Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all the photographers out there and thank you for the continued support.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all the photographers out there and thank you for the continued support.

It is the time of the year when we start to see all kinds of photography related gift lists, either for you to purchase or if you are lucky enough, have someone purchase for you. And I do love these lists, except that in most cases you would need to take out a small loan just to purchase a few of the items.

With that in mind, every photography or photography related item on my list this year is under 12 dollars and over the next 12 days, I'll add one item each day*. Think of it as the 12 days of Christmas, only without any partridges or pear trees, which even though they might be the cheapest item on that list, would certainly be more than 12 dollars. 

Day Twelve

Ok, technically this is more $12, but since it is under $10 per month, I'm going to make it the final item on my list of 12 gifts. When Adobe switched to the Creative Cloud they took a lot of heat from a community used to making one-time software purchases. And at the start pricing, and a lot of misunderstanding was an issue. That all changed when the photographer's plan was introduced and now I recommend this all the time, even to those who consider photography a hobby. If you are still using an old version of Photoshop or Lightroom, please consider upgrading. You will not regret it. Besides, if it doesn't work out, cancel and go back to using whatever the last version of Photoshop you own. Let's just hope it is newer than version 3.0.

Day Eleven of Twelve

I still can't believe this item is under $12. I was looking to purchase a second tripod plate prior to a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains and came across this L-bracket and couldn't believe it, especially given that I have previously looked at camera specific L-brackets, but couldn't justify spending between $150 and $200. Let's just say I was skeptical. I may go into more detail about this item in a future blog post, but for now, I can say this product is well-made and works perfectly fine with both my DSLR and Fuji x100s. Don't hesitate on this!

Day Ten of Twelve

This is another one of those items you will never think about until you need it. In fact, you will probably get tired of seeing it in your bag and be tempted to leave it behind. Don't. My suggestion is to find that little-used pocket in your backpack or camera bag and just stick one there for a rainy day. Sorry for that, but not sorry for recommending it. You won't regret it.

Day Nine of Twelve

There are all kinds of carabiners on the market and many are under $12, although not all of them have the screwgate feature which adds an extra level of security when closed. You may be wondering how this item relates to photography, even though you have to admit it is just plain cool. This is another piece of equipment that I alway have with me and use it all the time to secure my backpack or gear to a fixed object, whether flying, on a boat or in an open vehicle. I can't imagine watching as my camera bag goes in one direction while I'm traveling in the other. Additionally, when it is attached to a backpack, you can run your camera strap through it and not worry about the camera slipping off your shoulder. 

Day Eight of Twelve

Now is the time to think about how you are going to organize all the items on this list, whether it is cables, batteries, cleaning cloths or the Lens Pen. There are of course more expensive storage bags and then again you could just put everything sandwich bags, but for under $12 these are a great solution. Bonus tip. Since they are assorted colors, use them for rechargeable battery management, charged and ready in the yellow bag and used in the red. Of course it is still a good idea to always have sandwich bags on hand, but that's another blog post.


Day Seven of Twelve

Like many of the items on this list so far, you can never go wrong with giving a photographer a microfiber cloth. I know your strategy is to pick these up at trade shows and I don't fault ou for that, but under $12, what do you have top lose by actually purchasing them. Besides, they don't last forever, so that microfiber cloth you picked up from the Nikon booth at PhotoPlus in 2013, is probably ready to be replaced.


Day Six of Twelve

This is the original Joby GorillaPod and for under $12, you just can't go wrong. Admit it, from the beginning you thought this looked silly and was one of those gadgets you carried around and never used, until one day you just stopped carrying it altogether. Give it another try, it takes up almost no room, is light and granted, this version will not support your DSLR, but what about a strobe or a GoPro or... You get the point. 


Day Five of Twelve

This "doohickey" is another item on the list (and won't be the last) that at first may not seem like a photo gift, but how many times have you gone to fasten a tripod plate to your camera and realized that you don't even have loose change in your pocket. And thanks to the terrorists, you may not even have a multi-tool with you, especially if you had to fly somewhere. Well, this item is perfect to keep clipped to your backpack, camera bag or use it as a keychain. You'll forget it's there until you need it and for the price, you could order three and still be under $12.


Day four of Twelve

In a recent post, I wrote about peace of mind while on a photo shoot or traveling with your gear. These small locks are perfect for securing everything from zippers on your backpack to securing gear to a fixed point in your trunk. These won't stop a determined thief, but if these little lock allows me to enjoy a bite to eat, or concentrate more on my shooting when seperated from my gear, it's worth it for under $12.


Day Three of Twelve

This item will make any photographer on your gift list smile. And even if they already own one, having another won't make them sad. Plus, it does an outstanding job of removing dust and smudges from your lenses and filters. If you've had one of these in you camera bag for years, remember there is a limit to its effectiveness, so now may be the right time to order it again at under $12.


Day Two of Twelve

Gaffers tape is something you only think about when you don't have it. It's bulky, heavy and takes up space in a camera bag, which is why I'm suggesting this smaller 30-yard roll that just happens to be priced slashed and available now for under $12.


Day One of Twelve

You may not have known what they were called, but I'm sure you have seen them around, organizing cables big and small. Cable management is one key to good packing and also maintaining sanity while on a photo shoot. I guarantee a pack of ten will not be enough.

*I own and have used every item that appears in this post.



LensPen pro camera cleaning kit.

Please tell me that you don't use the bottom of your t-shirt or worse, your actual shirt as your primary method of keeping your lens clean?

Whether you own your photographic equipment or it is provided to you through your employer, it pays to keep it clean and cared for. And probably the number one cleaning task that you perform every time you pull out your camera is to clean the front element of your lens.

I always have a microfiber cloth handy and until now it has been the sole way I've kept my lenses clean. And I suppose I've been aware of the LensPen pro camera cleaning kit for some time and really don't have a good explanation on why I never tried it.

While you can purchase them individually, I opted for the DSLR pro kit which features all three LensPens; the original LensPen for lenses, FilterKlear for lens filters and the MicroPro for viewfinders. Also included is a microfiber cloth which doubles as a carrying pouch.

How does it work? The LensPen consists of the cleaning tip on one end and a retractable brush on the other. Use the brush to remove particles and dust from the lens surface before using the cleaning tip to wipe away fingerprints, smudges and the like. The instructions recommend wiping the lens surface using a smooth circular motion.

And while the LensPen was easy to use and did a good job of cleaning all my lenses, I found the real surprise was the MicroPro, or the smallest of the set. If you have ever tried to clean the viewfinder of a camera you will soon find the MicroPro will become your favorite of the set. I've tried cotton swabs, microfiber clothes and nothing works as well for this task as the the MicroPro does.

Maybe now it's time to order a sensor cleaning kit, something else I've been putting off for far too long.