I’ve written small business/charity gift guides for a few years, but this year I’m going to add one to the a list – practical gifts for photographers (not to mention enthusiastic content creators and social media managers.)
I know that bloggers writing gift guides close to Christmas is a well worn trope, but over the years I’ve actually found some them incredibly helpful. I certainly wouldn’t call myself a professional photographer (though I’ve technically been commissioned several times for shoots) just a very enthusiastic amateur that practises a lot.
Unhelpfully, most of these aren’t going to link anywhere ( and certainly not to a company named after an infamous river because a certain trillionaire doesn’t need any assistance from me). Just copy and paste the name into a search engine, and Bob will be your uncle. (Fun fact: I actually have an uncle AND a cousin called Bob.)
Not only will Bob be your uncle, but you’ll be able to take beautiful pictures of him as well.
Personally, I keep my kit lightweight and easily portable – I 100% know that that if it’s bulky and unwieldy there’s no way that I’ll use it – it’ll collect dust tucked away in a cupboard, only to see the light of day during epic clean outs. Or house moves.
If you’re thinking of buying a camera for another person, please be very careful. Photography lovers tend to research their kit thoroughly, are incredibly brand loyal and are very very specific in what they like to use in terms of lenses.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
I have a beauty of a camera – it’s technically a bridge camera, it has detachable lenses and it’s small enough to fit in my small handbag. This means that I use it allllll the time; it’s easy to travel with and is super light to carry around. It’s been to New Zealand and back several times, been taken up the side of a volcano, on a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia and on several boat trips. I love it.
My favourite lenses are the Olympus 40-150mm ƒ/4-5.6 Zuiko digital lens is a budget zoom telephoto lens (I actually use it for 90% of my photography, including restaurants reviews and product shots… I probably shouldn’t admit that) and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 9‑18mm F4‑5.6 is a lovely wide angle lens for interior shots. Anything in the middle distance, I usually just use my phone. Every image in this post is taken with my OM-D camera & 40-150mm lens, bar the images with the camera in them – obviously.
One thing you can buy which can be incredibly useful, are handbag/backpack inserts. This means if they have bulky cameras, they can carry them much easier. Just be aware of their handbag sizing. (Can I recommend the foldable Longchamp bags if you want to get them a bag that’s beautiful yet sturdy? The medium ones can comfortably fit 2 bottles of champagne + random stuff, yet fold up to around the size of of a pack of cards. Pop an insert in, and away they go.)
You can do SO much these days with both in-camera effects on your phone and in post production. But, to really get crisp, beautiful shots and effects, even the best photographers use a little steadying help.
Look, don’t roll your eyes at this Gen-Z accessory – I have it on excellent authority that BBC reporters often used a selfie stick whilst out in the field, to record content for new reports. If it’s good enough for them, and it stops shaky phone camera recording, I’m all for it.
This is one of my FAVOURITE bits of kit. It’s basically a flexible but firm tube, with a clamp on either end. One attached to whatever bench/chair/shelf/table that you’re shooting on, and the other firmly holds your phone. It’s perfect for setting up stopmotions, time lapses and just generally freeing up your hands.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
Sorry, just couldn’t resist. If you’re struggling for getting light into your filming situation – especially in winter – these are two things you 100% need.
I don’t use these for selfies, though there’s a section for my phone to sit in the right light, but I do use mine for infilling – that is casting lights in places that don’t have any. I just use it like any portably light source (get one with a couple of different colour and intensity settings. If the light is too strong, don’t be afraid to use tissue or muslin to diffuse it. If I’m video chatting with clients or presenting an online class, but I’m next to a window and half my face is in shadow, I’ll use my ring light from the side to fill in a bit of my face, or bounce light onto my face via the wall behind my screen to avoid having the rings reflect in my glasses [demonstrated below].
In my arsenal I have a 5 In 1 Collapsible Lighting Diffuser Reflector Disc + Bag, and it’s fantastic. All professional photographers have these in varying colours and types, and get their assistants to hold/adjust them to get the light adjusted. I just prop mine up on the nearest surface or chair. It makes SUCH a difference – and the one I have folds down to the size of a large dinner plate, just over an inch thick.
And last, but not least…
Vinyl Photography Backdrops
Flex your tabletop creativity with high quality, double-sided photography backdrops—essential toolkit for content creators. Transform your tired old tables and kitchen benches with these backdrops; you can get everything from white marble to dusty brick, wooden flooring and bright matt single colours. Oh, get vinyl ones so that they don’t get destroyed when you intentionally/accidentally spill food everywhere…
So, there we have it, 8 practical gifts for photographers. I’m off to have a look at electronic photo frames so that I can admire some of the adventures we’ve taken photos of over the years…
Photographers, what are your favourite bits of kit?
Actually, I think one of mine is also the little strings that you can buy that attach your camera lens cap to your lens as I’ve lost a fair few over the years… might be a bit cheeky to buy one for a family member though – like the time I bought my Dad spare golf balls because he kept growling that he was losing them to the water features of the gold course. Practical I thought.