Photographer's Gift Buying Guide

Every year many of us have the challange of finding the pefect gift for the photographer in our lives. As a professional photographer, I run across many products all year long that I think most amateur photographers would love to have wrapped up for them this holiday season.  Here is my short list for 2013 in no particular order.

My Passport

In the days of film, a good gift might have been a five-roll pack of Kodachrome 64, something a photographer would always use.  Now days with digital, hard drive space is what we all covet.


I've been using Western Digital almost exclusively over the years to securely backup and save all my images.  One of the most convenient small hard drives on the market is the My Passport version from Western Digital. These little hard drives connect to the USB port of your computer and work on Mac or PC and don’t need an external power source.   You can get them in a variety of colors including red, blue, black and silver.  Also, you can buy them in many sizes from 500 gigs to 2 Terabytes of storage space. You can never go wrong giving a photographer hard drive space.

Ball Pod

Next up is a gift for the photographer that needs a little support.  By that I mean the Ball Pod. 

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Have you ever found yourself trying to set up a self-timer shot by setting your camera on a rock and tucking the strap under the camera to position it in the right direction? This can be a risky proposition.  The Ball Pod is a handy device where you thread you camera into the standard tripod mount and the flexible ball keeps your camera rock steady.

The Ball Pod is about the size of a large orange with a ¼ screw attached to a mounting plate.  On this plate you mount your camera with its threaded tripod hole.  Once snug, your camera can be placed just about anywhere.

The silicone outer shell has hundreds of beads inside that allow you position the ball on rocks, fence rails, fire hydrants, trash cans or just about anywhere.

This is the perfect accessory that just about any photographer or smart phone user will use time and time again.

Its small enough to fit in your jacket pocket and weighs only 11 oz.  The silicone outer shell is kind of tacky and will grip things like the hood of your car or many other slick surfaces.  Now it’s easy to carry a support tool, without having to lug around a huge tripod. 

Grad Filters

People often ask me what is the best filter to get the photographer on their list.  If they already have the basic: Polarizer and Neutral Density then I would steer them toward the Grad Filters.  Lee Filters makes some nice ones and they come in different sizes based on how large the camera lens is.

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Grad filters are best used with a filter holder, but they can be hand held in front of the lens in certain circumstances. The idea behind a grad (graduated) filter is that the photographer can move the filter around to cover say just the sky in a landscape shot. With its effects “gradually” falling off.  The sky is an area that is typically over exposed but with a neutral density grad filter only the sky portion can manipulated and be brought down to the exposure of everything else. 


Digital Photography Classes

While I am partial to the Digital Photography Classes and Photoshop Classes that I teach but you may not be near the San Francisco East Bay but you still want to give a great gift. 

Terry VanderHeiden teaching  Digital Photography classes  in Pleasanton, California. 

Terry VanderHeiden teaching Digital Photography classes in Pleasanton, California. 

Someone close to you may have an interest in attending a hands-on workshop where they can really learn more about their camera or a specific type of photography.  These small class workshops can give a fantastic learning experience to the photographer that is looking to get serious about their photography or to learn how to edit the images properly after they are done with a day’s shooting.

In order to find a class near you, type into Google: photography classes, (city or town) you should get a full range of classes and workshops near you.

Photography Workshops

Workshops can be held at specific locations teaching all about how to photograph in that spot of the world.  Many of them will take you out on location to show you where the best opportunities for photography are and the best time of day to be shooting.  Lots of these workshops will also have review sessions to talk about your images and  show you how to best  process the images digitally.  Some workshops can be destination driven in order to plan a complete vacation around shooting and learning. 

Go Pro Hero3

While this is not technically a still camera nor do they take any great amount of skill to operate but the GoPro video cameras are a blast to play with. Starting at a couple of hundred bucks the diminutive video cameras pack a lot of fun in small package.

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Just about any computer savvy, creative type will enjoy putting their imagination to work coming up with new ways and locations to use the GoPro.

GoPro has three models this season.  The top of the line model, Black, has Wi-fi built in and can transmit what you have shot, the view of the camera and other important information back to your smart phone for instant gratification. 

Copyright 2015, Terry VanderHeiden