There are a lot of practical and inexpensive (more or less) gifts for photographers. Here is a nice list of items starting at $8. To make it easy to track them down, these items are individuality linked plus most of these items can be found in the Misc Goodies section of my photography store which has direct links to Amazon.com. Prices are current as of the date of this post, but prices do fluctuate. Some items can be temporarily unavailable. These items are not listed in order of price.
Posted November 18, 2020.
Most of the titles for these items have links that take you directly to that item at Amazon.com or to the item category in my Amazon.com powered photography store. You get the same great Amazon prices, service, and guarantee.
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 for more accurate color. The back side, which is white, can be used as a reflector when doing portraits of people or flowers. As an added plus, it collapses from 12 inches across down to about 4 inches across and slides into a small zippered bag that fits in your camera bag or backpack. I have one in my camera bag all the time. In short, it can help you be a better photographer. Read more in the exposure articles at JimDoty.com.
$12 – LensPen
A great little “toss in your camera bag” lens cleaning system. Use it on camera lenses, binoculars, spotting scopes, and other optical devices.
$11 – $15 – Stofen 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. You can find them part way down this page 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.
$11 – Cree LED Headlamp
To do night photography you need a headlamp with a red LED that has its own separate switch. This article tells you why. This Cree headlamp is one of the few headlamps that has separate switches for the red and white LEDs.
$22 – Coast HL4 Headlamp for Night Photography
To do night photography you need a headlamp with a red LED that has its own separate switch. This article tells you why. The Coast model HL4 is one of the few headlamps that has separate switches for the red and white LEDs. This item is no longer available at Amazon but you might be able to find it at Home Depot or Lowe’s.
$27 – Red 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. You can also get the green pod for larger cameras.
$32 – $40 – Gray, White, and Black Calibration Target
You can use these targets for metering, to create a histogram, and set the white balance on your digital camera. The advantage of this calibration target over a gray card is you can make sure you have good mid tones (gray) without burning out the white tones in a scene. It comes in a 6 inch and 14 inch size.
$10 – $40 – Photography Books
Choose from a selection of the best photography books in several categories at my photography store.
$20 – 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. It is no longer available at Amazon but you might be able to find it elsewhere on the internet.
$85 – Joby Gorillapod Tripod
A Gorillapod is 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.
$58 – iOptron Ball Head
The iOptron ball head is the best sturdy, well made, Arca-Swiss compatible tripod head I have been able to find for under $100, and comes with an Arca-Swiss compatible mounting plate for your camera. This is the least expensive way to get into the Arca-Swiss system with a quality tripod head. More information here and here.
$22 – 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).
This handy adapter will attach your flash and umbrella to your tripod (with the included adapter) or a light stand. The photo at the top of this article shows one in use to hold a flash and umbrella.
This is my favorite softbox on an umbrella frame for using a speedlite (hot shoe mounted flash) off the camera. You will need to get an umbrella adapter (above) to mount the Halo and your flash on a light stand or tripod. Your speedlite will be inside the Halo so you will need to use a radio controlled flash (like the Yongnuo flashes for Canon and Nikon, see below).
This is the Chinese equivalent of the Canon 600EX-RT II flash but at a fraction of the Canon price. 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. Two of the 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. Two Yongnuo flashes and one Yongnuo radio transmitter cost less than one Canon flash unit. See this article.
This kit gives Nikon photographers a radio controlled, off-camera flash system. The power of each flash is set in manual mode from the on-camera transmitter.
$3 and up – 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.
$70 – 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 – Double Bubble Level
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). Go to this page.
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.
$80 – X-Rite 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. There is a $44 version from Datacolor.
$45 – Honl Softbox
A mini-softbox for your shoe mounted flash unit. This is a handy way too soften the light from you shoe mounted flash unit. Just attach it to your flash with the included Honl Speed Strap.
You can find most of these items in the Misc Goodies section, the Light Modifiers for Flash section, and the books section of my photography store which is powered by Amazon’s great prices, fast service, and excellent guarantee.
This is one in a series of articles that will guide you to the best of all things photographic. The rest of the series is here: Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More.