By Gary Gray
Yes indeed, Holiday time of the year is rapidly approaching and no you don’t have to drop $12,000 on a new prime lens to make your wife, husband, or significant other feel all warm and fuzzy about life.
Lets face it, if you’re looking for a practical, useful photography gift, you aren’t going to find much of anything that costs less than $100 on the camera store web sites.
Think outside the box this year and give someone a kiss instead. (Keep It Simple Stupid.)
To cut to the chase, here’s the list.
1. Flour sack kitchen towels: What? Kitchen towels. Flower sack towels, what the heck are they?
They are thin, white linen towels that can be purchased by the pack and they are cheap. I get mine at Target, not to plug their business, but you can probably find them if you know where to buy kitchen towels.
Flour sack kitchen towels are excellent for cleaning your camera gear. If you’re out working in sloppy weather, one of these will be the first thing you pick up before you put your camera back in the pack. I keep a couple in my camera pack all the time. They are easy to clean too. Just throw them in the wash with a little bleach and they come out nice and white and ready for the next trip.
2. A bag of assorted rubber bands: Yes, that’s right. Rubber bands. I can’t tell you how many times I want to wrap the camera remote wire, or secure other loose stuff in my camera bag. Not to mention a thousand other uses in and around the camera equipment. There’s nothing worse than needing a rubber band and not having one. Solve that problem. Give that photographer a bag of rubber goodness to keep in the kit. No tools required.
3. Business Cards: The photographer on your list may not be a professional and may not have proper identification on their person as a result. Steal one of their photos or more if need be and use them to make a couple of boxes of inexpensive business cards for the photographer who doesn’t carry proper identification on their person. Once they get in the habit of handing out their cards to other photographers, they’ll never let go. It’s called social networking, the old fashioned way. Make sure and put their contact info on the cards though, not yours.
4. Headband Flashlight (torch for those of you across the pond): I like the ones with a red filter, that way it doesn’t ruin my night vision when I’m doing night work. LED lights last quite a while as they don’t drain batteries rapidly like an incandescent bulb does. They won’t take up much room in a pack either, nor do they weigh much. Don’t leave home without one.
5. Replacement lens caps and end caps: It never hurts to have spare lens caps and end caps. I am always misplacing these things when on a working trip. Having a spare or two to pack with you is mighty nerve settling for a photographer, as they’ll know they don’t have to leave a lens element exposed to the elements. Make sure and check the size on those lens caps though. Most common seems to be 77 mm, but heck, why not get them one for every lens in their kit.
6. Small, multi-tool: I keep a multi-tool/pocket knife in the kit. The only time it comes out is if I’m getting on a airplane or using it in the field. They are indispensable. Don’t forget to take it out of your pack before you fly though. Otherwise you’ll lose it. That’s why I buy cheap ones, because sooner or later, you’re gonna loose it.
7. A box of strong, dark, kitchen size trash bags: I’ve seen all types of rain protection gear for cameras and lenses and trust me the cost for this seldom used accessory can be high. Save the money and solve multiple problems at once. One box of good, strong, darkly colored trash bags is really all you need to keep your camera gear dry if you're working outdoors in anything but the most extreme weather. Couple the trash bags with the multi-tool and rubber bands, you can make just about anything you need in the field in seconds and it cost pennies.
8. A big box of standard, non-rechargeable, AA batteries: My favorites are Ray-O-Vac. I get them at Home Depot in bulk. Why not rechargeable? Well, for one, when was the last time you tried to use a stored rechargeable battery? They never hold charges for storage, so you always have to recharge them to replace them unless you just happened to charge some yesterday. No, standard super duty Alkaline AA batteries in bulk will solve a lot of problems with dead batteries on the road. I use them in my flashes, my lights, and plenty of other gear, including some cameras. Plus they’ll keep for a couple of years in the cabinet, just waiting to be used, by everyone I might add.
9. Multi-Pack of Large Micro-Fiber Cloths: I go through lens cloths like mad. It’s always a good idea to keep a supply of large, fresh, clean lens cleaning cloths handy. I keep two or three new ones in my kit and a few more lightly used cloths in my pockets and extra bags just to make sure I’m never far from something safe to clean a lens with.
10. Auto-Cigarette Lighter 12vdc-110vac converter: They are making them fairly small these days and if your photographer has a laptop, iPad, Tablet, Camera, or portable battery light or anything else electronic, they should keep one of these in their kit. It should have at least 1 AC outlet and one USB connector and with a small footprint, would be the recommendation.
rev 1.1 10/4/17
Top 10 Inexpensive Gift Ideas for Photographers