MY ANNUAL HOLIDAY GEAR GUIDE IS HERE!
Welcome to my “13th annual Holiday Gear Guide.”
To be listed here, the gifts have to be: (1) products that I use myself, and that I absolutely love, and now can’t live without (well, I could live without them, but I just wouldn’t want to); and (2) if a product makes the guide, it has to be one I’d recommend to a close friend without hesitation, especially if my friend was loose with money.
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 the exact right one. (Note: Depending on the product, clicking on the links below will take you to the manufacturer’s website; if the product is available at B&H Photo or Amazon, then clicking on the link will take you to those websites.)
As is my sacred Gonzo tradition for more than a tenth of a century, 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 Berkshire CEO or Russian oligarch on your holiday gift list. This is the stuff that makes them burst into spontaneous tears of joy. Well, at least I would.
So, without further ado, I present to you my “13th Annual Gonzo Holiday Gift Guide of Love (of love?).”
Powerextra Dual Battery Charger for Canon, Nikon, and Sony DSLR Cameras
Erik Kuna turned me on to this puppy, and I have to say it’s awesome and has worked like a charm. It charges two regular-sized Canon, Nikon, or Sony camera batteries simultaneously; it connects to USB; it’s super small (since it charges the batteries upright rather than on their side) so it takes up less room in your camera bag; and it’s very lightweight. And not only that, each charger comes with two Powerextra replacement batteries (for the camera brands listed above and more)! I’ve used these batteries extensively, and I can’t tell one bit of difference between the brand name ones that cost 5x as much. The person you give this to will think you spent a bunch, so extra love points for you.
Price: It’s a ridiculous deal starting at around $27
Canon: $26.99 (link)
Nikon: $31.99 (link)
Sony: $55.99 (link)
New Think Tank Photo Emergency Rain Covers
These brand-new, very compact, lightweight rain covers are an amazing deal for the money. They fit easily in your camera bag but can be a lifesaver if you get caught out in the elements (or the photographer on your holiday list sometimes wants to shoot in inclement weather). They’ll super dig these new easy-to-use, quick-to-deploy covers from the same people who make the Hydrophobia line of professional-level rain covers.
Price: They come in two sizes
Medium (fits up to a 70–200mm lens): $39.75 (link)
Small (fits up to a 24–70mm lens): $34.75 (link)
Awesome Custom Business Cards for Photographers from MOO
Okay, there are two ways you can go on this one (gift card or Plan B), but MOO cards are a favorite with photographers around the world, mainly because they’ll let you print a different image on every card (or you can have the same image on all the cards, five images that repeat in a stack of 50—you get the idea). Anyway, if you can get hold of, say, 10 of their images at high-res, you could get them a set of 50 cards with their images on one side (you’d get 10 cards each of each image), and their contact info and stuff on the other side. You’ll be a superstar for getting either the gift card, or being sneaky and doing the work yourself. This is a can’t-miss stocking stuffer.
Price: 50 cards starting at $19.99 (link)
Rick Sammon’s Wonderful Book, The Route 66 Photo Road Trip: How to Eat, Stay, Play, and Shoot Like a Pro
This isn’t a tutorial book (though Rick does have a few tutorials in there); it’s a really fun road trip book where you can enjoy the images, Rick’s great stories, road trip tips, and the experience of getting your kicks on Route 66. It’s just a really awesome read and would make a wonderful stocking stuffer.
Price: $13.36 at Amazon (link)
Indigo Marble Protective Camera Wrap
I use one of these when I don’t want to take a camera bag with me, or I want to take a small camera bag just big enough for a lens or two. I fold it around my camera body and put it in my carry-on luggage. It comes in two sizes: 15″ and 19″ (I use the larger one).
Price: Starting at $50.78 (link)
Spider Camera Holster SpiderPro Hand Strap
I’ve never been a big fan of camera hand straps—until now. The SpiderPro Hand strap has a great design, is very secure, and most importantly—a comfortable feel in your hand. Plus, an extra five points because it just looks cool when you’re holding your camera with it on. The photographer on your list will dig it.
Price: $65 (link)
Haida 10-Stop Slim PRO II Screw-On MC Neutral Density (ND) 3.0 Filter
I’ve been using Haida’s filter holder system for about two years now, and for the quality and price, I don’t think you can beat ’em, but if you’re an on-the-go travel photographer, you’ll probably find it more convenient to use a simple screw-on ND filter than using their bracket system. For my recent trip to Austria and Germany, I bought this Slim PROII (77mm to fit my lenses), and I was tickled at how well it works. Best thing about the Haida ND filters? They don’t mess with your image’s color. It’s a killer deal for $62.10, well, for the 77mm size. Your price may be lower for smaller-sized lenses, or higher for bigger lenses (but 77mm is probably as big a lens as the photographer on your list will have).
Price: $62.10 for the 77mm (link)
This is the Platypod Ultra’s second year on the list, and while this thing was blowing up last year, this year it’s vying for the hottest photography accessory on the planet. It’s a tripod replacement (that doesn’t need legs), it’s super-lightweight (3.2 oz.), and fits in your pocket. You screw a small ballhead onto it, and it holds your camera steady as a rock so 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.
Price: $59; Splurge a little and get them the bundle with the Multi Accessory Kit for $79 (it’s awesome) (link)
GREAT VALUE GEAR
Think Tank Photo Airport Roller Derby
I love this camera bag on a level that’s, well, unhealthy (let’s just leave it at that). Yes, it holds a ridiculous amount of stuff; there’s a pocket for everything (including your laptop and your iPad); a built-in cable lock so it doesn’t wander off; a tripod holder; and I could go on and on, but what’s ridiculously awesome is simply its four wheels. I can literally roll it through the airport using nothing but my pinky. If I push too hard, it rolls ahead of me. If the photographer on your gift list is tired of dragging a heavy rolling bag behind them, this one will glide right beside them. Get them this one; they’ll be your friend for life.
Price: $399.75 (link)
B&H Gift Card
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 will have it in stock and ready to ship. They’re the magical unicorn of camera stores. Get your photographer a gift card from here, and they’ll follow you anywhere.
Price: Starting at $25 (link)
Westcott Rapid Box Switch Octa-L 48″ Softbox (Large)
If your giftee uses both flash and strobes, or they use different brands of strobes, they don’t have to keep switching softboxes every time they change lights. Westcott made a new set of softboxes that let you use the same softbox for flash or strobes, or different brands of strobes, by just changing the adapter at the end of the softbox. It’s really pretty brilliant (can’t believe somebody didn’t think of this before); but what makes this really awesome are the Rapid Boxes themselves. I love, love, love them (they’re so fast and easy to set up—like 60 seconds from start to finish), and I’ve been hooked on them since the first time I used one. This new “Switch” makes ’em that much better, and the price for such a nice big octa is hard to beat.
Price: $289.90 (link)
These beautifully hand-painted backdrops are turning the industry on its ear because they’re priced so far below their competitors, and their quality is spot-on. I have four of these now, and I’m using them so often, I don’t want to shoot on anything else. These are giving photographers access to a level of backdrops that were once out of reach for so many people; you can now buy these backdrops at around the same price we used to rent them just for the weekend. They’ll even custom-make whatever you want, without the crazy price. 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)
WD 250GB My Passport Wireless SSD External Portable Drive with Built-In Wi-Fi
This one is for backing up your images on the road when you don’t have your laptop with you. You just plug your SD card right into the unit itself (it has its own built-in card reader) and it uploads your images (it does a smart upload, only uploading new photos that aren’t already on the drive). What’s nice is that once your images are on the drive, you can transfer ones you want to edit right to your phone or tablet using its built-in Wi-Fi (you don’t need an internet connection—it makes its own private network). It’s surprisingly easy to use, and a great solution for photographers who want a mobile editing and backup strategy for their DSLR or mirrorless images. I used mine on my last trip, and now it’s part of my workflow.
Price: $191.99 for 250GB (link)
Note: There are 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB options but they’re priced too high—stick with this one.
A Fine Art or Xpozer Print from Bay Photo
Go with either Bay Photo’s Xpozer system (the same system we use in The Gallery at KelbyOne) or go ahead and get a Fine Art, mounted print. Either way, if you get a gift card for the photographer on your list, make the amount so they can get one of their images printed large, or if you’re giving one of your own prints as a gift, go large—you can’t go wrong. Prints have a real value, well beyond their cost, and the impact they have is remarkable. Want to give somebody a really memorable gift that’s more than just a product? This is it (and you can do it without breaking the bank).
24×36″ Print with Xpozer System: $99 (link)
24×36″ Fine Art Print w/Gatorfoam: $153.20 (link)
Tamron SP 15–30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens
I took this ultra-wide lens with me on my last trip and I was super impressed. It’s a killer lens at a killer price. Sharp, crisp, great Vibration Compensation (VC), and a big improvement over its already popular predecessor. Give this to someone you love (or somebody you want to love).
For Canon (link)
For Nikon (link)
DJI Mavic Air Fly More Combo
It’s so small, so portable, so easy to fly, and takes such great photos and videos. They’ll lose their mind when they unwrap this one. Everybody wants a drone, and this one is probably the best deal, dollar for dollar, feature for feature, and while there are other drone makers out there, everybody wants a DJI. After giving this as a gift, you won’t be able to get rid of them.
Price: $899.99 for the Fly More Combo (it’s what you want to get them); $699.99 for the DJI Mavic Air by itself (link)
The weekender Camera Bag from compagnon
This is an absolutely beautifully crafted all-leather camera bag from Germany, and it’s really something to behold. It just screams luxury, and while it’s not inexpensive, it looks like it would cost a lot more than it does. What I love about it is that it’s large enough that you can use it for a weekend trip where your clothes and your camera are in the same bag. Very well designed; it’ll fit in the overhead, and the leather is just so luscious! Give it to somebody you really want to impress. Note: There’s a smaller version called “the little weekender” that’s small and less expensive, too.
Price: $675 (link)
Canon EOS R Mirrorless Camera Body
I had this camera for a full month, and really put it through its paces—from the American West to Rome to Hawaii to Austria—and I fell in love with it. When I had to return it to Canon, it broke my heart (and now I’m trying to get Canon to sell me that loaner). I don’t know what DSLR your Canon-shooting gift-lister has, but they’ll sure love this one (and there’s a lot to love!).
Price: $2,299 (link)
TACS Automatic Vintage Lens II Camera-Inspired Watch
This one is a little pricier, but it’s actually a great value for what you’re getting (and for the right person, it will be priceless). This camera-inspired watch is just brilliant. My daughter saw the beautiful wooden box the watch comes in sitting on my desk and couldn’t resist opening it. She saw the watch and said, “Oh my gosh, it looks like a camera.” The beautifully crafted timepiece is more gorgeous in real life than it appears in the pictures, and the back of the watch is almost as stunning as the front. Beautifully designed from top to bottom. It will put the biggest smile on your photographer’s face, and the presentation in the wooden box, coupled with the craftsmanship of the watch itself will make them think you spent a fortune.
Price: $550 (link)
Profoto B1 X 500 AirTTL Portable Off-Camera Flash
This is the latest version of a strobe that created its own genre of portable studio lights. It’s a battery-powered strobe without the power pack (the battery is built right in to the unit itself). The quality of Profoto lights is legendary, and once I started using Profoto gear, I totally got what all the fuss is about and why all the top pros are using their gear. If you give somebody this gift, they’ll follow you around like a puppy for the rest of your life, so be very choosy to whom you give this.
Price: $2,095 (link)
STUFF FROM US
My Latest Lightroom Books
I have two different books for two different levels of Lightroom users. If the photographers on your wish list are fairly new to Lightroom and want to learn it from the ground up, then get them my The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC Book for Digital Photographers. It’s the bestselling Lightroom book ever. If they’ve been using Lightroom for a while now and they want a reference they can go to quickly to find out how to do whatever it is they’re trying to do right now, then get them my How Do I Do That In Lightroom Classic? book. The first edition was reprinted seven times, and this is the latest edition based on the new version of Lightroom, so they’ll find it really helpful.
The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC Book for Digital Photographers: $33.99 (link)
How Do I Do That In Lightroom Classic?: $13.99 (link)
Photoshop World Conference 2019
Want to blow their minds 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 2019, early next summer in Orlando, Florida, or late summer in Las Vegas at the Mirage in Las Vegas. Get the pass now and get the Early-Bird special, and they’ll save an extra $100 if they’re a KelbyOne Pro member. You’ll make a true friend for life—maybe longer.
Price: Early-Bird KelbyOne Pro Member: $599 (link)
A One-Year KelbyOne Pro Membership
You’ve heard again and again (or maybe you’re already a member and you know firsthand) about all the incredible online courses, the magazines, the online community, the Webcasts, and the discounts, and 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’ll 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. Okay, that’s perhaps a best-case scenario, but I will tell you that I think they’ll love you (and so will I).
Price: $199 (link)
A One-Year KelbyOne Plus Membership
If they love online training, we have a special membership level that just focuses on the online classes themselves. For just $9.99 a month, they’ll have access to 350 courses in the KelbyOne library. Give ’em a 12-month membership and they’ll love you all year.
Price: $9.99/month (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! ;-)