I’m very excited about this collaboration with the creative team at On1 (maker’s of awesome plug-ins for Lightroom and Photoshop), and they are doing a 50% off deal right now on my signature collection (just in time for Christmas, and it’s an instant download, so no waiting on shipping).
Here’s how they describe my new collection (and it’s more than just presets):
I know a lot of you already have one or more of On1’s awesome plug-ins, and if you do, I think you’ll super-dig this bundle (especially when it’s on sale like this). I hope you’ll check it out. :)
Welcome to my glorious and sheepishly anticipated “15th Annual Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide.” It’s an annual tradition here in the mag, where I share gift ideas for photographers based on the stuff I spent too much money on throughout the year. Being stuck inside with the pandemic and all, sadly hasn’t curtailed the amount I spent this year (perhaps, just the opposite), but nevertheless, I’ve got some great gift ideas in three different categories:
Stocking Stuffers: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.
Great Value Gear: These are gifts that fall into that sweet spot of looking like they cost a lot, but they’re actually 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.
Cha-ching!:These are my picks for gifts you’d buy the photographer on your gift list who’s a personal injury attorney, anesthesiologist, or perhaps a cloud engineer (nobody actually knows what a cloud engineer does, but it has to pay a lot because it has “cloud” in the name and the future is all about the cloud). Before buying any of these items, the process will go faster if the bank has pre-approved you for a specific loan amount.
Just remember, giving one of these gifts by itself isn’t enough. The real magic of the holidays is when you can use social media to make others feel less adequate by taking smartphone pictures of all the stuff you bought, and all the stuff you got, and sharing it online. It’s what separates us from the animals. So, without further ado, I present to you my “15th Annual Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide” and late night bag o’ chips snacking companion.
Uncommon Grit: A Photographic Journey through Navy SEAL Training by D. McBurnett
If the photographer on your gift list enjoys a good coffee table book, this one is pretty brilliant. It has fantastic images of Navy SEAL training operations taken by a retired former Navy SEAL and it’s really stunning (the imagery and the testament of what it takes to become a SEAL). Really nicely done, and they’ll love it (and you).
This has become my favorite software for backing up my computer, and since photographers are notoriously bad at backing up their computers (they must be, because people email me all the time with heartbreaking stories about how they’ve lost their photos forever when their computer died or was stolen), this will make it so easy. It literally reminds you to plug in your drive and back up on a schedule, and all you have to do is plug in that drive—Carbon Copy Cloner does the rest. This is a very pragmatic gift, so while it’s not flashy, and they won’t necessarily be gushing when you give it, they’ll thank you again and again all year long. At the very least, they’ll think of you in a semi-positive light.
Price: Personal & Household license: $39.99 (link)
Hard Drive for Backing Up Photos
This one is particularly nice, because it really seems like you spent a lot, but the prices for storage have come down so much that it’s shockingly low. You can get a WD 2-TB external hard drive for around $65, which is just insanely cheap. Get them at least a 2-TB drive, and if you’re romantically tied to this person, maybe even go for 4 TB for around $100.
Okay, this is a plug for my own book, but it’s one I’m really proud of because I’ve heard from so many photographers who have told me that this is the book that turned them into a photographer. It’s the major new update to the #1-bestselling book in history on digital photography, and it’s been seven years in the making. I’m sharing all my latest techniques, tips, and tricks on how to make better photos, right away, today! It’s not a book on theory that challenges them to figure things out on their own; it’s the exact tools, settings, and techniques that will make a difference immediately in their photography. It’s available in print and eBook editions.
Most photographers hate cutting gels for their flash, and storing them for future use is even worse, which is why they’ll love these precut, super-easy-to-use, and clearly marked gels for hot-shoe flash. They’re very cleverly designed to make putting gels on their flash quick and easy, and the gels come in their own storage wallet with a tabbed organizer to make finding the right gel easy. Super-cool gift for the flash user on your list.
If they shoot with an iPhone, I think this is the best darn little tripod out there. It’s so light, yet so handy. Make sure you get the one that fits their model of phone. This is the perfect stocking stuffer for the iPhone photographer on your list.
This is always the perfect gift because B&H Photo is the greatest camera store in the world, and whatever the photographer on your gift list wants, B&H has 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.
Dogtography: A Knock-Your-Socks-Off Guide to Capturing the Best Dog Photos on Earth
This brand-spanking new book from the undisputed queen of dog photography, Kaylee Greer, is an absolute gem and, if the photographer on your gift list has a doggo, they’ll get so much out of this wonderful book. Kaylee is magic when it comes to photographing pooches (she even had her own TV series on Nat Geo Wild called Pupparazzi), and she shares all her secrets to getting the best doggie photos you’ve ever taken. Well, the person on your gift list will be so happy to get this book, and if you buy a copy for yourself, you’ll be happy too. Totally worth it.
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. Today you can get a pack of two spare batteries along with a charger for around $30. Note: If you buy a battery from the camera manufacturer (such as Canon or Nikon), the prices are so much higher (like $60–70 a battery) that it will probably move you out of the stocking-stuffer range. I haven’t noticed a difference in quality or battery life whatsoever with these off-brand batteries, so save the money and buy them two of these instead of one of the name brands. They’ll love this!
Price: For Canons using LP-E6 style batteries: $29.99 (link) For Nikon Mirrorless cameras using EN-EL15b style batteries: $19.95 (link)
2-Pack of Lexar Professional 633x UHS-I SDHC 32GB Memory Cards
Memory cards are like batteries: photographers can never have enough of them (especially if they shoot video, too), and these fast SD cards will be so welcome by the 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, these are so inexpensive now (around $15 for two), you can’t go wrong (and they’ll think you spent a lot more)!
This is a freakin’ amazing sharpening plug-in from the wizards at Topaz Labs. Erik Kuna, our VP of Operations and instructor here at KelbyOne, and I have both fallen in love with this plug-in. It’s way cheaper than buying a new sharp lens, but it will make their images look like they plunked down $3,000. Since it uses AI and automatically does all the analyzing and applying, all they have to do is sit back and click a button to enter a whole new world of sharp, crisp images. Really good stuff (and it will help them prepare for when robots steal all our jobs).
Breakthrough Photography X4 Neutral Density Filters
Famous photographer (and my dear friend) Rick Sammon called me one day to tell me about these filters (’cause he knows I’m a filter freak). He was raving about the quality, and man was he right. He talked me into getting a set of the X4 Neutral Density (ND) filters, and they’re as good as it gets. They’re so well-crafted, and everything Rick said they were. Breakthrough Photography makes all sorts of different filters, all designed and built here in the U.S. This is a really nice gift. The 6-stop ND filter starts at $149 (based on the size of their lens in mm), and the 10-stop (my fav) starts at $159. Make sure you find out what mm size their lens is. (This is a tricky thing to ask without giving away the present—good luck with that!)
There are a lot of great flash modifiers out there, but MagMod is their king for just how easy it is to use and switch between their different flash accessories. The secret? Magnets. You don’t attach them; they just magnetically snap into place, and they’re a joy to use. You’ll be a hero from the very first time the photographer on your list uses this system. The MagMod Starter Kit comes with the MagGrip, MagGrid, and the popular MagSphere. If they use flash, they will so love this system.
This is a long-beloved collection of special effects and production plug-ins, originally developed by Nik Software, who was acquired by Google, and then acquired by DxO (maker of PhotoLab). DxO has updated the software a bit, added a new plug-in called Perspective Efex, and just released a new set of presets. For many photographers out there, this plug-in is their secret weapon.
This is a very special gift: a gift certificate so the photographer on your list can get a 16×24″ Epic Print (which is their name for this particular printing process). Here’s how they describe it: “Epic Prints are made from prints on Fujiflex silver halide photographic paper with up to 610-dpi resolution, for high-precision clarity that’s as close to ‘perfect’ as print gets. Mounted to aluminum for a sleek, thin profile, and a flawless presentation.” Seriously, who wouldn’t lose their mind to have one of their images printed and presented like that? They just upload their file, and Bay Photo does the rest.
This is a hardware input device (nerdspeak) for super-fast editing in Lightroom and Photoshop. It replaces clicking all over the place with your mouse with an intuitive set of dials, knobs, and buttons that are just so slick and thoughtfully laid out. If you know someone who wants to speed up their Lightroom or Photoshop work, and wants to look really cool doing it, this is for them.
If you want to give them a gift they’ll literally treasure for years, get them a gift certificate from Mpix.com to have their images printed in a high-quality photo book. It’s like a coffee table book, but of their own images, and the quality (and customer service) is off the charts. They’re not cheap, but that’s only because they’re super-high quality. This is a gift they’ll love on a level you can’t imagine.
Price: $159.99 for the 8×8 book with 20 pages; $184.99 for the 10×10 with 20 pages(Note: Go for the 10×10!) (link)
Luminar AI Automated Photo-Editing Program
If they’re not a postprocessing shark, this plug-in (which uses AI to analyze and edit your image automatically for you, or with some input from you), will help take their images to the next level, without the learning curve. It’s pretty amazing what Skylum is doing with this standalone app. It’s set to be available on December 15, 2020, so it’s right around the corner.
Every photographer needs an online portfolio, but the process of getting and creating one has been either really limited, complicated, or both. SlickPic is a site designed exclusively for creating photography portfolios, and if you buy the photographer on your gift list a “Portfolio” level account, SlickPic assigns a professional designer to help them get their site up and running fast and looking great. I switched my portfolio over to SlickPic earlier this year and I’m loving it (though I didn’t need to use their designer as their templates are really easy and intuitive).
I’ve tried a lot of camera straps over the years, and this is my favorite. I learned about this strap on one of my first photo walks (about 12 years ago) and I’ve been using one ever since. The strap wraps across their body (great for safety since a thief can’t just grab it off your shoulder and take off), and their camera is right at their side ready to shoot at any time. Really can’t say enough about ’em.
Okay, I wanted to sound like a rockstar with that greatest hits title, but in reality, it’s three of my bestselling books: (1) The Landscape Photography Book (2) The Natural Light Portrait Book, and (3) The Flash Book, all bundled together at one incredible price as if it were designed from scratch from the book publishing gods to create the ultimate photography learning gift pack. If your photographer is a reader, they’ll super-dig my book bundle (thank you Rocky Nook for putting it together).
Price: All three print books together: $45 (insanely low—that’s 50% off the cover price); All three eBooks together: $35 (I should find a new publisher—that’s too low!) (link)
Tether Tools Rock Solid Tripod Roller
Nobody else will have this hidden gem on their gift guide, which is partially why it makes such an awesome gift (and one that will make their friends jealous). It’s a super portable and collapsible base onto which you put your tripod, and it becomes—wait for it, wait for it—a rolling tripod. You can’t imagine how great this is until you use one (I’ve been using one for years). It looks and acts like it costs a lot more, and they’ll be the envy of every studio photographer everywhere.
The gallery YellowKorner sells three of my fine art prints of classic interiors at various sizes (you can get some really nice large sizes) and styles; and I, for one, would be honored if you saw fit to give one as a gift. Imagine how tickled I’d be if you gave three or four? Or even three or four hundred? The mind reels, doesn’t it? Anyway, it would make a great addition to your photography collection (said the artist; so his opinion is marginally biased). If you purchase one, please post a pic on social and tag me in it, so I can share it, as well.
Hand-Painted Backdrop for Portraits from GravityBackDrops
This is the second time these have landed in my Gear Guide, but I’ve been using them a lot lately, and felt they needed to be included again. These beautifully hand-painted backdrops are turning the industry on its ear, because they’re priced so far below their competitors, yet their quality is spot-on. These are giving photographers access to a level of quality, hand-painted backdrops that were out of reach for so many people; you can now own these backdrops for less than we used to rent them for the weekend. They’ll even custom-make whatever you want. Can’t recommend these enough (and you’ll be a hero to the photographer on your gift list).
Price: Based on size, but figure around $350 or so (link)
Canon EOS R6 Mirrorless Camera
I don’t have this camera yet, but it’s the one I’m about to buy for myself for Christmas. It has the sensor of the camera I wish I could buy, the Canon EOS-1D Mark III (I have the old 1D Mark I), so the low-noise performance is insane, but it’s got all the features of Canon’s latest mirrorless line, and a price that’s actually mind-blowing for what you get. Perfect for the Canon shooter on your holiday gift list. They’ll lose their minds when you give them this!
Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 Lens for Shooting the Night Sky/Milky Way
This lens is highly recommended by the real man, can of ham, eats lots of bran, friend of Jean-Claude Van Damme, big fan of Wham, and the real rocketman, Erik Kuna, who notes that this is an absolute favorite among the astrophotography crowd (which I believe are people that take photos of George Jetson’s dog) and, well, the price is so good, it’s hard to pass up. If the photographer on your gift list likes shooting the night sky, or heavenly bodies (stop snickering), or Milky Way bars, this will totally float their boat!
Price: Nikon: $299 (link) Canon: $399 (link) Sony: $499 (don’t shoot the messenger Sony users) (link)
Westcott FJ400 Wireless Flash System
Westcott has a huge hit on their hands with this portable studio strobe. They can’t build ’em fast enough to keep up with demand, because the design is awesome, the wireless trigger is really fantastic, and the price is ridiculously cheap for what it does. You need both the strobe and the wireless transmitter, but they’re totally worth it, and the photographer on your gift list will follow you around like a puppy with unending adoration if you pick up this gift for them.
Nikon Z 6II Mirrorless Camera with FTZ Adapter Kit
A number of my Nikon-shooting friends have this camera and every one of them absolutely swears by it. If the Nikon shooting photographer on your gift list has been itching to go mirrorless, they’ll pass out and wind up in the fetal position on the floor when they open your wrapped gift, and they find this inside. They’ll have to go through a concussion protocol shortly after opening the box. True story. Get the one with the adapter so they can use their existing Nikon lenses with this new mirrorless. It really shows you care.
If the photographer on your gift list is a Sony shooter (or just wants to be), here’s a gift that will have them exploding into candy like a piñata. It’s the top-selling, most-wished-for, most-longed-for, sexiest (sexiest?) mirrorless camera with incredible specs and a legion of fans around the world. If you want to curry favor with your giftee, be the gifter that breaks the bank and gets them that once-in-a-lifetime gift. (I say that because you’ll never be able to afford things such as food, rent, and air again. You’ll be broke, but you’ll be a broke hero and that’s saying something.)
Treat Them to a Ticket to Our Online Travel Photography Conference
It’s coming up in January, so the timing is right on the money, and if they’re into taking photos when they travel, they’ll so love this two-day, two track, all-online conference with a who’s who of brilliant travel photography instructors and postprocessing wizards. Plus, they’ll have access to the archive of all the conference classes for an entire year after the fact. These are super popular, and they’ll have a great experience, laugh a lot, learn a lot, and they’ll thank you again and again. ;-)
Price: $149 for a full-access pass (early-bird) (link)
A One-Year KelbyOne Membership
If they love online training, we have a special membership level that just focuses on the online classes, giving them access to more than 300 courses, and it goes for just $9.99 a month or $96 annually. Give ’em a 12-month membership and they’ll love you all year. If you really want to bowl them over, get them a KelbyOne Pro membership; it’s got more classes (800+), more features, and an incredible worldwide community of photographers helping each other get better. It’s for accelerated learning, and they’ll have full access to everything. They’ll love you (and so will I).
Price: Plus Membership: $9.99/month; $96/annually; Pro Membership: $19.99/month; $199/annually (link)
Well, there ya have it, folks. Remember, it’s not how many gifts you get. It’s about how many gifts you get me! ;-)
Welcome to the online version of my “14th Annual Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide,” which is featured in this latest issue of Photoshop User magazine.
I know it’s hard to believe I’ve been writing this for 14 years, which must also mean that I’ve apparently amassed a huge collection of stuff that’s now horribly outdated. This is precisely why it’s so critical that I create a new “Holiday Gear Guide” each year, and sell the old stuff on eBay to pay for all my new stuff. It’s a vicious cycle and one that I’m certain drives my wife crazy. But don’t let our holiday gift discord dissuade you from making the same mistake I have, because it’s the holidays and time to unwrap a bevy of spectacular holiday gems that are perfect for the petulant photographer on your holiday gift list.
As always, these items are gifts and gadgets that I use myself, and not only have I fallen hopelessly in love with them, but like a pacemaker or the new chicken sandwich from Popeyes, I also now find it hard to go on living without them. My job here is simple: Transfer my dependence on these items to you this holiday season, therefore completing the circle of life.
Just remember, giving one of these gifts by itself isn’t enough. The real magic of the holidays is when you can use social media to make others feel less adequate by taking cell phone pictures of all the stuff you bought, and all the stuff you got and sharing it online. It’s what separates us from the animals.
These are my self-imposed guidelines for which products make it into the guide—it’s just two rules actually. To be listed here, they have to be: (a) products that I use myself; and (b) if a product makes the guide, it has to be one I’d recommend to a close friend without hesitation (especially if I wasn’t that crazy about this particular friend—more of an acquaintance, really).
Also, to make things easy, we added direct links to all the products I picked so you don’t have to wonder if you’re getting exactly the right one. (Note: Depending on the product, clicking on the links below will either take you to the manufacturer’s website or if the product is available at B&H Photo or Amazon, then clicking on the links will take you to those websites.)
As is my sacred holiday tradition for more than a 14th of a century, I’m breaking things into three distinct categories:
Stocking Stuffers: But you can use these as actual holiday gifts if this person has ever asked you for a loan.
Great Value Gear: Stuff that’s a really good deal for the money, so it will look like you spent more than you did, and they’ll think you’re actually a better person than you are. So essentially, these are the perfect gifts.
Cha-Ching!: Stuff you’d buy for the Disney executive or Wall Street hedge fund manager on your Holiday gift list. These will often require a credit check in advance and putting up some sort of collateral.
PhotoPills (for iPhone & Android)
PhotoPills is the app every landscape, nature, or travel photographer should have. It’s like having your own photo assistant out in the field with all the answers to things such as, “When’s sunrise?” “What time is blue hour?” “How long should I keep the shutter open on this long exposure?” and a ton more. But beyond just numbers, it can do everything from tell you exactly which day and time a full moon will be over a particular mountain or lake you want to photograph, or which direction the sun will be coming from at any date and time in the future. Plus, it has a built-in augmented reality feature that can even superimpose the Milky Way’s position over a scene so you’ll know exactly where to set up and compose your shot. It’s easily worth $100, but it’s only $10. It’s truly a killer app!
The tagline for this book is “Images and Stories of the Rarest Species in Illinois,” but this book is really for anyone who loves great wildlife photography. Carol worked on this inspiring book for more than 20 years, and it’s just stunning from cover to cover. Goodreads calls it “…a glorious tribute to some of the most amazing life on our planet.” For a $50 donation to the Team Green Environmental Network, you not only get a printed edition (180 pages softcover) of Carol’s wonderful book, you also get her printed 2020 calendar as well. So you’re getting the book, the calendar, and donating to a good cause, so there’s something in this one for everybody!
Price: $50 donation (includes both her book and calendar)(link)
A Nice Roll of Gaffer Tape
Buying someone a roll of tape as a stocking stuffer may sound like just one step above a lump of coal, but that’s only because you may not realize the magic and wonder that gaffer tape can bring to the life of a photographer. Developed in Hollywood for use in movies and TV shows, this tape does something very special: When you remove it from a wall, 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: A roll of ProTapes Pro Gaffer Tape (2″ x 55 yards) at B&H goes for $20.59 (link)
Rick Sammon’s Bestselling Book, Photo Therapy Motivation and Wisdom: Discovering the Power of Pictures
Over the years, Rick has written 40 books on photography, and this is his bestselling book ever. Ironically, there’s not a single photo in the book—it’s all words, but powerful words they are. People absolutely love it, and so will the photographer on your holiday gift list. Really great stuff (at a really great price)!
Think Tank Photo Secure Pixel Pocket Rocket (Black)
I love mine because it securely stores all my memory cards, including CF and SD cards, and the design is just right on the money. There isn’t a photographer that wouldn’t love finding this one in their stocking (and if they don’t like it, they really weren’t your friend in the first place now, were they?). Of course, if you really feel close to them, you could always fill those empty card slots with actual memory cards, in which case you should move this entry from Stocking Stuffers to the Cha-Ching! category.
Price: $21.75 (stylist black with gray trim, but also available in bright obnoxious colors) (link)
Platypod Stackable Gooseneck (2-Pack)
If the photographer on your holiday gift list has a Platypod (and if you were really paying attention to last year’s Gift Guide, they do), then what better follow-up gift could there possibly be than the new two-pack of flexible, bendable gooseneck arms. These allow you to mount things such as small portable lights or flashes, or a microphone directly to your Platypod and place them wherever you’d like. The folks from Platypod brought some of these to the PHOTOPLUS Expo in NYC back in early November, and they created a sensation. They not only sold out of every one they had, they even sold their sample. So cool!
If you’ve ever heard your photographer friend say something along these lines, “Ya know, this lens used to be really sharp,” then the Focus Pyramid is for them. It helps them use the in-camera adjustment to get their lens back to being super sharp. (Over time, lenses can lose some of their sharpness for a variety of reasons, like being tossed 700 times into a camera bag, or dropped, or being dipped in molasses, etc.) This will help bring it back to its former glory. Plus, it’s very easy to set up and use.
When I was at a workshop up in Canada, one of the participants had this backpack. I fell in love with it, and I ordered one as soon as I got back. It’s just about the perfect size for those times when you don’t want to lug the whole kitchen sink with you (which for me these days is pretty much always). It’s light, so cleverly designed, and still holds a good amount of gear without overloading you. Really well built and thought out. They will super dig it (and super dig you, too!).
This is always the perfect gift, because B&H Photo is the greatest camera store in the world, and whatever the photographer on your gift list wants, they have it, in stock, ready to ship. They’re the magical unicorns of camera stores. Get them a gift card from here and they’ll follow you anywhere.
Westcott X-Drop Vintage Gray Canvas Backdrop by Glyn Dewis
Photographer, retoucher, and KelbyOne instructor Glyn Dewis has really made a name for himself through his inspirational and touching portraits of World War II veterans, The 39-45 Portraits Project. This backdrop was designed by Glyn himself, so you can get the same style portraits with your subjects, even if they weren’t in any world wars.
The folks at ON1 have been on a roll, and they have fans of their plug-ins all over the planet. Part of the reason is their new AI stuff is pretty incredible. Of course, as the name says, it’s a RAW photo processor, but it’s really so much more, wrapping organization, special effects, RAW processing, and more into a plug-in that your photographer giftee will lose their mind over! It’s really incredible what ON1 has done. You’ll be a champ for picking up this one!
This drive is so incredibly small and lightweight, but it holds a freakin’ terabyte of data and it’s faster than a greased pig (and you know how fast greased pigs can be—well, if you don’t, they’re really, really fast). The person you give this to can take their high-res images with them on vacation, and use the drive to back up images, too. These drives are just incredibly awesome. No way they won’t love this! You can even get a 2-terabyte version for around the same size and weight, but throw another hundo on the fire (totally worth it).
This tiny little rechargeable light is kind of like the GoPro of little lights. In fact, it would be awesome with a GoPro camera, or for doing selfies with your phone, or for bright continuous light for iPhone videos. You can even connect it to a drone for drone lighting. It’s waterproof, and you can even mount it anywhere using the Platypod Gooseneck (see above). It just so tiny, and yet it’s surprisingly bright and flexible, plus there are a ton of accessories for it, and it’s pretty cheap. Well, inexpensive anyway.
Price: $90 (link) Add the LitraTorch Filter set to add lots of colors (includes holders): $35 (link)
A Fine Art print from Bay Photo
You can either get a gift card for the photographer on your list so they can get one of their images printed, or you can give one of your own prints as a gift (which is a very personal gift). Either way, you’ll love the quality of Bay Photo’s Fine Art Prints. Want to give somebody a really memorable gift that’s more than just the product itself? This is it!
This is a special-effects plug-in that just keeps getting more and more incredible! It does everything from replacing skies to adding sunbeams to your photos to retouching skin to any one of a bunch of stuff that’s totally cheating. You’ll be a star for giving this one! You can order version 4 of this bad boy right now and save a few bucks, too.
Price: A killer deal for $99 (this is a special deal that expires soon), plus you’ll get some pre-sets, too (and they’re normally $49 just for the presets!) (link)
This is the updated, newly advanced, “more better” version of their super popular Ellie L-Bracket. When shooting on a tripod, it lets you switch your camera from wide to tall in about two seconds. This is very popular with landscape photographers, who love these to death. The price is right, and it’s available in a lovely metallic slate gray or putrid orange (don’t get it in orange!).
Price: $79.99 (available for preorder with delivery set for the end of November) (link)
XP-PEN Deco Pro Medium Graphics Drawing Tablet
If you’ve always wanted to buy a really nice graphics tablet for your photography friend (a tablet and pen are the pro retoucher’s tools of choice), but the price has kept a good one out of reach; that’s all about to change. Earlier this year I got my hands on the new XP-PEN Deco Pro tablet, and I have to say, I was blown away at the quality for the price. Personally, I like the smaller size tablets (one I can easily fit in my laptop bag or backpack and it takes up less room on my desk), so I’d go with the Small Deco Pro (9×5″), but if you think they’ll want something bigger, go with the Medium (11×6″). They’ll dig the way the double wheel works. Absolutely amazing for the price! (They’ll think you paid way more!)
You might be thinking, “I dunno, Scott, $415 seems like a lot of money for a ballhead,” but I can tell you that’s only because it’s a lot of money for a ballhead. But, at least it happens to be the greatest ballhead in the entire recorded history of ballheads. It’s the single greatest ballhead ever, and you’d be the single greatest gift-giver ever to give one of these to the photographer on your gift list. You’d instantly elevate yourself to “most valued friend or relative.” They’ll cherish this one for many years because it will last forever (even after the Great Gas War of 2046).
Every photographer wants to get close to the action, and this will help them by taking their existing lens and getting them 1.4-times closer. It’s like getting a longer lens for a fraction of the cost, and as long as you buy a quality extender (and I’d only list quality extenders here anyway), there won’t be any real visible loss of quality. These are so awesome and, after buying a friend one, he’ll look upon you with awe. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but they’ll definitely want to nuzzle you (but I’m not sure that’s a good thing!).
Price: Sony FE 1.4 Teleconverter (for E-mount lenses): $548 (link) Canon Extender EF 1.4X III (for EF-mount lenses): $429 (link) Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III (for F-mount lenses): $496.95 (link)
Canon RF 24-240mm F4–6.3 IS USM Lens
This is my new go-to travel/walk-around lens and I absolutely love it! Wider than most all-in-one lenses like this (most are 28mm), it’s very lightweight, beautifully designed, and sharp as the dickens. (See how I worked a Charles Dickens reference in there? I know. It’s a gift.) Anyway, this is one kick-butt lens and now it goes with me on every trip. Perfect for the Canon EOS R mirrorless user on your holiday gift list (plus, the price is actually pretty amazing). They’ll lose their minds when you give them this!
The 85mm range for portraits and weddings is a pretty magical one, with its look and style, along with those creamy out-of-focus backgrounds. The f/1.8 range is also the range I recommend (rather than the heavier more expensive f/1.4 or f/1.2 lenses, because their depth of field is so incredibly thin that if you’re not 100% right-on-the-money with your focus technique, you’ll wind up with a lot of out-of-focus shots). With an f/1.8 like this, you’ll save money, it’s much lighter, and you’ll get a lot more shots in focus. I mean to say, “They’ll get a lot more shots in focus.” You’re not buying this for yourself now, are you? ;-)
Profoto C1 Plus (Serious Lighting for iPhone Shooters)
Beautifully designed and built (like all Profoto gear), this super-portable studio strobe (it fits in the palm of your hand) lets iPhone photographers light their subjects like a pro. This is what I’d call the first “serious” flash for serious iPhone shooters, with its soft light and slick design—it’s just so cool! It works with iPhone 7s and up, and you can control the strobe with Profoto’s free app. It has flash and continuous lighting options, and you can even control the light’s color temperature and power output. You can get some nice accessories for it as well, such as gels, a grid, and a dome that snap on its magnetic mount. If your photographers are serious about their iPhone portrait photography, they’ll love this on a crazy level. It’s a can’t-miss gift.
If the photographer on your gift list shoots on location, man are they going to love this! It’s a small, specially designed battery power pack and adapter from the folks at Tether Tools that let you power and charge your laptop, camera batteries, flash or strobes, phone, and most any other USB devices, all while out in the field where you don’t have access to an AC wall outlet. It’s really pretty brilliant, and while I put this in the Cha-Ching! section, the price is actually a bit less than Cha-Ching. It’s more “Cha-Less-Ching” at a little under $270. It’s really well made and cleverly thought out.
The gallery YellowKorner sells three of my fine-art prints of classic interiors at various sizes (you can get some really nice large sizes) and styles and I, for one, would be honored if you saw fit to give one as a gift. Imagine how tickled I’d be if you gave three or four? Or even three or four hundred? The mind reels, doesn’t it? Anyway, they’d make a great addition to your collection (says the author, so his opinion is somewhat tainted, but correct nevertheless). If you purchase one, please post a pic on social and tag me in it so I can share it, as well.
This one is literally on press now and will be available before Christmas. It’s my new book completely focused on how to take really amazing natural-light portraits, and it uses the same style and layout as my Digital Photography Book series: Just one topic per page, so it’s quick-and-easy to digest, and you can turn right to the page you want, for the thing you want to learn, and boom! You’re off and shooting. Be one of the very first to get a copy by pre-ordering now.
It just came out earlier this year and it’s already in its third printing (meaning, the first two print runs of the book completely sold out). It’s my bestselling book in years, and if the photographer on your holiday gift list shoots landscapes (and at some point, we all shoot landscapes, right?), they’ll get a lot out of this book. Well, so I’ve been told.
You’ve probably heard again and again (or you’re already a member and you know firsthand) about all the incredible 700+ online courses, the online community, the webcasts, the magazines, and the discounts that are part of a KelbyOne Pro membership. Now you can share all that with a photographer you super-dig. It’s only $199 for a year, with full access to everything! They’ll devote the rest of their natural life to let you know how thoughtful, caring, and generous you were to change their life in such a meaningful way. Okay, that’s perhaps a best-case scenario, but I think they’ll love you for it (and so will I).
If they love online training, we have a special membership level that focuses on the online classes themselves (with access to more than 300 courses), but it goes for just $9.99 a month. Give ’em a 12-month membership and they’ll love you all year.
Hi, everybody. Sorry I missed out blogging on Friday – my wife and daughter flew up to New York City to meet me Friday morning (I was already up in NYC on business), and I got all caught up in that. We had a blast (saw two awesome shows: ‘Wicked’ and ‘School of Rock’ and took a hilarious tour of NYC called ‘The Ride’ – highly recommended).
Anyway, I’m back and of course, on Friday (as luck would have it) all hell broke loose when Google added a disclaimer to their download site for the free Nik Collection of plug-ins, that they would no longer be supporting it moving forward. If a new OS from Apple or Microsoft is released and it breaks the Nik Collection from working, they’re not going to fix it. Or, if a new version of Photoshop or Lightroom stops it from working, they’re not going to fix it. Or if a stiff wind comes along, and it breaks the Nik Collection they ain’t fixin’ it). Tip of the hat to DPReview for uncovering that.
Well, long time Nik Collection users are (me being one of them) are pretty much freaking out, so I thought I’d do a quick Q&A about it here on the blog-a-roonie:
Q. Didn’t Google pretty much say the same thing when they first released the Nik Collection for free? A. They did. They said, in kind of a soft-sell way, that they weren’t going to support further development of the collection.
Q. So we kind of already knew this? A. Yeah, we pretty much did. I wrote about that in my Q&A the day they made the initial “free” announcement, back in March of 2016.
Q. So what exactly did you say in that Q&A about it? A. Well, I answered a “Q” with an “A” (see below).
Q. Does this mean that future updates for this collection have ceased? A. Based on what I’ve read, I absolutely think that is the case, but I haven’t confirmed it with anyone inside Google yet.
Q. So, what if I download it today, and then there’s a major Mac OS or Windows update down the road and then it doesn’t work anymore. Will Google do an update to fix it? A. Not as best as I can tell, so use it today and enjoy it for as long as it works.
Q. Will Google ever release a Nik Collection Version 5? A. I would love that, but based on their post about why they are making it free, it seems fairly clear that their desktop plug-in days are over (that was my take on it anyway).
Q. So, how much longer will it still work? A. For some folks, it’s already too late. I’ve seen posts and gotten emails from people who have told me straight up that when they updated something and the collection stopped working. They have some sort of configuration (maybe it’s a particular graphics card with a particular OS update, of what-have-you), but it broke their Nik world. I hate to hear that (and I worry about it myself because I’ve been a Nik Collection user for years. In fact, I did an entire KelbyOne online class on how I use the Nik Collection (and released it just a few days after Google made their “Free” announcement).
Q. So, if they already alluded to the “we’re not updating this stuff anymore” situation when they released the free version, how come everybody is freaked out now? A. Because Google added the “we’re not updating this stuff anymore” text right to the downloads page itself, so it’s more official and scary looking. Plus, I think we all hoped that Google wouldn’t really just leave us hanging like that and that they actually would, in fact, update the software when push came to shove.
Q. Yeah, but you’re saying people are already having issues with the Nik Collection working? A. Right. So, push has already come to shove – and apparently enough people with problems contacted Google for help that they felt they needed to put a disclaimer on their downloads Website.
Q. Maybe Google is understaffed and doesn’t have someone available that could patch the software? A. That’s entirely possible, but at last count, Goggle had around 62,000 employees (but that’s from last year. It’s probably more by now).
Q. So they have 62,000+ employees, but they can’t spare one to simply fix this plug-in that is beloved by so many people? A. Apparently not. If Google wanted to assign one, or even one thousand, Google certainly could and probably not even notice they were missing — but apparently, they don’t want to devote even one single engineer to fix it, or they would, right? This is a business decision for Google (no longer supporting the Nik Collection), and I get it — it doesn’t fit into their plans/strategy moving forward. I’m not happy about it, but I do understand it.
Q. So, do you think if enough people sign this petition, it will convince Google to change their mind? A. No. Not a chance. I believe that Google has no interest in the Nik Collection whatsoever. I believe the most work that has been put into the existing Nik Collection since 2012 was them putting up the notice that they’re not going to support it any longer.
Q. This reminds of when you said on “The Grid” right after Google bought Nik Software — you didn’t think Google bought Nik because they wanted to get in the business of selling plug-ins for Photoshop. I remember you saying that. A. Yup, I did. I said I felt they bought Nik pretty much just for their Snapseed mobile app (which is awesome), and that I didn’t see them continuing to develop the Nik Collection as desktop plug-ins.
Q. And at the time, how did the Google/Nik folks react to you saying that? A. I believe it was the catalyst for them installing a dartboard set with my photo on it.
Q. Yeah, I heard about that. Didn’t they even send two Google/Nik employees to be guests on The Grid to refute what you were saying? A. They did, and they were masters at not answering my direct questions about will there be a Nik Collection 5. I made the joke on air that they were so skilled at not answering the question, that they should consider becoming politicians.
Q. So did they ever release that Nik Collection version 5? A. Senator, I plead the 5th on the grounds that I don’t want to yell “I told you so!” so loudly that it knocks their dartboard set off the wall.
Q. Maybe, since Google doesn’t want it, they’ll give it to Adobe, and they could add it to Lightroom or Photoshop? A. Ahhhhh, if only the software industry worked like that on any level. What a wonderful world it would be. It’s more likely that Google would assign 200+ engineers to update it than it would that they give it to Adobe or anyone. That’s not how multi-billion dollar software companies roll. I don’t want to whine too much – they did give us for free what was once a $499 collection of plug-ins (and they added another plug-in to it; the Analog Efex plug-in that everybody was hoping for. Stop snickering). ;-)
Q. So, all that aside, where does that leave us now? A. We’re pretty much hosed. It is over. If your Nik Collection hasn’t stopped working yet, it’s like I said, “Enjoy it while you can” because it’s death is a-comin’.
Q. So, what’s your plan? A. You might have already noticed that I’ve been transitioning over to using MacPhun’s Luminar plug-in. It has a lot of the same type of effects as Nik ColorEfex Pro 4 (which was their plug-in many pros I know relied upon — that and SilverEfex Pro for black and white conversions). It’s only been out since late last year, but it’s already had over 4-million downloads on the Mac alone, so it’s pretty much just taken off.
Q. Yeah and that’s why I didn’t switch to them earlier — they don’t have a Windows version. A. Well, now they do (MacPhun announced it a week or so ago, and it’ll be shipping very soon).
Q. So, it’ll be on both Macs and PCs now? A. Yup!
Q. Well, are you going to do a class on these as you did on the Nik Collection? A. I’m on it. In fact, I’m in the studio taping it this week.
Q. How does it compare to the Nik Collection? A. I think it compares closest to the Nik ColorEfex Pro 4 plug-in (well, it should be – some of the guys from MacPhun used to be “the guys from Nik Software”). It has many of the same types of effects I went to Color Efex Pro 4 for, like: glows, detail enhancement, bi-color gradients, high-key effects, black and white conversions (not quite as good as Silver Efex Pro, but still good), Advanced Contrast, Structure, Polarizer, all that stuff (though it doesn’t have a straight-up Bleach Bypass effect, I think there’s a preset that gets close, but I will miss that effect from ColorEfex Pro 4. It doesn’t have “Tonal Contrast” by name, but it has the look (they call theirs “Structure”).
Q. Anything it does better? A. It has lots and lots of presets (a lot that comes with it, and others that are downloadable), and the user interface is better (except for the pictures they use for the presets icons – they look very “consumerish” to me). It has a good Layers feature, so that’s pretty huge for Lightroom only users and their masking tools are really good. It’s got a spot healing tool that’s not bad (again, if you’re Lightroom only), and you can use it as a stand-alone app if you like (it doesn’t have to plug-in to Lightroom or Photoshop, but that’s how I use it exclusively).
Q. Anything worse? A. It loads a lot slower when you first launch it. I’ve whined about it to them like a thing that whines a lot. I imagine it will get faster soon due to a bunch of whining [not just mine alone, but I can whine with the best of ’em when it comes to software], and if not, the whining will continue, (but much louder).
Q. So, if you’re telling us about which plug-in you’re switching to, I’m picking up a vibe that you feel like the Nik Collection might be ‘going away.” Am I right? A. No. that’s not the ‘vibe’ I’m putting down. The vibe I’m putting down is the ‘death vibe.” Google said it — they are not supporting the Nik Collection any longer. It’s over.
Q. Scott, now you are starting to freak me out because maybe I’m reading between the lines here, but it sounds to me like you’re hinting that the Nik Collection may not have a very bright future. A. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying “it has no future, and is dead now.”
Q. Maybe I’m jumping the shark here, but it kinda of sounds like you’re intimating that the Nik Collection may stop working for some people some day soon. A. It has already stopped working for some folks now, and the reason is — it’s dead.
Q. But it sounds like you do think that Google will step in and save the day by assigning some engineers to do a maintenance update so we can keep using the Nik Collection, right? A. No. I do not think that on any level, nor have I ever thought that, not even for a minute. I hoped it. I wished it, but that train has left the station.
Q. So, if I’m reading you right here, you just said Google is ‘training’ someone to update the Nik Collection? Is that what I’m getting from this? A. You need to talk to someone.
Q. Are they at Google in the Nik Collection update department? A. Sigh.
Well, folks, I don’t know what else to say. The train has left the station. The horse has left the barn. That dog don’t hunt. Fill in your own folksy phrase for “it ain’t gonna happen” here: ______________________. Hey, we still made images before the Nik Collection was even around, and we’ll be making ’em after they’re gone — we’ll just use a different set of plug-ins. Life goes on.
I hope you found this Q&A somewhat:
a) Helpful b) Cathartic c) Karmasutric d) All of the above
Here’s wishing you a day where all your plug-ins work in perfect peace and harmony [insert gong sound here].
-Scott Seat 11C, 33,000 feet Feel free to move about the cabin, inc.
1. An Early Morning Shoot for my Book “The Great Indoors” It’s hard to believe this amazing church is right here in the US — it’s the gorgeous Trinity Church in Boston. I found out about it just two days before I arrived in Boston (many thanks to my assistant Lynn), and we were able to get access to shoot it.
The only chance I could get to shoot it, was early in the morning right before my seminar in Boston (which for someone who likes to get to his seminar very early, was a bit worrisome to me, but it was walking distance from the convention center, so I went for it). The folks at Trinity Church were amazing (thank you Donna!) and I had such a great time shooting, and learning about the history of the church, which was built in the 1800s.
I took a bunch of shots (including the one you see above, taken with a Canon 5D Mark III with an 11-24mm super wide-angle lens. Shot down low on a 3-legged-thing travel tripod, with a Really Right Stuff Ballhead.
I’ll share more shots from the Trinity Church as soon as I get done editing them (the one you see above was only edited in Lightroom – no plug-ins or anything fancy — just my “Seven Point System.”
2. Call for Entries: The Photoshop World Guru Awards If you’re going to the Photoshop World Conference 2016 in July this summer (July 19-21st), you’re invited to enter your images and designs into the prestigious Guru Awards competition. You can submit images for judging for free (this contest is only open to registered Photoshop World attendees, which is actually a good thing, because your chances of winning in a category are amazingly good!). There are a number of categories, from retouching to photography; compositing to illustration among others, and you can enter up to three images total. You can get all the details right here.Good luck, everybody!
3. You’ll Laugh. You’ll Cry. You’ll Kiss 56-seconds Goodbye! Check out the trailer (above) from just-released class on the now totally free Google Nik Collection of plug-ins for Lightroom and/or Photoshop. I’m getting such great feedback on the class, and I hope you’ll give it a look (if you’re not a KelbyOne member already, sign up for the 10-day free trial and you can watch it right now). Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/234VYGd
4. The hidden advantage of Lightroom’s built-in HDR I shared a short clip from that Nik Collection class about Lightroom and a hidden advantage you get when you combine your bracketed images in Lightroom (and it’s not what you think). If you’ve got a sec to check out the video (it’s short), jump over to LightroomKillerTips and check it out.
That’s it for today, folks. Hope you have a great weekend, and we’ll see you next week!
On the heels of Google last week making the entire Nik Collection of plugs-ins absolutely free, I’m doing a online class that will release this Thursday (March 31st) that not only teaches you how to use the collection, I show:
(1)How I use them in my workflow (2) Exactly which ones are my favorite filters and presets (3) Which ones I don’t use at all (and why) (4) Which one, if I was stranded on a desert island, would be the one I couldn’t live without and why (5) All sorts of little tips and tricks that will help make your experience faster, better, and more fun.
I’ve been saying for years that for so many pro photographers I know, they will tell you that the Nik Collection is their secret weapon — so if you’re a KelbyOne member, I hope you’ll check out my brand new class coming this Thursday.
Again, a big tip of the hat to Google for making these plug-ins available to us all for free, and here’s hoping upon hope that while it looks unlikely, that if there’s a major update to either the Mac or Windows OS some awesome engineer might update it (perhaps on his own, as some rogue engineering doing good outside the walls). Then he or she could be the new hero of “The Resistance.” [vague Star Wars reference].
Full Details coming Thursday Don’t forget to come back on Thursday to get the direct link to the class — can’t wait to share this with you!