The Ultimate Photographer’s Holiday Gift List (From $1 Up!).

By Posted in - Featured Post on December 16th, 2012

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I’m sorry to inundate you with what seems like yet another holiday list.

Just two days ago I published the Ultimate Traveler’s Holiday Gift List and it hadn’t even dawned on me to write a photography specific one until people kept writing and telling me how useful the traveler list was so I figured why not make one for all the photographer’s out there?

I know the items I use and love in my photo toolbox so it makes sense to help other people out who are looking for gift ideas for photographers or just looking for gift idea’s to put on their own wish list!

Here it is! A complete range of super useful and fun products at varying price points that will ensure you give the perfect gift to your photog friend!


1. Strap It To Ya Round 1 – The Camera Strap!

When I travel, I am constantly in awe of how many people actually carry their camera around their neck. Ouch! Please, please don’t do this to your body. It’s a strain on your body to carry something that weighs a few pounds around your neck even for just a couple hours and if you really want to get serious taking photos then you need to have your camera out of the bag more often anyway. That’s why I highly recommend the OP/TECH USA Classic Strap.

This is the one I use and I’ve been using it for years. It has a neoprene strap and is long enough to carry the camera across my body instead of around my neck which is key. Also, it has a quick disconnect system which I LOVE. In two seconds I can remove the strap from the camera body. This is good for a couple reasons – i.e. if the strap is somehow getting in the way of the shot or if I want to take the camera and latch it onto something for safety reasons (like taking a photo off a high balcony, etc.). I really love this feature and I use it constantly.

This strap is not only extremely useful but it is incredibly comfortable. Trust me, it will change the way you shoot!

There are plenty of OP/Tech USA Classic Straps ($13 – $20) on Amazon but I highly recommend you purchase one with a quick disconnect system. I reviewed this strap a while back so be sure to check it out (A Must Have Camera Strap) if you want more info on it.

There is also a longer strap, called a sling, which would be even more useful if you’re purchasing an across the body camera strap for a taller person. Admittedly I am pretty short (about 5′ 1″) and the classic strap may not fit comfortably across the body of a taller person.  For only $22 you get an entire kit including the OP/Tech sling that also comes with a cleaning and small accessory kit which is a fantastic deal! Here it is:

Op/Tech USA Neoprene Utility Camera Strap-Sling (Black) with Cleaning & Accessory Kit for Digital SLR & ILC Cameras


2. 35mm 1.8 – The Lens You Can’t Afford To Be Without!

Clearly this is one of the more higher priced items on my list but if you’re considering buying a lens for a relative, lover/ or friend that’s into photography this is the one you’ll want to get. This lens is a ‘Prime’ (fixed at 35mm) lens meaning it does not zoom. It is also a ‘fast’ lens. The speed refers to f/stop (aperture opening) of f/1.8 – it simply means that you can shoot in very dark conditions with this lens because it has a large aperture which allows you to use as much ambient light as possible. If you shop for lenses you may have noticed that the faster the lens, the more expensive it is. That is true and there is a  f/1.4 version of this lens (slightly faster) as well but the price jumps significantly. To be completely honest, the very small bit of extra light it really isn’t really worth the difference in price.

That’s what makes this lens such a good buy. The 35mm 1.8 only costs about $200! This is such fantastic lens anyway you really don’t need the f/1.4 version so save your money and put it towards a completely different lens later on!

In my opinion, this lens is a STAPLE and honestly I shoot with this lens more than any other one. It is my favorite lens because I know that it’s sharp, fast and produces very high quality images. I also prefer it over the very similar, 50mm 1.8 simply because it is a bit more wide and allows me to be a bit closer to my subject. Plain and simple, I never go on any shoot without this lens and you will not find a better lens for the money. Trust me.

If you want to see several different types for all Canon & Nikon you’ll find them here: 35mm 1.8 Lenses OR if you happen to shoot Nikon and you want the same exact one I have this is it and it’s only $199:

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras


3. Have Fun With Photojojo!

Their website says it all: “The Most Marvelous Stupendous Outrageous Fantabulous Prodigious Tremendous Photography Curiosities on Earth!”and it’s true!

Yep, that’s a camera!


I love Photojojo! You will not find a more fun photography store anywhere online or even in the world. I’m sure of it. They have all of the wacky, fun and useful photo items that exist. And they have plenty of photo inspired fun items (like coffee mugs made out of lenses and camera tattoos) too. Just head over to Photojojo and check out all the goodies they have for dSLR and Iphone camera magic!


Some of my fave Photojojo finds:

Nanoblock Lego Toy Camera – Made of blocks, shoots photos and video and still connects to your laptop. Cool.  -$70

Camera Table Dolly – A moveable dolly for panning with your DSLR or Iphone. Hello Creativity! – $90

Cookie Cutter Camera Set – Yes! Cookies in the shape of cameras! I want! – $18


4. Edit Your Little Heart Out!

I don’t care what anyone says, an image is not yet finished until it has been edited. Period. This has been true since the invention of photography in the early 1800’s and it’s still true today.

If your photog friend is ready to take their photography to the next level then they need to start editing their images. I’m not saying you need to go switching out colors and adding in things that didn’t exists in the original scene, you simply need to fine tune your image in order to bring out it’s best qualities. This is exactly what we used to do in the darkroom but now you don’t need to hole yourself away in a room lit by a single red light bulb for HOURS on end. You can do it on your computer, in a cafe, while watching tv or on an airplane! So why not go ahead and get a copy of some decent editing software that will make life easier and make their photos even more awesome?

I am a Photoshop fan and I’ve been using it for years.  Although I recommend it, the truth is that this software is quite advanced and expensive and not everyone needs it. That’s why we have Lightroom and Photoshop Elements! I used Elements several years ago and it does work really well so I definitely recommend that as well. I haven’t used Lightroom, BUT I’ve only heard great things about it and from what I can tell it may be even more user friendly than Elements and easy to use.  So between Photoshop, Elements & Lightroom take your pick and put your friend on the path to becoming a pro!


5. Getting Out Of Auto

I’m sorry for the shameless self promotion shout out but really this e-book rocks! I wrote it and would I really spend time writing a photography book that wasn’t good? No way! But don’t take my word for it simply Google ‘Getting Out Of Auto Reviews’ and you will find tons of them! And they are ALL good! I feel very honored that everyone has loved this ebook so much and hence it goes on the Ultimate Photographer Holiday Gift List!

Getting Out Of Auto is a 71 page ebook dedicated to teaching you how to shoot with the Manual mode on your camera. It’s simple, I promise! The ebook is loaded with easy to read fun instructions (no boring tech speak here!) on everything you need to start taking incredible photos:

  • Aperture, Shutter Speed & ISO = The  Cornerstones of Photography – East to read instructions, photos & hand drawn illustrations about what they are and how to use them!
  • Step-by-Step & How-To Instructions – Learn how to use capture fantastic images using popular shooting methods. Try your hand at silhouettes, sun flare, food, HDR and more!
  • Composition Tutorials – Master the rules & learn how to break ‘em!
  • Love The Light You’re In – Learn how to see and use light to make your images stand out. Discover ways to improve your images by finding alternate sources of light to use in your photos!
  • Inspirational Quotes – Wise words from world famous photographers are scattered throughout the book guaranteed to keep you inspired!
  • Fun & Quirky Facts About The History of Photography – Learn facts about the history of photography that will  fascinate & intrigue you. Great for impressing your photo friends with your vast knowledge!

There are tons of photos illustrating each tip and I’ve even included some tear off cheat sheets you can take with you into the field. How is that for fun and functional?!

If you’re ready to take the leap and up your photography A-game then go ahead –  buy Getting Out Of Auto now!

Makes a great gift for yourself or a friend and oh yeah, it’s only $9.99! It’s also Computer/Iphone/Ipad compatible! Did I mention that the design is also beautiful? So if you wanted to download it and then print it out for someone as a gift you could definitely do that too!

Want to learn even more about it first? Check out the GOOA dedicated page on this very blog you are reading right now: Getting Out Of Auto

Plus if you purchase it here, you’ll be supporting your love for Beers & Beans! Awww…Let’s hug!

6. Make Creativity EASY with Lensbaby!

Composer Pro

I was watching the movie Butter a couple nights ago which is about yep, you guessed it – Butter. But more specifically it’s about a butter sculpting contest that takes place in the mid-west. I don’t want to give out any spoilers but in the movie one character says to another: “I’m impressed with your technical skill but just because you can sculpt doesn’t mean you can make art.” Ok, that was definitely not the exact quote. I can’t remember the exact words and a 15 min. search online has led nowhere so you’ll have to believe me here. Even though it wasn’t exactly what was said the idea is still the same and it holds true in any artistic endeavor, including photography.

Just because you are ‘technically’ good at at taking photos doesn’t mean you can create artistic photographs. It just means you understand exposure. Just as understanding technical details doesn’t come quick to some, being an artist doesn’t come naturally to others. You might be able to take a good photo but does it have soul? Does it have that special something that makes people linger over it and interpret it in different ways? Does it reach out to you and make you think?

Creativity is something you spend a lifetime working on and for some people it just comes more easily than others. Good thing there’s the Lensbaby.

Creative Effects Kit

Lensbaby is a lens that bends. Yup, it bends. Lensbaby makes boring photos awesome. Lensbaby is really fun to use and shows you the world in a different way. Lensbaby takes you out of your photography rut, flips you upside down, rolls you around on the ground for good measure and then leaves you as a different type of a photographer with a completely new vision for the world.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my Lensbaby! It’s fun, simplistic and turns ordinary scenes into extraordinary images. So go ahead and visit the Lensbaby website and check out all of the goodies they have. My recommendation? The Composer Pro.

The Composer Pro starts at $300 or you can go full on and get the Creative Effects System Kit (currently on sale for $540) which includes The Composer Pro and a TON of other fun optics (removable inserts that go into the lens and change the effects and accessories (think: Bokeh). I have this kit and I love it.

To see some Lensbaby images and read a full review of the Composer Pro & the Creative Effects Kit check out: Falling In Love With Lensbaby & Lensbaby Goes To Europe.


7. Make Iphone Mania Happen!

This gift is simple and could easily be overlooked if you are trying to shop for camera ‘gear’. Simply get an Itunes gift card and let your friend go wild buying photography apps! There are so many Iphone photo apps out there and for me there is nothing better than getting a gift card so I can go on a crazy buying spree and test out the ones I have been eying. Some of my favorites include Pro HDR, Hipstamatic and Snapseed.

This is a really simple gift but I promise if you’re buying for an Iphone user who loves photography this will be a very valuable gift in their eyes. Plus did you know there are tons of Itunes gift cards on Amazon? You don’t even have to leave the house! You can just buy it now.

8. Strap It To Ya Round 2 – The Camera BAG Strap!

The Best Camera Strap EVER!

Good God do I love this strap.

Camera gear is heavy. Camera bags are heavy. Carrying around a heavy camera bag all day long sucks.

Enter the Promaster Contour Pro Shoulder Strap. This strap changed my life and it is incredible. Unlike my above Strap It To Ya recommendation, this strap is not made for your camera but for your camera bag. It takes maybe 3 seconds or less to attach it to your camera bag and I swear to you, you will never take it off.

I buy camera bags based on the fact that they either A) need to have a removable strap so I can replace it with this one or B) I can sew some type of attachment into the bag so that I can attach this strap to it. If I cannot use this strap on a bag I do not buy it. It’s that simple and the strap is that good.

I do not understand why well known camera companies make bags that don’t have removable straps because most of the time their straps suck anyway and if you carried around a camera bag all day you would know how painful it can be. But my feelings about the camera bag industry are best left for another day…

Back to this beautiful, lovely piece of equipment…This strap takes what feels like 10 pounds out of your bag. I’m serious! It’s also nice and wide so that you no longer have a crazy indent in your shoulder from the weight of your bag digging in and trying to slice your shoulder in half. And it’s long enough so that you can wear it across your body (which BTW, is also much safer).

Get one for yourself and for your friend. I don’t shoot without it and you shouldn’t either. Consider it the best $23 you’ll ever spend on camera gear and you can find it here on their website: Contour Pro Bag Strap

Buy this Strap. Buy it. Buy it now. Don’t delay. Just buy it.

P.S. This strap would actually work for anyone that carries any sort of heavy bag (not just camera gear).


9. The Carry ALL Camera Bag – The Loka by F-Stop

F-Stop makes the best camera backpacks on the market.

The Loka is the ‘everything electronic’ bag we travel with and inside it we keep: 2 computers (and cords),  3 hard drives, 3 lenses, an SB-800 flash, and everything and anything else camera related. This includes manuals, extra batteries, battery charger, electric tape, filters, converters, etc. A tripod can be attached to the side.

It also carries other goodies that we might need – food, sweatshirts, maps, you get my drift. Also, the interesting thing about the F-Stop bags is that they are created for action photographers & videographers so they are made for snowboarding, hiking, skiing and any crazy activity you can think of.  You can even attach snowshoes, skis & snowboards onto them! With the Loka taking care of your equipment,  you can concentrate on your shoot, knowing that your gear is safe.

The bag uses an Internal Camera Unit, which is a separate padded storage unit that holds your gear. You can move the ICU from bag to bag or even use it alone if you want. The only access to gear is through a panel that is only accessible through the back of the pack. No one is ever going to get into your gear as long as you are wearing your pack and as a full time traveler/photographer, I need that piece of mind. The backpack straps & hip straps also provide great support for heavy gear.

If you’re photog friend is looking for a phenomenal bag to shoot with, any of the backpacks in the Mountain Series, which includes the Loka ($339 w/ ICU) will blow their mind.


10. DIY Photo Hack!

The world’s best camera hack.

Oh Hello. How are you? Are you short on cash but still want to get a really cool gift for your friend? No problemo! You’ve really come to the right place.

I’m not gonna lie, I love hacks. I mean who doesn’t right? I especially love hacks of things that are IMO seriously overpriced. Case in point – The Hoodman.

You may be thinking ‘What in the heck is a Hoodman?’. Well let’s back up a few steps first. Ever go outside to take some photos – you know during the day at a wedding or anything at all involving daytime sun? Of course you have. Ever tried to view your LCD screen in the mid day sun only to see nothing at all due to glare? Ever run around trying to find a bit of shade so you can view your picture immediately? Of course, we all have. And if you shoot with an Iphone you know this scenario all too well.

That’s where the Hoodman comes in. The Hoodman is a simple, yet smart little loupe that goes over your LCD screen to shade it so you can see your photo immediately, even if only standing 12″ from the sun. And it works, it works well.

But I have a couple issues with the Hoodman. The first issue is that the Hoodman costs $80. Ouch. Ok, I found one on Amazon for $60 but still that’s a chunk of change I could put towards other important camera gear. It’s also kinda big and awkward and takes up some important space in a traveling camera bag. The other downside for me is that I have to think about it. It’s an extra piece of gear and therefore something else I need to think about. When I travel I don’t like spare parts (and that’s what the Hoodman is) because statistically speaking, I’m going to lose something.

So a couple years ago I created such an ingenious hack for the Hoodman that it still boggles my mind. I mean this thing, is SO EASY, SO SIMPLE, SO CHEAP and it takes zero effort. I’m serious.

It costs $1, it’s lightweight, portable, squishy & if you lose it you will not care because it’s easily replaceable. I’ve used it everywhere. I’ve shared it with other travelers on press trips when they could not see their photos. It’s so easy and works so well it’s stupid. And it’s dual purpose!

It’s a foam beer/soda can cooler. Yup, that’s it. You can get one at Michael’s for a buck and simply cut out a hole on the bottom of it for your eye to see through and hold up to your LCD screen.  Works great for the Iphone too!

You can see the full story behind this when I posted it a couple years ago:  Travel Photo Gear Hack

So go ahead and wow your family and friends with this ridiculously easy hack for a piece of equipment that would normally cost you $80 at the store!

Or give your friend the gift of a photography and beer – remember it’s dual purpose!

There it is. Your holiday photography shopping made easy! A lot of unique, useful and interesting gifts for every budget. Have fun! 


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*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first. Thanks!

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(3) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Jennifer -

    December 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    I love Photojojo! They have some really cool lens and gear for iPhoneography!

  • Nicol -

    December 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Hey Bethany, wonderful list! Photography is my passion and I know the importance of 35mm 1.8 lenses which is must. I love using Canon Lens Mugs and Nikon Lens Thermos. You can also gift “Visible Dust Cleaning Kit” to your photographer friend.

  • Dave Wyman -

    May 6, 2013 at 5:36 pm


    It is possible to access the interior of the Loka via the top of the pack.

    I have one, I love it, best camera backpack I’ve owned – great recommendation.