- A lens cap. I kid you not, I replace these things about twice a year and it makes me nuts--they're very important for protecting lenses and filters (see the next item) and they get lost a lot. Don't know the size? Just buy them a lens cap at the local store and they can switch it later. Cost: Under $5.
- A UV filter. If someone you know has a DSLR, they can always use another UV filter to keep dust and finger prints off of their expensive lenses. Sneak a look in their camera bag and you'll see the filter size on the current filter. Even if they have the filter already (and lots of people don't), a new one is a great back up or a replacement for a dinged or scratched filter. Cost: Under $15 (depending on size).
- A micro-fiber lens cloth. These are the greatest lens cleaning cloths around. Any camera store will have them and they can be rewashed and used forever. Trust me, this is a wonderful gift. Cost: Under $5.
- An acrylic mirror. Acrylic mirrors are pretty much unbreakable and they are fantastic for bouncing light onto a close-up subject or for lighting up a dark part of a still life. Go to a window/mirror store and look through their scrap bin--all window/mirror stores have a scrap bin of leftover pieces and mistakes. Cost: $2 to $15 (for scraps, depending on size).
- Black or white Foam Core. They'll know what you bought them when you walk in the door probably, but a sheet of white (to use as a reflector) or black (great background for flower close-ups) Foam Core is a really useful and creative gift. You can buy full or half sheets (or scraps) or have them cut to custom sizes. A 24x36" sheet is a good size for nature photography. Cost: around $10-15 (for a full sheet, less for smaller pieces). Want to go wild? They also sell it in cases--check out this site for great prices (under $100 for 25 sheets of 24x36-inch sheets).
- Plastic tool box. Photographers are small gadget collectors and those things fill up a camera bag quickly. But camera bags are expensive and plastic tool boxes work better for things like extra filters, gaffer tape, flash accessories, etc. Look in the tool section at Sears or KMart and you'll find a wide selection. Choose one with a big handle (easier to carry) and a bright color (so they don't forget it in the field). Pros use tool boxes all the time, hobbyists never think of them. Cost: $10-25.
- Hand warmers. Baby, it's cold out there taking pictures in winter! Hand warmers are cheap and man do they work--great to put in pockets or sox, too. They can also be used to keep extra batteries (or an accessory flash with batteries in it) warm and ready to go. Cost: $2 for a small pair, about $25 for a case. Amazon also sells a case of 40 pairs for $23.95 (and they'll ship for free if you have Prime shipping).
- A print of a favorite photo. If you have an inkjet printer sitting next to you, you have a gift-making machine. Instead of elbowing your way through a store, spend a cozy hour at your printer and make some prints for friends. A signed print of one of your best shots is an incredible gift. Cost: cost of paper and ink.
- TrackItBack gift certificate. I wrote about TrackItBack before (their prices have gone up since then, but still pretty reasonable) and they provide an amazing service that can potentially save someone thousands of dollars. You buy a sticker with a unique ID label that goes on a camera (or lens or cell phone, etc.) and if the item is lost, a good Samaritan can return it--shipping paid. It works, too--they have an incredibly high success rate. Cost: one camera sticker, good for life & it's worldwide, $19.95.
- A book on winning digital photo contests! Yes, alright, this is a blatant plug for my new book Winning Digital Photo Contests. The cool thing about this book is that it is illustrated by around 100 amateur photographers from all over the world and the photos (I can say this since they're not my photos) are amazing. Honestly, the most fun part of writing that book was getting to select such interesting and diverse photos. The photos will totally inspire the photographer in your life. Cost: $19.95, but on Amazon, just $13.57. Check the Barnes & Noble site, too.
Flying Horned Puffin
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