Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs, and More

Welcome to my online buying guide for photographers. With over 75 articles it is one of the most comprehensive photography buyer’s guides on the web.

I get lots of photo questions, especially at this time of year, and many of them begin with “What is the best . . . .” They usually come from photographers or someone who is shopping for a photographer.  If you are shopping for yourself, or for a photographer in your life, this series is for you.

My “best of the best” series recommends the best photo gear, accessories, software, books, DVDs, online photo labs, and a whole lot more. Thanks to the information in these articles I get emails from photographers thanking me for saving them time, frustration, and a lot of money.

This article is published annually in November with regular updates. Re-posted November 20, 2023. Most recent update: December 1, 2023.

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Adobe Bridge: Finding an Original Photo

Sunset, Lake Michigan

It started with a text message from my brother John that included this sunset photo. He found it somewhere on one of my websites. He was asking technical questions about the original photo that I could not answer without finding the original photo and checking the size in MB and dimensions in pixels. I knew at first glance that this is a sunset photo of Lake Michigan that was taken at Thorne Swift Nature Preserve which is not far from Harbor Springs Michigan. I was leading a photo workshop field trip when I created this image. It was taken several years ago but I had no idea what year or the specific date. But that was simple to figure out. Using Adobe Bridge it would take only a few seconds.

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Adobe Bridge Basics: How to Do a Keyword Search

Adobe Bridge. Keyword search for “portraits”. Click the image to see a larger version.

Single Keyword searches with Adobe Bridge are fast and simple. Open your master folder of photos (see Adventures with Adobe Bridge for suggestions on how to create this folder). All of the keywords for all of the photos in your folder will show up on a list at the left. Scroll down the list until you come to the keyword you want to use in your search. For this example I chose the keyword “portrait”. Click the box in front of the word portrait and in less than a second all of your portraits will show up. You can see some of them in the above screen capture. The process is the same for any other keyword you want to look for, be it elk, moose, sunsets, or Elvis sightings.

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Adobe Bridge Basics: How to Batch Keyword Photos

Adobe Bridge workspace with a folder of renamed photos.Click this image to see a larger version.

This is the third article in a “how to” series. In the prior article in this series we ended up with a folder of renamed photos that need to be keyworded. They are still all selected as you can see by the blue borders. This article will show you how to batch keyword these photos.

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Adobe Bridge Basics: How To Download Photos into Folders By Date

Adobe Bridge Workspace. Click the image to see a much larger version.

I was downloading, renaming, and keywording photos today so I did some screen captures to create this series of three tutorials on how to use Adobe Bridge. If you find Bridge intimidating, this series is for you. When you click on Bridge to open it, this is what the workspace looks like. There is more about why you should use Adobe Bridge in Adventures with Adobe Bridge. FYI, Adobe Bridge is a free download.

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Fixing a Photo for Publication with Topaz Sharpen AI

“After the parade.” The final version of this image.

I was going through parade images yesterday to send to the local newspaper. The parade was over when I spotted this person on a skateboard with an American flag. I took 8 images of him with varying backgrounds, him with different body postures, and the flag at different angles. My least favorite had his head looking straight down as he checked his phone. This is my most favorite. I processed this image with Adobe Camera Raw and Topaz software before sending it off to the newspaper.

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Testing Topaz Gigapixel AI on a 1960s Family Photo

Family photo from the late 1960s.

At a family reunion several years ago I decided to make digital copies of some old family photo albums. I did one digital picture of each page (there were several photos on each page). When I got back home I digitally separated the individual photos that were on each page. This particular image is a family favorite. I decided this image would be a good test of Topaz Gigapixel AI which enlarges, and hopefully improves small photos. The original photographic print also has a lot of damage which created some additional problems.

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Choosing Favorites from a Photo Shoot

Adobe Bridge: Screen capture of a few photo shoot images.

As is my custom at the end of photo shoot, I handed my camera to Beth and asked her to pick our her favorites. She turned the thumb dial on the back of the camera to go through the photos and she read the four digit file numbers of her favorites, I wrote them down. If she said something like “I especially like this one!” I put down a star by that file number.

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Keeping Track of Photo Locations with a Handheld GPS Unit

Sarah – “Outtake”, Colorado, October 5, 2007.

A chance look today at an old photo just sent me back in time, both photographically and technologically. It was bone chillingly cold and Sarah and I were doing figure studies high in the Colorado Rockies. (One of our images is at the end of this article.) Back in 2007 most cameras did not have built in GPS units and my primitive mobile phone did not have GPS capabilities either. But I still wanted to keep track of some important photo locations, and this spot was one of them.

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Does Topaz Gigapixel AI Work?

Early 1950s family photo.

I have acquired some small, old family prints that I would generally describe as “fuzzy”. They are not clean and sharp. Making small fuzzy photos bigger does not make them better, it makes them worse. As I was explaining to an inexperienced photographer, making a high resolution copy of a blurry photo does not make it better. It just means you can turn a small blurry photo into a much bigger and therefore much blurrier photo.

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Tundra Bean-Goose, Part 2

Tundra Bean-Goose, The Razz soccer field, Graceland University.

I went looking for the Tundra Bean-Goose again this afternoon (see the prior article), along with one of my young grandsons. The light was much better than yesterday which meant a lower ISO setting on the camera and a lot less digital noise than at ISO 6400 late yesterday afternoon. That would mean better photos.

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How do you figure out the names of the mountains in your photos?

Mountains photographed from County Road 140 north of Poncha Springs Colorado.

How do you figure out the names of mountains you don’t know? It is relatively simple. I will show you how.

Ten years ago last night (October 26-27, 2012), my brother John and I were about a mile north of Poncha Springs Colorado. It was around midnight and we had a bright moon high in the sky. John was taking in the view and I was pointing my tripod mounted camera several different directions and taking pictures by moonlight.

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My iPhone Photography Apps

My iPhone Apps

I keep my photo apps together on one screen on my iPhone. Many of these apps are also available for Android phones. I thought I would share a screen capture of my photo apps and tell you briefly what these apps do. Some of these apps do things with the photos that are on your camera phone. Some of them help you control your camera phone. Some of them deal with an external camera (like my DSLR) or with external hardware. A few apps help you be at the right place at the right time. One or more of these apps might be just the ticket for what you like to do.

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Your Camera Does NOT Capture Reality! – And What To Do About It.

O'Haver Lake, Mt. Ouray, Colorado

O’Haver Lake, Mt. Ouray, Colorado.

You have heard it said a lot, and maybe said it yourself: “This picture doesn’t do the scene justice.” That is often true and for several reasons. One is that digital cameras do not capture reality. No matter how fancy or expensive, digital cameras simply do not capture what your eyes see. That is also true with film cameras. All color photographic films have different color characteristics. Some have better reds, others have better greens or blues. Some are more saturated and others less saturated. But none of them are totally color realistic. So why don’t digital cameras give you realistic images and what can you do about it?

Originally posted December 16, 2015. Revised and re-posted January 18, 2022.

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Bobcat: Fast and Simple Tonality Adjustments with Adobe Camera Raw

Bobcat, Before and After a Tonality Adjustment

Bobcat, Before and After a Tonality Adjustment

With the right software, you can make quick improvements in your images. There are some lighting situations where it is almost impossible, and certainly not practical, to get the correct white balance setting in the camera. This bobcat photo is an example. The best, fastest, and simplest solution is to get the right while balance setting after the fact using software like Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). A few minutes work with ACR can make a big difference in the look of your photos.

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Topaz Sharpen AI Reduces Digital Noise

Tiana in a gutted hotel.

It started with an invitation to photograph a first class model in a gutted hotel. How could I say no? Most of the images from our photo shoot came out great, but the photo above, at least in the original version, was a challenge for my digital camera. The contrast range was too much for the camera to handle (this was back in 2008) so the well lit part of Tiana’s body looked just fine but the darker side was really noisy. Digital cameras were a lot noisier 14 years ago.

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Mastering Photoshop: Advanced Color Correction, Part Two

Photoshop Lab Color (2nd edition)

Photoshop Lab Color (2nd edition)

Everything you need to know about Dan Margulis is in Mastering Photoshop: Advanced Color Correction, Part One. After you have devoured the book I recommend in that article, you will know why you need to get Photoshop LAB Color: The Canyon Conundrum and Other Adventures in the Most Powerful Colorspace (2nd edition).

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Mastering Photoshop: Advanced Color Correction, Part One

If you want to master color in Photoshop, Dan Margulis is the best of the best. He is one of the first three persons to be named as a member of the Photoshop Hall of Fame. And the book to get is Professional Photoshop 6: The Classic Guide to Color Correction. It is well worth finding on the used market (which you can do via my photography store). What Margulis teaches you to do with color is amazing. The before and after images will make your jaw drop.

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