Gifts for Me!

A little self-serving? Yes, it is. I admit it. But I’ve discovered that friends and family who aren’t into photography and videography often have little idea on what a hobbyist might like. So I thought I would throw out a few inexpensive but meaningful ideas for that last minute shopper with a photographer on their list.

You could of course always go with the gift card from a photography store. Safe and not a bad idea. But here are 10 other ideas that almost any photographer (including me) would love to have. Some of these require a bit of homework, but only a tiny bit. And this is not intended to be an advertisement for any particular brand or any particular retailer. I have, however, included a link with each option in case you want more information. These are offered in no particular order:

Portable Video Light

Many of the photographers in our lives are now expanding to include video clips, video vlogs or other online content in our work. Any type of video work requires a constant light source, unlike the strobes or speedlights that most photographers might be using and be familiar with. Often what is needed is something small and portable, to illuminate a single subject, a single object. There are some fantastic LED options available now that provide both colour temperature control and light intensity control. It’s easy to balance their output with any other light in the room. They can often be paired with modifiers that soften or redirect the light as needed. Having a credit card sized light source in my bag has come in handy quite a few times, if only to throw a bit of fill on a subject.

Radio Controlled Security Tag

Those of us who travel know the perils of travelling with expensive camera gear. One of the greatest inventions ever, in my view, has been the radio controlled security tag, such as the Apple Air Tag. These can be discreetly slipped into an inconspicuous opening in your camera bag and will transmit a signal through the network to always alert you to where the tag (and the bag) is located. They are extremely accurate and you can name each one to associate it with the item it is linked to. These are great for your keys too!

Pouch for Managing Cables, Chargers and Batteries

Every photographer struggles with how to manage the reams of cables, chargers and batteries that seem to be required for every piece of kit. There are lots of options for managing these, but one of my favourites is the Peak Design Tech Pouch. It seems to have a slot for everything and is easy to pack away in your camera bag or in your suitcase. Remember if packing it in your checked suitcase though that you should remove any Lithium Ion batteries and carry those with you if flying. Some of these pouches include cable straps to neatly organize those endless lengths of wire.

Battery Multi-Charger

Another game changer for me. Most equipment items come with chargers for one battery. If you shoot lots, you can go through several batteries in one day. The original equipment makers don’t seem to make multi-charger options, but you can usually easily find third party options (yes, at Amazon, although generally I don’t recommend buying electronics through Amazon – that’s another story). These allow for 2 or more batteries to be charged at once.

Tabletop Tripod

At some point, every photographer has a situation where a full sized tripod doesn’t cut it or is inconvenient to use. There are lots of smaller options out there, including options that wrap around fence railings, allow levelling on uneven surfaces and allow quick repositioning of the camera to face straight down. I guess I’m a bit of a traditionalist here – I may not be able to use a full-sized tripod, but I still want a tripod with sturdy legs and a ballhead. My favourite has been the Manfrotto Pixi. The legs extend to give more reach and balance and all the important parts are metal and are well-built.

Memory Card

I don’t know any photographers who haven’t at some point realized that their memory cards were full and they did not have a replacement. Nobody can have enough memory cards. But if considering this gift, this one does require some homework to know what card fits the camera. Most cameras now work with some form of Secure Digital (SD) card technology, but the speed and capacity limits vary across cameras. Newer cameras can take higher speed and higher capacity cards, while “vintage” cameras may be limited to 2GB. And other card types are also in use as either primary or supplementary media. Examples are XQD cards and CF cards and CF Express cards. If you are considering some memory cards for your gift, maybe be stealthy and steal one out of the intended target camera for a few hours, take it to your local camera store and get a matching set.

Portable SSD Drive

This is one I had to deal with recently – but maybe I should have waited for that possible gift…Anyway, memory cards are for the capture of images and video footage. Eventually that media has to be moved somewhere else to clear space on the cards. And if the photographer does any editing work, a fast, large capacity hard drive is a must. The latest technology is solid state drives (SSD’s) with no internal moving parts. These are super fast, small and portable. Huge amounts of media can be stored in a footprint the size of a credit card. They are easy to attach, carry and store. While initially, the price of these units was ridiculously high, you can now get a 2TB drive for $100-$200 CDN. These require a bit of homework too, since most now come with a USB-C type connection. If the computer to which it will be attached doesn’t have that type of connection, then a small adapter will be needed, or a different cable.

All in One Tool for Tightening, Loosening Camera Plates, Light Mounts, Tripod Legs

A working photographer is constantly attaching and detaching equipment. Luckily, all of the attachment points are becoming standardized with 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch connections. Having a single foldable tool in the camera bag that can do it all is a real time and life saver. These typically come in some type of folding arrangement, where the individual tools can be unfolded as needed. One such example is made by SmallRig and is super compact. I would really like this one (hint to family members…)

USB Charging Hub

Have you ever arrived at a vacation destination with your camera gear only to find one working outlet in the room. No way to charge all the gizmos and gadgets you need to have with you during the day. You really have two options here: if carrying a computer, you can plug the computer into the available plug and then attach a USB hub to the computer. This is most often used for data transfer rather than charging and you may have to check whether your computer-based USB hub can actually deliver a charge. If not carrying a computer, or if there are at least two outlets available, you can dedicate one to your computer, and use the second strictly for equipment charging. A charging hub has no USB cable running to a computer – it may not have a cable at all, just two prongs on the back. Or if it does, it may attach to a power brick that plugs into the wall.

USB Power Bank with PD

Power banks have become popular for providing portable power anywhere, anytime. Depending on their capacity, they can charge cellphones, camera batteries, drone batteries, even computers. I currently use two to control the equipment in my astrophotography setup (that too is another story to come). I am amazed at how much power they can provide and how long they last. But you do have to be careful to select a unit with at least one PD (power delivery) port. Many inexpensive power banks can provide power to some toys, but today’s higher end cameras and cellphones draw much more power and will not charge with one of these cheaper units. I definitely needed to do some homework before selecting the Anker model that I finally selected.

So there you go. Ten possible choices for the photographer/videographer on your list. You still have a few days to add an item or two to that stocking. In the meantime, I wish everyone a superb holiday season with lots of personal interaction with family and friends (enough of this Zoom and Facetime stuff!). I might be asking for trouble but I think we all deserve a “normal” holiday season this year. Certainly hoping my handful of Covid shots will guarantee that for me.

Happy Holidays!!!

4 thoughts on “Gifts for Me!

  1. Thank you Nina, all excellent suggestions! A lot of research on your part has gone into this, appreciate it!

    Have a blessed Christmas and great new year! Judi Gottfried


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