Mentionable Finds: Gifts For Photographers Under $30

Photography is an expensive hobby, but one that people are usually supportive of. It’s just sometimes hard to find a gift for the photographer in your life that is 1) meaningful, 2) will get used and 3) doesn’t break the bank. I did a blog post a few years about gifts for photographers that still rings true (you can read about those photog-minded gifts here)… but I this year’s list includes finds that are under $30.

You like where I’m going with this, yes? ;)

gifts for photographers under $30

A Fun Photography Book

There are a lot of photography books out there, but if there’s a young gal in your life that’s look for something fun and a little different, A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book is great. A friend gifted me this last year (I’ve been a long time fan of Elsie and Emma at A Beautiful Mess) and I knew my niece would love it too! It’s full of tips for beginners (those of us toting cameras or only our phones) and some inspiration to try new things. And I still stand by Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure — great book for the price and he challenges you all the way through!

A Camera Remote

What better way to get the photographer in front of the camera than with a remote! Some cameras nowadays have wifi and the ability to connect via an app on a smart phone. Sadly, my Canon Mark iii does not have wifi so I’m kicking it old school, but at around $20 the Canon RC-6 remote works like a charm. And I’ve had it for years – the battery has not given me any issues. I typically use my remote for self-portraits, but it’s great to have when a group of gals are together and we want a picture to commemorate. Or even when you’re doing long exposures and don’t want to jostle the camera when you push the shutter button. I love my remote and use it all the time — thank you for being there for me, remote.

A Lens Cleaning Kit

A smart photographer takes care of their lenses. And even though some of us who have been going at it for a few years don’t treat our equipment with the TLC it deserves, knowing how to keep your lenses clean is important. This little kit, under $10, has all you need. The microfiber cleaning cloth is my favorite and I keep one in each camera bag I have (so I don’t have to fish them out when I swap bags), but I’ve used the air blower more times than I thought I would. And the lens pen/brush has been handy as well.

(Added note: If you don’t have UV filters on your lenses, invest! They aren’t very expensive and they protect your $xxx lens — you’d rather the filter scratch/break than your lens, believe me. Amazon can hook you up!)

A Travel Tripod

I rarely use a tripod, but I do have one at home because when you need a tripod, YOU NEED A TRIPOD. I’ve never traveled with one, but this particular travel tripod caught my eye because of its bendable legs, it’s size (should fit in a backpack or suitcase just fine) and it says it will hold a dSLR camera. I’d test out at home first before I strapped my baby to it, but I love the idea. And with the remote, anything is possible!

Light Reflectors

A lot of professional photographers out there use reflectors to control how light plays on their subjects, but why can’t the amateurs practice with them too? This is a 5-1 light reflector disc, meaning that all five options zip and fold into one another. And it collapses, so it’s easy to pack up and store (or travel with). If your house doesn’t have a lot of light, this is a great way to add more light when you’re shooting indoors. Or even outside. And it’s just fun to experiment different equipment and techniques. Twelve dollars for endless experiments is money well spent in my book.

Set of Colored Filters

I haven’t used filters much other than a neutral density filter, but colors can be fun to play with. This set of colored lens filters is at the top of our price bracket ($30). Some may argue that colored filters aren’t needed today with digital cameras and post-processing in software like Lightroom, but some of us are purist… and I really believe you can do [almost] anything in-camera that you can do in post. And really? It’s a fun way to push yourself creatively. Not all of us are about taking pictures of cute babies; getting a little weird and pushing boundaries and using colored filters could be freeing!

PS – I love cute babies. All babies, actually. I just don’t own any.

A Fun Camera Strap to Showcase Their Personality

I enjoy seeing what kind of camera strap photographers have. Do they stick with the one that came with the camera? Or do they branch out and get something pretty or unique? The camera strap I use actually has neoprene on the back so that it’s a bit softer and doesn’t get wet with sweat. (Ew.) My friend Krista has a gorgeous leather strap with her monogram on it. I got my niece a fun polka-dot strap because no teenager needs anything that’s plain and black. And these funky camera straps come in all different designs! From florals to camo to stripes, and it even has pockets to hold memory cards. There are A LOT of camera straps out there, but with so many options at $15, I figure these were worth linking up.

Week 50: Out of Focus | 2017 Project 52

I was telling my husband Monday how worried I was about my photo for this week’s out of focus theme. I had tried stuff and it just wasn’t working for me. At all. A super busy Saturday occupied me and then left me in bed all day Sunday to recover from being social. (Not a joke. This introvert is down for the count when I have to be “on” for an extended period of time. Even when I’m with people I love.) But then I got lucky Tuesday.

A water main broke early yesterday morning and I was already at my downtown desk — without having access to water, we were told to head home and login from there. Which meant I had a little more freedom at lunch than I normally would. So five minutes after noon I was looking for inspiration… saw the sun was out a bit more, with a lot of light coming in the front of the house… I HAD AN IDEA!

out of focus

Settings: f/2.8, 1/160 sec, 35mm, ISO 200
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

To say I was happy with this photo is an understatement! I LOVE IT!

I knew I needed a lot of back lighting to get the photo I desired but with these winter days that’s next to freaking impossible. Being home midday made this possible though. I set up camera on a stool, opened the front doors, metered for the light and then unfocused the lens. And then I just walked in the door with my remote [while the construction workers across the street stared at my insanity].

My first try had the image way too dark. Trying again, I boosted my exposure to +2 and then I was able to the entry way a lot more and thought it would work. Walked in and out again. Picked up the camera to see what I had and BOOM! I actually squealed with joy. (one love, am I right?)

I knew I wanted to covert to black and white — that was the purpose of getting the backlighting right — and I tried a few different ones and this held my gaze the longest. A little different from how I’ve been editing in black and white, more contrast and grain, no haze… and I totally dig it. No, I love it. I do. I love it. This is a big win for this week.


Week 51: Future Tense
due 12.20.17

With only a little more than a week left in the year, what plans are you making for 2018?

Think about the things on your calendar, the trips you have planned, your resolutions or self-development that you want to tackle in the New Year and how you can photograph it. Focus on one thing or on multiple. Create a still life, work people into the frame, take a photowalk in search of what’s in store or interpret it in some completely different way. But have fun with the prompt this week and don’t take yourself too seriously. ;) We’re almost done, folks!

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
If you have questions about the project, you can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description.
Looking for a group to join in 2018? We got you covered for #2018P52.

Wendipants - J’adore this image. You totally nailed it!

Week 49: Cozy | 2017 Project 52

I had a few cozy ideas, but my weekend got away from. And not having daylight is the poops. But my cozy backup plan worked perfectly.

cozy dog

Settings: f/3.2, 1/160 sec, 35mm, ISO 12800
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

A little doggin love for the blog this week.

Chase is our dog that can hear. Both her ears used to stand up, but the left one is now limp after dealing with hematoma. And, well, she’ll practically do anything for a cookie. Throw some soft blankets and her squishy toys on the bed too, and she’s all in.

I took several frames, but this one was my favorite. She’s obviously snuggled in a big more, which I love. And she finally laid down. Her stuffed bone is under her foot. And she’s giving me this look that says (to me), “Food Lady, I needs more cookies. Stat.”

I did convert the image to black and white because I had lamps on — there is literally no daylight at 6:30p — but a little editing helps the fact that my ISO was booming at 12800. Yikes. Still… I got a friggin cute picture of my Chasey Bear.


Week 50: Out of Focus (OOF)
due 12.13.17

That’s right — we’re going to intentionally shoot out of focus this week.

I really love the idea of making an image a bit blurry to tell a different story. Light can play a big part in what you’re trying to convey, as well as movement, so really consider the time of day, direction and your camera settings. It might take a few tries to find something you’re happy with, but keep clicking and changing it up as you go. And with the holidays fast approaching, I’m sure several of us have some wonderful twinkle lights to inspire us.

If you’re not sure what to photograph out of focus, then look for inspiration that you’d normally shoot — and then change your perspective. Get closer or further away, lower your aperture so that you’re shooting wide, turn off auto-focus and soften the focus a bit manually. But if you’re looking for a bit more guidance, I have some resources linked below for us.

Awesome Tips and Examples of Out of Focus Photography
Out of Focus—On Purpose
When Being Out of Focus Makes the Shot

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
If you have questions about the project, you can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description.
Looking for a group to join in 2018? We got you covered for #2018P52.

A New Weekly Photo Project | 2018 Project 52

I’ve had so much fun this year with #2017project52 that I’m doing it again next year! That’s right, 2018 Project 52 is happening!

Much of the same only all new themes each week. You’ll see more photography techniques introduced such as silhouettes, smoke art and high-speed photography. Well… at least we’re going to try these things. There will still be some prompts that photographers can interpret on their own and some classic compositions to keep our mind’s sharp.

And so, in 2018, a new weekly photo project kicks off — get ready for 2018 Project 52!

Here’s the skinny:

  • Project 52 is a weekly challenge where a new prompt is announced each week. These will be randomly selected each week to keep us on our toes!
  • We have an all new Flickr Group to post our images; I thought this would be the best way to house all of our images in one place and encourage each other through comments. You can find it here.
  • Share your images wherever you like outside of Flickr. If you’d like us to find you, we’ll be using the hashtag #2018P52 this year and we’ll be sure to share some love and likes.
  • We’re sticking with Wednesdays — there’s less pressure with our “deadline” falling in the middle of the week. I’ll share my own submission on Wednesdays and announce next week’s prompt.
  • The first prompt will be announced on December 29 – Week One’s images is due Wednesday, January 5, 2018. And prompts will be announced on all channels (our Flickr Group, this blog and on Instagram).
  • There’s nothing fancy about this challenge, so remember ANY CAMERA WORKS – your phone, a point-and-shoot or a dSLR.
  • Have fun with this and push yourself to take a new photo every week. Try not use photos from your archive; it defeats the purpose of challenging yourself as a photographer.
  • This shouldn’t have to be said, but please make all images SFW – we have a “safe” rating in our Flickr Group and I will remove any images that don’t fit within that rating.
  • I encourage comments from all participants as we’re a community of photographers with a common goal. That said, please keep comments positive and encouraging; only offer critiques when explicitly asked for one.

You can join Flickr for free and it’s a nice platform sharing images; you may meet some new people in the process and we have some folks from #2017project52 already getting ready. The only other thing to do is invite friends or acquaintances you think would like to be a part of it. It’s a personal challenge so there’s no sweat if a week is missed and there’s no prize for finishing it through.

Get your camera ready, sign up for Flickr and join the group, and check back later in the month to get started! Don’t forget: I’m posting our first prompt on Wednesday, December 29!

Week 48: Maker Movement | 2017 Project 52

So the maker movement is “the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers.” And I like to believe it includes those of us who work with fiber.

I learned how to knit years ago thanks to my mom and started pushing myself to try more difficult patterns after seeing what a few friends were able to make. After that, I was a full-fledge knitter — I had more yarn than I did projects, I was giving away more of finished items and I read patterns to see if they’d be interesting to try.

maker movement

Settings: f/4.0, 1/100 sec, 55mm, ISO 8000
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8

I’ve made hats, clothes… for babies, scarfs, numerous newborn hats, bibs, toys. I’ve started wraps and blankets, only to rip them later. But I keep trying new things. New yarn. New patterns. New-to-me techniques. And cheering on friends that have made some wonderful pieces. I haven’t technically clicked needles in a couple of years though. I need to, but every time I get started, it doesn’t feel right. Not yet.

Pulling out all of my yarns and books and needles, touching it all and sorting through it… I can feel the motivation creeping in. The fact that it’s colder outside helps a little too because staying warm with a pile of yarn in your lap is the best way to sink into winter.


Week 49: Cozy
due 12.06.17

It’s getting colder here in North America and my favorite thing about winter (other than Christmastime and the music that comes with it) is climbing under a mountain of warm, thick blankets. Getting cozy, when it’s cold and dreary outside, is the best!

Think about you and your family get cozy this time of year. Can you photograph your subject in a way that you bring the viewer right in, so they can cozy and feel the warmth as well? Move around your subject and try different perspectives — and don’t forget to experiment if the whim hits you!

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
If you have questions about the project, you can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description.
Looking for a group to join in 2018? We got you covered for #2018P52.