Holiday Gift Guide: Great Gifts for Beginner Photographers

November 10, 2015

By Greg Scoblete, Jacqui Palumbo & Taryn Swadba

If contemporary culture has taught us anything, it’s that it’s never too early to start shopping for the holidays. Rather than  elbowing complete strangers away from a picked-over bargain rack at the mall, we’ve assembled a little buyer’s guide with some items sure to delight any beginner photographers in your life (even if that’s you). We’ll have an expanded gift guide in the December issue of PDN with input from the editors of DP Review and a few special guests.

Red River Paper Inkjet Greeting Cards

Whether it’s to create your own custom holiday cards or to keep your photography in front of clients and colleagues, inkjet-printable greeting card paper from Red River is a great option for do-it-yourselfers. The cards are available in a range of sizes and can be printed on one or both sides, depending on your style. You can choose from a glossy or matte finish as well as watercolor paper in a variety of weights (medium, heavy and super). The paper arrives pre-scored so it’s easy to fold.
Price: $12.99 (sample pack)

White House Custom Colour Notepads 

Put down the screen and pick up your own personalized notepads and calendar cards from White House Custom Colour. These customizable products can be created with your logo and contact info on each page, so they’re great gifts for clients or as valuable add-ons to your product packages. The metal coil notepad, available with either 50 or 100 pages, can be used for journaling, note taking and more. You can design the pages to make a write-in book for planning, research notes, recipes, or stories. It’s available in 5×7, 8×8 and 8×10-inch sizes. Tear-away notepads have a magnetic back so they can be attached to any metallic surface. You can also build a tear-away sketchpad for your favorite doodler. Both tear-away books are available in 2×8.25, 5×7, and 8×10-inch sizes. 

Eyefi Mobi Pro

Eyefi’s Mobi Pro wireless SD card automates some of photography’s most thankless jobs: organizing and backing up your images. Photographers who purchase the 32GB Eyefi Mobi Pro memory card will have peace of mind knowing their RAW and JPEG files are backed up as soon as the shutter fires. The Mobi Pro transfers images through two modes, Direct and Infrastructure. The former connects to your mobile device and uploads full-res files to the cloud via the Eyefi app (preview JPEGs are kept on your device), and the latter, faster mode connects to one of up to 32 Wi-Fi networks to send images to your studio or home, and can also double as a cordless tether to Lightroom. The Eyefi cloud stores an unlimited number of your images in their full resolution for as long as you subscribe and can store up to 300, 15 minute HD videos a month too. It’s a great deal.

Price: $100 (Eyefi Mobi Pro); $50/year (Eyefi Cloud membership, free for one year)

ThinkTank Photo Retrospective Collection

The ThinkTank Photo Retrospective Collection offers an update to the “old school”-style bag with eight variations: the 5, 7, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and Lens Changer 3. The 5 is the smallest, with room for a DSLR or mirrorless camera and an 8-inch tablet, while the 50 can pack two gripped DSLRs, three attached lenses (14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm f/2.8), a 15-inch laptop and a 10-inch tablet. The other bags hold varying lenses (the 20 can hold a 300mm f/2.8 telephoto), tablets, laptops and DSLR cameras, excluding the Lens Changer 3, which features three quick-access separated lens compartments. All Retrospective bags are durable and water-repellant and come with a warranty against defects for “as long as you use the product.”

Price: $145-$250

Ricoh Theta S

The Ricoh Theta S may resemble a Men in Black neuralyzer, but the Theta S is used for making memories instead of erasing them. The 8GB Theta S is one of the latest products to make 360-degree imaging more accessible to the average shooter, capturing 12-megapixel immersive still images and 30 fps 1920×1080 HD resolution video for up to 25 minutes. The 44 x 130 x 22.9-millimeter camera also includes long-exposure and HD live-stream functionality, plus the ability to check exposure and white balance while shooting through the Live View smartphone app.

Price: $347

Epson SureColor P400

When you’re ready to turn pixels into prints, Epson’s 13-inch SureColor P400 inkjet printer ensures your treasured images last several lifetimes. According to Epson, color prints made on the P400 can last up to 100 years while black-and-white prints will last up to 300 years in dark storage. The SureColor P400 uses an 8-ink UltraChrome HG2 pigmented ink system with red and orange inks for deeper reds and more accurate colors. There are also dedicated channels for both Matte and Photo Black inks. The SureColor P400 has Wi-Fi for wireless printing and works with Epson’s iPrint mobile app. 

Price: $599

3D Robotics Solo

While drone photography is definitely hot, drones still require a fair amount of piloting skill. 3D Robotics’ Solo drone is part of a new wave aerial photography platforms that take some of the guesswork out of flying. Thanks to a pair of Linux computers (one in the drone, the other in the controller), the Solo boasts a number of “intelligent” features that give the drone greater autonomy–enabling it to fly pre-designated routes automatically or handle camera controls without user intervention. A Smart Shot, that lets you set up a shot in real-time which the Solo will execute on its own. A Cable cam and Orbit setting allow you to create a flight path along a “virtual track” in space which the Solo will then fly while you focus strictly on the camera. You can also tell the Solo to fly the route and work the camera. A “Follow” mode programs the Solo to track the camera operator’s movements by locking into your mobile device. Solo also features a one-touch aerial selfie, because of course it does. The Solo is the first drone to support full remote control of GoPro cameras while also delivering live-streaming HD video to mobile devices. The drone can deliver a video stream to iOS and Android devices up to half a mile away. You can record the stream directly to your device’s camera role or use the HDMI output in the camera controller to output it to broadcast devices for live-streaming. Its flight time is 20 minutes with GoPro and the included 3-axis gimbal attached.

Price: $1,000


Don’t call Meural a digital frame. Rather, it’s a “digital canvas” that brings the world of high culture, fine art photography and your own personal images (which may or may not fall into the aforementioned categories) into the comfort of your living room. The Meural features a 27-inch HD LCD display with a 3000:1 contrast ratio housed inside a handcrafted soft maple wood frame. It not only displays your own images but, thanks to deals with museums and image libraries, lets you tap a vast reservoir of licensed digital artwork to show off on your wall. You interact with your Meural canvas directly through gestures, swiping left, right, up or down to change what’s being displayed. You make additional adjustments to the Wi-Fi frame through a smartphone app or online dashboard. Using either the app or dashboard, you can hand-pick the art you wish to see or set the frame to “discover” and have artwork sent to you serendipitously. The Meural can be programed to display art by mood or on a custom schedule. There’s a built-in ambient light sensor that can adjust the display’s light intensity based on environmental conditions. It’s sold in either a black or white wood frame or in a Lightbox edition. The Meural ships with a year’s free access to licensed art and photography. After that, it costs $4.95 a month to access new artwork.

Price: $495 (Black or White); $595 (Lightbox)

Interfit ACE 100Ws Flash Kit

Studio lighting kits can be intimidating. The ACE isn’t. It’s designed to ease newcomers into studio flash photography, side-stepping features like high output, TTL and ultra-fast flash durations that are found on pricier strobes in favor of a streamlined package to get you up and running. What does that entail? The ACE offers basic manual controls and a stepless power adjustment dial with a four-stop range from full power down to 1/8th output. You’ll also find a 75W modeling lamp, an optical slave cell, sync port and IR trigger. The ACE takes 3 seconds to recycle when shooting at full power and has color temperature of 5600K. The kit includes a 6.2-foot light stand, translucent umbrella and a sync cable. It has a standard 5/8-inch mount and weighs a scant 1.3 pounds.

Price: $95