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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?