Feeling a little listless? Here are ten cheap treat-yourself gifts to put a photographic spring back into your step
Image by Tatiana Rodriguez
We can all admit it – there have been easier times to be a photographer. Stuck at home, unable to travel to all your favourite locations unless they’re right by your front door – it can be easy to lose inspiration and for your photo gear to start gathering dust on the shelf.
With all that in mind, this is a good time to treat yourself to a little luxury! Giving yourself a little photography treat doesn’t have to put a big dent in your bank balance – we’ve put together a guide to ten little treats you can use to add a new dimension to your image-making, all of which are available for less than £30! Here are a few suggestions for adding a little spring to your step, and keeping yourself taking pictures until you’re let loose on your favourite locations again!
This desktop tripod may look tiny, but it’s no toy – thanks to clever Manfrotto engineering, the PIXI is capable of supporting even small DSLRs, up to a maximum weight of 1.1kg and a recommended maximum focal length of 85mm.
Give yourself the gift of a sturdy tripod without racking up too much expense or taking up too much space in the cupboard – the PIXI folds down small enough to slot into a desk drawer. Want to create long exposures out of your window? Shoot some traffic trails of the road past your home, or even try your hand at astrophotography? The PIXI is a fantastic way of making all that happen, and all for an incredible price.
Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod - Black
The Manfrotto PIXI Mini tripod is an lightweight tripod suitable for holding compact cameras and small DSLRs. It is compatible with Manfrotto's Smartphone Clamp and Twist Grip, and works brilliantly with the Lumimuse LED lights. Able to support a maximum load of 1.1kg (1100g), it has a compact closed length of 18.5cm. The PIXI ensures your shots are sharp no matter the time, location, or angle.
It may not have occurred to you how many creative possibilities you can open up simply by availing yourself of a remote control for your camera! You can start shooting self-portraits, placing your camera at strange angles or in unusual positions you wouldn’t be able to reach while holding it. You can use a remote release to ensure that you don’t jog the camera when activating the shutters – particularly useful during long exposures, timelapses or night shots, where the tiniest camera movement can ruin a huge amount of work.
Want some close-up shots of garden birds? Leave your camera somewhere and be patient – they’ll probably be willing to get much closer to it then they would to you (no offence)! The model we’ve listed below is for Canon cameras, but shop around – there are remote controls and releases available for practically all brands, and many of them can be nabbed for a great price.
Canon RC-6 Remote Control
The Canon RC-6 is a wireless infrared remote control designed for the Canon EOS 450D, 500D, 550D, 600D, 60D, 7D, 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III and 6D DSLRs. The remote allows you to operate your camera's shutter release from up to 5m away with the choice of immediate release or a 2 second delay. Due to it running off an IR signal you have to be in front of the camera (receiver) for it to work. The RC-6 can be used in "bulb" mode which is ideal if you like to capture long exposures. Compact and extremely lightweight, the RC-6 is can be taken with you everywhere and is perfect for movies, self-portraits, night scenes, long exposures, light painting and close-up macro work. Make sure your camera is set to "remote control" in the menu otherwise the remote will not be able to release the shutter. A CR2032 battery is included.
Don’t have a dedicated camera bag? Well it’s time to change that! Smaller pouches and camera bags can be picked up for very little, and make for a much better carrying solution than your rucksack full of junk or old gym bag. Something like the Case Logic FLXH-100 CSC Holster, specifically designed to house mirrorless cameras, is a great choice, boasting quick access and durable fabrics that keep your gear safe. This model also has useful extra features like an integrated low-profile belt loop that lets you carry it hands-free. Perfect for the daily walk – wherever it takes you!
Also worth considering – is the strap that came with your camera looking a little worn out? Or did you buy the camera used and not get one at all? It’s time to sort that out and get a proper camera strap that not only keeps your camera safe but is also comfortable to wear on a long wander, even with heavy setups.
We’d recommend the Think Tank Camera Strap as a good all-purpose starting point – it’s rated to carry even heavy video gear, and it’s made using a non-slip material on both sides for a secure hold. There are metal rings for the easy attachment of other Think Tank products, and the strap is available in a choice of blue as well as grey – so picking up two can be a good way to differentiate between multiple cameras.
Think Tank Camera Strap Grey
This lightweight Think Tank Camera Strap in grey has non-slip material on both sides and the strength to support pro-size camera bodies with pro lenses attached. The strap is compatible with any DSLR, super telephoto lens, or video camera with hard points for a shoulder strap.
Fancy doing some wildlife spotting? Whether you’re on the lookout for rural birds or urban foxes, a small bean bag is a fantastic way to give yourself a little extra camera support, ensuring steady shots even with long telephoto lenses. This model is even camouflaged, so you won’t disturb the wildlife with a bright blue bag nicked from a local sports centre, and you can refill it with your material of choice, ensuring it’s always got the level of stability that you need.
Wildlife Watching Small Double Bean Bag Realtree Xtra
Reduce camera shake and sharpen your pictures. Use on cars, rocks, posts, et cetera. More portable than a tripod! You can also use a bean bag on top of a camera or tripod to reduce vibration. Ideal for travelling abroad as you can fill the bag with beans or rice when you arrive.
Even if you’re not willing or able to venture out of the house, a polarising filter can be a massive asset to your photography, enabling you to shoot through glass without plaguing your images with annoying reflections. Polarisers are an all-around great filter to have – most of the pro landscape photographers will swear by them and always have a couple in their bag – and this model from Calumet is available in a variety of sizes for all different lenses. Shop around – you’ll find the right polariser for you and be off shooting in no time!
Calumet 49mm Circular Polarising Digital SMC Filter
Calumet Digital SMC filters have extra layers of multi-coating which result in an improved average light transmission of 99.7% and provide increased resistance to flare even at wide apertures.
Want something for your walks that’s a little more fluid to use than a tripod? A monopod is a perfect choice! This model from Camlink is not only amazingly affordable, but is also able to handle most DSLR and mirrorless setups, giving you that bit of extra stability that could be the difference between nailing the shot and missing it completely.
Able to extend to maximum height of 173cm, and equipped with a rubber foot for extra stability, the Camlink CMP3 is a monopod that competes with the big names for a fraction of the price. A terrific choice for treating yourself!
Like many photographers, you may find that recently you’ve been discovering the wonders of still life photography, or perhaps portraiture (probably of semi-willing family members). If so, why not take those images to the next level with a studio background? These can be mounted on dedicated stands or in a more DIY fashion, and are a great way to add a dash of clean professionalism to your images.
We offer a huge number of different backgrounds for less than £30, including various patterns as well as plain white, so we’d encourage you to shop around and find exactly the type of background you want for your shoots!
Photo Boards Hygge Wood Effect 40cm Photography Backdrop
This 40cm Photo Board with Hygge Wood effect provides a creative backdrop to product photography and 'flatlay' scenes of small items such as flowers and jewellery. It features a printed old carved wooden door effect adding interesting and contrasting texture to your image. Photo Boards are lightweight, wipe-clean, durable backdrops made from PVC.
No matter whether you regularly use off-camera light or have never touched it in your life, a reflector can still be a fantastic asset for adding something extra to your images! Bounce a little window light onto a subject to fill out the shadows, or set up a reflector on a stand to take advantage of some bounced flash – it’s up to you!
This collapsible reflector from Wex is a reversible type, with a white side for soft light and a silver side for when you need a little more lighting power, expanding your shooting options and encouraging experimentation. Gold reflectors are also available if you want something a little warmer – by all means take a look at the options on offer!
WexPro 30cm Collapsible Reversible Reflector - Silver/White
The WexPro Collapsible Reversible Reflector is a 30cm circular, double-sided piece of material designed to diffuse and reflect light. This allows for greater control of light in your shot, as well as providing an additional soft source of light. One side is silver, for a harsher reflection, while the other is white, providing a softer light.
And finally, have you got an old film SLR or medium format camera gathering dust somewhere in your home? Why not rescue it and have a play with a roll of 35mm or 120 format film? You can pick up a good few rolls of different films for less than £30 and give yourself a little burst of nostalgia – remember what it’s like to shoot only 36 or 24 frames and feel the rush of making each one count?
Pick and choose from the best of Kodak, Ilford, Fujifilm and more, and at the end of it, you’ll have a roll of negatives ready to make some terrific prints to brighten up your home. Who knows – maybe you’ll rediscover a forgotten passion!
Ilford HP5 Plus 35mm film (36 exposure)
HP5 Plus is a high speed, medium contrast film making it especially suitable for action and press photography and also an excellent choice for general purpose photography. Nominally rated at ISO 400, it yields negatives of outstanding sharpness and fine grain under all lighting conditions.
About the Author
Jon Stapley is a professional journalist with a wealth of experience on a number of photography titles including Amateur Photographer, Digital Camera World and What Digital Camera. See more of his writing on Jon's author page.