It’s Christmas, time to buy gifts and nobody deserve gifts more than photographers!
So here my personal list of the 10 best gifts, from $0 to a lot of money.
- A free gift that you can give to your photographer friends is to give them time: your time as subject, patient partner to explore the world with them or simply time to review their pictures and be honest. Honesty is the key for the gift, tell them if their 5000 pictures of a yellow lemon are boring or exciting, tell them why you like or dislike an image and tell them why.
- For few dollars you can handcraft a visualizer. Years ago, in the film era, it was a very common tool, specially for view cameras, and was ready to buy in the shops. Now is not possible to buy it but very easy to build.
Take a piece of black cardboard, cut a hole the size of the sensor in it and attach, close to the hole, a piece of measuring tape in millimeters. The visualizer can be used to evaluate the scene looking thru the hole and the distance between it and the eye will correspond to the focal length needed to have that angle of view. With small sensors the distance can be too short to be comfortable, so you can create a larger hole in scale and obviously the distance will need to be multiplied by the scale (you can create your own measuring tape in scale).
- Black Gaffer Tape! Yes it can be used for a lot of things but the use I suggest is to cover the LCD display of the camera sometimes! It can be one of the best gift for a “only digital” photographer, it will teach how to approach the world and set the camera without looking at the result on the LCD. Your friend will hate you at the beginning and thank you later when he/she will discover that photography is not only looking at a display to see an already created image but it is the ability to create with the mind and use the camera as an extension of the eyes.
- Photographic books. You can spend the amount of money you prefer buying how many books you want.
If you know your photographer friend you also know his/her skills level, so buy coherently.
My suggestions is to always start with the basics, so obviously to gift my book “Photography: The f Manual”! Best choice for obvious reasons 😉
There are plenty of books to choose, if your friend does not have it, go with the Ansel Adam trilogy: The camera, The negative, The Print. You will not be wrong.
Do not forget photographic books with images from the best of the past or contemporary photographers. To look at others images (printed. not on a monitor, once in a while!) is the best way to learn.
- Neutral Density filters. Often under evaluated, the ND filters will let your friend play with long time exposures and wide apertures. They are fun, and is fun to start at the extreme with a 10 stops filter.
You can find different brands, go with the well known and look online for reviews. Your budget will also be a factor for the choice, they can cost from few dollars to over hundred.
- Most photographers use software to convert the RAW files to rasterized images. If your friend is still not using CaptureOne by PhaseOne, that is the perfect gift.
CaptureOne has the ability to produce good images straight out of the camera without the need to manipulate them too much.
This is the main difference with other software and the quality of the file is probably the best you can have on the market.
CaptureOne gives a lot of tools, like selective color adjustments, local curves, color masks and so on, that will let improve the image, but the great part is that he/she will use them to actually improve the image and not adjust color dominants and other problems created by other software. It will be a gift that will make them grow offering a philosophical change in the image workflow.
With CaptureOne I learned that the digital camera can produce perfect files without the need of manipulation. I became free again from the postproduction hours I was used to spend. I started to have the desire again to photograph instead of the nightmare of postproduction.
I can spend hours to explain the technical details and make tutorials about the use of CaptureOne, but what I cannot teach is the pleasure to see the images correct straight out of the camera, and this is the main reason to use it. The RAW converter must be a friend that saves time and not an enemy to study and fight to have a decent picture.
It costs around $200 and is worth every single penny and if you look at my online tutorials you can find a coupon that will be a nice surprise at the checkout.
- A film camera. I know it sounds absurd, but if your photographer friend used digital all his/her life a film camera is a perfect gift. Look on Ebay or at your local or online shop. You can find medium format or view cameras for few hundred dollars.
Why a film camera? To learn that photography is not just an electronic display, that the light can be judged and managed with our own eyes, and that photography can be a slow mental process and there is no need to take thousand pictures of the same subject to get one great image.
Everyday I see photographer too much concentrated on their tools and the gadget offered by their tools instead of the subject and the light. A film camera, to use as a cathartic experience to clean the mind from the digital habits, can be the best gift you can offer to a digital photographer because will open his/her mind to a different approach.
- A rangefinder camera with an optical viewfinder. You can go with a Fuji XPro, the Xpro1 is available used for $300/400, the XPro2 can be found around $1500 new.
I got one and I loved it because the optical rangefinder. It’s a camera that will teach to use the eyes and the mind instead of the display and it is very comfortable to always have in the pockets ready for that magic moment.
There is also the Leica M option for some more thousand dollars. It is not important which one you’ll buy but the fact that you will gift a different approach to photography.
- Studio flashes. You can go from speedlight with modifiers (I really like MagMod!) to professional studio tools as the great Broncolor (in this case for me is pure love not just a like!). Again you can go as low as few hundred dollars and as high as tens of thousands of dollars. Depends on your pocket.
Studio flashes create new opportunities for great images, but mostly force the photographer to understand the light 100%. In the studio the photographer can create the light he/she has in mind. Studio photography put the photographer in charge of every aspect of the image.
Nowdays a lot of digital photographers take pictures outdoor and manipulate the file to adapt it to the available light, in studio is the opposite, the light is manipulated to create the result we have in our mind on a perfect file without the need for much postproduction. It’s great!
- If you really have no problem with money and if I am your photographer friend you can buy as a gift the new 100 MegaPixel PhaseOne camera. That will be the perfect gift!
Seriously a medium format can be the greatest change for a photographer. Quality and philosophical approach are a huge step over the full frame DSLR.
So, please buy me that for Christmas! …and do not forget all the lenses! 🙂
Merry Christmas and happy gifts!