wise for so many people. You’re now buying and owning these backdrops at the price that we used to pay just to rent them for the weekend. Can’t recommend these enough.
Price is based on size, but figure around $350 or so for a nice-sized backdrop. (link)
Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 Professional Inkjet Printer
If the person on your gift list has ever dreamed of making big beautiful prints, this is the printer to get. We have one of these in our offices, and it’s among the best color inkjet printers ever made. It’s a 17″ wide-format, pro-quality printer for making lab-quality photographic prints with unbelievable quality, sharpness, and vibrance. Plus, it will blow her mind that you bought her a printer. Doesn’t matter which brand of camera she uses; it’s not a brand-specific printer. It makes beautiful prints from any camera (well, provided the image is a nice image; that goes without saying, right?).
Price: $1199 (link)
DJI Mini 3 Pro with DJI RC Remote
My buddy Terry White has this one. He’s a big drone guy and has owned a bunch of different ones, and this is his all-time favorite. Here’s how he described it to me when he got it. “It’s like you wrote down all the things you wished DJI would add, fix, or improve on their drones,
and they did every single one of them.” Plus, this thing is so small (it literally hits comfortably in the palm of your hand, despite the fact that it shoots 4K video and 48-megapixel stills) and lightweight you don’t have to have a license to fly it. It’s hero time.
Price: $909 (link)
Canon EOS R6 Mark II Mirrorless Camera Body
I preordered this camera from B&H right after they announced it. My Canon R6 has been, by far, my favorite camera ever, and this new version adds more megapixels, an improved hardware design, 80% faster focus tracking (including a new airplane-tracking mode), among other new features. Basically, it’s a better version of my favorite camera ever. I got to hold one at the Canon booth at B&H Photo’s OPTIC WEST conference, and I was hooked. Perfect for the Canon shooter on your holiday gift list. He’ll lose his mind when you give him this baby!
Price: $2,499 (Worth it!) (Link)
STUFF FROM US at KELBYONE
Cool KelbyOne Swag
We have all sorts of T-shirts, mugs, hats, masks, and well, you name it, for the KelbyOne fan on your list, and best of all, 100% of the profits from the sales of K1 swag go to the Springs of Hope Orphanage in Nakuru, Kenya, so you’re getting a great gift, and helping some great kids. Plus, you can get 20% off your first order.
Price: Starting at $12.76 (with the 20% discount) (link)
A One-Year KelbyOne Pro Membership
If you really want to bowl her over, get her a KelbyOne Pro membership. She’ll have access to more than 900 full-length classes, a subscription to Photoshop User magazine, and access to an incredible worldwide community of photographers helping each other improve. It’s for accelerated learning, and she’ll have full access to everything. She’ll love you (and so will I).
Price: $19.99/Month; $199/Annually (Link)
My Book, How Do I Do That in Lightroom?
It’s the 3rd edition of one of my most popular books. It’s designed for people who already use Lightroom but need to know how to do a specific thing or use a specific feature. They just grab the book, turn to that page, and there are step-by-step instructions on how to do the thing they need to do right now. It’s been a huge hit with readers, and this new edition includes an entire chapter on the new masking tools. It’s another can’t-miss gift.
My Book, The iPhone Photography Book
What if someone took all the principles of taking great photos with a regular DSLR or mirrorless camera and showed you how to apply those same techniques using the camera on your iPhone? Well, thankfully, somebody did just that (spoiler alert: it’s me!), and this is my biggest-selling book right now. I uncover all sorts of great tricks, tips, and settings that’ll help you take images that will have people saying, “You took that with your iPhone? No way!” But oh, yes. Way.
Happy Shopping, Everybody, and here’s wishing you a Happy Holiday Season. :)