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Photographer’s Holiday Gift Guide 2013

December 8, 2013

camera_medIf you have a photographer in your life, then this gift guide is the key to his or her happiness this holiday season. No photographer, amateur or professional, has everything he or she wants. There’s always some light, lens, or gadget that’s missing and she’s just never taken the time to buy it or it slips her mind until there’s a special need. You can fill that void with these ideas but first there’s something you have to do.

You have to listen to and observe your photographer. What subjects does she shoot? Does she only photograph people? Does she only work outdoors? Does she like to create short films? Does she ever work with film or is she a digital only type? Does your photographer ever take pictures with her phone? It’s a real thing called Phoneography and there are a lot of apps and accessories available for it. Ask a few questions. It won’t kill you to find out a few details before embarking on a shopping spree.

And you have the choice of enhancing your photographer’s equipment list or expanding it in a different direction. For example, if your photographer only shoots outdoors, you could buy her some studio lights and backdrops to give her a chance to try some portraiture or product photography.

If she’s a digital only shooter, you should buy her an old school film camera and let her creativity flow. Yes, lots of people still use film. In fact, more people now use film than ever before and there are some really cool ones available that extend your sight beyond the normal.

Here are the “goto” websites that you need to know for photography gear, cameras, lenses, and accessories.

Adorama: http://www.adorama.com

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that most serious photographers know about Adorama. It is the primary goto site for all things professional or prosumer, a term that means a high-end consumer who might be a part-time freelance photographer or someone who uses professional equipment. Although bent toward the professional, your up and coming amateur can benefit from better lighting, a higher quality tripod, or a new telephoto lens.

There are shopping tabs on the site that direct you to products that fit your budget or those oriented toward him or her. For example, there are tabs labeled Under $50, Under $100, Under $200 up to Over $500. You can also purchase Adorama gift cards from the front page. Trust me when I say that you’ll see a happy face when your photographer opens an Adorama gift card. A gift card is a great idea, especially if you have no clue as to what your photographer wants or needs.

There are also tabs that are product specific, such as Studio & Lighting, Cameras, Tripods, Lenses, etc.

Great sound is essential for movies, great lighting is essential for photography. Adorama has lighting. It has studio lighting, outdoor lighting, reflectors for natural lighting, flash lighting, continuous lighting, and just about everything any photographer or movie maker needs.

There are two lighting products in particular that I want to bring to your attention: Flashpoint 14″ Fluorescent Dimmable Ring Light and the Glow HexaPop 20″ for portable off camera flash – R Series.

My Flashpoint 14″ Dimmable Ring Light Review gives you a lot of good reasons to choose it for a portrait light. If your photographer needs a source of continuous light for portrait photos, product photos, short films, or stop motion films, this is what you should buy her. Currently, the Ring Light costs $140.00 with free shipping. Buy a replacement bulb for $15.95 and a stand for $25.00 to round out this full lighting solution.

HP_046F

The Glow Hexapop Diffuser shown on stand and with flash unit.

The other interesting lighting gift idea is the 20″ Glow Hexapop Diffuser. Though I haven’t posted my Hexapop review yet, I can tell you that I’ve worked with it and I like it. It is extremely portable, lightweight and it does a great job of providing soft, even lighting from a flash unit.

Ordinarily a flash unit sits atop your camera in what’s known as the “hot shoe.” This is an electronic interface that’s timed with the shutter button so that the flash fires as the shutter opens so that your subject receives enough light to be photographed. Unfortunately most flash units are overpowered and flood the subject with bright, harsh light that is neither flattering nor even.

The Hexapop diffuser does. To use the Hexapop, your photographer needs to have her own flash unit (most do) and a flash sync cord (again, most do). If your photographer happens not to own a flash sync cord, get one at least ten feet long and one that’s compatible with your photographer’s equipment.

The Hexapop is sort of a hybrid softbox and umbrella combination that photographer’s use for studio lighting. Unlike studio lighting, the Hexapop can travel with the photographer without the need for external power. It comes with its own tasteful black carrying case that makes it extremely portable for the photographer on the move.

HP_028

The Glow Hexapop Diffuser ready to open or to drop in the bag for easy transport.

It sets up quickly and easily by pulling the arms into place and it folds up even faster with a “Pop!” by pressing its release triggers.

Adorama has everything for the photographer and photography enthusiast. For the truly budget conscious, there’s a Deals link that you should check out for Specials, overstocks, refurbished products, and used equipment. Adorama offers free shipping within the USA on many products.

Lomography: http://www.lomography.com

Lomography is an online presence, it’s a store, it’s a movement, it’s a place for you to show off your lo-fi photography, it’s an online magazine, and it’s something kind of unexplainable. Lomography is film and cheap cameras. I should put cheap in quotation marks because some of them aren’t so cheap at all. I guess cheap is relative. You have to love film, its unexpected qualities, its artistic value, and the feeling that you’re going against the grain of the “digital revolution.”

Holga

The Holga 120N Camera.

There’s no wrong answer or wrong way to do anything in the world of Lomography but you have to have a lo-fi lens or lo-fi camera to do it. If you want to know more about it all, you can read up on the history and the movement on the website. Just know this: Lomography is addictive and once you start, you want to experience every type of camera.

For example, the medium format (120 film) cameras are kind of my favorites. The negatives are large (generally 2″ x 2″) and you only get 12 or 16 photos per roll. Using one of these plastic gems is not an exact science but it’s really fun. Great examples of medium format lo-fi cameras are: Holga, Diana, and Debonair (the look of a Diana but the operation of a Holga).

debonair

The Debonair Camera

My own collection “lomo” cameras include the Smena (Russian), the Holga, the Diana, half-frame cameras, Canon AE-1s, and others. But my most favorite of all is the Debonair. It’s a super cheap little camera that uses 120 film. See photo.

You can find them on ebay.com for under $20. They are cheap, plastic cameras that have a very simple focusing mechanism, a manual film advance, and your creativity to power them. Awesome.

For someone who isn’t into Lomography or just wants to try it, the Debonair is a great starter camera. If you can’t find one, buy a Holga. You can find Holgas everywhere and they come in a variety of colors and styles but only two film sizes: 120 and 35mm. The Holga 135 is the 35mm one. Holgas generally cost under $30 for the standard black 120 film version. You can find film for it online or in camera shops. Use color print film C-41 process because Black and White film is getting harder to find a developer locally. Good luck if you like B&W, like I do. Use color, have the developer scan them onto CD for me and then I use a photo manipulation program to change them to grayscale. It’s almost the same. Plus you can alter the contrast that way too.

Diana

The Classic Diana updated with interchangeable lenses and more durable construction.

Once your photographer has caught the bug, you can buy her a Diana, or a 35mm Smena, or one of the more exotic cameras such as a Sprocket Rocket, an LC-A, or a Lubitel. They all have their quirks and interesting features. In fact, no two Holgas are alike, so explore the possibilities with more than one.

Photojojo: http://www.photojojo.com

Photojojo is the Phoneographer’s paradise. It has everything cool for the Phoneographer: lights, lenses, carrying cases, ideas for DIY projects, and all sorts of off the wall products.

I personally bought the three lens set for my iPhone from Photojojo. I love them and they work perfectly. Photojojo also sells some Lomography accessories too. You can also buy film, tripods, microphones, a film scanner, props, a dolly, and just about every kind of oddball thing you can imagine and a lot that you can’t.

If nothing else, Photojojo is worth a look just to see what’s out there for the phoneography nut in your life or perhaps for yourself. Photojojo offers free shipping on orders over $50.00. Often this is not easy to do because most of their items are under $50.00. I guess that’s so you’ll buy more stuff. That’s OK because I’ve never been bummed out about anything that I’ve purchased there.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com

Amazon has a lot of the photographic equipment, cameras, and accessories that you want and at the prices you want to pay. It has an excellent search engine and if you’re a Prime member, then you get free priority shipping on anything that is Prime qualified. Look for the Prime symbol prime when you find a product that you like.

Sometimes I use Amazon just as a sanity check against other online retailers. I also use it to see if I can get the products I want with free shipping, because I’m a Prime member. I don’t want to take anything away from the other retailers in this list or any other but if I can find the exact product on Amazon with Prime at a comparable price, I’m going for free shipping.

If you can’t figure out what you want to buy or you need a little extra advice, I’d be glad to help out. Drop me a line at ken-at-kenhess-dot-com (replace the at with @ and dot with . and don’t use the dashes. I have to do this to confuse email bots–sorry) and I’ll see what I can do for you.

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