There are a lot of practical and inexpensive gifts for photographers. Here is a nice list of items from $8 to $130. To make them easy to track them down, most of these items can be found at my photography store (which is powered by Amazon.com with Amazon’s terrific ordering, shipping, guarantee, and service). Most of the items below are in the Photo Goodies section. Prices are current as of this update (Nov. 22, 2016) but prices do fluctuate. Some items can be temporarily unavailable.
Originally posted Nov. 24, 2015. Updated and reposted Nov. 22, 2016.
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Individual links for most of these items take you directly to that item or item category in my Amazon.com powered photography store.
$8 – LensPen
A great little “toss in your camera bag” lens cleaning system. Use it on camera lenses, binoculars, spotting scopes, and other optical devices.
$8 – 18% Gray Cards
A gray card can help you come up with a more accurate exposures, teach you subject tonality differences, and you can use it to set the white balance of your camera. In short, it can help you be a better photographer. Read more in the exposure articles at JimDoty.com.
$8 – Fabric 18% Gray Card
This functions just like a gray card except it is made of fabric and collapsible. It can help you come up with a more accurate exposures, teach you subject tonality differences, and you can use it to set the white balance of your camera. In short, it can help you be a better photographer. Read more in the exposure articles at JimDoty.com and in my book (below).
$12 – $13 – Stofen or Opteka Flash Diffuser
The simplest, least expensive way to soften the light from your accessory flash. Just slide one of these diffusers over your flash. Be sure to get the size that fits your particular brand and model of flash. They are on page 6, page 7, and page 8 of my photography store.
A must-have to go in every camera bag. Blow dust and grit off of the outside or your camera, and most important, a safe way to blow dust out of the inside of the camera. NEVER use compressed air to clean out the mirror box of your camera.
Get them both to clean the inside of your camera and you lenses.
$20 – Portable Camera Pod
This 5 inch bean bag is what you need for those occasions when you can’t or don’t want to use a tripod. Ideal for small cameras or a DSLR with a normal size lens.
$9 – $19 – Wall Calendars
You can’t have too many beautiful and inspirational calendars around your home and work place! Chosen from dozens of wall calendars here, including the wonderful “Wild and Scenic” series for most of the U.S. states and Canadian provinces.
$12 – $20 – Gray, White, and Black Cards
You can use these cards for metering, to create a histogram, and set the white balance on your digital camera. There are several sizes and types to choose from.
$10 – $40 – Photography Books
Choose from a selection of the best photography books in several categories at my photography store.
$18 – Black Cat Exposure Guide
This guide is just what you need for those occasions when the situation is too difficult for your camera to meter reliably. If it also a backup should your meter decide to quit working. It lists a whole series of scenes (like a moonlit landscape or lightning) and the dials give you a range of aperture and shutter speed combinations for that scene. It is simple and effective to use in all kinds of tricky lighting situations.
$14 – $130 – Joby Gorilla pods
Gorillapods are very handy when you want a small, ultra flexible tripod. Screw the 1/4 x 20 thread of this model into the bottom of your camera (or add a small tripod head, see below) and you are ready to go. Gorillapods come in several sizes. Look on page 5.
$27 – $50 – Joby Ballheads
A small ballhead for a Joby Gorillapod. They come in two sizes. Look on page 5.
$21 – White Umbrella (43 Inch)
If you have a tripod, an umbrella is one of the best ways to soften the light from your accessory flash unit. You will need an adapter to mount your umbrella and flash to your tripod (see the next item) and an optical slave to fire your off camera flash (see below).
$20 – LumoPro Umbrella Adapter
This handy adapter will attach your flash and umbrella to your tripod (with the included adapter) or a light stand.
This is my favorite softbox on an umbrella frame for using a speedlite (hot shoe mounted flash) off the camera. It comes with an umbrella adapter so you will not need a separate adapter to mount the Halo and your flash on a light stand. Your speedlite will be inside the Halo so you will need to use a radio controlled flash (like the Yongnuo flash below).
This is the Chinese equivalent of the Canon 600EX-RT flash. The Yongnuo and Canon flash units and radio transmitters are compatible with each other. I now own three Yongnuo YN600EX-RT flash units and the Yongnuo radio transmitter and they work very well. Three Yongnuo flashes and one Yongnuo radio radio transmitter cost less than one Canon flash unit alone. If you have two or more of these flashes, one of them on the hotshoe can control one or more off camera flashes. They can also be controlled by a Yongnuo or Canon radio transmitter.
Infrared flashes and transmitters are limited to line of sight over short distances (up top 25 feet in typical low light circumstances). They don’t work well in daylight. Radio flashes and transmitters do not need line of sight, they work well out to 100 feet, and have not problems working in daylight. After all the frustrations of working with infrared, I have switched to radio flashes. See this article for more information on Yongnuo radio flashes and radio transmitter.
This is the Chinese equivalent of the Canon ST-E3-RT. This unit in you hot shoe will control Yonguno and Canon radio controlled flashes. The Yongnuo and Canon flash units and radio transmitters are compatible with each other. I now own three Yongnuo YN600EX-RT flash units and the Yongnuo radio transmitter and they work very well. Three Yongnuo flashes and one Yongnuo radio transmitter cost less than one Canon flash unit. See this article.
$1-30 – My Photography Book
Want to be a better photographer? Would you like to create images that stand out from the crowd? This is my own book on photographic exposure. After covering the scientific and artistic sides of exposures, there are suggestions to get you started in people, landscape, wildlife, flower, sports, closeup, and low light photography. This is a highly rated and recommended book by reviewers at Amazon.com. You can buy it new or used from one of Amazon’s third party sellers.
$22 – iStabilizer
This is a great combination mini-tripod and smart phone holder and it works with any smart phone and any case.
$33 – Pinhole Body Cap Lens
$35 – Wein Optical Slave
This handy optical slave will fire an off-camera accessory flash when it sees the light from another flash (like the one on your camera). The accessory flash must be used in manual mode. You can use this accessory with a white umbrella and an umbrella adapter (see above).
$9-17 – Double Bubble Level
Keep your camera straight with a double bubble level, the simplest way to avoid off kilter horizons. More info on using one here. Prices can vary dramatically over time. Find the best price on page 2.
$17 – Rogue Flash Bender
Attach this to your accessory flash and use it open to soften the light, or roll it into a snoot to shoot a narrow beam of light at your subject. The attachment strap is included.
Soften the light from your flash with a Honl Snoot/Reflector. When used open (as in the photo above), it softens the light. Fold it into a snoot and it shoots a narrow beam of light. It comes in gold to warm the light and in silver for neutral light. Attach it to your flash with a Honl Speed Strap (sold separately).
$35 – Remote Timer
Self timer, long exposure timer, interval timer, and it can be programmed as an intervalometer. Set the self timer for an an extended delay before the shutter fires. Take a series of photos at set intervals of time without having to attend to the camera. This goodie can do a lot for half the price of the typical camera brand timers.
Control the light with this all-in-one set of reflectors. Use the white, silver, and gold reflectors to bounce light back onto your subject. Use the translucent disc to soften sunlight. Hold back some of the light with the black disc. This is a great, high quality set.
$60 – Color Checker
This is a standard reference for checking color on your digital camera (or the color accuracy of your favorite films). If your camera has several color modes, you can use this chart to see how each mode handles the standard reference colors. Using the information in my book, Digital Photography Exposure for Dummies, you can use this chart to test the color exposure latitude of your digital sensor for over and under exposure.
$70 – Honl Softbox
A mini-softbox for your shoe mounted flash unit. This is a handy way t0o softern the light from you shoe mounted flash unit. Just attach it to your flash with the included Honl Speed Strap.
A calibration target can do anything a gray card can do (see the gray card listings prior to this item) and a whole lot more. You can use a calibration target with you digital camera and check the histogram for an ideal exposure that doesn’t burn out the highlights. You can even use a calibration target to set the exposure and white balance for studio lights if you don’t have an incident light meter. Calibration targets come in a variety of sizes and brands.
You can find all of these items (except for the books and calendars) in the Goodies section of my photography store which is powered by Amazon’s great prices, fast service, and excellent guarantee. Books are here and calendars are here.
This is one in a series of articles that will guide you to the best of all things photographic. The rest are here: Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More.