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Holiday Gift Guide: Recommendations from Jim Richardson, Lindsay Adler and More

On a mission to get the perfect holiday gift for the photographer in your life? We know the world of photography gear and accessories can be a litt...

On a mission to get the perfect holiday gift for the photographer in your life? We know the world of photography gear and accessories can be a little overwhelming. So why not ask the experts?

No one knows more about photography gear than the pros who count on it day in and day out. We reached out to a few world-class photographers to find out what pieces of equipment they simply can’t live without.

Take a look at their favorite pieces of gear under $500 and under $100 — budgets are especially tight this year! You’re sure to find the perfect gift among these recommendations.

Jim Richardson

Favorite gear under $100

If you want fun: My Hipstamatic app on my iPhone and as many HipstaPaks of lenses and films as I can get for $100.  (A lot, actually, all with goofy names that I like: Uchitel 20 and Robusta films, the Ray Mark II and Florence lenses.) I know this is faintly retro, more than slightly passé but I’m not the only photographer amongst my National Geographic colleagues who have used Hipstamatic on assignments for the magazine. Yes, their frequent offerings of new film and lens packs are addictive, but at something under $3 they are a cheap addiction. 

If you want something serious: My Rode VideoMic Me-L ($79.00). This iPhone microphone plugs straight in using the Lighting connector and is the easiest way I have found to improve the audio on Instagram story posts. No cable, no battery, no settings, just plug and record. Small enough to be in my pocket all the time. I use it daily for the Scotland Fix of the Day videos.

Favorite Gear under $500

My Billingham camera bag ($125 and up). Every photographer should have at least one Billingham in their life (I have several), if only for that occasion when the Times of London sends you to photograph the Queen. But while these beauties have all the romantic allure of proper British leather trim and brass fittings, they also have their practical side: they stand up to actual rain, the kind you’ll encounter in the Scottish Highlands, as you crawl through the heather with her majesty, filming another episode of The Crown. These are heritage quality camera bags that will endure long after lesser bags have surrendered. (And they go very well with Barbour coats.)

Instagram: @JimRichardsonNG

Zay Yar Lin

Favorite piece of gear under $100 

OP/TECH USA Camera Strap ($22.75) – I love it because it’s more flexible than original camera straps and helps me to eliminate shoulder and neck fatigue.

Favorite piece of gear under $500 

Singh Ray Galen Rowell Graduated Neutral Density (ND) 2- stop soft edge Filter ($100 and up) – I love it because it is very useful when capturing sunrise or sunset scenes. I rarely capture the photo in very harsh light conditions and a 2-stops soft edge filter is enough for my kinds of shots during traveling. It also saves me editing hours to balance a scene at the computer.

Instagram: @zayyarlin84

Billie Weiss

Favorite piece of gear under $100

I never go on a shoot without this Think Tank Photo Secure Pixel Pocket Rocket ($19.75) card wallet. This little wallet clips onto your belt loop or fits in your pocket, and neatly holds and organizes all your memory cards while keeping them safe while out on the job. They make varieties to fit every type of memory cards.

Favorite piece of gear under $500

Dracast Essential 3 – Light Kit ($399) – These continuous LED lights are extremely easy to use and super versatile. They’re great for lighting subjects or products for both still photography and video, and also work really well for additional lighting for video conferencing and work from home settings. 

Instagram: @bjweiss22

Essdras M. Suarez

Favorite gear under $100

DOMKE GRIPPER shoulder strap ($23.99)  – Throughout my 25-year career as a photojournalist, I have gone through all sorts of different camera strap systems such as fast-draw one anchor systems, to stretchy rubber two-anchor systems. And each one of those hasn’t quite worked for me the way I expected. 

However, much to my surprise, two years ago while buying a camera I stumbled upon a re-designed canvas strap version I’d used decades ago. This new version has the added sticky material and the quick-release clasps. I bought four and I haven’t regretted my decision. 

These straps are priced extremely well, reliable, and field-proven. 

Mountain Smith Lumbar pack/ waist pack (New ones are about $110- $120/ used anywhere between $30-$60) – Back in the mid-90s, I bought this lumbar waist pack and I added some Domke dividers and it was a Godsend. This bag has traveled with me through about 40 countries or so. One time while rock climbing in Panama, I brought it to the top of the hill where we were rappelling from and it fell into the muddy jungle floor. It was about a 90-ft fall but everything in the bag survived the fall. 

Mountainsmith currently has this model back-ordered, for obvious reasons, but it is sure worth the wait. However, even if you can get your hands on a used one. Snatch it up.  

Favorite gear under $500

Nikon 24mm 2.8 lens ($391.95) – This lens is a workhorse. This is the lens that taught me how to use a wide-angle lens to its full potential. It is just wide enough to capture enough but not too wide where the distortion takes over the overall image. Nowadays, sometimes you get stuck in one position while covering an event such as a press conference, you need to work with zoom lenses. So I carry with me a wide-angle zoom and a telephoto zoom. But the 24mm 2.8 is never too far just in case I find myself in a bind. 

Instagram: @essdras_001

Polly Irungu

Favorite gear under $100

I try my best to support local photographers. This line is from a fellow photographer and it’s actually going to be on my holiday list this year.

From “Tag Your Photographer” to “My Rates Going Up” to “Sorry, I can’t pay my bills with exposure” there’s a hoodie that fits every mood ($59.99). For less than $100, you can find a mood that fits the creative in your life. 

Honorable mention

I just learned about this portable privacy tent from Valerie Robinson, one of the photographers in my community. This is perfect for on-location shoots. In the age of COVID, it is no wonder why that product is in hot demand. 

Favorite gear under $500

I would get the photographer in your life this podcast starter kit ($119.99). This can come in handy if the photographer plans to launch a podcast or hops on them as a guest. 

Instagram: @pollyirungu

Melanie Dunea

Favorite gear under $100

I am loving the Canon Camera Connect App (free) because I can shoot on the go with my Canon G9x, which I also love and which is very chic with a tan and silver “leather” body. Then seconds later view and download the images on my smartphone. This means that I am not relying on my phone to take photographs. 

The ProMaster USB Hub USB-C male to USB-A female 4-port is only $25 which means that you can buy multiples since I tend to lose cords galore. 

Favorite gear under $500

I am obsessed with my Profoto C1 plus ($299). I love that I always have a handy light either to improve a zoom call or shoot something on the fly. 

Instagram: @melaniedunea

Rob Tringali

Favorite gear under $100

Apple Pencil ($99) – Ever since I purchased this, I’ve been using my iPad so much more. I got tired of misplacing notes. I use this to sketch ideas, lighting set-ups, storyboard creative projects. Just a fun tool to have around for a variety of uses.

Favorite gear under $500

Photek Softlighter Umbrella ($142) – I love this umbrella as a quick option for a one light portrait or part of a bigger set-up. Super easy to pack and travel. Everyone should have at least one. 

Instagram: @robtringali

Darina Kopcok

Favorite piece of gear under $100

Any 5-in-1 Reflector/Diffuser Kit ($94.95) that is at least 40 x 60 inches/100 x 150cm. The larger the better. These are crucial modifiers to have in food photography. The diffuser helps simulate the look of natural window light, and the other colors/texture help shape that light by creating fill or bounce. 

Favorite piece of gear under $500

The Godox SL150W continuous LED. ($199.22) – I shoot with flash most of the time, but Godox offers great LED lighting at an extremely reasonable price. It’s daylight balanced and has a high CRI, so it gives off good clean light. In fact, I prefer using this light for beverage and product photography, and it’s great to have if you shoot video. I also use it as a work light when I’m shooting in Live View and the lighting conditions are dim. LED technology has come such a long way and is so affordable. This light is a workhorse.

Instagram: @gastrostoria

Darren Carroll

Favorite gear under under $100 

Luna Display Pro ($79.99) – This tiny little USB-C device plugs into your laptop and converts any iPad into a wireless second monitor. You can use it as a second display, or a mirror display, so it’s really helpful when I’m editing on the road and want to have, say, PhotoMechanic on one screen and Capture One on another, or when I’m in the studio shooting and want to be able to show my clients what I’m shooting in real time. Yes, I know the newer MacBooks have Sidecar which accomplishes the same thing, but if you have an older Mac and/or aren’t ready to make the jump to Catalina this little piece of plastic is a great work-around. And they just came out with one for Windows, as well.

Favorite gear under $500

It’s a tie. 

ThinkTank Airport Security rolling case ($419.75) or Think Tank Airport Essentials backpack ($199.75) 

Back in the olden days (as in, before March 2020) I used to fly a lot. As in twice a week. And 90% of those trips involved connections (and therefore long walks) at various airports like Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, and Charlotte. These two equipment cases allow me to pack everything I need for a shoot, from a 400mm f2.8 to four camera bodies to a laptop and hard drives and chargers and a whole range of lenses, as well as a change of clothes, and carry it all on the plane with me. The Airport Security fits in the overhead bin, and the backpack under the seat. I never have to worry about checking expensive gear, and the wheels on the roller let me move effortlessly through the airport.

Instagram: @dcarrollphoto

Lindsay Adler

Favorite piece of gear under $100

Lensbaby OMNI Creative Filter System ($79.96) – I absolutely love introducing creative effects in-camera in my images. This little kit of lensflare tools is awesome and allows you to be hands free. I use them all the time.

Favorite piece of gear under $500

Tether Tools Aero Table Platform ($219.95)  – I always shoot tethered in the studio so that I can see my images during the shoot, allowing me to analyze them and adjust as necessary. This table is great to hold my laptop and perhaps even a hard drive or other important elements.

Instagram: @lindsayadler_photo

What’s one piece of gear you couldn’t live without? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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