Obligatory 2012 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

Every year it's the same conundrum. It becomes incredibly difficult coming up with unique photographer gift ideas in view that anything relating to gear has practically already been proposed and published everywhere online so there's the risk of coming across as trite with anything one may suggest.

With that said, I did my best in selecting potential gift ideas that spoke specifically to me because if you’re a regular reader to the site, I would assume we share some level of interest in a few things. Some of the gifts below I’m already a proud owner of and the others I’ve taken notes on a small piece of paper that will end up in a Santa Clause hat where my wife and I each name and dump 5 gifts that we would like and we each pick out 3, so this way, we’re guarantee to receive something we really want.

On that note, enjoy your holiday shopping and I hope that I’ve at least been able to spark an idea for potential gift ideas for that special photographer in your life:

Photographer Holiday Gift Guide 2012 by Jorge Quinteros

1. Langly Delta Rucksack: At the time, I had other expenditures to attend to but I seriously regret not having been one of early backers to this Kickstarter campaign. At a cursory glance, the backpack doesn’t necessarily have the aesthetic look of a convention camera bag which is not necessarily a bad trait since the last thing one would want is to draw too much attention to oneself by accentuating all the expensive gear one might bring along on any particular outing.

Rucksack-style bags have always appealed to me but I had never come across one that closed the unfortunate gap between form and function until LA-based photographer Evan Lane founded Langly Bags. They’re made with waterproof canvas and rich leather detailing and they have that photojournalistic look to them which I love. For $199 you can choose between 2 styles and colors. If I were some nomadic traveler, without question this would be the bag I would want to accompany me. The bags are designed to hold a SLR, up to 4 additional lenses, and a 15” laptop. I’m sold.

2. Printsagram: They’re slogan says it all: “We make your photos physical, with wonderful products that match the quality and magic of the app itself.”

For me, there’s a nostalgic feeling to photographs taken or edited with Instagram’s filters, but they usually end up confined within the social platform. Printsagram essentially allows you to turn your digital memories into real life objects such as stickers, calendars, mini-books and my personal favorite Squares.

3. Master Your DSLR App: It’s one thing to be fascinated by DSLR’s but it’s an entirely new field investing in one in view that they operate differently in comparison to the typical fully automated point and shoot cameras one may be accustom to.

DSLR’s can be complex to learn at the beginning but through time and practice you’re likely to start understanding on how variables like Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO all relate to one another. Learning the fundamentals is paramount and while there are a number of resources available online for free, I’ve had no qualms for having paid $4.99 for a beautifully designed app for the iPad that combines the depth of a traditional book with stunning multimedia not possible on paper.

Tapping, swiping, and sliding has become such a conventional workflow for us iPad and iPhone owners that I can’t imagine not taking advantage of the interactivity both devices offer in order to learn a tool (DSLR) that we’ve probably paid a lot of money for. If you really want to learn how to use your camera, I highly recommend this app.

I shoot in Aperture Priority Mode probably 95% of the time and switch to full Manual Mode when I have to manage extremely difficult lighting conditions. I don’t know everything there is to know about my camera but I’m learning as I go along and having good resources that’s literally on the palm of your hands has been a huge help.

4. VSCO Film: For the record, no amount of post-production work on a photo can elevate the quality of it if it wasn’t outstanding to begin with. The VSCO Presets are not cheap (from $79-$119) so don’t feel you have to invest in them to elevate your work but if you do, there’s no question the folks at VSCO have managed to incorporated color profiling technology for specific cameras to recreate film look in the most accurate way possible with your digital photos.

I use the iPhone app sporadically now to process a few of my Instagram photos mostly because I’ve become aware of the craze in which a lot of the photographs uploaded to the service are beginning to look too similar which I’m not to keen with. Within the photographers I follow on Instagram, you can easily tell who uses it and who doesn’t with the need for them applying the #vscocam hashtag. I’ve seen the same pattern coming from photos taken with traditional digital cameras as well but the only real reason I haven’t purchased the Lightroom version yet is because I’m still using version 3 of the software and apparently if I purchase it, then they won’t be functional when I eventually upgrade to Lightroom 4, so until then, I’ll wait.

Overall I have nothing against VSCO Presets or the people utilizing them or else I wouldn’t have recommended them but for me the look of a photograph is just as important as the subject matter and so any time I have the opportunity to be unique in both aspects, I’ll go for that route.

5. Nike Fuel Band: You’re probably puzzled as to how this product actually fits into a holiday gift guide that’s pertinent mostly to photography gear and tools. This may not correspond to your method of shooting but if there’s one thing I do plenty of while photographing is walk a lot. I mean a lot. The times I’ve been out photographing with Joel Zimmer, he’s had tucked in his pocket the Fitbit which like the Nike Fuel Band, it measures your everyday physical activity or lack thereof. It essentially tracks calories burned, steps taken and more.

As obsessed as most of us have gotten now with stats and the idea of tracking stuff, I’ve have always wondered how much energy I am releasing not just when I’m out roaming endlessly around New York but throughout the day in general. What I’ve read from people that own one is that the combination of the device and app makes you more competitive by pushing you to work out more and meet the goals your set for yourself. I’m hoping to find one of these in my stocking this Christmas.

6. Moo Cards: I recommended Moo Cards last year as an ideal holiday gift for photographers and this year is no different. They’re simply that great and they certainly always catch people’s attention and spark an interesting conversation when I hand it to someone who I’ve asked permission to take a portrait of on the streets. If you photograph on the streets as much as I do, people will ultimately want to know what your intentions are with the photos you’re amassing and there’s an extra layer of credibility to your words when you have something tangible to offer so people can view your work.

7. DSPTCH Camera Strap: Not every photographer is satisfied with the camera strap that’s included in the box. I’ve always been one to immediately ditch the default nylon because in all honesty, I don’t need to be a walking advertisement for a camera company. In the past, I’ve always replaced it with a hand-grip but this time around, I’ve still been shooting with the stock Canon Strap simply because I’ve cornered myself into the same predicament I had with camera bags which was to find one that looked appealing and felt right when using it.

I’ve read nothing but favorable reviews from DSPTCH camera strap owners. I’m not a fan of highly branded products so I can appreciate the stylish and understated look of these straps. In the end, find one that works for you and just because BlackRapids may be highly popular doesn’t mean they might be the ideal fit for you.

8. Lowepro Event Messenger 150 Shoulder Bag: Lets face it. Finding the best camera bag can be a never-ending quest mostly because you’ll often find yourself in different settings carrying a lot or little gear and based on those two variables, it’ll determine not what’s the best overall bag but which one is more suitable for each particular situation. I’m the type that travels light and fast as it pertains to photographing on the streets and for the longest, I’ve been wanting to invest on a messenger style camera bag.

To make a long story short, while attending PhotoPlus this year, I ended up purchasing this Lowepro Event Messenger 150 Shoulder Bag. I have intentions to publish a quick review on it but not until I’ve put enough usage time into it.

Relative to other messenger style bags, I’m impressed with how slim and compact this bag is and yet it’s still been spacious enough to accommodate the limited gear I carry with me which generally consist of the 5DMII body with a 50mm 1.4 attached and a 85mm 1.8. I can tell you that the color actually looks more pleasant in person than it does online. One of the many high-points of the bag is the quite velcro. Sounds inconsequential but you’ll appreciate once you’ve used it long enough.

9. Any Film Camera: The ultimate reason given as to why you should consider shooting film at least a few times in the life cycle of your photographic walk of life is because doing so will force you learn the technical aspects of a camera that digital pretty much makes easy for you. Shooting film is obviously more expensive so there’s also the inclination to give extra thought to whatever you have intentions to capture.

I wrote a while back about my desire to shoot film again after having completely abandoned it 7 years ago. I currently own 2 film cameras: An Olympus XA which I purchased from Joel Zimmer and an Olympus OM-10 with a Zuiko 50mm 1.8 lens purchased from KEH Camera.

Do you have to own a film camera? Probably not but in case you decide to, don’t fixate so much about which camera to buy but instead concentrate more on the reason as to why you want to shoot film again or for the first time. Hopefully it’s because you see it as an avenue that has potential to lead you in becoming a better photographer.