The Best of 2017
I love this time of year…
And I don’t mean just because of the holidays, either (though that’s nice!).
By this point in the year, I’ve had the opportunity to meet dozens and dozens of innovators in the photography industry, test out some awesome products, and get a glimpse at what the future holds for those of us that love photography.
And I have to say that the products and services I’ve found in 2017 have me more excited for the future of photography than ever before. I want to share that excitement with you in this article.
Below is a list of the top movers and shakers in the photography industry, and an overview of some of their top products. Some you’ve likely already heard of; others, you probably haven’t seen yet.
But trust me when I say that these companies will forever change the way we take photos, process photos, and even view photos.
Without further ado, let’s get to it!
Hands-down, the Meural Canvas is one of the best photography products of the year.
I first met the Meural team at Photo Plus earlier this year in New York City.
The expo was full of incredible photography gadgets and gizmos that was a veritable playland for photographers. But out of the hundreds of booths there, Meural’s caught my eye more than any other.
When I was standing at the booth looking at the Meural Canvas, a couple of things immediately impressed me.
First, the Canvas looks like any normal framed photo or piece of art, yet it’s digitized, allowing you to load your favorite images to enjoy them as a playlist.
That alone was enough to impress.
However, the second thing that knocked my socks off was the fact that the images looked so darn real. I mean, this isn’t like viewing family photos on the old digital picture frame you gave grandma back in the early 2000s…
Instead, Meural uses TrueArt technology that renders the images lifelike. As I was standing there in the expo hall, I actually forgot I was looking at a digital Canvas instead of the real artwork. I literally felt like I could touch the Meural Canvas and that I would feel the texture of the artist’s brush strokes.
If that doesn’t explain the quality of this product and why it’s the best I encountered this year, consider this…
Not only does the Canvas automatically adjust its display to accommodate vertical or horizontal hanging, but it also has an ambient light sensor to adjust to the lighting in the room. That means you can hang it where you like and it will look like a million bucks.
Each Canvas frame is made of FSC-certified American hardwood, so it’s not only gorgeous, but it’s sustainably resourced as well. You can choose from a Leonora Black or White finish or if walnut is more your vibe, that’s an option on the Winslow frame.
Here’s the kicker…
You can control what the Canvas displays using the Meural website, the Meural mobile app or even by using hand gestures.
You can upload your own photos and create your own playlists or use Meural’s curated playlists to display incredible works of art in your own home.
Adding photos via the iOS app is a breeze, allowing you to upload and crop images, add filters, and immediately send them to your Canvas for display. You can even schedule what the Canvas displays and when with its scheduling feature.
That means when the in-laws come over, you can proudly display family photos. When your annual dinner party rolls around, you can schedule classic artworks to display on your Canvas. It’s versatile, incredibly well crafted, and a total joy to view.
Artbeat Studios HD Metal Prints
It often seems like when you see one metal print, you've seen them all.
But after I ordered two metal prints from Artbeat Studios, I realized that they produce prints that are far beyond what the other guys offer.
There is simply no comparison between the quality of my metal prints from Artbeat Studios and the quality of other metal prints I ordered elsewhere.
My Artbeat Studios prints are vibrant, colorful, full of contrast, and simply look like a million bucks.
Part of the reason for that is because Artbeat Studios makes their prints in-house. No outsourcing here!
That gives them much more control over the quality of the prints they create, so when your photos arrive at your doorstep, there's no mistaking their quality.
Something else that allows Artbeat Studios to create the best prints is that they will offer you feedback regarding the best medium on which to print your photo.
All you have to do is email them a low-resolution version of the image, and they'll work up the best options for you. That includes giving you sizing recommendations to maximize the impact of the photo. Talk about great customer service!
When Artbeat Studios makes a metal print, they heat infuse the image right into a specially-coated aluminum sheet.
What that means is that you get a print that's water-resistant, scratch-resistant, and UV-resistant.
On top of that, your print has incredibly bright, vibrant colors that make the image leap off the wall and give it tons of life.
Trust me - I look at my Artbeat Studios HD Metal Prints each and every day, and they continue to boggle my mind with their incredible quality.
You get tons of customization options, too, so you can truly make the image your own.
Learn more about Artbeat Studios HD Metal Prints.
Sew Trendy Fashion & Accessories Maternity Gowns
Abba Color Photography
My son was born before I learned about Sew Trendy. That meant my wife struggled to find quality maternity gowns during her pregnancy.
Had I known about Sew Trendy, we'd have many more maternity photos to cherish because Sew Trendy's maternity gowns are simply gorgeous and nothing short of extraordinary.
This company redefines class. That goes for the products they make as well as their customer service experience.
Vic and Marie Photography
I've visited Sew Trendy's booths at various trade shows over the years, and I'm always astonished by how busy they are.
Their booth is always shoulder to shoulder with people interested in seeing and touching their products and learning more about this incredible company.
I've had the pleasure of getting to know the company's founder and CEO, Valerie Best, and I can assure you that there's a reason why Sew Trendy's garments are second-to-none.
That's because Valerie and her team value each and every gown that leaves the warehouse just as much as they value each and every customer. There's something to be said for companies in this day and age that take the level of customer service to new heights.
Something else that I appreciate about Sew Trendy is that they are always innovative, coming up with new designs that give maternity photographers fresh, new looks to feature in their photos.
Their fall and winter collection is no exception...
It features gorgeously handcrafted maternity gowns that run the gamut from on-the-shoulder, long-sleeve lace gowns to form-fitting, off-the-shoulder knit gowns, and just about anything else you can imagine.
No matter if you're a maternity photographer or an expecting mom yourself, Sew Trendy has a plentiful selection of beautiful gowns for any mom-to-be.
Learn more about Sew Trendy's collection of maternity gowns.
Arsenal Intelligent Camera Assistant
If you've ever been in a situation in which you aren't quite sure what camera settings to use, then Arsenal is for you.
In short, Arsenal utilizes Artificial Intelligence to find the ideal camera settings for you to use given the current shooting situation.
In other words, it takes all the guesswork out of trying to determine your camera settings, that way you can quickly dial in the correct ones and start shooting.
Arsenal is able to do this because it intelligently searches thousands and thousands of images in its database.
Once it's determined a baseline of suggested settings based on the sample images it's analyzed, it fine-tunes the suggested settings by using 18 different factors that influence camera settings, from diffraction to the motion of the subject to the dynamic range of the scene.
But don't think that Arsenal just does everything for you.
Instead, it's a fantastic learning tool that allows you to review the settings you used to get the shot. This review process will help you learn what camera settings to use in a given situation, including exposure settings, white balance, and so forth.
Once you develop the skills you need to control your camera settings manually, Arsenal makes it easy to do that - just use the Arsenal smartphone app to do so right from your phone.
Speaking of your phone, you can see live previews of your photos, easily share your images to social media, and make time-lapse videos.
If it sounds incredible, it is! That's why it's on our list of the Best of 2017!
Holdfast Roamographer Bag
I've been in the photography business for a good, long while now, and I've encountered some truly top-notch companies that put out incredible gear.
That's why no list of the best photography companies of the year would be complete without mentioning Holdfast.
The quality of their products is second-to-none. I know because I own some of their gear and have had the opportunity to check out other items at various trade shows over the years.
Without question, Holdfast's commitment to quality construction is second-to-none.
That's certainly true of their top-of-the-line bag, the Roamographer.
This thing exists at the intersection of form and function.
It's not only beautifully made with fine details that speak to its impeccable design and construction, but it's also the height of convenience, too.
I particularly like the removable camera insert that allows me to use the bag as both a camera bag and as a weekend getaway bag.
The insert itself is soft and padded, that way your gear is cradled safely in the bag. And when you're ready for a fun weekend away, it simply slides right out to give you a cavernous bag for all your stuff.
Holdfast really put thought into the design of the exterior of the bag as well.
There's carrier straps that allow you to easily carry your tripod. The shoulder strap is worth noting as well because it's thick, padded, and lined with shearling fleece to give you a super comfortable carrying experience.
You can even attach a small camera to the bag's shoulder strap, that way you don't miss any shots when you're traveling from Point A to Point B.
Learn more about the Holdfast Roamographer Bag.
Holdfast doesn't just craft some of the best camera bags around...
They are also responsible for the excellent MoneyMaker multi-camera strap seen above.
To say that the MoneyMaker is one of the best purchases I've ever made is an understatement.
Not only is it incredibly comfortable to wear - the leather straps have conformed to my body over the years - but it's also unbelievably convenient to use when shooting.
Imagine not having to dig through your camera bag every time you want to switch cameras or lenses.
Instead, you can have two (or even three) cameras right there at your fingertips, ready and waiting to be used to take awesome shots.
The MoneyMaker does just that, giving you access to two camera bodies right at your hips and with an optional attachment, a third camera on your chest.
You can even carry lens pouches, cell phone pouches, and Holdfast bags with the MoneyMaker as well, making it an ultra convenient way to carry your gear.
And like everything Holdfast makes, the MoneyMaker is beautifully crafted with the finest materials.
That makes the MoneyMaker both durable and super easy on the eyes.
Comfort, convenience, functionality, beautiful design...that's the MoneyMaker in a nutshell!
Learn more about the Holdfast MoneyMaker.
Holdfast Sightseer Backpack
Well, Holdfast is simply so good that I had to include them on my best of 2017 list three times.
In addition to their camera bags and multi-camera straps, Holdfast also makes a camera backpack that's ideal for photographers that are on the go.
Called the Sightseer Backpack, it's specifically designed to carry a ton of gear, but do so in a way that maximizes comfort and functionality - just like Holdfast's other products.
And as you can see in the close-up shot below, the Sightseer Backpack is impeccably crafted, too.
Just look at the stitching detail on the shoulder straps and the quality of the metalwork if you need any convincing that this is a top-notch bag...
The bag is expandable as well.
You can add pockets and pouches to the exterior of the bag to carry everything from a prime or telephoto lens to your cell phone, all within easy reach.
The bag also has an integrated slider for carrying a small camera on the outside of the bag. That makes it nice for taking quick shots without having to take your bag off to grab your camera.
The waxed canvas and leather exterior looks great, and since both materials are weatherproof, you don't have to worry about your gear getting wet.
Inside the bag is Aztec flannel fleece to cradle your gear and keep it safe as you travel around.
You don't have to worry about your lenses or cameras banging around at all - the interior of the bag is soft and padded, and that Aztec fleece looks like a million bucks, too!
In other words, this is another example of how Holdfast brings form and function together in one gorgeous product.
Learn more about the Holdfast Sightseer Backpack.
CanvasHQ Canvas Prints
I've been a big fan of canvas photography prints for many, many years.
I like how the texture of the canvas comes through, giving the image improved depth and dimension.
Of course, not all canvases are made alike. I've tested dozens of canvas companies over the years, and so far, no one comes close to CanvasHQ. That's why they are on this list of the Best of 2017!
What makes CanvasHQ canvas prints so much better than the competition is the materials they use.
Just like using the finest ingredients will get you a better meal, using the best materials will get you a better canvas.
CanvasHQ does just that - they use commercial-grade inks that are water-resistant and UV-resistant. What's more, CanvasHQ backs its inks with a lifetime guarantee against fading.
Add to that archival-grade canvas, and you have the makings of a print that will look like a million bucks for generations to come.
Of course, what's behind the canvas matters too...
CanvasHQ crafts their frames from kiln-dried wood to protect against warping.
Each stretcher bar is made of precision-cut pine. After drying in the kiln, they're used to handmake the frames for the canvases.
The results are, not surprisingly, beautiful and durable.
I have a couple dozen CanvasHQ prints in my home, and I can tell you that the quality is absolutely top-notch.
Head over to CanvasHQ and get your canvas print in the works!
Sew Trendy Fashion & Accessories Newborn Beanbag Wrap Sets
Purest Light Photography
As I noted earlier, Sew Trendy is one of the top photography accessory companies around.
But that's not just due to the gorgeous handcrafted gowns they produce...
Sew Trendy also has a complete line of newborn photography props, accessories, and outfits that help you elevate the quality of your newborn photography.
Susy Martinez Photography
And just like their gowns, Sew Trendy's newborn products are gorgeously made with love and care.
One of the newborn products that caught my eye is the Newborn Beanbag and Wrap Set.
The set includes an extra soft stretch knit beanbag backdrop, as seen in the photos above and below.
The backdrop is extra soft and made with thick, high-quality fabric that is soft against the baby's skin and gives your photos a luxurious touch.
Susy Martinez Photography
And since the fabric is knit, it's got the ideal stretch and drape to cover the beanbag.
The same attention to comfort and softness was paid to the accompanying wrap as well.
The wrap is made of the same stretchy knit fabric in the same color, giving you the ability to put the baby in a soft, warm, and colorful wrap that complements the backdrop beautifully.
In other words, if you're a newborn photographer, Sew Trendy's newborn clothing and accessories are certainly something you need to implement in your images in 2018!
Learn more about Sew Trendy's Newborn Beanbag Wrap Sets.
Wolverine Data F2D Titan 8-in-1 High Definition Film to Digital Converter
Digital photography has been around a long time, but that doesn't mean that we don't all have some old 35mm negatives and slides lurking around in the attic or basement somewhere.
I've used various means of digitizing my old negatives in the past, but for my money, the Wolverine Data F2D Titan is the best option.
Not only does it convert old 35mm/127/126 and 110 negatives, slides, 8mm movies, and Super 8 movies into 20-megapixel digital imagery, but it does so in a few seconds.
That means that with the push of a button, I can set the Titan in motion, unleashing its power to digitize my old images. You don't even need any software or a computer!
Once scanned, the images are saved on the internal memory in the Titan. You can also choose to save the photos right to a memory card.
From there, you can choose to edit the photos on your computer, or even hook the Titan up to your TV to watch a slideshow of old memories.
Photos and videos are meant to be enjoyed - not collect dust in old boxes and bins.
With the Wolverine Data Titan, you can bring those old memories back to life in a way that you've never been able to do before.
Learn more about the Wolverine Data Titan.
When it comes to innovating the photography industry, Memorywall is definitely a company that comes to mind.
That's because they invented a way for your images to be more interactive - a living wall full of memories that you can easily change and adapt.
Each Memorywall unit is an 8x8 inch frame that fits four 4x4 inch photos. That gives you the ability to display more photos in a smaller area than you normally can.
Even better, each photo can be easily swapped out, so as your children grow, for example, you can feature current photos in the Memorywall unit.
Better still, Memorywall is a modular system, so you can connect various units together to create as big of a photo display as you like.
You can opt to display dozens of photos, create a gorgeous mosaic, and even form specific shapes with the Memorywall units, too.
Each image within the Memorywall unit can be tilted and turned as well, giving you the ability to create three-dimensional photo displays that turn the meaning of "framed photo" on its head.
These things even save you time...
You never have to remove Memorywall from your wall.
Instead, you can swap out photos right then and there to refresh your display to meet your current tastes. That means no extra drilling, no finding the studs again, and no more holes in your wall.
If that's not an innovative way to display your photos, I don't know what is!
When it comes to high-quality products for photographers, Click Props is no slouch.
Nor should they be.
After all, they're part of the Sew Trendy family, so you know that the products they put out are the best in the business.
When you think of portrait backgrounds, you might not think of an area that's ripe for innovation, but Click Props has managed to set themselves apart nonetheless.
Their backdrops are gorgeously handcrafted to give your photos that extra bit of visual appeal that takes them to another level.
Made of high-grade 550gsm vinyl, these backdrops don't just look great, but are also highly durable.
That's helped by reinforced grommets every 12-inches along the top of the backdrop to ensure it hangs smoothly and will stand the test of time.
On top of that, they're easy to clean and store, so you can keep your workspace neat and tidy.
The sheer range of backdrops is impressive as well - there's more than 200 designs (and counting!) from which to choose.
Offered in sizes that range from 5'x5' to 7'x9.5', they've got backdrops that will fit into any sized studio as well as accommodating various types of portraits, from individuals to small groups.
Perhaps best of all, Click Props isn't just committed to manufacturing top-notch photography accessories.
Instead, when you work with Click Props, you get the kind of customer service that seems to be rarer and rarer these days.
They truly put their money with their mouth is, and will help you create more impressive photos!
Wolverine Data 8mm and Super 8 Movie Reels to Digital MovieMaker
As I noted earlier, all of us have old negatives and slides laying around that we can't enjoy without converting to digital.
The same goes for the once-popular 8mm and Super 8 film that our parents and grandparents used to document family events back in the day.
Fortunately, Wolverine Data has you covered again, this time with their 8mm and Super 8 Movie Reels to Digital Moviemaker.
Preserving your family's memories has really never been so easy.
Wolverine Data has done their thing, building a product that makes it simple to digitize your old films (without sound).
All you have to do is mount the three-inch or five-inch movie reel to the machine, insert a memory card, press a couple of buttons, and the MovieMaker will set about doing its work. See it in action in the video below:
This device scans the film frame-by-frame is it plays, and converts it to a digital MP4 movie that you can upload to YouTube, watch on your computer or burn to a DVD.
You can even edit the digitized film on your computer to make it even special.
And like the aforementioned Wolverine Data Titan, the MovieMaker is a standalone device. Just plug it in, grab your old videos, and you're ready to go!
Not all innovative photography devices look to the future. Instead, Wolverine Data offers us ways to preserve the past, which is just as important.
Learn more about the Wolverine Data 8mm and Super 8 Movie Reels to Digital Moviemaker.
I only recently became familiar with CaptureLife, and the fact that I’m including it on my Best of 2017 list after such a short time should tell you a lot about how incredible this product is.
CaptureLife is an amazing app that lets professional photographers share photos with their clients via smartphone. In other words, it completely revolutionizes the manner in which you disseminate your work to your clients - no more flash drives, CDs, or hard-to-navigate online galleries.
Instead, your images can be accessed on any device, where your client gets a personalized text that reflects your unique brand. From there, it’s just a couple of taps of the screen before they can begin looking at their photos.
But if you think that CaptureLife is just a way to share photos with your clients, you’re wrong…
CaptureLife is a sales platform, too, so your clients can order prints and other products, right from their phone. They also have a growing Digital Marketplace that offers a variety of digital products photographers can offer to customers.
In fact, the app will help drive your digital sales because it’s so easy and streamlined for clients to make purchases. Besides, most people shop and purchase items on their phone anyway, so CaptureLife taps directly into that trend.
On top of all that, when your clients share their photo galleries with friends and family, your sales footprint widens even more. That’s because anyone the client invites to view their photos can order prints and other items as well.
CaptureLife is convenient, easy to use, and packed with features for both you and your clients. If you’re a professional photographer, and you’re looking for a way to improve your business, this is the one platform you need to use!
nPhoto Acrylic Prestige Collection Album
Artwork by Luke Woodford
I've said it before, and I'll say it again...
The process of creating a gorgeous photo doesn't end when you press the shutter button. It doesn't even end once you've finished post-processing!
How you present your images is half the battle in creating something beautiful, and if it's beautiful you're after, then you need to learn about nPhoto.
nPhoto is the largest printing lab in Europe, with 400 experienced artisans working hard to make photo albums and other accessories that make your photos shine and your clients happy with the results.
Though they have a huge line of gorgeous products, for me, the Acrylic Prestige Collection Album has to be one of the most impressive.
Artwork by Luke Woodford
On the front is a refined acrylic window that gives you a peek at the photo on its cover.
Not only does this allow you to highlight a favorite memory on the cover of the album, but it also gives the album a classic look with a modern twist.
You can even customize the colors of the cover as well as the type of cutout that reveals the cover image for a truly personalized album.
Speaking of the cover, it's handmade with a true feel of luxury in your hands.
Inside, the pages are made of rigid 800g/m2 cardstock, so the pages feel thick, sturdy, and luxurious as well. nPhoto uses metallic and silk papers (which you can mix and match in the same album) and panoramic layflat spreads that give the album an even more impressive look.
In other words, when you see this thing in person, you don't even need to pick it up to know that it's the best photo album you'll ever see.
The quality of craftsmanship is simply that good!
Learn more about the nPhoto Acrylic Prestige Collection Album.
My list of the best photography companies of 2017 wouldn't be complete without MPB.
When it comes to buying and selling pre-owned gear, no one comes close to these guys.
I've traded in a couple of items to MPB, and was extremely pleased with how smooth the process was to do so.
I just told them what lenses I had, and they gave me a competitive price quote within one working day.
From there, MPB arranged free pickup of my lenses on a day and at a time that worked for me. That was a nice detail!
After MPB verified that my description of my gear was accurate, they simply transferred my money right into my bank account.
It really was about as easy as it gets...
Although I chose to just sell my gear, I could've traded it in, too. MPB has a marketplace of thousands of items, so it wouldn't have been hard for me to find something I wanted.
What's more, MPB is a great place to find a good deal on pre-owned gear, so if you're in the market for a new camera, lens, or other photography gadget, it's the place to look.
Not only do they offer you detailed descriptions of each product, but they also have multiple photos that show the condition of the product.
In other words, buying and selling your used camera gear is a breeze with these guys, and since they're as committed to service after the sale as they are during it, you know you're in good hands should something go awry.
Not everyone has an unlimited budget for photography gear, so stretching your dollar is certainly a bonus. You can do that with confidence at MPB.