It must be getting close to the holidays… because I’m getting more emails asking for opinions on which this or that I would recommend. Happens every year! So this year I thought I would help more folks out and share a few of my favorite gift ideas for the mobile photographer here on my blog.
I don’t think of myself as a gadget person, but there are definitely accessories and items that spark my creativity or improve my workflow. All of the items on this list have been personally purchased and consistently used by me, so they have the Kat Eye Studio seal of approval. All you need to do from here is send a link of this post to your loving family and say: “I want item number whatever on this list, please!” How easy is that?
So… ordered from lowest price to highest… here we go!
#1: Case Star Cellphone Tripod
This little Case Star Tripod works wonderfully. I have a variation on this tripod and what I love about it is the tripod mount. It’s super easy to load your smartphone on and off, yet the phone is very stable once attached. The whole tripod is small and can easily be tucked into a back pocket or purse/bag. The bonus part is that the tripod mount can be removed and used on any big-camera tripod. Cool, huh? It would be a great stocking stuffer at $7.56.
#2: Chromo Stylus
For doing detailed editing work on your smartphone or tablet, your finger tip is just not going to cut it! A stylus is a requirement. There are lots of expensive versions of the stylus out there, but I can guarantee you are going to lose or misplace your stylus at some point so you might as well go inexpensive. There are also lots of cheap stylus’ that don’t work well, so watch out for that. I use the Chromo Stylus – an inexpensive stylus that works great and relieves me of any worry about misplacing it. I leave them all over the house, in the car, in my bags… At $8.99 for a 12-pack, you can be generous, giving them away to everyone you know with a tablet or smartphone.
#3: Gift Cards
There is nothing a mobile photographer would love more than new apps to play with! But if the mobile photographer is anything like me, there is always guilt associated with buying new apps when you have sooooo many on your device already. Give guilt-free app purchasing by giving iTunes or Google Play gift cards. How much? Your choice, anywhere from $10 to $50 or more. You can buy these almost anywhere that gift cards are sold.
#4: Decal Girl Custom Case
There is nothing like being able to use your own artwork in new and different ways! A custom case from Decal Girl is not only fun to carry around, it’s a great, unobtrusive marketing tool for your work. I mentioned the Decal Girl case I made (at left) a while back, and after several months of use, I love it. I have the clip case which both feels great and fits my iPhone 5 wonderfully, keeping the profile of my iPhone small and streamlined while still protected. The clip case is $29.99 and it’s only one of several case options. Be sure to sign up for Decal Girl newsletter and for a discount on your first order. Oh, and one of the most fun things? It comes packaged in a box that makes it look like you bought it off the shelf of the store. It was pretty darn cool to see my work looking like this!
#5: Olloclip 3-in-1 Lens
I love the simplicity of the iPhone, but sometimes I miss my SLR lenses! The Olloclip 3-in-1 Lens is a solution for that yearning, with a macro, wide angle and fish eye lens in one small package. After trying another lens system, I’ve switched to Olloclip and I won’t go back. The design of this lens system is wonderful – everything stays together in one small package. The quality of the glass and construction is great too. And for ~$60, it’s much less expensive than a single lens for my SLR, much less three! Olloclip also makes a Telephoto + Circular Polarizing Lens. I haven’t tried this one yet, it’s on my wish list!
#6: Optrix Waterproof Case
Before going on vacation this summer, I got this very fun Optrix Waterproof Case case for my iPhone. It comes with a waterproof housing, a wide angle lens and some different mounting options which lead to all sorts of crazy adventure photography fun! I used the case while at water parks, capturing family fun throughout the day without worry about damage to my camera. The wide angle lens is great, and not only did I get a lot of use out of the camera, I also used it for the phone features. Since I was the only one with a phone in the pool, we were able to easily connect up with family members who came later and my sister was able to text some critical info to the person covering for her at work back at home. Very handy! It was fun to get out of the normal routine and play around in the water with my iPhone. I highly recommend this case for water play or other adventure uses. It goes for around $130 for the basic case I purchased, but I found they have a kit with multiple lenses for just a little more. I’d love to try those too…
#7: A New Device
OK, what else could be on the $700 end of things but a new mobile device? I get questions all the time asking me for my thoughts on the right mobile device. So here’s what I always tell people…
Regardless of the type of device, don’t get less than 64GB of storage. Between apps and music, I have ~32GB filled on my iPhone and iPad. Surprisingly, the photos aren’t what takes up the most space! If I didn’t have a 64GB device I would constantly have to manage the storage space, deleting items to add new apps or take more photos. Having lived in that sort of limited-storage world a long time ago on an 8GB iPod Touch, I’ve decided that spending a bit more money up front to avoid the ongoing headache of managing storage space is worth it. (Oh, and if you like to download video, you might consider a 128GB…)
If you’re looking to try out mobile photography without the commitment of a monthly cell phone data plan, an iPod Touch or an iPad Mini is a great place to start. The camera is not as good, 5MP vs. the iPhone 5/5S 8MP, but either will work great to get you started into mobile photography with a mobile camera and apps. The iPod Touch would be a better size to carry around, but the iPad Mini would be a compromise that provides a larger screen for editing.
While we’re on the topic of larger screens, I highly recommend a full size iPad for editing. I find it hard to see and edit detail in photographs on a small device screen. I just upgraded to the new iPad Air and for the same size screen as my old iPad 3, it’s lighter, smaller and definitely faster. I was surprised at how much faster some of the photography apps are on the iPad Air.
While it’s definitely worth it to have a full size tablet in your arsenal of mobile devices, I would consider an iPad a second choice to a smartphone for portability. My iPad stays at home; my iPhone is always with me. If you want to dive into the world of the smartphone, either the iPhone 5 or 5S is a great way to go. I’m still in love with my iPhone 5 and have decided not to upgrade to the 5S; It’s just not different enough camera-wise to justify the expense of the upgrade. (I’ve got my fingers crossed for a bigger camera upgrade in the next iPhone revision…)
And if you want any advice on Android… I can’t help you there. A lot of people like to tell me that other phones have better cameras, and I don’t doubt there is some truth to that. But no other operating system comes close to have the number and quality of apps for editing photographs as iOS. And because there is such a great user base for iOS devices, there are more aftermarket accessories like those I’ve shared here, along with resources like photography books, websites and classes. It’s great to have such a great ecosystem to tap into!
Happy Holidays Mobile Photographers!
So there you have them… my gift ideas for the mobile photographer. This is the first time I’ve done a post like this, so let me know if you liked it and thought it was useful. I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled Kat programming later this week! See you then.
Note: In the interest of full disclosure, all links to Amazon.com in this post are affiliate links. If you buy from Amazon, I’d love to get a little credit, but I really don’t care if or where you buy any of these items. 🙂