Shotkit Selects is a list of recommended products and services that can serve as unique gifts for photographers. The items below aren’t necessarily directly associated to photography, but have in some way contributed to making my life as a professional photographer easier, better or more profitable.
I have personally used all the products recommended in Shotkit Selects at some point, many of which I still use on a daily basis.
I will add to this list as and when I discover and use new products that I think will be of benefit to you, or would make a great gift for a photographer. If you’d like to be notified as soon as new products are added, sign up for the free Shotkit Newsletter here.
Finally, if you have any recommendations of gifts for photographers of your own, feel free to leave them in the comments below so that we can all benefit as a communitby!
Unique Gifts for Photographers
SanDisk iXpand Base
This is my pick for most useful photography gadget of the year. It’s not particularly glamorous, but it’s one of those things that just works in the background doing something truly priceless – backing up your precious memories.
Just plug your iPhone into the iXpand Base to charge it up at the end of the day, and at the same time, all your photos and videos will be automatically backed up. There’s no faffing around with iTunes, none of your computer’s hard drive space consumed, and best of all, no annoying monthly iCloud fees to greedy Apple!
The iXpand Base features a soft rubber top to hold your phone and a wrap-around groove to keep your Lightning to USB cable tidy, and looks great on the top of any desk. You can use the iXpand iPhone App to check on and restore your backed up files at any time.
Let’s face it – backing up photos is one of those tedious things we all need to do but rarely do. This little gadget makes sure it’s done everyday, and it’s as simple as charging up your phone. The only challenge you’ll have is finding this popular little gadget in stock!
If you’ve ever dabbled with off-camera flash, or just got lucky with some really angular sunlight, you’ll know how cool it looks when there’s a bit of mist or smoke in the air. Short of kicking up some dust around your subject, relying on these unusual weather conditions isn’t exactly ideal.
In steps the Atmosphere Aerosol – basically instant fog, in a handy spray can. Whilst the haze (smoke) won’t stick around for the same duration as that from a dedicated smoke machine, the Atmosphere Aerosol is obviously a lot more portable and cost effective if you’re only using it at the odd-shoot. Also, trying taking a smoke machine with you on location and you’ll run into all kinds of other hurdles…
I can see the Atmosphere Aerosol being a huge hit with all the wedding photographers out there who want to add a certain something to their couple portraits. Simply pose your couple in good light (or with an off camera flash in the background), give the Atmosphere Aerosol a few sprays around their feet, then run back to your camera and take the shot for a cool, unpredictable lighting effect.
You’ll notice I said “run back to your camera”? Well this is the advice I’ve heard from regular users of Atmosphere Aerosol, since the spray contains chemicals that could get on your camera lens. Keep your gear out of harm’s way and you’ll be fine. Or get your assistant to spray it!
It’s currently on sale at Amazon in a 6 pack, so throw a can in your best camera backpack on your next shoot for something a little different.
Anker Portable Charger
The new USB-C usage by Apple on all its new Macbook Pro and Macbook Retina line of laptops seems to have polarized opinion, but one thing’s for sure – being able to use portable battery packs such as this Anker PowerCore+ to charge your laptop on the go is a revelation.
When I’m trying to travel as light as possible, I rely on my laptop to not only work on, but also to charge my iPhone and iPad. Obviously, I need to make sure my laptop battery doesn’t run out, and that’s where the Anker PowerCore+ comes in.
Even if you don’t have a laptop using the new USB-C input, the Anker PowerCore+ can be used to charge your USB compatible smart phone or tablet several times.
Its compact size, LED Power Wheel, premium components and aluminum-alloy case make it easily portable, durable and user friendly. There’s also a handy 18-month warranty, but judging by the number of positive reviews on Amazon, you probably won’t need it!
Grey cards and getting accurate colours with your photography may not sound like the most interesting topic, but if you want to take better photos, its a topic you should know well.
The Datacolor SpyderCube is a pocketable reference tool to achieve accurate colours straight out of camera. This means that you won’t need to waste time in post processing trying to find the exact colour at which your photo was shot, since you’ll have an exact reference right in front of you.
For those who’ve never used a grey card or handy gadget like the Datacolor SpyderCube before, the process is simple:
- Whenever you’ve in a situation with new light (e.g. going from outside to inside), ask your subject to hold the SpyderCube (or hang is from something in the room).
- Take a photo of the scene with the SpyderCube in it, making sure you’re shooting in RAW.
- Continue shooting in RAW until you move to a differently lit scene, then repeat the process.
- When you are using Lightroom to process your photos, find the photo featuring the SpyderCube and use the eyedropper tool to click on it.
Voila! Perfectly accurate colours in your photo, just like magic. The above process will also work to some extent when shooting in JPEG, but the RAW format retains much more information to tweak later.
The main benefit of the Datacolor SpyderCube is that is is a 3D white balance tool, in that it has multiple sides/angles on which you can reference the light. In addition, the multiple shades of black-white on the cube helps to prevent blown highlights and crushed blacks.
It’s also got a handy tripod mount for studio usage,non-reflective surfaces (which helps with flash photography), and a ‘shadow-hole’ which allows you to set a darkest point in your photo. The Datacolor SpyderCube is a useful photography gift that I’d love to receive in my xmas stocking!
Gerber Steady Tripod Multi Tool
Add this insanely useful gadget to your ever-day-carry and be confident that you’ve got the right tool for every small job you might encounter while out on a shoot.
A fine edge blade, a serrated blade, three screwdrivers, a bottle opener, pliers and wire cutters are all useful to have whether you’re a photographer or not, but the best part about the Gerber Steady Tripod Multi Tool is the adjustable screw in phone and camera mount with fold out tripod legs!
I find that having a good compact camera with timer mode is all well and good, but I can usually never find anything flat and high enough to rest it on to take a timed photo. With the Gerber Steady, I can quickly screw it in to the base of my camera, then flip out the legs to rest it on whatever uneven surface I have in front of me.
Another great use is to use the blade to stab into a nearby tree at chest height, then use the tripod functionality of the Gerber Steady to attach your camera for another timed shot option.
The Gerber Steady Tripod Multi Tool is one of those gifts for photographers that aren’t particularly glamorous, but on the flip side, prove to be very useful (and lightweight too at only 5.8 ounces/164g!)
GlocalMe Global Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot
I only discovered this gadget recently but am so glad I did as it saves me so much time and hassle while traveling.
The Glocalme is a globally unlocked wifi hotspot which fits in your pocket and is as light as a pack of cards. What this means is that when you travel, instead of having to pay expensive international roaming rates, or buy fiddly local SIM cards to use the internet on your laptop, phone or tablet, you can have a prepaid wireless hot spot which works around the world (full list of countries here).
Not only will you get service in over 108 countries, but you’ll also have 2 GB of data for browsing online, as well as 6,000mAh charge capacity for powering your mobile device on-the-go. There are no contracts – you just pay to load the Glocalme with your chosen data amount, then only pay for the data that you use whilst traveling.
Sure, you may be able to find cheaper data rates by using a local SIM card, but if you’ve ever tried to a) quickly find one sold in a foreign country, and b) fiddled around trying to find a pin to pry open your phone’s SIM holder… only to find the SIM isn’t the right size (happened to me!), you’ll appreciate the ease of the Glocalme system.
As an added bonus, if you purchase the Glocalme now, you get 2GB of free international data (which equates to 60 Euros), effectively making the cost of the Glocalme device around $10! Click the button below to find out more details on this offer.
FujiFilm Instax Mini 90
It’s hard to describe the joys of using an instant film camera until you’ve tried it yourself. I must admit that I’d had no interest in them until I was bought one by a friend, and pressed the shutter button for the first time.
Seeing a photo appear gradually right before your eyes is still a thing of magic, despite being relatively old technology in the photography world. In this digital day and age where everything is immediately available and immediately forgotten, it’s priceless to have something as slow and tactile as instant film.
The images on Fuji Instax film are vivid, and amongst the sharpest of any instant film camera. I recommend buying these 5 cartridge multi-packs at a time to save on the cost-per-print.
Every now and then I come across a product that’s so mindblowingly useful that I can’t believe more people don’t know about it. The Tardisk storage expansion card is one of those products.
This little card plugs into your Macbook’s SD card slot and doubles the storage capacity, all for less than $150! Amazing, right?!
So if you’re considering an upgrade to your Macbook simply because the hard drive is getting too full and things are running too slow, I’d recommend you save a lot of money by investing in a Tardisk instead.
It’s the neatest, simplest and most cost effective way of increasing the storage capacity of your Mac laptop. No wonder they’re so frequently out of stock! Good luck in finding one using the link below:
I’m always on the look out for a healthy way to stave off hunger and keep my energy levels up while shooting weddings. There are a thousand and one ‘healthy’ snack bars out there, but on close inspection, 99% of them are loaded with sugar or other crap. Cliff bars have lovely packaging, but have you ever checked the sugar content?!
I love sugar as much as the next guy, but it’s not a great way to sustain energy while you’re working.
I discovered Lara bars recently, and they’re a great balance of natural ingredients and great taste. They’re also reasonably priced too. Get a sampler multi pack here – what a great gift for a photographer!
Yongnuo Air Pro LED Light
Yongnuo keep coming up with well-priced lighting products, and this latest LED light panel has made into this list of gifts for photographers. I have another iteration of this cheap-and-cheerful video light, but will be upgrading to this version which has the invaluable ability to adjust colour temperature too.
I find that video lights with one fixed colour temperature to be far too cold (blueish in tint), so will welcome the ability to warm my light up to match the ambient indoors, which is often warm (orangey).
If you’re like me and only seldomly use video lights, but are thankful that they’re in your bag just in case, the Yongnuo Air Pro is a well featured, affordable option that can get shine light quickly and simply in a pinch.
Understanding Post Processing
It’s hard to recommend a tutorial when there are so many free ones out there, but this is one that I really can’t let pass by. I genuinely think that this 3 hour video course will drastically improve your photo editing skills, and give your photography that ‘pop’ that will get it noticed. It would also make a very useful gift for a photographer.
Mitchell Kanashkevich is an incredible travel/documentary photographer who is very open about his post processing secrets. Included in this Understanding Post Processing course are 10 of Mitchell’s RAW files, allowing you to edit them at the same time as watching his lessons. This ensures that what you are learning really sinks in, and I found it very helpful indeed.
In fact, Mitchell is so confident that you’ll love his course that he’s offering a 200% guarantee on it – i.e. if you don’t learn anything from it, he’ll actually refund you and pay you the cost of the course too!
Logitech MX Mouse
If you’re anything like me, you’ll find using a dedicated mouse way more comfortable and pleasurable than using a laptop’s trackpad. Whenever I take my laptop with me to work in a coffee shop, I always bring along a mouse.
Recently I joined a co-working space which has modern glass tables. I bought this Logitech MX mouse as it was the only one I could find that works perfectly on glass since it uses ‘Darkfield’ laser tracking… whatever the hell that is!
I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable this mouse is to use, especially compared to Apple’s mouse which is what I came from. It also has some well placed back/forward buttons for Internet browsing, and a scroll wheel which lets you breeze through long documents with less spins.
Charging the Logitech MX is simple too, with a USB cable straight into your computer. Whether you use a laptop or a desktop, I really think the Logitech MX is a great investment for anyone who spends a lot of time at their desk (i.e. all of us!)
Portable Luggage Scales
If you travel frequently, owning your own set of portable scales can be extremely useful. There’s nothing worse than being at the checkin desk, having to unpack your carry on and shuffle some heavier items into your other luggage.
I bought one of these scales when I did my first international wedding and have used it numerous times ever since. I love how it’s super light (so you can slip it into your dslr backpack) and very simple to use.
It also has a ‘tare’ function, which allows you to subtract the weight of your case before you add any additional items. This allows you to calculate the weight of any items you’re adding.
Honestly, if you’re a frequent flyer that likes to maximise your carry on limit, this sub-$10 gadget will be the best thing you ever buy for your trip.
When I said these gifts for photographers wouldn’t be your normal items, I meant it! Wearing good socks are important for all day comfort and protection for a photographer. As soon as your feet start hurting (or sweating/chaffing), you’ll lose focus and your mind will be off taking great photos.
I’ve tried lots of different socks over the years in an attempt to find the ultimate pair. Funky socks are great for fashion and all, but they usually wear out pretty quickly – the money goes into the fancy patterns rather than the quality of the sock itself. On the other hand, hiking socks which are great quality are usually too thick/warm.
Icebreaker socks are simply the best socks you’ll ever wear. Not only are they comfortable, but due to the properties of the merino wool, they’re also odour proof. I’ve worn one pair of Icebreaker socks everyday for a week (when I forgot to bring spares), and they didn’t smell at all!
If you’re a runner or do other sports, I recommend a pair of these Multisport Ultra Lite socks.
The other thing I love about Icebreaker socks is their no-question warranty – if you manage to wear them out, just take them in to the store and get a free exchange! That basically means that by buying one set of these socks, you’ll never need another pair! I’d recommend getting a few though ;-)
Clean My Mac
When it comes for paying for software, I’m like most other photographers I know – pretty tight with my money! It’s silly really – we spend so much on expensive computers, then don’t want to invest a few extra dollars to make sure they run their best.
Anyone with a Flash based HDD knows how valuable drive space is, so being able to maximise your existing storage space is essential and will save you money in the long run.
As well as cleaning up your Mac, Clean My Mac 3 also removes all the surplus crap from iTunes, Mail, iPhoto and other default Mac apps – there’s so much space being wasted you didn’t know about.
Clean My Mac 3 also makes sure your system runs as quickly and smoothly as possible, and you can schedule the cleaner to run automatically. After using it only once, I noticed an immediate performance increase in my Macbook’s speed.
I really recommend this product and think it’s an essential purchase for anyone who uses a Mac, and that’s why I’m including it in the list of gifts for photographers.
Fujifilm QuickSnap Disposable Cameras
No matter what expensive camera gear you own or what smart phone you have with you everyday, there’s always room for a disposable camera in your back pocket or handbag!
When I used to go out drinking (I’m a family man now!), I always took along a disposable camera to snap some drunken photos of my mates. When (inevitably) I’d lose the camera on a night out, I wasn’t half as annoyed as I’d be if I’d lost an actual camera.
Disposable cameras aren’t very common nowadays, and only the best ones are still available to purchase – the ones that have stood the test of time. The Fujifilm QuickSnap Flash 400 single use cameras are bar far the best of the bunch.
The picture quality is remarkably good for a camera that’s intended to be thrown away after use, and the combination of 400 ISO Fuji film stock and a powerful flash means that the Fujifilm QuickSnap can handle pretty much any situation.
Disposable cameras are nostalgic, cheap and fun to use, and make great gifts for photographers, or even as cameras for teenagers who are new to photography.
Read this post if you want to find out where to buy disposable cameras and why I recommend skipping the usual route if you’re buying them in bulk for a wedding. Or just click the button below to find out the latest prices at Amazon.
Brother Compact Laser Printer
One thing I’ve realised is that if all you need a printer for is to print out the occasional contract or wedding questionnaire, it’s best to get a cheap black and white printer than a cheap colour printer. A dedicated black and white printer will always print black text better than a colour printer.
Also, if all you want is to print text, you should consider a laser printer over an inkjet. Laser printers are more expensive than ink jet, but the toner will last much longer. The Brother HL-L2340DW Compact Laser Printer uses only 2 cents per page worth of toner
If you want a cheap black and white printer, read no further – just order this Brother HL-L2340DW Compact Laser Printer. You’ll be delighted with it, I promise. It’s incredibly cheap to run, text is sharp, wireless setup is a cinch and it runs pretty fast too. It also offer duplex (2 sided) printing, which is a great to save paper and trees! It also looks pretty cool too, which is unusual for a printer.
If you need a printer with a built in scanner, get the Brother HL-L2380DW Wireless Monochrome Laser Printer for a few dollars more, and is basically the same printer but with a flat bed scanner on top.
Packit Lunch Bag
Living in Sydney and shooting the majority of my weddings in 30+ degree heat, I need a good way to keep my packed sandwiches cold. It seems like a trivial dilemma, but if this is going to be the only meal I eat all day, I want it to be fresh!
The Packit Lunch Bag is a simple idea that’s been really well executed. You leave the entire bag in your freezer, then fill it with your food and drink when you’re ready to leave the house. The bag flattens down to the thickness of a book, so even the smallest freezers should be able to accommodate.
The Packit Lunch Bag fits a sandwich, snack and a 430ml (12oz) drink and comes a whole range of colours. I got camo for maximum school yard street cred! If you’re looking for original gifts for photographers, these lunch bags are a great idea!… and I apologize to all of you who thought this was some kind of small camera bag :p
Hengedock Macbook Stand
Recently I sold my iMac desktop computer in favour of a Macbook Pro and Thunderbolt display. I know the display is a little out of date now, but there wasn’t another monitor on the market that fit my needs.
I’m loving the flexibility of having a laptop that can be used comfortably as a desktop computer when I feel the need. I know many other travelling photographers and small business owners choose a similar set up.
I thing that is starting to annoy me slightly is having to plug in the two Thunderbolt display cables into my Macbook every time. It’s a small thing, but quickly grows tiring when you have to do it multiple times a day.
That’s why I was happy to discover the Hengedock Macbook stand. Not only does this clear up my desk and look pretty cool next to my screen, but more importantly, it allows me to slide my laptop into the Hengedock to connect everything up. It’s way less fiddly than the old way.
Using a Hengedock will of course mean you’ll need an external mouse and keyboard, but if you use your laptop in conjunction with a stand when you’re out and about like I do (such as this one), you’ll already have these.
Abus Combiflex Bike Lock
I bought one of these to use with my bike, but found it was perfect for my photography work, so bought another for my camera bag!
The Abus Combiflex Bike Lock is roughly the size of a small mobile phone, and weighs only 360 grams (12.8oz), making it the perfect lightweight item to have in your camera bag at all times. The combination lock is simple to set, and fast to open.
Most wedding photographers usually take a big bag full of gear to the wedding, then leave it somewhere while they shoot with whatever camera setup they have. I do the same, and have always been worried about the safety of my bag. Now, using the Abus Combiflex, I can quickly lock the zips on my bag together, then loop the wire around a pole, or whatever immovable object is close at hand. The wire is 90cm long – more than enough for most situations.
The wire is strong, but obviously won’t withstand something like a bolt cutter. Then again, how many wedding guests have you seen that carry bolt cutters?!
Even if you don’t get an Abus Combiflex Bike Lock for your photography work, I highly recommend buying one for travel, or even just for your bike! It’s small enough to fit in your pocket and weighs next to nothing… and it’s pretty cheap too.
The sad truth about running a photography business (or any small business these days) is that we spend a hell of a lot of time in front of the computer. Try as we might to keep computer time to a minimum, our work often creeps into the evening, with us spending the night hunched in front of our screens clicking the moue.
Spending too long in front of any artificial light source can play havoc with your sleep. Even if you manage to fall asleep quickly, chances are your sleep with be restless, and you might find yourself wide awake much earlier than normal.
This happens to me a lot, so now I wear a pair of these BluBlocker glasses when I’m working late on the computer. My girlfriend hates it, since I look ridiculous wearing sunglasses in the house at night, but I don’t care as I get a good night’s sleep.
Using artificial light in the evening before going to bed shuts down melatonin production. Blue rays in artificial light (such as your computer’s screen) are the problem, and wearing BluBlockers helps to block these rays, lending to a better night’s sleep.
One caveat – due to the colour of the lens, you won’t be able to do any photo editing wearing these, since all colours will be viewed differently. However, if you tend to do a lot of other computer work at night (blogging, social media etc), these are a must have to get the best night’s sleep possible.
I’ve only used Disk Drill once, but just for that, it was well worth the price. I’d actually pay 10x more for it, since it completely saved my ass when a memory card died on me.
I don’t know what kind of voodoo magic Disk Drill uses, but somehow it manages to recover lost data on any form of hard drive or storage media. This means that if you’ve ever deleted photos from your memory card, there’s a good chance Disk Drill can recover them… like magic!
In my case, I had a corrupt SD card after a wedding – all the formal group photos had worrying vanished! After recovering from my heart attack, I downloaded the free version of Disk Drill, saw that all the files could be recovered, then shouted TAKE MY MONEY at the screen and cried tears of joy when all the photos reappeared!
Disk Drill is the kind of software that you won’t use much, but when you do use it, you’ll thank your lucky stars that it’s so good at what it does. For photographers handling sensitive files, it’s absolutely essential, and that’s why it’s in this list of gifts for photographers.
Even though I’ve reviewed and used many camera bags in my time, my personal preference when I’m not doing pro work is to use any old backpack or messenger bag in conjunction with a fantastic Domke Wrap.
The Domke Wrap is a slightly padded protective wrap which encapsulates your camera, lens, or whatever fragile gear using a hook/loop fastening. It means that you can wrap your gear, then throw it in whatever bag you want to protect it from scratches and minor bumps.
Domke Wraps come in a range of sizes and are a great, affordable way to make any bag a stealthy camera bag.
Photobiz Xposed Podcast
One of my small pleasures when driving to interstate weddings here in Sydney is to listen to podcasts in the car. Having kids, these long car journeys are one of the few times I have to myself, and I love listening to podcasts from door to door.
Amongst my favourites is Andrew Hellmich‘s excellent Photobiz Xposed podcast. Andrew teaches you to ‘build a profitable photography business’ via his interviews with photographers and other experienced individuals related to the photography industry.
It seems like every man and his dog has a podcast these days, partly because it’s so damn easy to start one – all you need is a mic and some time to record something. However, there’s a world of difference between the average Joe speaking on a mic and someone who actually knows how to interview.
Fortunately Andrew is of the latter category, keeping the podcast flowing nicely, and asking all the questions you’re itching to ask… probably because he’s an enthusiastic photographer, just like you! (Andrew interviewed me here about starting Shotkit and the techniques I used to get my wedding photography business off the ground.)
It’s an invaluable insight to hear how each interview guest has achieved fame or success via their photography, and every episode I come away with at least one thing that I can implement to my photography or my business.
The Photobiz Xposed podcast is free, (which I find incredible seeing as some interviews are so useful they could be sold as audio books!), but you’ll want to invest a little in the Premium Membership which offers tons of additional value via all the extra info from each of the interviews. You also get access to the full back catalogue which includes some of the very best and most helpful interviews.
A Photobiz Xposed podcast premium subscription would make an excellent gift for any photographer friend, and would also be the best investment you can make for your own photography business in 2017. The best part is you can get Premium Access for only $1 by clicking the button below:
I’m not sure why, but these things are really hard to find outside of Amazon. I live next to one of the biggest DIY stores in Australia, and they haven’t even heard of ball bungees.
You’ve probably all used a regular bungee cord at some point to secure something to the roof rack of your car. Ball bungees are similar, but much safer, easier to use, and allow limitless fastening possibilities for your camera gear.
I’ve used ball bungees to secure a flash to a table leg at a wedding or to a lamp post when outside. I’ve even used one to secure my actual camera to the bumper of a car! Ball bungees are a cheap and simple solution to temporarily but securely fastening any small object to something else. You may think they’d make a strange gift for a photographer, but I think every camera bag needs to have a set just in case.
I also carry a roll of Gaffa Tape as well as the ball bungees, since not everything you can wrap a ball bungee around. It’s important to get branded Gaffa Tape. If you buy any other form of electrical tape, it can leave a residue after you remove it – obviously not ideal.
Gaffa Tape has got me out of trouble on countless occasions during shoots. It can hold anything together very securely, or can be delicate enough to hold a bride’s veil up in the correct place for a photo.
Keep a roll of Gaffa Tape in your bag and you’ll feel more prepared on your next shoot.
4 SD Card reader
There are surprisingly few ways to import multiple SD cards at the same time to your computer. The industry standard seems to be this Lexar Professional Workflow HR2 Hub, but in my opinion it’s quite an overpriced solution to a relatively simple task.
My advice is to grab this affordable 4 card reader. It may not be USB 3.0 speed, but as long as you’re not in a rush to import your photos, it works flawlessly.
After a wedding, I place my 4 memory cards in the reader, set up Lightroom to import them all at once, then go to bed!
(Incidentally, another time saving tip when I’m actually using Lightroom is to use as many keyboard shortcuts as possible to really speed up my editing workflow. I created this Lightroom & Photoshop shortcuts interactive keyboard to help remember them all.)
Rocketek USB 3.0 Dual Card Reader
If you don’t need to regularly import 4 memory cards at once, I’d go for this simple dual memory card USB stick by Rocketek. Not only is it USB 3.0, meaning far faster import speeds than USB 2.0, it’s also far more portable than the 4x card reader above, and it’s cheaper!
The Rocketek card reader supports SDXC, UHS-I SD, SDHC, SD, Micro SDXC, Micro SDHC, Micro SD and MMC memory cards. Compact Flash card users out there are out of luck this time I’m afraid!
The Rocketek card reader would make a great gift for a photographer without breaking the bank.
There are lots of fancy options out there to get your photos on a website. However, my preference is WordPress. There are many benefits to having your own WordPress website, which I explain in detail in this simple guide to setting up a website.
To be able to start your own WordPress site with a custom domain name, I recommend you go with the hosting provider Bluehost. After using many different services, I’ve settled on Bluehost for the majority of my online ventures and I recommend you do too.
To make your WordPress site really sing, you’ll need to install ‘plugins’, which customise your site and bring new functionality to it.
If you sign up to the Shotkit Newsletter by clicking here, you’ll get instant access to a free list of WordPress plugins recommended for photography websites.
Green Superfood Powder
Nutrition is important if you spend your entire day on your feet, rushing around, squatting up and down and generally being stressed (welcome to the world of wedding photography!)
During weddings, you don’t really have time to eat properly. Even if you’re lucky enough to eat the reception food, it’s usually rich and not very healthy.
Doing a lot of weddings can quickly affect your health. Fitness is one thing, but what you put into your body is just as important.
There are lots of great smoothie recipes out there, but as I don’t always have fresh fruit and vegetables in the house, I keep a jar of Amazing Grass Green Superfood Powder to add to whatever ingredients I do have. If I have nothing at all, I just add the powder to water.
I won’t go into the science, but having some Green Superfood first thing in the morning starts you off on the right foot, especially when you have a tough day ahead. Getting your daily dose of fruit and vegetables out the way first thing can mean that you’re able to neglect it later on, which is usually the case if you’re busy shooting all day.
Remember – invest in yourself first, your camera gear later!
Captains of Crush
Whilst we’re on health and fitness, I’m sure you all have your own gym routines to stay fit for your strenuous photography work. One thing I’ve found that has helped prevent my hands/forearms from becoming sore after 8+ hours of holding heavy camera gear is using grip strengtheners.
After all, no matter how much of a beef cake you are (I’m looking at you Jay Cassario!), if your grip is weak, so are you.
You can buy cheap grip strengtheners anywhere, but I chose to invest in a set of Captain of Crush. You can read about them on Amazon, but basically they’re the gold standard in grip strengthening and can turn you into an apple crushing machine!
More importantly for us photographers though, strong hands/wrists/forearms will prevent cramps while shooting and allow you to hold your gear for longer. That’s why these grip strengtheners have made into my list of gifts for photographers.
Moo Business Cards
The first time I ordered a set of business cards for my photography business, I went a bit American Psycho on the whole process. It took over a month to decide on the stock, font, colouring, size… basically a whole lot of variables that only I would ever notice!
The second time I ordered business cards I went with a set of Moo Luxe Business Cards.
I’d definitely recommend going for Moo’s Luxe range of cards, which although slightly more pricey, are far nicer to hold than the standard range (they’re 600gsm thick!) Plus, if you go for the coloured centre streak (sandwiched in between two layers like the picture above), I guarantee you’ll get comments when you hand them out.
If you’re not convinced yet, how about a 10% discount on your first order by courtesy of Shotkit? Just click any of the Moo links like this one, and I get a small commission and you get a 10% discount – win:win!
How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age
Photography Books obviously make great gifts for photographers. Something that’s not immediately apparent though are the non-photography related books that are also very useful for photographers.
One non-photography related title that’s immensely popular among professional photographers is this classic by Dale Karnegie.
If there’s one book that can help you interact and influence your clients in a positive way better than any other, How to Win Friends and Influence People is it!
This version is a more recent update to the 20 year old classic, which takes into account the digital age.
Admittedly, a lot of it is common sense, but it still serves as an excellent and essential reminder of how people need to be treated if you want them to warm to you.
People skills are arguably even more important than photography skills when it comes to running a profitable photography business, so make sure you hone up on yours using this classic book.
If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, check out this cheap and simple summary of the book.
The Shotkit Book
Ok, ok, I’m totally plugging my own book here, but I genuinely think the Shotkit Book will be the best $30 you can spend if you already like Shotkit.
The Shotkit Book is packed full of world class photographers, photography, recommended gear, and over 2 hours of bonus video footage to help improve your photography and grow your photography business.
By purchasing the Shotkit Book, you’ll also be supporting Shotkit and my time spent producing content like this, which I hope is keeping you motivated and inspired.
You can use the promo code ‘shotkitselects’ to get a 10% discount at checkout, so click the button below to grab your copy today.
Rangerfinder iPad Magazine
Rangefinder Magazine is my favourite monthly photography magazine and I can’t believe it’s 100% free! I keep a few copies downloaded to my iPad (they appear in your Newsstand) and tend to read them in bulk when I’m on holiday, or stuck on public transport.
With photography, motivation and inspiration is everything, and with excellent industry publications like Rangefinder out there, you’re creativity will be reinvigorated in no time.
Shopify for Photographers
When I want to sell my photos and other photo related products, I use Shopify for Photographers. Whilst there are many options to sell your photography, nothing else I’ve used is as simple and quick to set up as a Shopify Online Store.
My second option for selling prints online would be Instaproofs, but I find its backend is unintuitive and a pain to set up/make changes.
Shopify gives you a great looking store front in minutes, and adding/changing prices is a breeze. As there’s a small monthly subscription fee, it may only be suitable if you are making regular sales, but if you are, Shopify for Photographers is the way to go.
Shopify also gives you the handy option of building your photography store actually within your Facebook Business Page, as one of the Tabs. This means that your photography business’ Facebook Fans don’t have to leave Facebook to be able to buy your photography.
Plantronics Bluetooth Headset
I use my Plantronics headset when I want to be able to communicate with my clients on a wedding day during a shoot where they are far away. I ask the groom to put his phone in his top jacket pocket, with the speaker facing up. Then I walk as far away as I want, ring him up using the headset, and direct his and the bride’s poses over his phone’s handsfree speaker.
Without it, I’d be either shouting or fumbling around with my own iPhone – not ideal.
Things I love about the Plantronics Bluetooth Headset – it’s super lightweight, comfortable in the ear (I sometimesI forget I still have it on!), has great sound quality and here’s the best bit – it connects to my iPhone (or my girlfriend’s iPhone) as soon as it’s switched on. It just finds it, instantly!
There are lots of other functions too which you can read about here on Amazon, but at this price, it really is a steal.
I’ve even started using it while jogging to listen to podcasts, and more recently on a plane where I’ve found you can stealthily continue listening to whatever you want even during take off – sneaky, right?!
Trust me – you may look like a bit of a prick wearing one the Plantronics Bluetooth Headset in public, but you’ll be passed caring when you realise how great it is to talk/listen handsfree!
I learned about this awesome product from Daniel & Lindsay Stark, wedding photographers from Portland. I think the Hydroflask is big in the States, but not so well known elsewhere in the world. Basically it’s the ultimate water bottle!
Shooting weddings in Sydney in the heat of summer, I used to bring a cooler box with me to keep my water cold. I got a bit tired of the condensation from the outside of the bottle dripping all over me every time I drank, so was intrigued by the Hydroflask and its double-lined walls which both insulate and prevent condensation.
From my own tests, the Hydroflask keeps liquids ice cold for about 7 hours (then the ice cubes finally start to melt but the liquid is still cold), and hot for well over 12 – great for those extended editing sessions in the winter!
Rohto Z! Eye Drops
I fell in love with the Rohto Z! Eye Drops while I was living in Tokyo. Pretty strange to fall in love with eyedrops, right?! You’re probably wondering why I’m even including them in a post about gifts for photographers…
I remember all my foreign friends in Tokyo trying a sample of these Rohto Z! eyedrops in a chemist once, and all of us standing there going “whooooaaa!!” for about a minute like we’d just taken LCD!
It’s hard to describe what these things do to you, but one review on Amazon that made me laugh said: “5 stars! These things are like diving headfirst into a freezing waterfall with your eyes open!” The editor of Ars Technica said “they’re like liquid cocaine for your eyes!”
I don’t want to sound like an infomercial here, but these Rohto eye drops not only make the whites of your eyes noticeably whiter, but also make your vision instantly super sharp (this obviously wears off later), and clears your head like someone was pouring ice cold water over your brain – sounds weird, but trust me, it’s an amazing feeling!
I bought a multipack of 25 of Rohto Z! eyedrops back with me when I left Tokyo just in case I could never find them again! So I was super happy to find that Amazon actually stock them. For an extra intense ‘hit’ I keep them in the fridge, but that’s only for advanced users :p
Keep a bottle of Rohto Z next to your computer to freshen up your eyes after hours of editing and let me know how you go – I want to hear how you describe the experience!
JPEGMini losslessly compresses your jpeg images. And when I say losslessly, I mean it – have a look at the full review of JPEGMini on Shotkit and see if you can spot the difference between the before and afters. JPEGMini will reduce your image file sizes so drastically that you have to wonder why Adobe doesn’t build this straight into its own software.
With the JPEGMini Lightroom export preset, I just export all my photos as normal, and the JPEGMini software automatically compresses them losslessly on export. This means that whereas before I needed 8gb USB sticks to deliver the files to my clients, now I only need 4gb ones – Money = saved! In addition, uploading them to my blog takes half the time it used to – Time = saved!
Honestly, if there was one piece of software that had me reaching for my wallet in under 2 minutes of using the free version, JPEGMini is it. Trust me on this one – the JPEG Mini pro version may look pricey, but it’s worth every penny.
Compeed Blister Plasters
I was introduced to these Compeed Blister Plasters by a soldier friend of mine. He used to always pack 20 of them wherever he went and absolutely swore by them. Now I do the same – if they’re good enough for battle, they must be good enough for wedding photography, right?!
If you stand on your feet for long enough, you’re going to get a blister, no matter how comfy your shoes. And getting a blister while you’re shooting photos for a client? Horrible. It’s happened to me, and all I could think about was going home and lying down – my images turned to cr*p as I had pain on my brain!
These Compeed blister plasters are the best things I’ve found to seal up a painful blister quickly, and speed up the healing process too. Plus they’re great value, and super easy to apply.
In this post, I recommend products I use that improve my photography in however small way. It doesn’t always need to be a flash bit of camera gear – sometimes it’s these tiny ‘supporting acts’ which come together and make the whole experience of shooting more pleasurable ;-)
Neewer LED Video Light
Isn’t everyone a ’natural light’ photographer these days? When I read that on someone’s About Me, what I think they’re actually saying is ‘can’t use flash’! …but that’s fair enough – flash is a complicated beast, which is why I like to use continuous light wherever possible.
This Neewer LED Video Light features 216 super bright, dimmable LED lights in a compact, lightweight and durable unit that attaches to the top of your camera’s hot shoe.
One thing that’s often misunderstood about continuous on-camera light is that it’s solely for shooting video. This isn’t the case, with more and more pro photographers using these mini video lights to light up their scenes, or get creative with some light painting. Just check out what all these creative photographers are up to with the Neewer LED Video Light on Shotkit.
When I first hear about the Neewer LED Video Light , I couldn’t believe how cheap it was compared to the competition, and when you think about how much flashes are, well this one’s a no brainer. It’s bright, the quality of light is decent and it’s light weight.
I’d advise you to do what I did and purchase this cheap battery charger and camcorder battery at the same time, which will mean you’ll have one dedicated rechargeable battery for the Neewer LED Video Light. This is way more efficient that juggling lots of AA batteries, and it also makes the unit lighter too.
Blogging and social media are arguably essential for progression in the photography industry. Actually, they’re pretty much essential in all forms of industry these days, and managing these online efforts can be time consuming.
By the way, if you’re interested in online marketing in general, follow me on Twitter, where I regularly Tweet about the topic since I’m passionate about it.
CoSchedule is a software I discovered recently that I’m really liking. It makes scheduling and managing WordPress posts super simple, as well as integrating your blogging efforts seamlessly with social media.
As an example, I’ll schedule a post to my own photography blog to be published in a few days. Nothing new there. The cool part is that not only can I drag the scheduled post to another date on the calendar interface (and have it update the backend), but also I can schedule a Facebook and Twitter update to go out along with it. These include a nice preview of how the message will actually look on the respective platform – something I haven’t seen exectured well elsewhere.
Then later that week, all in the same control panel, I can see exactly how well the post and social media messages performed, and schedule more updates as necessary.
It may not sound like much in the isolated example above, but when you start adding multiple posts/messages, CoSchedule really does take the complications out of it.
I also use CoSchedule to help manage Shotkit too, and have saved countless hours and my own sanity along with it. Highly recommended!
Adobe Echo Sign
Sometimes there’s a product or service that’s so good you wonder how you ever worked without it. For my wedding photography business, one of these such services is Adobe’s Echo Sign.
If your photography business (or any business for that matter) deals with some form of signed contratcs, you should be using Echo Sign. It takes a bit of fiddling around at the start to get your document saved as an Echo Sign template, but when you have it there, getting your new clients to sign it is as simple as entering their email address.
The signature can be made using whatever device they’re currently holding (signing with your finger tip on an iPhone screen is amazing!), and you’ll be emailed a pdf of the finalised contract for your records.
Echo Sign offers a free subscription which includes a limited number of signatures per month. I haven’t had a need to upgrade to any of the paid plans yet, but if my business grows bigger, I won’t hesitate to do so.
The practice of placing objects in front of the camera lens to introduce interesting colours/shapes into photos has been around for many years. Sometimes it’s fun (or even necessary) to add something random to an image to make it more pleasing to the eye.
As photographers, we’re often in a situation where we have 5 minutes to get an interesting portrait of a subject in a drab location. Using objects such as this cheap prism can introduce unusual colours and shapes into the picture to either mask unwanted objects or just make the final photo more interesting.
Sam Hurd popularised this technique by taking it mainstream with his wedding photography, with others such as Ross Harvey also using glass objects such as the prism to do something similar, to great effect.
For less than $20, it’s a no brainer to keep one of these prisms in your camera bag to pull out for those odd times where you need to inject some creativity into your picture. Just make sure when you order one that it’s this 6″ version you’re getting – there’s also a thinner 4″ version which isn’t as easy to use.
Jotform Form Builder
For those of you running your own photography (or other) websites, there are lots of ways for you to collect information from your clients. I’m talking about questionnaires, contact forms and the like, where a visitor to your site fills something in and submits it to you.
I’ve tried lots of different plugins and services to enable this, and the one that I’ve stuck with is called Jotform. It allows you to create some smart looking forms in a WYSIWYG editor, that you can easily integrate on your own site in an iframe.
Personally, I use Jotform to create a questionnaire for my wedding clients, in order to gather all the essential info about their wedding day – names, contacts, numbers, locations, etc. When they’ve submitted the Jotform questionnaire via my site, I can grab a pdf version of it from the Jotform site, which I print out and carry on the wedding day.
If you delve deeper into the Jotform options, there are lots of cool things you can do, such as allow image uploads or force your users to Facebook Like something before you proceeding.
I’ve only ever needed their freemium plan, as at 100 submissions per year, it’s rather generous ;-)
Limefuel Portable Battery Pack
I’ve been through a lot of different portable battery packs. They seem to be on sale everywhere these days, but since I bought this Limefuel Battery Pack 6 months ago, I don’t think I’ll ever need another one.
I originally read about it on the excellent Wirecutter site, which puts gadgets through their paces to reveal the best of the best – it’s also a great source of gifts for photographers.
When I saw the incredible reviews of the Limefuel on Amazon, I bought one immediately.
I use Google Maps a lot when out shooting, so having something to charge up my iPhone when is essential.
The first thing that struck me about the Limefuel is how light it is. For a portable battery pack with such a long battery life to be this small and light is amazing – you’ll have no trouble slipping it into your back pocket or handbag.
You can charge up to 4 USB enabled devices at the same time, so that means virtually every smart phone is supported, as well as the GoPro and some point and shoot cameras, which is really handy for holidays.
The Limefuel is one of those unglamorous products that sits in your camera bag for weeks unused, until one day when you run out of batteries at a shoot, it comes into its own.
Don’t even think about researching any other brand of portable battery pack – the Limefuel is the best. I actually bought another one to leave in my scooter :-)
WorkEZ Executive Laptop stand
It seems we spend more and more time in front of our laptops than at our desktop computers. I’ve lost count of the number of succesful photographers I know who have an expensive desktop setup with multiple monitors, but choose to edit at cafes on their laptop.
Jeff Newsom admitted that he actually edits 99% of his wedding photography work in bed with his laptop!
The only problem with using laptops of course is that they wreak havoc with our necks and backs. Having the screen of the laptop so low down means that becoming a hunchback with a painful neck is a depressing possibility.
That’s why I’ve recently chosen to invest in one of these crazy looking contraptions, the WorkEZ Executive Laptop stand, that allows me to have my laptop screen at eye height – the perfect height to prevent neck and back strain.
When I edit my photo work, I prefer to use my 27″ iMac dekstop computer, but when I’m working on other things to do with my business I like to use my 13″ MacBook Air at cafes or coworking spaces around Sydney. I’ll set up my WorkEZ Executive Laptop stand with my Macbook placed at eye level, and my wireless keyboard and mouse from my desktop computer down below.
The WorkEZ Executive Laptop stand can also be useful for when you tether your camera to your laptop, and need a stand that’s of adjustable height/angle.
EcoStone Portable Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker
Potrait photograhy can be awkward at the best of times. Here’s the worst bit – if you’re feeling awkward, imagine how awkward your client is feeling!
One of the best tips I’ve heard for studio portrait photography in particular is to play music. Simple isn’t it?! Instead of that dreaded silence, or worse still having to make small talk, ask your client who their favourite band is and then crank out their best hits on Spotify!
I have this Bose Sound Link bluetooth speaker for my room, but when I’m out and about, I take this awesome EcoStone Portable Outdoor Speaker with me. The sound quality is on par with the more expensive Bose I own, plus the bass is far beefier and the sound louder too.
The best thing about the EcoStone Speaker is that it’s pretty much indestructable, and it’s waterproof! This means that you can take it pretty much anywhere. One photographer I know likes to hook it onto his backpack when doing an outdoor portrait session to lighten the mood with some tunes.
Dressing well as a photographer is very understimated in my opinion, all the more so for wedding photographers.
I’m slightly jealous of those succesful wedding photographers out there who are able to turn up to a wedding in a tshirt, jeans and sneakers for their own comfort, but then again, I think it shows respect to your clients to really put thought into your outfit.
I’m also a big believer in injecting some quirky style into your professional look as it makes you more approachable, and more memorable – great things in an industry that relies so heavily on referrals.
I had to think twice whether to recommend Huckberry to you or not. The thing is, every time I visit this damn site, I buy something! I must admit to using it more for my own shopping than as gifts for photographers…
Huckberry’s selection of products is awesome, and they seem to have a sale on every time I visit – very dangerous for my credit card, but luckily all their goods seem to be pretty well priced and ship overseas cheaply too.
Personal highlights for me on the site include their Everyday Carry Essentials, which more often than not include some knick-knacks and gadgets that can be used for photography work in some way (or at least I try and convince myself that they’re necessary!)
Cole Haan Lunarglide Shoes
Having comfortable shoes is one the best investments you can make. This is especially true for photography, in particular Wedding photography where we spend hours on our feet.
I’m always curious about what other wedding photographers wear on their feet. They usually fall into two camps – ones who care about looking smart for their client, and ones who care more about feeling comfortable. This usually equates to either dress shoes or sneakers, with dress shoes looking good but becoming uncomfortable quickly, and sneakers feeling comfortable but usually not looking up to scratch.
That’s where these Cole Haan Lunarglide shoes have been a revelation to me. Looking like smart suede brogue dress shoes with a funky coloured sole, they feel just like Nike sneakers since the inner and sole actually uses Nike Lunarglide technology.
These are seriously comfy shoes, and if you opt for one of the more funky sole colours, I guarantee someone will complement you on your style!
Unfortunately the Cole Haan Lunarglides aren’t available here in Sydney, but I’m more than happy to pay Amazon shipping rates to have a couple of pairs sent over to me. I’m worried Cole Haan will stop making them one day, so have a stock of a couple of pairs!
As a side note, you may find this post on clothing for photographers useful too.
Timberland Boat Shoes
This is what I wear in the summer without socks if I want a break from wearing the Cole Haan Lunarglides. Whilst they don’t have the cushioning of the Cole Haan Lunarglides, they are very comfortable and look great paired with chinos or some smart shorts if your client allows them.
Just remember, no socks! Or at least get a pair of these invisible socks if you must!
North Face Venture Waterproof Jacket
I hate packing a rain jacket in Sydney as it rains so rarely, but when it does rain, it really rains. I need something lightweight, packable, and most importantly, 100% waterproof.
This North Face Venture jacket is perfect in all respects, and the best bit is it’s available for under $90!
There are obviously more durable Gore Tex alternatives out there for more prolonged rain exposure, but if all you want is something to stash away in a bag to keep you dry in a pinch, this is it.
North Face Venture Jacket packs away into its own pocket, so you don’t need to worry about those annoying bags that come with some jackets. I keep mine stuffed under my scooter saddle and it takes up as much room as a hard back book.
That’s all folks! (For now…)
I hope you enjoyed my selection of gifts for photographers that in some way make my life as a professional photographer easier, more efficient and more profitable.
I’d love to hear your recommended products, or if you’ve used any of my recommended products in an usual way, so make sure to leave a comment below.
Finally, if you’d like to be notified whenever I add new products to this post, sign up to the Shotkit Newsletter today. It’s free!
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post contain affiliate links which help support Shotkit.