Cheap Thrills

Penguins in a Christmas shop.It's is that time of year, again, when people are out there trying to find gifts for their favorite photographer.  In fact, earlier tonight, I was at a photography store, with our local photography group, looking at some great stuff the owner would like us buy.  There were lots of neat things to see.  Thanks to McClanahan's Camera Store in Warrenton, Va. So, tonight, I'm going to give you some ideas.  This won't be a comprehensive list, just something to get you thinking.  I broke down the suggestions by price, since people are a little price-sensitive these days.

Free Stuff   Who doesn't like free? You might be surprised what you can get for nothing.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention blogs.  We prefer you read this one religiously, and drop in a comment now and then.  There are thousands of blogs of various types and degrees of difficulty.  How do you find them?  I search them out, but a great place to start is the Alltop Photography (here).  This is a blog that compiles photography blogs.   There are some really good ones here.

Check out iTunes.  Many people think you need an iPhone, iPod, or iPad to use iTunes, but you can open a free account and just use it on your computer.  The only thing you lose is portability.  Download the software, and search the store for the photography podcasts.  I'm a big fan of "The Candid Frame," "The Grid," "Photoshop User TV," and "This Week in Photography."  There are too many to list, so try some and subscribe for free.

If you have an iPad, try the 500px app as a great source of inspiration.  There are loads of wonderful photos in a never-ending slide show.  You can view them on your computer here, if you don't have an iPad.  One of my favorite new apps is Trey Ratcliff's "Stuck on Earth."  It is a "travel app that brings you the best places in the world to visit, photograph, and experience."  I should probably do a blog on it.  Great app!  I use these two apps almost every time I fire up the iPad.

Inexpensive Stuff (less than $150)   You don't have to spend a lot of dollars to get something nice.  To continue from the "Free" list, you can pay for some iPad apps, too.  Most of the prices range from $.99-14.99.  Buy yourself or someone else an iTunes gift card.

Consider joining the National Association of Photoshop Professionals at $99.  You get lots of video tutorials, a magazine, and discounts that can easily make this gift pay for itself.  The magazine and tutorials cover Lightroom, too.  We have both been members for years, so, obviously you don't have to be a professional to join.  ;-)

Everyone should have a 50mm lens for your SLR.  These inexpensive lens used to come with cameras in the film days.  They offer lower light capability, good bokeh, and sharp photos all for a little more than $100.  Many photographers recommend that beginning photographers use only this lens for the first few months while they are learning their cameras.  Get one.

We've repeatedly said to get your flash off your camera, but one more thing to pick up for minor ducats is some kind of flash adaptor to soften the burst of light that comes from it.  There are many variants, and I use several, so I won't recommend here.  Google "flash adapters" or "flash accessories," and you'll get lots of examples.

Don't forget to look at camera bags.  I like Tenba and Lowepro; Mark uses Lowepro.  Visit your bookstore.  I especially like my used bookstore for books about photography.  The subject never gets old (but bypass the photo software books that are almost always out-of-date).  The price is right.

This is turning into a long blog, so I think I'll save the expensive items for next week.  I could go on all night about buying photo-related products, but you may not be quite as far over-the-edge as me.  This is my definition of fun.

Santa in a Christmas parade.