insta360 Photography Articles

Advanced Videography Techniques

Advanced Videography Techniques

Photo by Steven Van on Unsplash

Are you ready to step things up and create videos that have more impact and more drama?

Then you’re in the right place…

Making the move from beginner videography techniques to more advanced techniques doesn’t have to be confusing or complicated.

In fact, in this tutorial, you’ll learn four tips that are easy to implement, yet can have a profound impact on the quality of your videos.

Editor's Tip: To create the best videos, you need high-quality sound to go along with your footage. For my videos, I source sound effects and music from the industry leader - Epidemic Sound. You can find just about any kind of audio for any kind of video, and for the right price. Don't let your videos flop with terrible audio. Get Epidemic Sound today!

Advanced Videography Technique #1: Avoid Too Many Wide Shots 

how to shoot video

photo by 10174593_258 via iStock 

When creating a video, it’s important to vary the type of shot sequences to give the final version a more dynamic look and feel.

There are three primary types of shots - wide, medium, and close-up - though each has many different variations.

Wide shots are typically used to set the stage and establish an idea of the location for the viewers while medium shots are intended to show action or movement, and to give the viewers a more intimate look at the subject. Naturally, close-up shots are designed to introduce the character in a very intimate way, and typically focus on feelings, emotions, and so forth. 

advanced video tips

photo by Sujay_Govindaraj via iStock

Since wide shots are create for setting the stage of the video, they really should be used sparingly.

Once you’ve given viewers an idea of where the story is taking place, focus on creating medium and close-up sequences to keep them engaged with the story.

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Advanced Videography Technique #2: Use Backlighting Sparingly 

advanced videography techniques

 photo by AzmanJaka via iStock

Though backlighting can be quite dramatic when viewed with our own eyes, when you record a backlit scene, it’s often a bit of a mess. 

That’s because it’s difficult for the camera to accommodate the wide dynamic range, or range of values from light to dark, in a single shot.

So, though you can see a person’s face when the scene is backlit, on video, it’s usually rendered as a bright halo effect around a dark figure. If that’s the look you want, great. If not, you’ll need to avoid backlighting when possible. 

Quick Tip: The easiest way you can improve a backlit situation is by moving your shooting position to the left or right of the subject. Doing so removes the light source from the shot.

Advanced Videography Technique #3: Incorporate Foreground and Background Elements  

advanced video tips

photo by think4photop via iStock 

When you take a photo of a landscape, it’s often recommended to have foreground and background elements in the shot to give it depth.

The same tip works well for shooting video.

The issue, of course, is that when you shoot video, it can appear quite flat if there aren’t interesting things at varying distances from the lens.

You don’t have to go overboard here, either…

advanced video tips

photo by bombuscreative via iStock 

Just like with a still photo, shooting through something like foliage in the foreground will frame the subject will providing the depth you’re looking for.

Likewise, ensuring there’s a pleasing background behind the subject as you roll video will add some dimension to the shot while also giving it more visual appeal.

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Editor's Tip: One of the best accessories you can buy for your camera for shooting video is a field monitor. Having a high-quality field monitor enables you to get a better picture of what you're filming, even in bright sunlight. And if you're vlogging and need to see yourself on screen, you can't beat the larger display that a field monitor provides. I use the Andycine A6 Lite, and appreciate the bright, color-neutral display. When shopping for a field monitor, look for one that has a multi-angle tilting arm, that way you have a good view of the screen regardless of the shooting angle. The Andycine model I use has this feature and can be used in vertical or horizontal aspect as well. It makes shooting high-quality video so much easier!

Advanced Videography Technique #4: Equip Yourself With an Awe-Inspiring Camera

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One of the best things about being a video creator is that there are so many ways to create a unique video.

One such way is to expand your cache of cameras to include something like the Insta360 One X, which can completely change how you approach filmmaking.

I know what you're thinking - 360-degree cameras have terrible video quality and even worse image quality. And while that's been true in the past, the Insta360 One X changes that.

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Not only is this thing stuffed full of handy features like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a standard tripod mount, and a companion smartphone app, but it also has two really good f/2 fisheye lenses. Each one has a 200-degree field of view, and since they overlap, they combine to get you a true 360-degree image or video footage.

Aside from being super small (just .25 pounds!) and easy to use, this camera has a major trick up its sleeve that makes it the best 360-degree camera to date: FlowState Image Stabilization.

I'm not smart enough to understand how it works, but the fact of the matter is that it uses a six-axis gyro stabilizer to give you buttery smooth footage, even if you and the camera are bouncing around all over the place.

It's truly an innovative and incredibly useful feature. See for yourself in the video below!

With more traditional footage from your phone, DSLR, or mirrorless camera combined with the fantastic 360-degree view from the Insta360 One X, there is no limit to what you can create.

Video content is all about engaging viewers, piquing their interest, and commanding their attention. And with the Insta360 One X, you can do just that!

Advanced Videography Technique #5: Harness the Power of a High-Quality Video Editor 

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You can shoot all the video sequences you want, but if you don’t have a high-quality video editor to put them all together, you won’t have a compelling final product.

While many video editors are complicated to use, expensive to buy, or both, there are options out there that offer tons of upside without being difficult to use or expensive.

One of my favorite video editors that fits that description is Kizoa.

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What I like about Kizoa is that it’s both a cloud-based editor you can use on your computer and a free iOS app you can use on your iPhone.

That’s handy because you won’t always be at home or in your office when your creativity strikes, so having the option to put videos together on your phone is invaluable.

Something else I appreciate about Kizoa is that it’s so easy to use.

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For example, you can get the editing process started by using one of Kizoa’s beautiful pre-made templates.

Just start plugging in your videos (and photos too), and you can have a professional-looking video in a matter of minutes.

There are tons of options and features as well, so it’s both easy to use and extremely productive.

You can add different fonts and text effects, transitions and fades, music, special effects, and more.

Kizoa Prices

Best of all, unlike so many other video editors, Kizoa is budget-friendly.

The free account offers a ton of features, but if you want to remove the Kizoa watermark from your videos, you’ll need to upgrade to a premium package.

Since premium packages start at just $29.99 - which is a one-time fee, by the way - you won’t be out hardly any money to get lifetime access to a truly excellent editor.

If you’re ready to take your videos from so-so to spectacular, use these tips for your next video. I trust you’ll see a significant difference in quality!

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Insta360 One X Review: First Impressions One Month In

insta360 one x review first impressions

It's been roughly a month since I picked up my Insta360 One X, and I wanted to give you guys my initial impressions.

Let me first say that I have TONS of video footage that I'm currently editing, so I'll be sharing a final video as well as a more detailed review of this camera in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that.

For now, though, let me just say that this little guy is nothing short of spectacular. To say that I've been impressed is a huge understatement!

Let's dive into a few features and specs as well as some pros and cons that I've discovered over the last month.

Insta360 One X Design

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The camera is oblong, yet compact, and weighs a scant .25 pounds, so you can take it anywhere you like.

The unit has just two buttons, one to power it on and off and another that controls the mode and the shutter.

There is a display on the camera, though it is basic and small given the small size of the camera. That's okay though, because it has a companion app through which you can control what the camera is doing (more on that below).

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On one side of the camera is a Micro USB port, on the other is a battery door. On the bottom is a MicroSD slot, and next to that is a 1/4-inch tripod thread.

It's a sleek, modern design that keeps things simple!

Insta360 One X Features

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Unlike earlier 360-degree cameras, the Insta360 One X is chock-full of handy features.

For starters, it's a tiny thing that fits nicely in your hand. But don't let its small size fool you - it has a 1/2.3-inch sensor that can take RAW images and film 5.7K video at 30fps and 4K video at 50fps.

Paired with the sensor is a set of two f/2 200-degree lenses, both of which are fisheye. That being the case, their field of view overlaps one another to capture a full 360-degree image.

One of the best features of the One X is its image stabilization system, dubbed "FlowState."

It's a complex system, but the short of it is that is has a six-axis gyroscopic stabilizer that maintains smooth footage as you shoot, no matter how bumpy things get. You can see FlowState in action in the video above 

The system comes loaded with multiple shooting modes, like time-lapse, HDR, and even "Bullet Time," which creates a sequence in which the camera swirls around a subject as it moves (think of Neo dodging bullets in The Matrix).

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Other features of note include:

  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity
  • MicroSD port
  • Companion app with onboard editing tools, Live View, and the ability to start and stop recording
  • 18-megapixel maximum photo resolution

Additionally, there is a wide range of accessories available for the One X, including housings, mounts, and even a Bullet Time Bundle that includes a monopod.

Insta360 One X Pros & Cons

Let's start with the pros first.

The highway to 360-degree cameras is littered with failed camera after failed camera (Samsung Gear 360, anyone?), so it's not like the bar has been set real high for 360-degree cameras.

Nevertheless, this is hands-down the best of the bunch, and unlike its many predecessors, I think the Insta360 One X has a real chance of becoming the first successful mainstream 360-degree camera. That's a definite pro if you ask me. See some of the potential for working with this camera in the video above by

Additionally, this camera offers excellent resolution, image stabilization that's truly impressive, and as I noted earlier, it's loaded for bear with features.

But for me, the biggest asset of this camera is that it's like having your own cameraman on location with you. It enables you to grab different camera angles and footage that give your videos that multi-camera feel without having multiple cameras.

360onex app

It's not all sunshine and roses, though.

The One X app (iOS and Android) seems a bit on the cluttered side to me, so streamlining that would be beneficial (i.e., when you open it, it takes you to Insta360's online community instead of the camera settings...that needs to change). The battery life is another feature that's not worth writing home about, but in its defense, the battery life in my GoPro and my Sony a6400 aren't great either.

Other than that, I haven't found anything particularly offputting about this camera. Insta360 has done a fantastic job in developing this thing from a hardware and a software standpoint.

If you're in the market for a fun, innovative camera that will challenge you to be more creative with your photos and videos, this just might be it!

As I said before, I'll have a complete review and video footage in the coming weeks. In the meantime, get more details and pricing information on the Insta360 One X.


We Recommend

Mobile Videography Tips for Beginners

Mobile Videography Tips for Beginners

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Smartphones have done wonders for photography and made it easily accessible for millions of people the world over. 

And though smartphones aren’t quite to the level of “real” cameras yet, they still have solid cameras and features that make them a great starter camera for new photographers.

The same holds true for shooting video...

In fact, you can shoot, edit, and share video using nothing but your smartphone.

In this tutorial, learn three critical mobile videography tips that will help you elevate the quality of the videos you create.

Editor's Tip: Bring your iPhone videos to life by adding an epic soundtrack! Great videos are about far more than the footage the end-user sees. Instead, with the right songs and sound effects, you can create a video that's truly engaging and memorable. Epidemic Sound is my go-to source for audio because they have an excellent selection and great prices to boot. Step up your video with the right audio today.

Mobile Videography Tip: Stabilize Your Phone 

videography tips

Photo by Oliver Schwendener on Unsplash 

It’s easy to just pull your phone out of your pocket, hold it at arm's length, and start shooting video. 

But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean that’s the best way to do it! 

Perhaps the easiest way to avoid shaky footage is to get a better grip on your phone. That is, rather than holding the phone at arm’s length, tuck your elbows into your chest.

This subtle move helps you stabilize your arms, which, in turn, stabilizes the camera.

mobile videography tips

photo by Creative-Family  via iStock

Another option is to use Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), if your phone’s camera has that feature.

If it does not, some newer phones have Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) which can also help minimize the shakiness of videos.

The best option, by far, is to invest in a smartphone gimbal. 

Gimbals use motors or sensors to counteract the action of the phone as you move it. The result is gorgeously cinematic footage that has zero shakiness.

If you aren’t familiar with gimbals, check out the video above by Jeven Dovey to get a quick overview and some recommendations for the best smartphone gimbals.

Learn More:

Mobile Videography Tip: Shoot to Edit

beginner videography tips

  photo by tolgart via iStock

When the mood strikes to head out and shoot video with your phone, it’s simple enough to just start shooting.

The problem with that approach is that you end up with a bunch of footage that has no real plan behind it. In other words, you need to shoot to edit, or have a good, solid idea of what you want your final product to be before you ever start shooting.

Shooting to edit means taking a few minutes to storyboard what you want the video to look and feel like.

beginner videography tips 2

 Photo by James Sutton on Unsplash

This process should obviously include the subject matter, but also think about the story you wish to tell and how each segment of the story will relate to one another.

Consider things like how you will transition from one segment to the next, music you’d like to use, the types of shots you need (i.e., wide, medium, or close-up footage), and so forth

By having all of those details hammered out in your mind beforehand, you’ll be much more successful in getting the appropriate footage to make your dream a reality.

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Mobile Videography Tip: Use an Action Camera

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I suppose if we're being technical about it, using an action camera isn't exactly a mobile videography tip.

However, if you're on-the-go with your phone, you might as well have a souped-up action cam to go with it. After all, it's just another means of getting epic videos, right?

And for epic video, it's hard to beat the Insta360 One X. This thing is small, lightweight, and completely badass.

With two f/2 200-degree fisheye lenses, you get true 360-degree footage for fantastic-looking video sequences. Heck, this thing even has a "Bullet Time" setting that allows you to swoop around a subject, just like the cameras did in The Matrix when Neo was dodging bullets on the roof. It's extremely cool, to say the least.

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But the Insta360 One X isn't just about flashy software. It's got a 1/2.3-inch sensor capable of shooting 14-megapixel RAW images.

On top of that, you can choose between 5.7K video at 30fps or 4K video at 50fps. There's a companion app for controlling the camera, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and tons of accessories like mounts that you can buy to expand the camera's functionality.

The best part, though, is FlowState, the camera's image stabilization system, which is, in a word, amazing.

Honestly, you can strap this thing to your dog as he runs around, and the video will come out super smooth. See what I mean in the video above.

If you're ready to step up your videography game, an Insta360 One X should be in your camera bag!

Mobile Videography Tip: Editing Video is as Important as Shooting Video

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Creating awesome videos with your smartphones doesn’t end when you’ve shot all the footage you need.

An equally important step is putting it all together in a finished product with titles, music, transitions, and other finishing touches.

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on software to make that happen, either.

In fact, Kizoa has a free iOS app that gets you started with all the features listed above, and much more.

For starters, the app lets you create videos in a variety of formats, including the traditional landscape orientation as well as vertical and square.

Better still, regardless of the format you choose, the Kizoa app gives you the option to add sound effects, 3D effects, slides, different fonts and text effects, and more.

It only take a few minutes to complete a video as well. It’s literally just a few taps of your iPhone screen, and you’re done! 

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Something else worth noting is that Kizoa also has a cloud-based editor, so if you’d rather edit your videos on your laptop, you can easily do so.

Speaking of easy, Kizoa helps you get the editing process started with a variety of pre-made templates that allow you to plug and play to make quick work of producing videos.

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Best of all, unlike many other video editors, the cloud-based version of Kizoa is under $30 - and that’s a one-time fee for lifetime access.

Like I said before, the process of creating epic smartphone videos isn’t complete until you’ve edited the video. Kizoa makes that a fun and creative process whether you use their free app or the cloud-based platform.

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We Recommend

Must-Have Gear for New Videographers

must have gear for new videographersPhoto by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

So, you're ready to make the leap from photography to videography...

The question is, what gear do you need to get started?

Thankfully, many DSLR and mirrorless cameras have excellent video capabilities, so a new camera might not be on your list of things to purchase.

But what about other important items for video work?

Here's a few suggestions for building a functional videography kit.

Editor's Tip: Though music isn't technically gear, it's something you definitely need to make the best videos. Adding sound effects and songs to your videos enables you to create a much richer viewing experience that reaches out and grabs people. For the best deals on audio for your videos, check out Epidemic Sound. With a huge library, they have everything you might need to take your videos to the next level with awesome audio.

Don't Neglect Your Video Editor

video editorPhoto by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Before I dive into things like cameras and lenses for video, I wanted to address the video editor you use to make your creations.

You obviously want something powerful that offers you a lot of features for making professional-looking videos.

But you likely don't want to spend an arm and a leg that some video editors cost either.

I know plenty of photographers that rely on free software for their videos, but let's be honest - free software generally lacks the tools you need to make truly epic videos.

You don't have to spend a ton of money for a professional video editor though.

I started using Kizoa a few months ago, and I'm never turning back.

It's the ideal combination of power, performance, functionality, and ease of use.

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Kizoa is loaded with tons of pre-made templates (including for holidays!), so you can get a head start on making your videos straight away.

What's more, you can add music, transitions, texts, and other effects to give your videos a polished look.

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From an ease of use standpoint, Kizoa has a free iOS app, so I can create and edit videos right then and there after I record the footage.

On top of that, Kizoa has made it easy to share the videos I create - I can email them, burn them to a DVD, or upload them to social media in a matter of moments.


Kizoa truly is the best of both worlds - it's powerful and affordable, with premium plans starting at just $30.00 per month.

If you're ready to take your videography to the next level, give Kizoa a try!

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What Camera is Best for Video?

what camera is best for videoPhoto by Stephen Kennedy on Unsplash

Maybe you already have a camera that shoots video.

But if you don't, or if you want to upgrade, what camera is best for video?

The answer, of course, depends on who you ask.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of Sony cameras for video work - like the Sony a7 III, which has 4K shooting capabilities at both 24fps and 30fps.

sony a7r iii

This camera is small, lightweight, easy to maneuver, and has improved battery life over previous Sony models.

What's more, there's a wide range of lenses you can use with this camera to get different types of shots and effects for your videos.




The key here isn't brand - I like Sony, but if you like Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, or some other brand, that's okay! Just be sure you have a camera with interchangeable lenses, and preferably, 4K video capabilities.

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I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shoutout to my new favorite camera for video, the Insta360 One X.

I've only had it for a week, but I can already tell you that I have had more fun shooting video with this thing than I have with any other camera in a long time.

Obviously, the video you get from a 360-degree camera is much different than what you get from a traditional camera, and that's part of the appeal of this tiny, handheld rig.

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You can hold it in your hand, put it on a tripod or grip, strap it to your name it. The possibilities for angles of view and different vantage points are endless!

This camera weighs just .25 pounds and is super easy to operate via the companion smartphone app, so there's really no excuse for not always having it with you. Better still, you can do all kinds of killer things with it like HDR, time-lapse, and Bullet Time sequences (like from The Matrix) that results in mind-bending footage.

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Helping matters is the Insta360 One X's FlowState image stabilization system.

It's a six-axis (yes, six!) gyroscopic system that does an incredible job of minimizing movement for ultra-smooth video.

Add to that a bevy of accessories you can buy for it, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and built-in shooting modes, and you have the makings of a fun and functional camera.

Seriously, give the Insta360 One X a try - you might find like I did that it becomes your favorite new toy!

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A Field Monitor is a Must

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If you want to step up your videography game, stop relying on your camera's puny LCD and invest in a high-quality field monitor like the Ikan Saga S7H-V2.

Using a field monitor like this 7-inch rig gives you a big, bright view of what you're shooting so you can perfect the composition, framing, and focus of your video sequences.

This particular model has HDMI and 3G-SDI inputs and outputs and Ultra HD video as well as DCI 4K video.

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Don't let its large screen size fool you into thinking that this monitor is cumbersome, either.

It's slim and lightweight at just half a pound.

It has a gorgeous high-resolution (1920x1200), color-accurate screen with 1200 NITS of brightness, so it's a perfect companion for outdoor video work.

With software features like 3D LUT support, a histogram, audio meters, DSLR scaling, and more, you have the makings of a must-have item for your videography gear bag!

Top Video Lenses

recommended videography gearPhoto by Courtney Clayton on Unsplash

Again, the question of what lens is best for video depends on a lot of different factors.

If you're already invested in the Canon ecosystem, then buying a Canon-fit lens is obviously advisable.

What's more, if you already have a 24mm lens, there's no sense in buying a 28mm lens, as the difference in focal length isn't worth the added expense.

When it comes to zooms or primes, both have their merits for video.

canon 24 70mm

A good video kit would include both, actually, perhaps a 24-70mm zoom and a 50mm prime.

What's important to keep in mind is that lenses are the most important gear investment for videography (and for photography, for that matter).

Unlike your camera, which you'll eventually have to replace, you might have your lenses for decades. So, while good lenses (like the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8) can be spendy, they will more than pay for themselves over the long-haul.

Things to Consider When Buying a Video Lens

top video lensesPhoto by Jakob Owens on Unsplash 

  • Is it designed for crop sensor or full frame cameras? Is it compatible with your camera type?
  • What type of video do you intend to shoot? Shorter focal lengths - like 35mm - are better-suited for travel videos while longer focal lengths - like 135mm - are best for wildlife videos.
  • What is the widest aperture of the lens? If you intend to shoot in low-light situations, getting a lens with a large aperture is best.
  • How much does the lens weigh? What is its form factor? Big, bulky lenses aren't ideal for things like travel videos.

Editor's Tip: Not sure what lens to get to make awesome videos? Consult the experts and get the right lens for you.

Video Work Requires a Legit Memory Card

memory card for dslr camera picture id892104564Image Credit: djedzura via iStock

Given the amount of storage required to save all that 4K video footage you'll be taking, you can't pull any punches with your memory cards.

Like with lenses, it's important to invest in quality here. Resist the urge to save a few bucks on off-brand cards and go for the well-established brands like Lexar or SanDisk.

Additionally, it's important to take factors like storage space, read/write speed, and the class of the memory card into account.

If you're not sure what any of that means, give this detailed discussion of memory cards a quick read before dropping money on a card. Doing your due diligence will help save you heartache down the road by avoiding sub-par memory cards.

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Final Thoughts

Buying new gear is a very personal experience. That is, what you need for your video work might not be what I need for mine.

Having said that, there's common items every videographer needs - an interchangeable lens camera, a good set of lenses, and high-quality memory cards among them.

For more insights into the best gear for videographers, have a look at the video above by Matti Haapoja.

He's an experienced videographer that gives some great general tips on filling out your videography kit.

We Recommend

Top 10 Gifts for Photographers Under $500 - 2019 Edition

top 10 gifts for photographers under 500Photo by RobertBreitpaul via iStock 

With a $500 holiday shopping budget, you can really go all-out for a loved one that loves photography.

From huge canvas prints of their favorite photos to a new-to-them camera or lens, there's really an unlimited array of possible gift ideas.

To help narrow things down, I've listed 10 of my favorite gifts for photographers below.

These are personal favorites of mine that I have enjoyed at one time or another, and I think any other photographer would enjoy these as well!

Gifts for Photographers Under $500: CanvasHQ Print 

If you’re like me, sometimes finding the perfect gift for certain loved ones is a long, drawn-out process that causes tons of stress, and often you still don’t get something that totally blows them away.

I think a lot of photographers fall into this category. We have specific likes, and many of us already have most of what we want or need gear-wise, and what we don’t have is usually too expensive to put on a Christmas wish-list anyway.

But for all those hard-to-shop-for photographers on your 2019 holiday shopping list, I have the perfect solution - a large-format canvas print.

Think about it…

A canvas print is the gift that keeps on giving.

Not only can you immortalize one of your favorite images from your favorite photographer, but you also give them a means to showcase their work in a format that’s drop-dead gorgeous.

I have tons of canvases in my home, the vast majority of which are from CanvasHQ.

Now, I know what you’re thinking - canvas is old school.

Sure, maybe it is, but I’m telling you that these canvas prints from CanvasHQ are mind-bogglingly beautiful. In fact, they go head-to-head with any metal or acrylic print I have in my home.

The attention to detail is just amazing, and the materials they use are top-of-the-line. We’re talking archival-grade canvas, commercial-grade inks that are water and UV resistant, and kiln-dried pine frames to keep everything straight and true.

I love the personality that the canvas texture gives my images. That’s true whether it’s a portrait of my son or a landscape photo.

 I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the customer service you get with CanvasHQ.

These guys are committed to getting it right, so if something doesn’t go as planned, you won’t be hung out to dry.

If you have questions, they’ll answer them. If you have a problem, they’ll fix it. If you need assistance with uploading your photo or even picking the best finishes for your canvas, they’ve got your back. 

In the video above, I explain why I highly recommend a CanvasHQ canvas print as the ideal gift for the photographer on your holiday shopping list.

Start shopping for your favorite photographer today on CanvasHQ!

Gifts for Photographers Under $500: Holdfast Sightseer Camera and Lens Modular System

holdfast sightseer exterior

There's two problems that this gift idea can solve: discomfort and difficult-to-access gear.

The Holdfast Sightseer is a small bag, yet it holds a ton of gear. The photographer on your list can put their 13-inch laptop in there along with a camera (with a lens attached), two more lenses, and other accessories like spare batteries, memory cards, and a flash.

And since Holdfast engineered this thing to be modular, you can give the gift of even more carrying capacity by adding a Lens Pouch (or two) and a Cell Phone Pouch to the mix.

holdfast sightseer lens pouch small

Since the Sightseer is a truly modular system, you can mix and match lens pouches as you need to carry as much or as little gear as the situation calls for. What’s more, this system can grow with you as you get more gear - start out lean and mean with just the Sightseer bag, and as more lenses are accumulated, add Lens Pouches as needed.

Better still, because your gear is easily accessible, you don’t have to worry about missing a shot! With your gear at your fingertips, there's no waiting around to get ready to press the shutter button.

It’s easy to carry, too. Just use the two sets of carrying handles, the shoulder strap, or attach it to the Holdfast MoneyMaker dual camera strap for a super easy way to get your gear from point A to point B.

These bags look amazing, too, with a waxed canvas and American Bison leather exterior and an Aztec flannel fleece interior. In other words, the Sightseer is the complete package!

Learn more about the Holdfast Sightseer

Gifts for Photographers Under $500: Synology DS419slim

Every photographer needs a lot of storage capacity, and I can't think of a better network attached storage than the Synology DS419slim.

I've been using this NAS since June, and it's been a great asset for my workflow.

There's four bays for adding 2.5-inch drives, so there's tons of space for image files, yet this little guy is just 4.72 x 4.13 x 5.59-inches in size.

It can literally sit on top of your desk and take care of all your storage needs without getting in the way!

What's more, it weighs less than 1.5 pounds, so if the photographer on your list needs to get up and go, they can easily take this device with them.

As far as specs go, this thing is loaded for bear...

It runs Synology's excellent DiskStation Manager, has RAID protection and easy file-sharing capabilities, as well as a dual-core CPU.

You get a hardware encryption engine, read/write speed of 220 MB/s and 94 MB/s, respectively, and dual Gigabit Link Aggregation with failover support as well.

Add in dual USB 3.0 ports, could syncing with Dropbox, Google Drive, and others, as well as easy access via iOS and Android apps, and you have the makings of a hard-working, functional, and easy-to-use NAS!

Learn more about the Synology DS419slim

Gifts for Photographers Under $500: Wandrd HEXAD Access Duffle

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It’s tough to beat a great camera bag as a gift for the photographer on your list.

And if it’s a well-designed, comfortable to carry, functional, good-looking bag you’re after, look no further than this beauty - the Wandrd HEXAD Access Duffle.

The huge clamshell opening on top offers total access to the inside of the bag, so you not only have a great view of the gear that’s inside but you can also easily retrieve and put away your camera or accessories.

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Inside, you’ll find three organizational compartments that help you keep your gear nice and tidy. That’s a must for a bag that can hold a whopping 45 liters of gear.

But all that space is wrapped in a carry-on sized bag that’s 9"H X 14"W X 22"L and weighs just 3.9 pounds.

Check out the other features that this bag offers:

  • A padded laptop sleeve
  • Side camera access
  • High-quality zippers
  • Weather resistant materials
  • Removable backpack straps
  • Removable camera protection

There’s even an RFID secure passport pocket for those out-of-country adventures!

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On top of all that, this bag looks like a million bucks! I mean, what photographer wouldn’t want to carry this bag around?!

But those good looks aren’t superficial - the bag is made of waterproof Tarpaulin and 1680D Ballistic Nylon with a WR Army coating. Not bad, eh?

You can get your favorite photographer the bag by itself or opt to add one or two medium camera cubes along with it. Whichever route you go, you’ll be well under your $500 budget!

Learn more about the Wandrd HEXAD Access Duffle

Gifts for Photographers Under $500: Wiral LITE Cable Cam

wiral cam

If creating dynamic videos is on your favorite photographer's agenda, then the Wiral LITE Cable Cam is a perfect gift idea!

This simple rope system allows videographers to get tracking shots quickly and easily. In fact, it takes just a few minutes to set this thing up!

Called "Quickreel," the system's patent-pending rope system makes it super easy to capture awesome videos without tons of time setting up or taking down gear. Better yet, since an ultra static rope is used, you get excellent performance and top-notch safety without bulk or weight.

Once it's set up, you can use your GoPro or another camera to get long, smooth video sequences.

And in looking at the video above, you'd think it was done with a hugely expensive setup, right?

Not so...just a handy Wiral Lite that you can pick up for well under the $500 limit!

This is a functional and fun gift that any photographer that enjoys shooting video would love to have under the tree on Christmas morning!

Learn more about the Wiral LITE Cable Cam

Gifts for Photographers Under $500: Insta360 One X

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If you have an adventurous photographer on your holiday shopping list, why not give them a gift that will blow their minds and help them create unique photos unlike anything they've created before?

The Insta360 One X is a 360-degree camera that makes creating photos and videos a fun and exciting exercise.

But this thing is no gimmick - it has dual f/2 lenses with 200-degree fields of view. The overlap of the lenses results in a true 360-degree image or video.

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With a 1/2.3-inch sensor, 14 MB still images, and up to 5.7K video shooting at 30fps, it offers tons of options for getting high-quality content too.

It's small and portable, too, so you can easily hold it in your hand, buy a mount for your bike, strap it to your dog, or put it virtually anywhere to get interesting images and video sequences.

And since it comes with an incredible 6-axis gyroscopic stabilization system, the video footage it records will be buttery smooth.

Insta360 has also packed this thing with software to make using it easier and more productive.

Control the camera via the companion app, which features Live View so you can see what the camera sees.

There's even built-in shooting modes, including HDR, time-lapse, and "Bullet Time" (remember those incredible scenes in The Matrix where the camera rotated around Neo as he dodged bullets?).

I've had this camera for about a month now, and it is SO much fun!

Learn more about the Insta360 One X

Gifts for Photographers Under $500: E-Image EK610 Tripod

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Every photographer needs a reliable tripod in their camera bag, and the E-Image EK610 fits the bill.

Billed as a video tripod, the EK610 provides photographers and videographers alike with exceptional stability thanks to its strong two-stage aluminum legs.

Making adjustments to the tripod is quick and simple thanks to ergonomic leg adjustment knobs and a mid-level spreader that enhances stability.

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There's a fixed counterbalance to enhance stability even further, and the included fluid head makes for ultra-smooth panning.

The head can support up to 6.6 pounds, so it's ideal for use with a mirrorless camera, DSLR, or small video camera.

There's even a handy carrying case for the tripod, spreader, and head, so the photographer on your list can easily transport it from one shoot location to the next.

Best of all, this tripod is WAY under the $500 budget mark, so you can give an awesome gift and save some cash at the same time.

Learn more about the E-Image EK610 Tripod

Gifts for Photographers Under $500: F-Stop Sukha Backpack


I've had the f-stop Sukha bag for quite a few months now, and it has quickly become my go-to bag for occasions when I need to haul a lot of gear.

It's waterproof, so that's a bonus since I'm often out in the elements taking landscape photos. That's a feature the photographer on your holiday list is sure to like as well!

Additionally, this bag holds a ton of gear - 70 liters worth. I can pack nearly all of my camera gear into this single bag!

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As you can see above, even though this is a large bag, it's still super easy to find what you're looking for.

There's pockets and compartments galore, and with f-stop's Internal Camera Unit (ICU), all your gear is kept neat and organized.

The ICU is also heavily padded, so it cradles your gear and protects it from bumps and bruises you might encounter along the way.

I also like the fact that this bag has a huge panel that completely folds down, that way you can clearly see what gear is where.

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On top of all that, f-stop has incorporated handy features that make this bag even more functional.

There's expandable zipper pockets should you need a little more room and a reinforced carry strap that's ideal for carrying your tripod.

The internal aluminum frame gives the bag excellent rigidity that makes carrying it an easier task, and with enhanced EVA-padded Jersey laminate shoulder straps, the bag rides nice on your shoulders (and on your hips, too).

It's just a great bag that can carry a ton of gear and lets you do so in total comfort. Talk about the perfect gift idea!

Learn more about the f-stop Sukha

Gifts for Photographers Under $500: Wescott Rapid Box Octa Softbox

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If you’re in need of a gift for the photographer on your holiday list, don’t just settle for any old thing. Instead, wow them with a gift that has the ability to help them elevate the quality of their photos.

In photography, light is everything, and if the photographer you’re shopping for takes any portraits at all, they need a high-quality softbox in their collection of gear.

And for me, the best softboxes on the market are those by Westcott.

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I particularly like their Rapid Box Octa series because they’re lightweight, easy to set up, and supremely durable.

The all-aluminum frame is strong and helps the octabox keep its shape - a shape, by the way, that has a very shallow depth, so it can still be used even if space is at a premium.

But what will impress your favorite photographer most about the Rapid Box is probably not its durability or construction, but the way it modifies light.

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There’s a silver reflector that’s sewn into the back of the box’s diffusion panel, which minimizes the hot spot from the speedlight and results in gorgeously even light from corner to corner.

Speaking of the diffusion panel - it’s made of an all-natural, unbleached nylon fabric, which softens the light without changing its color temperature. Lesser softboxes cannot claim the same!

In the end, you want the gift you give to your loved one to be something that they love, but also something that they can use over and over again. The Westcott Rapid Octa softbox certainly fits the bill, and with various sizes available, including 26-inch, 36-inch, and 48-inch, you can select a softbox that’s just right for the types of portraits your favorite photographer takes. 

Learn more about Westcott Rapid Box Octa Softboxes (26-inch, 36-inch, and 48-inch)

Gifts for Photographers Under $500: Pre-Owned Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85

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If the photographer on your list wants to add a mirrorless camera to their setup as a second camera, or if they're on the hunt for a fast and feature-rich camera to upgrade to, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 is a great choice.

This micro fourth thirds camera offers a 16-megapixel sensor with an ISO sensitivity range of 200-25600 that allows it to be used in all kinds of lighting conditions.

The 10fps continuous shooting speed is great for action shots, but if you want to really speed things up, you can shoot at 40fps when using the electronic shutter.

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This camera is capable of recording 4K UHD video and has built-in five-axis sensor-shift image stabilization that allows you to shoot handheld without the worry of blurry photos due to camera shake.

Even better, if you pair this camera with a stabilized lens, you get double the stabilization!

Learn more about the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85

Gifts for PHotographers Under $500: Pre-Owned Canon EOS Rebel T6i

canon eos rebel t7i

If you're shopping for a photographer that's looking for an upgrade to their first camera, the Canon EOS Rebel T6i is a great choice.

This camera has a 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor that's paired with Canon's DIGIC 6 image processor. 

That means that the photographer on your list can take high-resolution photos in a wide range of conditions from sunny to cloudy landscapes to bright or dark interior portraits.

That's thanks in part to the T6i's excellent ISO range that can expand up to 25600.

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This is a modern camera, to be sure, with features like NFC for quick and easy transfer of photos and Wi-Fi for connecting to other devices.

Using the Camera Connect Mobile APP, photographers can quickly and effortlessly transfer their images and videos right from the camera to the cloud for safekeeping.

This is an excellent mid-range camera that offers tons of features, superb performance, and that works with Canon's extensive lineup of EF and EF-S lenses. And with MPB's thorough system of inspecting gear, you can rest assured that the pre-owned model you select will be what arrives at your door, in the condition as stated.

That means you get great gear while saving tons of money!

Learn more about the Canon EOS Rebel T6i