It's that time of year again when you've suddenly realized there are less than two weeks to Christmas and Santa's stocking is looking sadly lackluster. So, what can you do to rectify the situation? Here are 20 ideas.
Yes it really is only a few weeks to Christmas, and instead of sticking to that New Year's resolution of having completed your present buying by the last week of November, you still have another week in work and a clutch of presents to get. I always find those little finishing flourishes that are the hard ones to do. Big presents, no problem. But that thoughtful little something? I call it Small Present Syndrome (SPS).
So with no more ado, here are my top 20 ideas for small presents costing less than $20 that you can get for that partner, sibling, child, colleague, or friend who is photographically inclined.
- Ektachrome: yes, 2018 was the year of Ektachrome's comeback by Kodak. For those analog aficionados, let them relive those Kodak moments!
- Hot Shoe Spirit Level: while most digital cameras now incorporate a virtual level, it pays to have the physical variety sitting in your bag. Not least, you can check the level without having to switch modes on your camera.
- Rain Cover: what's worse than having no camera? A dead camera because it's wet. This Optech Rain Cover comes with two in a pack and you'll be glad you have one when the downpour starts.
- Lens Pen: a perennial favorite simply because it's so good at cleaning those fine dirt marks off a lens.
- Cleaning Fluid: when the lens pen doesn't cut the mustard, then you might need some cleaning fluid to budge those stubborn stains. The sort made for glasses is fine, but this Zeiss pack fits the budget and includes a microfiber cloth as well.
- Mini Reflector: a reflector is the Swiss Army Knife of light that allows you to shape and modify. Use it for portraits, macros, still life, product, etc. You might not be able to carry that 42-inch around with you all the time, but this tiny 12-inch version will fit easily in any camera bag.
- Swiss Army Knife: talking of Swiss Army knives, they make excellent multi-tools for cutting, loosening, tightening, screwing, etc. A must have.
- Step Up Rings: step up rings are one of those accessories you never buy until you need one! Immensely useful when using filters, simply buy one to fit the largest lens you have.
- Macro (extension) Tubes: can't afford that macro lens but want to get large reproduction? Get some macro or extension tubes, such as this EOS fit. They really are just dumb, metal tubes that sit between the lens and camera body. Pick your mount of choice and enjoy some close-up photography.
- Lens Reversal Ring: an alternative to macro tubes, this adaptor ring (such as this 52mm Nikon fit) flips the lens around, allowing you to use that nifty fifty to get extreme close ups. Perhaps the cheapest way into the macro world.
- Spare Body/Lens Cap: it always surprises me how often you want to strip a camera down for packing and how easy it is to lose body and lens caps. It always pays to have a few spare (like this Micro Founr Thirds kit).
- Pinhole Body Cap: naturally following on from body caps are pinhole body caps. Get yourself this neat little one and experiment with the wonderful world of pinhole photography. The next best thing is to make one from the spare body cap you just bought.
- Wired Remote: wireless is all the rage in controlling digital cameras, but don't forget how reliable the simple wired remote is. Plug it in, and it simply works.
- Mini Tripod: steadying your camera to capture a sharp image is often a necessity and, in these instances, you need some way to fix your camera in place. A mini tripod is immensely useful to have in the bottom of you bag for such occasions; however, you'll need to step up to something more substantial for larger DSLRs.
- Bean Bag: when you need to get down low, there is nothing more flexible than a beanbag.
- Smartphone Tripod Mount: steadying your smartphone can be extra tricky given their super thin and slippery design. They are meant to be small and sleek, not ergonomically chunky. Enter the tripod mount, which allows to you to attach one to the mini tripod you've just bought.
- Bluetooth Remote: with your smartphone now optimally positioned to take that selfie, you need a way of triggering the shutter. There is the countdown timer, but that is just a little imprecise. Why not try this low-cost Bluetooth remote?
- Smartphone Apps: continuing the smartphone theme there are a whole range of apps that cater to everything a photographer could possibly want. Here are some (in Google's Play store) that stand out from the crowd: PhotoPills (sun/moon photo planner and calculator), Photographers' Ephemeris (sun/moon location planner), Camera Calculators (a range of common and not so common calculators), Stellarium (night sky planner), and Snap Camera HDR.
- Map Guide to Bath: this is location specific to the City of Bath, UK, but a great idea and I'm sure we'll see these this extended to other cities. Let photographer Benedict Brain guide you around some of the key sites and give you tips on where and how to shoot. All in a convenient map format.
- Black and White Step-by-Step: bag a self-published e-book for any keen film shooter with this authoritative guide by Roger Hicks and Frances Schultz. It covers everything you could possibly need to know from films and cameras (35mm to large format) through to developing and printing.
- Bonus High Capacity Rechargeables: it's not very exciting, but good rechargeable batteries are fantastic for keeping those strobes going.
Hopefully, this top 20 list will give you some ideas that might inspire a present or two or a purchase for yourself! If I had to pick one of these items that gets used extensively, then it would be the wired remote. I use it principally for long exposure shoots, and for these, it is invaluable. If you've got any other suggestions that fall under the $20 level, then drop them in the comments. It's always great to see everyone's ideas!
Lead image courtesy of freestocks via Unsplash, used under Creative Commons.