Gift Guides

Black Friday deals – what and where

Black Friday with its crazed rush for the shops and silly deals on sales is upon us. I've rounded up the best of the offers and listed the places that have sales happening. I'll add to it as I'm notified of any more. Take a look and see if you can grab a bargain! Glowing orbs smaller


Adorama has an astonishing number of offers running over the Black Friday weekend. These include Canon 6D bundles going for $1,519 and 70D bundles for $1,149; the Pentax K-5 IIs for $469.95; and Sigma 70-200mm lenses for $1,099.

There's a whole lot more, though, so do check out the deals page.


You can claim 20% off your Instagrammed marshmallows by using the code FALALABOOMF when you place your order.


You can claim 30% off your Fracture orders, using the code BF2014 at the checkout.


Buy iStabilizer's flexible tripod, mount, & 360 degree lens for $29.95.


Buy a special edition Lensbaby Spark for $99.99, rather than $129.99. Or purchase the Composer Pro kit for $599.95 instead of $749.95.


Buy a Lollipod and get a universal phone adapter (worth £9.99) for free.


Buy an Olloclip 4-in-1 lens and pick up either a 3-in-1 macro system or a telephoto lens (even both, if you want) at a reduced price.


Photobox is offering 50% off of all prints and posters. You'll need the code BLACKFRIDAY, and you'll need to order before midnight in the UK.


Photojojo has reduced the prices on a welter of its products, including lens mugs, battery buddies, and iPhone telephoto lenses.


Buy a Triggertrap mobile kit and a flash adapter in the Triggertrap shop and get 20% off your order. You'll need the code HIGHSPEEDFRIDAY to benefit.

Wilkinson Cameras

Here in the UK Wilkinson Cameras have a large selection of cameras, lenses, tripods, flashes, and bags available at discounted prices.

The Photocritic Holiday Gift Guide: books for photographers

You can't go wrong giving a book as a gift. Here's a round-up of our favourite publications this year (and two from last year), which would fit the bill for any photographer. Books, not as tasty as cake, but equally lovely

Books by Team Photocritic

As much as we'd love to tell you to go out and buy all of our books because they're amazing and beautiful, that might be verging of self-promotion over-dose. Instead we've each picked out one of our books that we believe makes a great present.

the-rules-of-photography-and-when-to-break-them-1-rules-cover-976x976 Haje has selected his The Rules of Photography and When to Break Them. We're both fervent believers in the notion of knowing the rules so that you can break them properly, and this book teaches you precisely that, from why horizons need to be level and how to tilt them successfully, to embracing the grain from high ISOs.

The Rules of Photography and When to Break Them is available for £17.99 as a dual print copy and e-book bundle.

Surreal-COVER I've chosen Surreal Photography: Creating the Impossible, a whimsical trail through in-camera and post-processing manipulation to produce images that combine reality with the farthest recesses of your imagination.

Right now, Surreal Photography: Creating the Impossible is on sale at the bargain price of £9.99 for a print and e-book bundle.


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Artisans by Tim Allen

If you'd like to give a gift that will raise some much-needed money for a deserving cause as well as bringing pleasure to its recipient, do take a look at Tim Allen's photo book, Artisans. It explores the work of the violin-restoration, boat-building, stonemasonry, stained glass, and smithing professions in gorgeous black and white photos, while the proceeds go to the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society.

Recommended donations are £10. Details of how to order a copy (and more on the book itself) from Tim Allen's website.



30 Second Photography by Brian Dilg

Take the 50 most important aspects of photography, explain them using 300 words and one picture each and you have the wonderful 30 Second Photography, by Brian Dilg. It's a perfect book for any photographer: novice or highly-experienced.

30 Second Photography is available for £14.99 in the UK and $19 in the US.



Moodscapes by Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir

Moodscapes is landscape photography ramped upto 11 with beauty and wonder. You could just flip through it awestruck by the images, but Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir also shows you how to accomplish these gorgeous photos yourself.

Buy Moodscapes as a print and e-book bundle for £19.99.



NY Through the Lens by Vivienne Gucwa

If New York is a street photographer's dream, then Vivienne Gucwa's collection of images taken in, around, and about the city is a dream of that dream. Explore Gucwa's city with her, through her words and through her pictures.

NY Through the Lens costs £20 for a print and e-book bundle.



The Photographer's Master Guide to Colour by Jeff Wignall

We teach ourselves about exposure, about composition, about post-processing. How much do we know about colour? Enlighten yourself, and elevate the impact of your images, with Jeff Wignall's impressive The Photographer's Master Guide to Colour.

The Photographer's Master Guide to Colour is available as a print and e-book bundle for £17.99.



Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh by Eleanor Macnair

In autumn last year, we featured Eleanor Macnair's marvellous project, Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh: her Tumblr project recording the recreations of famous photos she fashions from Play-Doh, a pint glass, and a plastic spoon in her living room. Now it comes in a book.

Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh costs £20.



The Street Photographer's Manual by David Gibson

Street photography books are ten-a-penny. Enter ‘street photography’ into Amazon and the search will return 30 pages of results. When you find a compelling and practical but inspirational book on the topic, you take notice. The Street Photographer's Manual deserves a look.

The Street Photographer's Manual is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US for £15 and $22 respectively.


Gifts for photographers, big and small < < Holiday Shopping with Photocritic > > Gifts for beginners

The Photocritic Holiday Gift Guide: photography presents big and small

If your photographer-loved-one is no longer a beginner; if there's nothing in the macro, high-speed, or landscape lists to light their studios; and if smartphone photography isn't her or his bag, we've another list of suggestions of gifts that might just fit the bill. Starting at £10, we hope we can help you find the perfect present for the photographer in your life. Lining up your presents



A photo snowglobe

It's as cheesy as a French fromagerie, but at £10 and with space for two photos of your choice, I could barely resist this snowglobe from Urban Outfitters.



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Camera-shaped ice cube tray

We have ice cube trays in a variety of shapes, from fish to stars. There's no reason why we wouldn't add some photography-themed trays to the mix. One tray from Enlight Photo costs £10.




A t-shirt

Click and Blossom have some photography-themed t-shirts for women and men, boys and girls starting at $25. I'd be happy adding quite a few of them to my wardrobe. Or you could choose from one of their cushions or bags.    


Your image on a puzzle!

Puzzles Print will provide a 1,000-piece jigsaw with one of your images on it for £30. A 15-piece puzzle for a little person is £22, with a welter of sizes in between the two. There are magnetic options and collages, too.

If you're in the US, USAPhotoPuzzles offers a similar service.



Foldio pop-up studio

The Foldio is a pop-up studio, made in miniature. The walls are white and there's a row of built-in LEDs to cast light on your subject. From as flat as a pancake it takes minutes to erect, held together with magnets.

$49 from Photojojo


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ONDU pinhole camera

Light and a box &mash; pinhole photography is photography at its most simple, and most enlightening. I fell in love with ONDU's hand-crafted wooden pinhole cameras earlier this year. Everyone should go back to the basics of the medium every now and again; this is perfect.

Starting from €90 from ONDU



Lighting set-up

It's not fancy with flash, but for anyone wanting to start with artificial lighting, a basic set-up with some continuous lights and soft-boxes is a good place to start. Like this one for $135, or this for £150.

If you need something cheaper, this one is coming in at $55.




It seems impossible to move amongst a photography or tech blog or news site without stumbling across, or being swooped upon, by a remote-controlled aircraft carrying a camera. You can get started with aerial photography for $500 with a DJI Phantom FC40. Or you could spend as much as $3,000 for the new DJI Inspire 1 with its 4K camera.


Gifts for landscape photographers < < Holiday Shopping with Photocritic > > Books for photographers

The Photocritic Holiday Gift Guide: presents for landscape photographers

It's Day Five of the Photocritic Holiday Gift Guide. This means landscapes. We have suggestions for budding landscape photographers and a few treats for more hardened souls. 11276634243_b5ec67defd_z


Wide-angle lens

Landscape photography and wide-angle lenses go together like strawberries and cream. While I've taken great pleasure using a Sigma 17-35mm ƒ/2.8-4.0, it's now out of production. However, the Tamron 10-24mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 is regarded as a great value-for money option that comes in a range of mounts. You can of course spend a whole lot more, or choose a prime instead of a zoom lens, but that's a good starting point.

Tamron 10-24mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 for Canon | Nikon | Pentax | Sony

Photographers with mirror-less cameras might want to consider the Samyang/Rokinon 12mm ƒ/2.0, which is cracking value for money and is available for plenty of different cameras.

Samyang/Rokinon 12mm ƒ/2.0 for Canon M | Fujifilm X | Micro 4/3 | Samsung NX | Sony E



Tripods suitable for landscape photography are awkwardly demanding. They need to be portable: doubtless you will be schlepping it and yourself up hill and down dale in search of shots. But simultaneously, they need to be sturdy and able to withstand wind, maybe rain, and uneven terrain.

We've picked out the Giottos Vitruvian at $200 for its height, weight, and strength. For something a little cheaper there's the Slik Pro 700DX.



Securing vivid colours and correctly exposed landscape photos often relies on the judicious application of a filter across a lens: maybe a neutral density filter, perhaps a polarising filter. Filters need to be the right size for the lens and they come in various grades, for example you can choose between one and 12 stops—with everything in between—for a neutral density filter.

A filter kit containing a UV, polarising, and neutral density filter is a good place to start. We've picked out two, at different price points, which should fit on the Tamron lens we've suggested. But do double-check!

There's the Vivitar kit at just over $16 and the $48 Pro-Optic kit.

If you like trying things that are brand new and shiny, take a look at the filters just released by VU and Mefoto.


Camera bag

You need a bag that's easy to schelp about all day. It needs to be weatherproof. You should be able to attach a tripod with the minimum of fuss. And of course your kit should fit snugly. We think that the CaseLogic DSB-103 (can't they think of memorable names?) is great value at a little under $70. It's a backpack; it has a detachable waterproof cover; tripod storage shouldn't interfere with bag access; and it'll fit a camera and four lenses.


Waterproof cover

It's all very well your camera bag being waterproof and you looking fit to go to sea in a Force 5 gale, but if your camera isn't protected from the elements, then your landscape photography expedition will be a fruitless endeavour. Or possibly a very expensive one if your camera suffers from water damage. Pick up a rainhood. They don't cost $10 and they'll let you take photos in the most inclement of conditions.


Remote shutter release

You have erected your tripod and ensured that it's stable on uneven terrain. You have composed your shot with a perfectly positioned horizon and delectably enticing leading lines. You have carefully calculated your exposure to capture the light and the intensity of the colours. And then you go an ruin it all by depressing the shutter button and introducing a fraction of camera-shake into the shot.

Use a remote release. Please.

You can pick up a Triggertrap mobile kit from £22. That affords a vast array of possibilities for camera-triggering. A basic remote release is about $10.



There are so many smaller accessories that I could have included in this list which make the life of a landscape photographer easier and more pleasant, the article would have run to the length of a post-graduate degree-level essay. I've opted for a torch, however.

(Okay, seeing as you asked, the leading contenders for this entry included a pocket knife, gaffer tape, and a bubble level.)


Weather-appropriate clothing

I loathe cold feet. They make me incontrovertibly miserable. They can also be a curse of landscape photography. Buy your landscape photographer loved one some warm, waterproof socks and you will win yourself many favours. Head to your nearest outdoor shop to see what they've got on offer.

A good pair of gloves goes a long way, too. I love MacWet gloves: warm, waterproof, but they don't compromise on grip.

You might also want to consider hats, scarves, jackets, and trousers. Even boots. Or for the warmer months: sunscreen and insect repellant.



For inspiration, look no further than Ansel Adams. But to improve your technique, I rather like Chris Gatcum's Landscape Photography: the Four Seasons.


Kendal Mint Cake

For those moments when an energy boost is required.

Gifts for high-speed photographers < < Holiday Shopping with Photocritic > > Gifts for photographers, big and small

The Photocritic Holiday Gift Guide: presents for high-speed photographers

Some of the most fun that you can have in the dark with your clothes still on is high-speed photography. Capture balloons going splat and china being smashed with a little help from a flash and some relatively inexpensive kit. For ayone who's looking to have a go, we've compiled a list of the essentials, from kit to subject-matter! 41Anb+4NQRL._SY355_


High speed photography is nothing without flash. For anyone who's intent on capturing popping balloons, smashing plates, and exploding sweeties, they're going to need some manually controlled fire power. However, take one look at the range of external light sources that can be hooked up to a camera and it's enough to leave you running for a darkened cave. TTL, guide numbers, sync speeds, remote triggering: there's a lot to take in.

You can spend a lot or a little on external flashes. The Yongnuo YN560 III sells for about £50 here in the UK or $70 in the US and is compatible with Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and Pentax cameras. There are other third-party makes to consider, for example Phottix, or you could look for a manufacturer-specific flash.

Don't forget to order a stand and mount for the light, too.


A flash adapter

High-speed photography relies on hyper-fast flash to ensure the perfect exposure. For that, it's best to use a specialist flash adapter, which allows you to trigger the flash directly, rather than relying on your camera's triggering mechanism, which can take an eon in high-speed photography terms.

Triggertrap produces a flash adapter, priced £20, to use in conjunction with its mobile dongles, TT v1, and the forthcoming Ada.



If you decide to use the Triggertrap flash adapter, then you'll need a Triggertrap mobile kit to activate the flash using its sound trigger (or maybe one of its other sensors). Even if you don't go down the Triggertrap flash adapter route, having a Triggertrap to help you fire your camera, whether in blub mode or using one of its sensors, is mighty helpful for high-speed photography.

Triggertrap mobile kits start at £23. Don't forget to download the free app, too.



Heavens, we must sound like tripod bores, but a tripod is essential for high-speed photography work. High-speed photography means working in the dark, so look for something that's sturdy, just in case it's accidentally knocked. Have a look at Dave, from 3 Legged Thing.




Purveyors of high-speed photography will be in need of high-speed subjects. Pick up some packets of balloons to be used for popping—water-filled or otherwise—and capturing the moment they go bang!

These water balloons are bio-degradable, and coming in a pack of 100, are relatively cheap at $3.99. In the UK, these ones are £1.99.



Rootle around at jumble sales and in charity shops for chipped plates, cracked bowls, and ugly mugs that can be smashed with hammers or shattered by bullets without worrying that you're blowing the family's inheritance. You might want to pick up a hammer and a pair of safety goggle, too. Just in case.


A Lindt Chocolate Reindeer

Perfect for smashing, and then you get to eat it.

Gifts for smartphone photographers < < Holiday Shopping with Photocritic > > Gifts for landscape photographers

The Photocritic Holiday Gift Guide: presents for smartphone photographers

IMG_0855 It's Day Three of the Photocritic Holiday Gift Guide and we've switched from interchangeable lens cameras to smartphone photography. In-keeping with our previous (and indeed future) lists, it's a mixture of practical and fun. There should be something here for anyone who ventures out with their smartphone, whether an addict or an occasional shooter!


Easy-Macro band

I'm a huge fan of the Easy-Macro band. It's a cheap, portable, and flexible (quite literally) macro photography accessory for your smartphone. It costs $15, it can live in your wallet, and whether you use an iPhone 6 or a Samsung Galaxy, it'll fit on your phone and provides 4× magnification for your photos. It's easy to use and delivers great results. What's not to like?



Fotobit frames

We featured Fotobit frames here on Photocritic earlier this year, when it was archive-deep in a Kickstarter campaign. Funding goal reached, Fotobit has gone into full-scale production and you can pick up a set of three inter-locking frames for $45 or nine for $99. Choose your photos, snap together the frames in whichever layout you want, and hang them on your wall.


Icon lapel pin

If you want to flaunt your support for Instagram on your sleeve, or thereabouts, Photojojo has some cute lapel pins for $12. If you're a Pinterest or Photoshop supporter, they offer those, too. But, you know, this is the smartphone photographers' gift guide, so keep that one on the quiet side.




If you want to create selectively focused images optically, rather than digitally, take a look at the Lensbaby LM-10. It costs around $70, requires a free-to-download app, and is currently compatible with iPhone 4S, 5, 5C, and 5S and Android devices running Jellybean 4.1 to Kitkat 4.4.



Lights, camera, flash!

Improvements have been made to smartphone flash since their first glaring white days, but it's still far from perfect. Subjects are startled, appear washed out, and the colour rendition leaves a little to be desired. So why not introduce some off-phone flash? Like the Pocket Spotlight. It's another Photojojo item, costing $30.




Earlier this year I had great fun trying out the palm-sized Projecteo. You select nine images from your Instagram account, they're printed onto a mini slide wheel and despatched to you with a baby projector. For $35. With world-wide shipping.




I succeeded in losing my Tiltpod, or at least temporarily misplacing it, when we moved earlier this year. It was very frustrating. Right now Tiltpods are only compatible with iPhones 4, 4S, 5, and 5S, but I believe Gomite is working on a 6-sized product. The 4/4S version costs $15; the 5/5S case costs $30.




Yes, we know that we're biased, but if we can't publicise our own books here, where can we? And Social Photography is a particularly pretty book full of lovely images, fantastic tips, and useful knowledge when it comes to taking, and sharing, smartphone photos.



Gifts for macro photographers < < Holiday Shopping with Photocritic > > Gifts for high-speed photographers

The Photocritic Holiday Gift Guide: presents for macro photographers

Mulled wine Day Two of the Photocritic Holiday Gift Guide takes us into the world of the the close-up, and macro photography. We've compiled a list of suggestions for people who might be starting out and want to give macro a try, or who've been at it a little while and might need some kit to help them along.



You might be wondering why anyone who already has a tripod might need a macro-specific version. It's not at all compulsory; however, for those photographers who are serious about their macro work, some tripods are preferable compared to others.

Something like a Velbon VS-443 D allows for an inverted centre column that brings the camera close to the ground, for example. Take a look here in the US and here in the UK.


Extension tube

Instead of spending money on a dedicated macro lens, inserting an extension tube between camera and existing lens can have a similar effect. We understand that not everyone wants to have a go at making her or his own extension tube from a Pringles can, but thankfully commercially produced extension tubes are in abundance, manufactured by both the likes of Canon and Nikon as well as third parties.

You can pick them up in a variety of lengths and prices. Take a look.



For anyone who's particularly in love with macro photography, a dedicated macro lens will be high up on her or his wish-list. You can spend anything from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand. Some are zoom; many are prime. They're produced by both camera and third-party manufacturers. They come both with and without image stabilisation.

I love my Canon 100mm ƒ/2.8L and wouldn't be without it, but if you've not quite that much spend, take a look at these options.



All photography relies on light, but macro photography is especially light-hungry. To help manipulate and direct illumination precisely where it's needed, no macro photographer should be without a reflector. Reflectors come in a variety of sizes and colours, but we've picked out this 5-in-1 reflector that incluces gold, silver, white, and black surfaces as well as a diffuser to help evenly spread light across your subject, too.

In the US it's about $30; a similar reflector in the UK is about £30.


Ring flash

The shadowless light produced by ring flashes makes them ideal for macro photography. They're also relatively simple to use and start out with very reasonable prices, too, which makes them ideal for both beginners or as gifts.

Take a look at this Bower ring flash priced at $70 as a starting point.



One never seems to have sufficient hands when it comes to macro photography. Or flowers have an inconvenient habit of swaying in the breeze creating nothing but blurry images. This is where a plamp comes in handy. Attach one end to your tripod (or anything sturdy and reasonably close) and use the other to secure a plant stem, angle a reflector, or hold a backdrop in place.

Try Wimberley direct in the US to find out where you can buy a plamp, or they're about £40 in the UK.



Haje's excellent Macro Photography Workshop is now only available as an e-book. If you'd rather purchase one of the dead-tree variety, take a look at Digital Macro and Close-up Photography by Ross Hoddinott.


A gingerbread house kit

Tasty and great for macro photography!

Gifts for beginners < < Holiday Shopping with Photocritic > > Gifts for smartphone photographers

The Photocritic Holiday Gift Guide: presents for beginners

We have received our first Christmas card here in the Bowker household. We're putting its early appearance down to a combination of my aunt's ruthless efficiency and her desire to ensure it made it from the Antipodes before, rather than after, Christmas. Despite the fact that I try my hardest to push Christmas from my mind until my birthday, which is at the beginning of December, has passed (Chanukah often falls over my birthday; it has a pass-card), it's probably about the right time to unveil this year's Photocritic Holiday Gift Guide. 11467984695_25afbebfd0_z

We've put together seven bundles of suggestions for all types of photographers, ranging in price and practicality. We're kicking things off with ideas for beginner photographers. Assuming that they're set up with a camera, any of these items should be on a newbie's wish-list.



No photographer should be without a tripod. I happen to have more than one. And a monopod. But a beginner doesn't need such an extensive collection. Just the one will do, and the Manfrotto G-2015 is excellent value for money at $30.



Prime lens

The first lens I acquired for my first dSLR was a 50mm ƒ/1.8. That camera has long gone, but the lens remains in my camera bag. It's battered and bruised, but still my go-to lens. I wouldn't be without it, and neither should anyone with a camera.

Their affordability and ready availability, as well their photographic adeptness, makes them great gifts.


Lens cleaning kit

Yes, it's terribly mundane, but it's also terribly useful. Don't let anyone out without a lens cleaning kit. You can pick up this nifty one, which includes a brush, blower, and microfibre cloth, for a little over $10.




Camera bag

My camera bag criteria are extensive and demanding, but high up the list is for it not to look like a camera bag. Apart from having an obsession with bags that's marginally milder than my obsession with shoes, I'm in no way inclined to mark out the contents of my bag as being a desirable target for nefarious types. For a versatile, not-too-obviously-a-camera-bag-camera-bag, we'd recommend the Lowepro Urban Photo Sling 250. Right now, they're also cracking value for money, at about $45 in the US and £37 in the UK.

For something much more discreet, and definitely aimed at a mirror-less camera, have a look at the Cosyspeed system. Haje recently gave one a run for its money with very positive results.


External hard drive

Twenty-plus megapixel images have a habit of eating up computer hard drive capacity as Team Photocritic does ice cream. Storing them on an external hard drive (or two or three for security purposes) is a far more practical solution. A portable terabyte of storage might not excite anyone, but the recipient will be grateful for it. If not immediately.

You should be able to pick up something in the $65 or £50 region.


Editing suite

When you're shooting in JPEG, an all-singing and all-dancing editing suite might not seem a necesity. But it soon becomes one when you make the switch to Raw. And if you've a Raw-capable camera, why wouldn't you? It gives you unprecedented control over the appearance of your images. While I'm no fan of Adobe's Creative Cloud, it is still possible to purchase a stand-alone copy of Lightroom. And I do love me some Lightroom.

It's about $140 or £100.



Once you have the bare bones of a kit, the most important investment you can make to improve your photography is in yourself. That comprises books, courses, and time spent practising and evaluating your skills. We know we're biased, but we do believe that Haje's Ilex Introduction to Photography is a fabulous starting point.

Terry's Chocolate Orange

Because why ever not?

In the beginning < < Holiday Shopping with Photocritic > > Gifts for macro enthusiasts

Home Alone meets camera traps in this fun video

Every year, I find myself hiding away my annual-festivity-presents, and I do sometimes wonder... Is anyone going to start looking for them? The other day, on the bus, I found myself day-dreaming about what it might look like if you did a Home Alone-style set of camera traps.

So imagine my surprise when I was sent this video:

Yep, that's right, that's those photographic wizards over at Triggertrap, using their Triggertrap Mobile app and dongle to capture a set of would-be Christmas present sleuths in action. Great idea, and I'll definitely be playing more with camera traps in the upcoming months!

Now if only Father Christmas would bring me one of their Triggertrap Mobile kits...

The Photocritic 10 book gift guide for last minute shopping

It's the night before the night before Christmas. Super-organised types will have all of their gifts wrapped and sitting beneath the tree; the presents will look resplendent and the givers will be looking relaxed. The less-organised types will be wondering what on earth they can possibly buy in the next 24 hours to make people ot think that they left it to very last minute. Or last day. A book is the obvious solution. It shows thought and you can run into Waterstones and buy one tomorrow. Depending on the type of photographer for whom you're buying, here are ten of the best photography books out there right now. We're shameless, we've included some of our own books in this list. But they're not all ours. Promise.


For the new camera-owner

This one is first on the list, because if someone is getting a new camera for the holidays, this is where they'll want to start. The Ilex Introduction to Photography, by Haje Jan Kamps


Surreal Screen Shot

For the dreamer

Or, how to recreate what's in your head, in a photograph. Surreal Photography: Creating the Impossible, by Daniela Bowker


Fashion Photography 101

For the fashionista

If anyone loves fashion and wants to get a foot on the fashion photography ladder, Lara Jade's book is the stepping-off point. Fashion Photography 101, by Lara Jade


Light and lighting Screen Shot

For the lightning rod

Photography is all about light; whether it's natural or artificial you need to be able to read it and manipulate it. Photo School: Light & Lighting, by Catherine Quinn


Rules Screen Shot

For the maverick

Rules are meant to be broken. The Rules of Photography and When to Break Them, by Haje Jan Kamps


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For the selfie-fanatic

We could have put Haje's Shooting Yourself here, but we reckoned that you'd have it already! Creative Portrait Photography, by Natalie Dybisz


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For the street photographer

Street photography. Anyone can do it... but there's an art to getting it right. The New Street Photographer’s Manifesto, by Tanya Nagar


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For the tinkerer

From making your own clamps to having a go at free-lensing Creative Photography: 52 More Weekend Projects, by Chris Gatcum


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For the vista-lover

Landscapes, they're harder than they look 101 Top Tips for Digital Landscape Photography, by Carl Heilman II


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For the wanderer

Travel photography should leave you recalling the sights, sounds, and scents of your trips with every look, or letting your viewers feel as if they were right there with you. Here's your guide Focus on Travel Photography, by Haje Jan Kamps

These are just a few ideas. Get yourself down to a bookshop for even more ideas!

A bundle of gift ideas for smartphone photographers

If you're stuck for a gift idea for someone who's permanently attached to their mobile phone, addicted to Instagram, and knows the precise order of Snapseed's editing functions, here are a few ideas that might fit the bill. Depending on where you are in the world, most of these can just about be ordered in time for Christmas, if you're quick.

Get up close with a macro lens

I've been messing about with my Easy Macro lens band over the past few days. It's low-tech but a lot of fun. At $15 a go, they're inexpensive and they're compatible with a vast range of different phones, too.

Buy the Easy Macro Cell Lens Band at the Photojojo Store!

Should you have a little more to spend and want to give your recipient a lot more control, Olloclip has launched a 3-in-1 macro lens kit, that offers three different magnification factors and baby lens hoods. This will cost you $70, though.

Two magnification factors one side, and one on the other

Ditch digital zoom with a telephoto lens

Digital zoom sucks. And wide-angle lenses are very unflattering for portraiture. What you need is a telephoto attachment.

Get closer with Olloclip's telephoto attachment

Photojojo offers a $20 telephoto lens that's compatible for iPhone or Android devices. If you'd prefer to splash out a bit more on an iPhoneographer, Olloclip has a $100 telephoto lens that comes with a circular polarising lens on its other end.

Send camera shake packing

Camera shake: it's a horrid business that has ruined many a potential masterpiece. It's particularly noticeable when you're shooting with a small device, much like a mobile phone. Thankfully there are a good few options out there to help keep you on the straight and level.

Bend up, bend down, bend it all around with a Tiltpod

I love my Tiltpod, which is a bargan-tastic at $15 for an iPhone 4/4s version or $30 for a 5/5s version; however, Joby—the guys behind the ubiquitous Gorillapod—make Griptights, which can be pared with Lollipods for far more flexible smartphoneography.

Let there be light

The iblazr in black or white

Flashes on smartphones aren't very forgiving: they're harsh, they're close to the lens, and they're not at all flexible. So how about some pocket-sized external light? Photojojo has its Pocket Spotlight for $30, or you can pre-order a super-stylish iblazr, which should ship sometime in February, for $50.

Buy the Pocket Spotlight at the Photojojo Store!

Prints and such

Print options for mobile images and Instagram shots are everywhere. Everywhere! But is it something that you'd think to do for yourself? Well, maybe, or maybe not. So being presented with a gift card so that you can choose your own pictures for printing is a great excuse.

Stickers from Prinstagram

Origrami (with the extra 'r') lets you select gift cards for its fabulously packaged range of prints, shipped anywhere in the world. Or there's Prinstagram, that has a huge range of products that includes mini-books, stickers, and posters.

All-round gorgeousness from Origrami

Doing it better

Smartphone photography is marvellously easy: open the camera app, point, shoot. But you can always do it better and there are some terrific books out there to help you. Start with Stephanie Calabrese Roberts' The Art of iPhoneography or Android Photography by Jolie O'Dell.

Don your photos

Wear your photos with Wearagram

Wearagrams are custom-made pendants featuring your own images. They're set in silver pendants strung from organza ribbon, covered with a glass cabochon and produced by Etsy-maker 80sgirlart. They can be shipped world-wide and cost about £14.

So, those are just for smartphone photography. There must be something that catches the eye?

Bigger gifts for the photographer in your life

Leica's M-Series and Magnum Photographer calendar

Earlier this week, I made a few suggestions for photography-inspired gifts that came in sub-£25 ($40) and would make ideal stocking-fillers or Chanukah treats for, well, people like us. But what if there's a bit more in the budget? How about gifts for photographers that come in between £25 ($40) and £100 ($150)? Never fear! I've been scouring the Intergoogles and wracking my brain and have the following suggestions.


I'm on of these scary people who manages to keep her calendar stored in her head. (And has an online one as a backup. Just in case.) But I don't think that I'd sniff at one of these limited edition calendars produced by Leica. The images have all been shot with M-series cameras by Magnum photographers. Gorgeous.

Leica M-Calendar 2012: €45 from the Leica shop


I wouldn't normally recommend buying a lens for someone without her or him being there to direct operations. They're far too personal things. But if you happen to know that your Canon or Nikon-using photographer-loved-one is 50mm prime-less, then drop everything right now and go buy one.

Canon 50mm f/1.8: £70 on Amazon UK; $105 on Amazon US
Nikon 50mm f/1.8: £95 on Amazon UK; $140 on Amazon US

Negative scanner

If you've suitcases of negatives stashed away in your attic and would love to be able to digitise them, then a scanner is what you need.

Veho USB deluxe negative scanner: £79.99 or $125 from Firebox

Remote camera trigger

If you've not already signed-up for a super-awesome Triggertrap - a universal camera trigger for time-lapses, that can be programmed to release your camera shutter when a doorbell rings, or can be used for high-speed photography (and heaps more beside) - then you really should.

Triggertrap: $125 from the Triggertrap store


There are a heap of tripods on the market that are excellent value for money, but if you're looking for a light-ish weight one, the Velbon 347GB is a good place to start. Already got a standard tripod? How about a go-anywhere Gorillapod? 

Velbon 347GB: £68 on Amazon UK; $125 from B&H
Gorillapod for a DSLR: £30 on Amazon UK; $35 on Amazon US

Vintage Camera Clock

I'm completely taken by these gorgeous clocks that have been handmade from recycled vintage cameras. As they're recycled, you won't know which camera you'll be getting, either. It all adds to the surprise.

Vintage Camera Clock: $99 from Uncommon Goods

Little-ish gifts for photographers, seeing as the season is almost here

Lens cleaning pen for under £5

The season of frenzied gift-giving is nigh upon us, meaning that it is time to wheel out Daniela's quick and dirty guide to finding perfect pressies for the photographer in your life. (Or you could just send people whom you love in this general direction for gifts that you might wish to receive.) Quirky or practical, the criterion for today's selection was that it had to come in sub-£25 (or around $40). Credit cards at the ready? Let's go shopping!

Lens cleaning pens are super-useful. They're also super-easy to pick up from Amazon UK for £3.90 or Amazon US for $7.15

These cute camera-shaped rubber stamps can even be customised if you ask cupcaketree very nicely. They're only £6 from cupcaketree's Etsy shop.

Grey cards - everyone should have a set of grey cards in their kit bags. This rather groovy set from Photocritic even has nifty hints and tips printed on the bag, all for a bargainalicious £7.95, available on Amazon.

In addition to the lens cleaning pen, how about a little air blower to help shift dust spots, too? This one from Giottos is £7.50 from Amazon UK or $9 from Amazon US.

If you're not fortunate enough to have a memorycard reader integrated into your laptop, you'll likely find one useful. This version from Kingston is curently a bargain at just over $10 on Amazon US or £8 from Amazon UK.

Last year I suggested that you might wish to buy the male photographer in your life a set of cufflinks; this year, it's the turn of lady-photographers. Now, they might want cufflinks, too, but perhaps they'd prefer earrings? How about these for $12?

Fancy a tipple? How about from a hipflask decorated with a hand-drawn camera? These gorgeous things are only $14.95 from buyalex on Etsy.

I still handwrite quite a bit, and if I don't use a fountain pen, then I use pencil. A camera-shaped pencil sharpener would be an ideal addition to my desk, and probably my brother's too. They're $14.99 from Amazon US.

Last of all, cleaning your own sensor might sound a bit scary, but there's plenty of advice on how to do it, and kits available from Amazon to help you! Just make sure that you pick up the correct size for your camera. These kits are for 1.6 crop factor sensors and cost £16.85 from Amazon UK and $24.95 from Amazon US.

How's that for a start? Don't forget, you can always take a look at last year's suggestions, too!

Cookie cutters that'll make cameras good enough to eat!

I thought that I had a pretty awesome cookie cutter collection - it even includes giraffes - but it's about to get a whole lot awesomer! (No, I know that 'awesomer' isn't a real word, but I'm not sure I care at this juncture. I'm having a childish moment of 'Squee!') Move over the entire alphabet of cookie cutters and bring on the camera-shaped ones!

Uh-hmm! Cookie cutters shaped like SLR, range-finder, and twin lens reflex cameras are now available from the DIYPhotography store. It's $17.95 for the three, they're made from PBA-free plastic, and they even have a cookie recipe included. Now you can most definitely have that Canon 1D X and you can eat it!

My biscuit obsession and my camera obsession are about to make cute, tasty babies!


Need another holiday gift idea?


Recently, we gave you some nifty ideas for small holiday gifts. Here’s another that would be a perfect stocking-filler for your fellow photographer friends.

These lens bracelets were created by Adam Elmakias and come in seven different designs. They’re available for only $10 a piece, or get all seven for $50.

And for those of you wondering why you didn’t think of this brilliant idea first, read Adam’s blog to see how he came about the concept for the bracelets and got them manufactured.

15 fabulous photobooks

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Whilst I was researching small gifts suitable for photographers, I ran into so many books that would make fabulous presents I decided that they deserved a post of their own. Oh yeah, this is it.

I’ve tried to include books that cut across different styles of photography, as well as suggest technical and coffee table books. Hopefully, there is something here to appeal to everyone, and if you’ve any burning suggestions, then please let us know!

The Art of Black and White Photography, by Torsten Andreas Hoffman

This book begins at the beginning, looking at cameras and equipment, and works right the way through different genres and styles of photography – including portraits, abstracts, and street photography – the technical elements of how to compose a picture, and ends with post-processing. It feels comprehensive but isn’t overwhelming; if you want to refer to one specific section, it’s easy enough to do that. And it is full of lots of lovely pictures.

Currently £22.43 on Amazon UK and $29.67 on Amazon US.

Auto Focus, by Susan Bright

How many different forms can self-portraiture take? Susan Bright looks at series of self-portraits shot by seventy-five photographers from across the world. They cover autobiography, they explore the human body, they consider portraiture as a performance, and they use masks and masquerade. It’s a fascinating exploration of identity and self-expression.

At present £23.80 from Amazon UK and $37.80 from Amazon US.

Decade, by Eamonn McCabe and Terence McNamee

This book charts the first decade of the 21st century in pictures, illustrating everything from pop sensations bouncing on stage to disembodied heads being toted as war trophies in some of the world’s most troubled countries. Sometimes it’s amusing, sometimes it’s shocking, but is a gorgeous retrospective of ten years of world events.

Currently £16.22 on Amazon UK and $26.37 on Amazon US.

The Hotshoe Diaries, by Joe McNally

If photography is all about painting with light, then we need at least one book that looks at lighting. And seeing as we can’t all afford big lighting rigs, this will take you through using SpeedLites to get the most out of your pictures. Maybe with the odd bedsheet or reflector thrown in for good measure. Not only do you get great pictures in this book, you also get diagrams, some of them drawn on napkins!

At the moment: £13 from Amazon UK and $26.39 from Amazon US.

In My Mind’s Eye, by Charlie Waite

This is a gorgeous collection of black and white photographs. Mostly they are landscapes and still lifes, but there are some portraits, too. Definitely something to flick through if you want to escape for a moment or ten.

£12.99 from Amazon UK or £17.96 from Amazon US.

Langford’s Basic Photography, by Michael Langford, Anna Fox, and Richard Sawdon Smith

There are so many ‘complete guides’ or ‘introductions’ to digital photography out there that it is quite overwhelming. If your camera isn’t already confusing you, the number of books telling you what you should be doing will. This book is now on its ninth edition, having first been released in 1965, and has shepherded many budding photographers through their early days. It must be doing something right.

£17.59 from Amazon UK or $28.76 from Amazon US.

Macro Photography Photo Workshop, by Haje Jan Kamps

You might call me biased, but this is the best introduction to macro photography out there. Whatever teeny-tiny things you want to photograph, from droplets to spiders to eyes, this book will take you through the process, giving you examples and exercises along the way.

Currently £10 from Amazon UK or $21.89 from Amazon US.

The New Antiquity, by Tim Davis

I’m a great believer in the value of seemingly mundane photographs: shards or fragments of the prosaic preserved for future generations to use as insights into our lives. This book examines just that: the slivers of our world that will one day form the record of what will then be our ancient existence.

£29.71 from Amazon UK or $30.40 from Amazon US at present.

Norman Parkinson: Portraits in Fashion, by Robin Muir

Ooh this book is full of deliciousness. It’s a retrospective of Parkinson’s work as a fashion photographer, from the 1940s to the 1980s. Every image is the perfect embodiment of its age, from 1960s pillbox hats and swing coats to 1980s loud eye makeup and shoulder pads. Mmm.

£9.74 from Amazon UK or $19.44 via Amazon US.

Photobox, by Roberto Koch

I suppose that the easiest way to describe this book is that it is an encyclopaedia of photographers. It’s divided into different genres, with photographers who practised that art form listed there with a short biography and an example of her or his work. It’s the sort of slightly geeky information-fest that appeals to me, I suppose.

Currently £12.97 from Amazon UK or $19.77 from Amazon US.

The Photographer’s Guide to Landscapes, by John Freeman

I looked at a lot of books that covered landscape photography, but this was the one that I would’ve taken home for myself. It’s divided into three sections. The first looks at the technical elements of landscape photography, from how to compose a picture, which lenses to use, and what sort of ISO and shutterspeed to worry about. Then it looks at actual landscapes, and how best to capture them, whether they feature water, sand, or sky, are urban or rural. Then it takes you through the post-processing malarky. Beginning to end landscapes.

£14.44 from Amazon UK or $19.95 from Amazon US.

Photographing People Like a Pro, by Rod Edwards

If I thought that there were a lot of landscape books out there, then I must’ve looked at them before I almost collapsed under the portraiture guides. Want to know why I rejected most of them? (If you don’t, I’m going to tell you anyway.) I didn’t like the pictures in them. Seriously, if I were to pay for a portrait session that came out like some of the pictures in those books, I’d be deeply unhappy. This book, though, I could get along with. I liked its simple format and its progressive nature. It started with equipment, it moved on to designing an image, then it examined light before looking at how to work with the people you’re photographing, and it finished with post-processing.

Roughly £34 from Amazon UK or $52 from Amazon US.

Simply Beautiful Photographs, by Annie Griffiths

The title says it all: this is 500 pages of beautiful photographs that have been compiled from the National Geographic archives by Annie Griffiths. I defy you not to find an image that will take away your breath.

£11.54 from Amazon UK or $23.10 from Amazon US.

The Visual Dictionary of Photography, by David Präkel

This book is a stroke of genius. Seeing as photography is a visual medium, it explains technical terms from ‘abstract’ to ‘zoom lens’ using pictures as well as words.

£9.72 from Amazon UK or $18.96 from Amazon US.

The Wild Side of Photography, by Cyrill Harnischmacher

Run out of inspiration? (Really?) Fancy trying underwater photography? How about aerial photography? Want to give a time-lapse a go? Ever felt the need to look for unusual print media for your images? This books has it all: written instructions, diagrams, and pictures. You won’t be uninspired for very much longer. Or perhaps you’re just a photographic dare-devil!

£16.09 from Amazon UK or $19.77 from Amazon US.

Now, all the prices were what Amazon was quoting when I wrote this. Of course, I can’t promise that they’ll stay that way.

Bigger gifts for the photographer in your life

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We’ve looked at little gifts for photographers, we’ve had a peek at books for photographers, but what sort of thing could you splash out on for a much-beloved photographer if you’ve a little bit more to spend? I’ve come up with some ideas that range from around the £50-mark, to potentially into the £1,000s, and cover those new to photography and more experienced hands, as well. (And yes, if you’re reading, Ma, there are a couple of things here that I wouldn’t mind.)


Buying lenses is a hugely personal thing. In fact, unless I were to be taken into a shop and asked, ‘Which lens would you like?’ I think there’s only one person on the planet I’d trust to give me a lens. That said, if your favourite photographer is not in possession of a 50mm prime lens, stop what you are doing right now and go buy her or him one. Really.

Lots of lovely prime lenses available from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

If your photographer is perhaps a bit more experienced and wants to try having some fun, then have a look at a lensbaby and be prepared for tilt-shift-a-go-go.

Lenbabies from, ehm, Lensbaby.


Swiftly following a prime lens, comes a tripod on the new photographer’s must-have list. There are quite a few different types out there: little ones, big ones, travel-weight ones, super-expensive ones, and fairly cheap ones. I’ve a Velbon 347. It cost me about £70. It isn’t super-tiny and it isn’t super-light. However, it does fit in my backpack and I can shlep it around. I’d recommend it. You can spend less if you want to, or you can spend more on a Giottos or a Manfrotto. This one’s middle-of-the-road.

Velbon 347 tripod about £60 from Amazon UK or around $130 from Amazon US.

In addition to a tripod, a gorillapod is a genius piece of kit. You can wrap its legs around almost anything to secure it – and your camera – almost anywhere. They don’t weigh very much and they aren’t ludicrously expensive, either. Superb!

Gorillapod for dSLRs, around £30 from Amazon UK or $40-ish from Amazon US.

Camera bag

Sloop camera bag (via Photojojo)

Me, I don’t want my camera bag to look like a camera bag. I’d rather that the dodgy guy sitting opposite me on the Tube didn’t know that my bag contains a few thousand pounds-worth of camera kit. For that reason, I’m rather partial to bags by AHA, Sloop, and Timbuk2. No, they’re not cheap, but my kit is more expensive. (Alright, I admit it, my thing for bags is almost as serious as my thing for shoes, too.)

AHA camera bags from Amazon UK, around £40.
Sloop camera bags from Photojojo for $149.99
Timbuk2 camera bags around $130.

Remote shutter release with timer

Earlier this year, we published a tutorial on making a time-lapse. It’s not something that’s easy to accomplish without a timer, though. Having a remote shutter release (great for self-portraits, too) and timer is a rather nifty addition to the kit collection.

Hähnel Giga T Pro 2.4GHz Wireless Timer Remote for Canon (also covers Pentax and Samsung, according to website), Nikon, Olympus, or Sony, around £60 from Amazon UK.
Hähnel Giga T Pro 300′ Wireless Shutter Release Timer Remote for Canon (also covers Pentax and Samsung, according to website), Nikon, Olympus, or Sony, around $100 from Amazon US.

Editing software

We’ve done a few reviews of editing software here at Small Aperture. For the occasional photographer, using one of the free options is absolutely fine, but for someone who is more serious about her or his photography, it’s worth investing in some software. For Team Small Aperture, it’s all about Adobe Lightroom 3 (but other editing suites are available).

Adobe Lightroom 3 from £232.65 or $299.

Compact camera

SLRs are wonderful, awesome, and amazing. But they’re not exactly pocket-sized. Having something that is pocket-sized is also wonderful, awesome, and amazing. The compact camera market is absolutely flooded right now, but if you want something that truly is pocket-sized and won’t leave a seasoned dSLR-user wanting to scratch out her or his eyes, then the Canon S95 seems to be a good pick.

Canon S95 available from Amazon UK for £302 at the moment, or Amazon US for $389!

Time away

One of the best presents that I’ve been given recently was a long weekend away with my best friend, our cameras, lots of fabulous food, and somewhere new to explore. We came home with awesome memories, fabulous experiences, and beautiful photographs. (And very full tummies, too.)

It’s the sort of present that can be organised for £250, or much, much more. Pick somewhere!

Any other suggestions? Let us know!

Small gifts for the photographer in your life

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Oxford Street has its Christmas lights up, which means that people are probably beginning to think about presents for Christmas, or Chanukah, or Eid, or Midwinter, or Yule. If you’ve been wracking your brains to find a little gift or two for photographer loved-ones, don’t worry, so have I. It did however occur to me that keeping my findings to myself would be rather selfish, and seeing as I rarely give presents I wouldn’t want to receive, possibly counter-productive, too. So here we have it, Daniela’s guide to sub-£20 photography-related gifts.

Level Cube

A diddy little spirit level that slots into a camera’s hotshoe will make sure that tripod set-ups aren’t off-kilter and wonky. No matter how carefully I think that I’ve arranged my tripod, I still have to straighten up things in Lightroom afterwards. This should help.

Roughly £5 (US$7) available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Lens cleaning kit

Grubby lenses are not the best when it comes to taking beautiful pictures. Which is why a kit containing all the lens cleaning essentials is useful. The ones that I’ve found on Amazon UK and Amazon US are slightly different, but they should do the job all the same!

About £5 from Amazon UK or US$7 from Amazon US.


Now don’t tell me that cufflinks are just for men. They’re not. Plenty of women’s shirts are cufflink-friendly, too. I think that these are both cute and stylish.

Somewhere around £8 from Wheesh.

Pinhole Camera Kit

If you reckon the notion of building her or his own pinhole camera from scratch is a bit too much for your beloved photographer, you could always buy a kit instead.

£8.50 from (no, I have no idea why it should be a man’s giftshop, either.)

Make-it-yourself Canvas Kit

Granted, you can always go to somewhere like Photobox and have them print a canvas professionally, but there is something so very satisfying about doing it yourself.

£10 (US$16), or close enough, from Photofuse.

Coloured Filter Keyring

Eight different coloured filters, neatly hooked together on a keyring. Now your photographer-friend can have wickedly coloured flashes illuminating photographs, and no more crumpled gels lurking at the bottom of a camera bag. And seeing as they’re on a keyring, they can be clipped somewhere useful, too.

About £12 from or US$15 from Photojojo.

Camera Strap

I happened to find these awesome camera straps from Souldier when I was looking for guitar straps for my brother. The recycled seat belt straps start at roughly £12.50, but you can of course look through their entire collection and spend a bit more.

Starting at roughly US$20 (roughly £12.50) from Souldier.

Tiny monster tripod

These Digidude tripods are only suitable for compact cameras, but they are too cute to leave out. They’re tiny tripods that look like monsters.

Available from for about £15 each, or Quirky for US$20 each.


There are lots of places out there selling lots of different reflectors. I happened to alight upon this £15 reversible number that’s 22 inches in diameter. You can of course buy them bigger, and spend a bit more.

£15 or thereabouts from Jessops in the UK, or US$17 from Amazon US.

Flickr Pro Account

If your favourite photographer doesn’t yet have a Flickr Pro account, it is super-easy to organise. You just follow the instructions.

$24.95 (roughly £15) from Flickr.

There. And they’re all available online, so you don’t have to brave the High Street for them, either!

Cameras for kiddies

Starting early

Here at Small Aperture, we like to get them hooked on photography when they’re young. That’s hardly surprising given that I’ve been in love with photography since I was about five, when my father taught me how to use an Olympus Trip. Soon afterwards, I was given my own 118 film camera, and in fact, I still have the photos I took with it.

But entry-level cameras today are a touch different from those twenty-five years ago. So where would you start if you wanted to buy something for a photographically inclined little one? Well whaddya know? I’ve done some research, I’ve trawled the High Street, I’ve asked lots of questions, and I think that I have some answers. (Yes, just in time for Christmas.)

Now, first things first. I’m no more inclined to suggest that you buy a ‘children’s camera’ for a small person than I am likely to endorse feeding her or him reconstituted meat shaped into dinosaurs and covered with breadcrumbs. Some things in life are worth doing properly from the get-go, and food and photography are two of those. This also means I don’t think that there needs to be a lower age limit on when to give a little one a camera; if your nephew is showing photographic talent at six, let him run with it – using a proper camera.

All the same, a dSLR might not be exactly what he needs. So I based my cameras-for-kiddies selection on five criteria.

The Criteria


There are plenty of decent point-and-shoot cameras out there for under £100, but none for under £50. Spending somewhere between the two seems reasonable, so that was my budget.


If you give something to a kid, it needs to be able to withstand a few bumps and knocks. Even if she or he does treat it with respect, accidents can still happen. Hell, I managed to fling my iPhone across the pavement last week. I was looking for a camera that felt sturdy, durable, and would be comfortable in little hands.


The layout needs to be simple, the controls can’t be fiddly, and it has to look shiny. I want my camera to be relatively easy to use; the same goes for a camera used by young ‘un. And if I can carry a metallic red point-and-shoot in my handbag, then my imaginary seven year old niece can have one, too.

Toys and features

Of course it needs toys. And video. Duh!

Image quality

If we’re encouraging kids to take photos, to enjoy the process, and to be proud of what they produce, the image quality needs to be decent. Eight megapixels is plenty and if we’re lucky enough to lay our grubby mitts on some image stabilisation or anti-blur technology, then so much the better.

So to which cameras did these criteria lead me?

The Yeses

I saw a couple of cameras that I’d be prepared to buy for my imaginary niece. Despite its complete mouthful of a name, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W310S is shiny (in silver, black, or red), it has an easy-to-use interface, the layout is clear, it has image stabilisation goodness, and it has a film mode. It costs somewhere around £90.

The Fujifilm JX200 hit all the buttons with a swish, sleek metal body, easy interface, 12 megapixel sensor, low-light sensitivity, 5x optical zoom, film mode, and image stabilisation prowess. What made it stand out from the crowd was its panorama mode. Stitched-together-pictures-R-Us! All for around £80.

There was one camera that I kept going back to, though. Admittedly it might have been because it was purple, but it might have been because of the groovy on-off mechanism. Sliding down the front panel reveals the lens and powers up the Fujifilm Z70. And no, I wasn’t overlooking any of the other criteria because I was captivated by its shiny purple slidiness. It makes films, it has auto-focus tracking, it has a 12 megapixel sensor, there’s image stabilisation, the layout was clear, and the screen was large. All for around £90. (And it comes in four colours other than purple.)

The Nos

There are heaps of cameras that didn’t make the cut, for various reasons. You’d be very bored if I listed them all. Still, two deserve a special mention, so that you can steer well clear of them.

The Vivitar X225. I was convinced that just by picking it up, I might break it. At around £50, it is cheap, but I can only conceive this as a false economy.

The Samsung ES25. The zoom button on this irritated me. I can’t think that a seven year old would be any less irritated, either.

The Maybes

The Canon Powershot A495 is a great camera, but I wasn’t convinced that its plastic build was sturdy enough, even if it is excellent value at around £70. If you really want a Canon and their range of intriguing colours, the Ixus 105 is coming in at just over £100. Shop around and you might be able to get a deal.

Not to be outdone by Canon, Nikon also have some impressively specced entry-level cameras. On paper, the Nikon L21 and L22 offer just about everything, and at around £70 they don’t cost the earth. However, I wasn’t convinced they’d be durable enough. And I wasn’t convinced by the colours, either, but that’s me.

The conclusion

There are a lot of cameras out there for under £100 that would be ideal to give to give to a young one to let her or him explore photography. There are some shockers, too. But I’m still loving the slidable on-off function on the Fujifilm Finepix Z70. That’d be my first option. Then you just wonder how long it’ll be before she or he is asking for an SLR.

With very many thanks to John Lewis on Oxford Street, and especially Andy in the Audio-visual department. With significantly fewer thanks to various other camera purveyors on Oxford Street who were far from helpful. (Yes, I braved Oxford Street for this. No wonder I’ve spent the weekend at the Small Aperture country retreat, recuperating.)

Photography Gift Guide


Are you looking for the perfect Christmas gift for that special photographer in your life? If so, you’ve come to the right place. I know from personal experience that present shopping for photography-obsessed people can be tough.

The world of photography turns quickly, so it can be a challenge for many of us to keep up. That’s why I thought I’d bring out this handy Christmas gift guide just in time for the holidays. (Well, that, and last year’s guide was one of my better visited pages, so I figured it’d be rude to not do a re-run with a bit of an update, too)

No matter what your budget, you should find something on this list that will bring a picture perfect smile to your photo-junky friend’s face.

Behold… Photocritic’s From sub-$40 to credit crisis-incurring gift guide (of DOOM)  


In the $40s and below range:

Looking for an inexpensive photography related gift? I won’t lie; sometimes it can be tough to find a good photography gift in this price range, especially with everyone switching to digital.

Unless you know for a fact that your friend still uses film on a regular basis a well-wrapped box of film canisters and photopaper won’t cut it like it did in past years. However, we’ve been able to scrounge up a few interesting possibilities.

Out of the five listed below, we feel that the Westcott 750 Photo Basics 7.5-Foot Light Stand ($29.90) is the best buy in the $20-$40 dollar range. This sturdy 7.5 foot stand receives consistently good reviews and enjoys uniform popularity. Unlike some accessories, an extra one of these is almost never a bad thing.

For other low cost options try the Photography Studio Continuous Lighting Umbrella Kit ($39.99) or the Digital Concepts Ps-101 Portable Lighting Studio ($40.67).

If none of these seem quite right, you could always resort to buying one of these two popular photography related books: Microstock Photography: How to Make Money from Your Digital Images ($16.47), or the bestseller The Digital Photography Book ($11.99). Or, you know, my book; Macro Photography Workshop :)

In the $40 to $100 range:

In this range, I’d recommend the XPRO Studio Photography White Photo Light Tent ($49.99). This cleverly designed light tent is perfect for creating professional looking photos of medium sized objects.

Since it is made out of special outer nylon shell, it diffuses light much better than other light tents in this price range. Not only this, but its comes with an easy portable carrying case and contains internal elastic tabs for suspending objects by clear wires.

Does your friend already have one of these? You could also try another one of the following options in this price range: American Recorder SIB-101CS Photo Studio-in-a-Box ($69.99) Small Stand for Background Support from Interfit COR755 ($76.99) Philips 6.5-Inch Digital Photo Frame ($89.99). Who doesn’t like these? 2 Photography Studio Continuous Lighting Kits for just under $80! This is a great deal for any photographer who needs lighting equipment for a good price.

In the $100 to $250 range:

Once you get into this price range its possible to start looking at some decent tripods and lenses. However, before you go out and buy a tripod for your photographer friend, be warned that both tripods and lenses can be very personal things for some photographers.

If you can, try to get the low down on what your friend already has versus what they might want. If he or she isn’t sure, you might consider going with the sturdy Manafrotto 725B Digi Tripod. This model gets top reviews over and over again ceaselessly repeating the same word: “sturdy”;

But what if your friend already has one? Never fear; try one of these alternative gift ideas: Lowepro SlingShot 300 All-Weather Camera Bag ($109.95) Black & White Backdrop System from Steve Kaeser ($132.00) Westcott Photo Basics 501 Backlight Kit ($99.95) SPD100 Digital Exposure Meter from Polaris ($169.99)

In the $250 to $500 range:

Alright, now we’re talkin’. In this price range, you can really find some quality lenses.

If your photography buddy already has their standard lenses set, why not spring for a high quality wide angle lens? This lens from Tamron is less expensive than many of its kind and is specifically designed to work well with the popular Canon Digital SLR cameras. This is great for any photographer who is looking to get into landscape portraits for the first time.

Or, if you’re not sure about what your friend wants, why not just get a gift voucher from Amazon? Then they can get whatever they want. Even so, you might find some of these other suggestions useful: Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras ($449.00) Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Wide Angle Lens for Canon SLR Cameras ($427.01) Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras ($319.95) Induro C213 Carbon 8X C-Series Tripod Leg Set, Extends to 62.49″, Supports 17 lbs. ($279.99)

In the $500 to $1000 range:

Bestower of Christmas joy…

…you have just stepped into the digital SLR camera zone.

If your photographer friend has not yet experienced owning a digital SLR camera, this might be your opportunity to change his or her life forever.

With a 10.1 megapixel CMOS censor, a lightweight body, automatic cleaning system, and a 2.5″ LCD monitor, there are few cameras like the Canon Digital Rebel XTi (Canon EOS 1000D) ($499.95) for its price. This is a perfect gift for someone who is either just making the conversion from film to digital, or who wants to finally quite fooling around with simple point and shoot digital cameras.

You might also consider the Nikon model as an alternative: Nikon D40 6.1MP Digital SLR Camera ($549.00) Or, if your friend already has one of these, maybe one of these lenses could work: Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor Lens ($634.95) Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens for Canon SLR Cameras ($921.90) Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras ($630.13)

In the $1000 to $2000 range:

Now that you’re ready to start pulling out the big bucks, you’ve got a very important choice to make.

Do you want to buy that oh-so-special photographer a top of the line camera (like this one: the Olympus Evolt E-3 10.1MP Digital SLR Camera with Mechanical Image Stabilization with ED 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 Lens and FL-50R Flash ($1,999.99), or should you choose one of these groovy telephoto lenses($1,140), eh? (They’re perfect for taking photos of moving objects and capturing elements of vision that are imperceptible to the human eye.)

You’re best bet is to get the inside word about whether or not your friend is interested in switching camera models. If so, you might want to go with a new camera. But if not, I’d say consider going with the lens.

And then again, if you feel like you still need more options, you might want to take a look at these other viable choices: Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras ($1,109.95) Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras ($1,828.98) Canon 14mm f/2.8L II EF USM Ultra-Wide Angle Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras ($1,879.95) Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras ($1,529.95)

If price is not a concern…

If you are really willing to go all out this Christmas (and I mean really all out), then consider buying a medium format digital camera from Hasselblad. We’re talking about the high end of the high end here. Hasselblad’s H3DII-31 ($37,995.00) offers picture quality that is absolutely unimaginable with even the highest quality 35mm cameras.

Imagine shooting at 31 Mpix with some of the most advanced lenses in the world. Let it be known that the people at Hasselblad don’t mess around when it comes to digital photography!

Want to take a look at a few other (potentially wallet-busting) jaw-droppers? Check these out: Hassleblad’s H3DII-50 ($21,995.00) Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras ($10,998.98) Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras ($7,399.00) Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras  ($6,800.00)

Happy Christmas!

Finally, when you click on the Amazon links above, it’s tied to my affiliate account. That means that you pay the same as you always would for any of the goods listed, but I get a couple of percent in return for sending the traffic from this blog to Amazon, which I can spend to save up to buy a kitten and a mountain of cat-food… Having said that, Amazon might not always be the cheapest, so do shop around to get the best deal you can.

So, all that’s left to say – have a fantastic holiday (whether you celebrate Christmas or something else – and I’m probably going to take a bit of a break for the holidays… Catch you in the new year!