five photo gift ideas under $50

It’s no secret that consumer spending has slowed dramatically in America, right on the cusp of the holiday shopping season. Consumers are being more conservative with purchases and credit is tightening. This Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) is known as Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year and expectations are always high, despite the conditions.

While I would enjoy seeing a brand new DSLR in the hands of every prophotolife reader this season that seems pretty unlikely. Just for the sake of discussion, I set a photo gift target of $50 or less and thought about what I would value most at that price point. Here’s what I came up with:

Sensor Swab Digital Survival Kit ($18).  I’ve tried the blowers and brushes but nothing has worked as well as a wet cleaning method like this. I carry extra swabs and always take the sensor cleaning kit on location with me. Don’t get me wrong, I check the sensor before every important shoot and make sure it looks good before ever leaving the studio. But if something turns up on location, we’re ready.

A Tiffen Circular Polarizer Filter ($20-50). The Tiffen filters don’t have the multi-coatings of the more expensive B+W and Hoya filters but they’re still quality products at a bargain price that meet the needs of most photographers.

A lot of photographers know the value of a polarizer, especially for darkening blue skies and saturating colors. Ahhh, you say, that can all be done in Photoshop now. Yes, this is true…to some extent. One thing the polarizer does that’s special is it can eliminate glare and reflections on surfaces like glass, water and metal. That’s something that can only be done at the time of exposure and only with the help of a polarizer.

Holga 120N Medium Format Camera

Holga 120N Medium Format Camera ($33). Yes, it’s a sentimental favorite. It does take 120 film that requires processing, which adds to the cost. But the experience and the look of the images is worth it for multitudes of art photographers and photo students worldwide. A simple plastic camera, film and no LCD screen: it’s a different way of thinking.

Set of 3 QP Cards for white / black / grey balance ($13). If you want accurate color balance in your images it helps to have a quality gray card to balance to. These QP cards are small, durable and come as a set that will last long time with just a little bit of care. Shoot one frame with the card in the shot, balance the gray to neutral in your processing software and then apply that to all similar exposures for more accurate white balance.

Shoe Mount Multiclamp ($17) and Westcott 750 Photo Basics 7.5-Foot Light Stand ($30). Want to get your speedlight off of the camera? This combination of clamp and stand totals less than $50 and opens up a world of new possiblilities. Adding an umbrella doesn’t push us over the target price by very much, either.

Let me know if you have any other “under $50″ ideas you’d recommend. Hey wait a minute! I just remembered a couple of budget items that should have made the list. Don’t forget the clamp light and the stick in a can. 8-)

And if you do have the budget for a new DSLR or that dream lens, congratulations, it’s always fun to add a new addition. I’m sure site sponsor Calumet Photo would appreciate your consideration when you’re looking for a place to buy, so check out the Huge Holiday Sale at Calumet Photographic! 11.26.08 thru 12.01.08. They offer discount prices and professional service, a rarity these days.