Meural Photography Articles

The Best of 2017

iStock 892323072 min

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!

Meural

meural 1

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.

meural

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.

meural frames 

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.

Learn more about Meural.

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

sewtrendy1Abba 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.

sewtrendy2Vic 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.

sewtrendy3Foxy Photography

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!

Learn more about Arsenal

Holdfast Roamographer Bag

Roam Gallery Portrait 3 768x1024

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.

Roam Gallery Landscape 24 1024x683

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.

Roam Gallery Landscape 4 1024x683

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 MoneyMaker

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

newborn1Purest 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.

newborn2Susy 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.

newborn3Susy 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!

Titan P3

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.

Memorywall

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!

Learn more about Memorywall.

Click Props

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.

clickprops3

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!

Learn more about Click Props.

Wolverine Data 8mm and Super 8 Movie Reels to Digital MovieMaker

F2DMM main

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.

F2DMM pt01

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.

CaptureLife

capturelife1

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…

capturelife2

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!

Learn more about CaptureLife.

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.

MPB

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!

canon5div

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.

nikon85mm

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.

Learn more about MPB.



We Recommend


The Best of 2018

best of 2018Image Credit: 2e812ac3_768 via iStock

It's hard to believe that 2018 is rapidly coming to a close.

All that's left is to enjoy the holidays, and then we'll be ready to ring in 2019!

But before all that, it's time to share some of the best photography companies that have shaped 2018 and are sure to shape the future of photography as well.

You've likely heard of some of these companies before. You might even have some of their products.

But others are newcomers to the photography world, and I couldn't be more excited to shine a light on them in this format.

Sirui

Pictured above: Sirui SR-3204 Tripod. Image by Cecil Holmes.

I've been a big fan of Sirui for a long time and have had their W-2204 carbon fiber, waterproof tripod in my arsenal of gear for years and years.

I'll be honest - I wasn't sure how Sirui could make a tripod that was better than the W-2204, but earlier this year, they did just that when they released their SR-Series tripods.


Pictured above: Sirui SR-3004 Tripod.

The SR line - which includes the SR-3004, the SR-3203, and the SR-3204 - is purpose-built for professional photographers with a load capacity of 55 pounds and a maximum height of 80-inches with the optional two-stage center column attached.

Sirui integrated excellent twist-lock leg mechanisms that make extending and retracting the legs a total breeze. That means faster setup and teardown times so you miss less shots.


Pictured above: Sirui SR-3203 Tripod twist leg locks.

In addition, the SR-Series tripods have an integrated bubble level to keep your horizons straight, three-position leg angles for fast setup, a removable flat top plate for converting your tripod from photography to videography, and an integrated 1/4-inch socket on the spider for attaching accessories.

If that sounds like a lot of built-in swag, it is!

Pictured above: Sirui SR-3204 Tripod with integrated bubble level.

These tripods are beautifully made, incredibly durable, highly functional, and backed by Sirui's name. That means it's a quality tripod that will last you for years and years to come.

It's that combination of innovation, commitment to quality, and top-notch tripod construction that landed Sirui on this best of the year list.

Kizoa

There’s no mistaking that video is becoming more and more integrated with still photography. One look at modern cameras and their 4K video capabilities is evidence of that fact.

That means that photographers need to start stepping up their videography game - and fast - lest they be left behind in a rapidly changing market.

With video being such an important part of photography in 2018, it makes sense to include one of the best video platforms around - Kizoa - on our list of the best of 2018. 

While other video-making programs might have more name recognition, the combination of Kizoa’s features and price make them stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Over the last decade, Kizoa has developed a vast suite of tools that make it easy to create professional-looking videos.

From adding texts and music to transitions and special effects, Kizoa gives you everything you need. That includes professionally-designed pre-made video templates to get you going and editing tools for cropping, rotating, straightening, and more so you can create your vision perfectly.. 

And using Kizoa couldn’t be easier - use their cloud-based platform on your laptop or download the free Kizoa app to your iOS device for on-the-go video-making.

Sharing your work is equally as easy with Facebook and YouTube integration. You can email your creations, burn them to DVDs, and download your files as an MP4, AVI, MOV, MPEG2, or even a GIF.

It’s inexpensive as well. With prices starting at just $30 for a lifetime membership, it’s an affordable tool for any photographer seeking to expand their talents into the realm of video!

Photologo

Here’s the thing... 

For years and years, I didn’t include a watermark, logo, or signature on my photos, even though I knew it made it easier for people to rip off my images.

But I had a good reason for my decision - watermarks just looked terrible.

Seriously, look at the image below and tell me that the signature on it isn’t completely distracting! 

I guess I figured that I’d rather have better-looking photos that are easier to rip off than degrade the quality of my images with a really ugly signature.

But I’ve changed my mind about the use of signatures, watermarks, and such, and that’s thanks to a company called Photologo.

I came across these guys a while back, and to say that I’m impressed is a total understatement.

The premise is quite simple: Photologo creates sleek, beautiful, and bespoke signatures for photographers that add a touch of elegance to your images (while also identifying you as the hard-working photographer that created the shot!).

For less than $40, Photologo will create a handmade signature just for you. Yes - handmade! There’s no software involved in the design process; instead, your signature will be created by real, live human beings using their artistic skill to make you a one-of-a-kind signature. 

Not bad, right? 

As you can see in the image below, my signature looks awesome.

But it’s not just the looking awesome part that’s so impressive.

You also have to consider how important your signature is to your overall branding and marketing strategy.

Think about it - if you have a gorgeous signature on all your photos, you create a cohesive look. Not only that, but when you send your portfolio to clients or they view your website, you’ll make an even better first impression with the combination of your breathtaking photos and professionally-designed signature along with it.

And you can do with your signature what you wish, too, so include it on everything from your website to blog to your online images for a complete branding experience. 

These guys work quickly, too. I had my signature in just two days.

So, from a branding standpoint, a marketing standpoint, an aesthetic standpoint, and a security standpoint, a personalized signature from Photologo can help you elevate your brand of photography. That’s why they’re included on our list of the Best of 2018!

Photomatix

photomatix logo white background 220x56

Ask any photographer what the hardest part of photography is, and a healthy margin will say getting the exposure just right.

Whether you’re trying to capture the perfect light of a landscape at dusk or photographing the interior of a home, the challenge of getting highlights, shadows, and midtones in beautiful detail is very real.

That’s why HDR software Photomatix is such a valuable tool for photographers.

box shot photomatix pro 6 1984x2560

Photomatix Pro is the grandfather of HDR software, having pioneered HDR photo editing with the introduction of its first version in 2003.

The software has matured over the years, while keeping up innovating on the leading edge of HDR imaging technology. Its latest iteration, Photomatix Pro 6, includes selective ghost removal, 40 built-in presets, 70+ HDR settings, a brush tool, and batch processing, to name just a few features.

The software offers 6 HDR styles to appeal to all categories of photographers. You can choose from a selection of natural-looking presets when you just need subtle enhancements, but you also have access to a large range or creative presets when you are after artistic effects.

Photomatix Pro is particularly popular among landscape photographers who rely on it to create that "wow" effect, but it's also widely used by real estate photographers. With presets optimised to produce natural looking interior photos, Photomatix Pro has become a favorite tool for high-end real estate photography.

But don’t think that HDRsoft is a one-trick pony - if it were, we wouldn’t include it on our list of the best photography companies of 2018. 

There are multiple products in the Photomatix family to meet the HDR needs of a wide range of photographers, whether casual, enthusiast, or professional. 

For example, Photomatix Essentials is designed for people who are new to HDR photography. It's not only incredibly easy to use but also offers automatic ghost removal, automatic alignment for handheld photos, and four HDR styles for even further customizations. And all that is just $39.

Being among the best in the industry requires that companies demonstrate an innovative approach to product development, and a commitment to creating products that make photographers more successful. HDRsoft certainly ticks those boxes, and many more. 

Holdfast

roamographer1Image Credit: Brandon Burk 

Holdfast has been - and continues to be - one of the top brands in photography.

It makes sense, too, because seldom do you find people as dedicated to crafting the best products as Matt Swaggart and his Oklahoma-based team.

And I don’t just appreciate what Holdfast brings to the photography industry as a photography business owner myself. Instead, I appreciate their products as a long-term customer of theirs. 

roamographer2Image Credit: Brandon Burk

My first experience with Holdfast was with their Roamographer camera bag. 

The bag is truly a top-of-the-line carryall that helps you keep your gear organized and safe, while helping you be more comfortable doing it.

The Roamographer is impeccably designed, beautifully crafted using the finest materials, and it’s versatile, too.

Just remove the camera insert and you’ve got a gorgeous weekend bag with tons of space for all your clothes and other necessities for a fun few days away from home.

moneymaker solo1Image Credit: Brandon Burk

Most recently, though, Holdfast has graced us with their MoneyMaker Solo camera strap. 

I have one of these as well, and I can tell you firsthand that the quality and construction that I came to love all those years ago with my Roamographer bag is still there in full force. 

In fact, the MoneyMaker Solo uses the same leathers and metal materials as its big brother, the MoneyMaker.

moneymaker solo2Image Credit: Brandon Burk

But the Solo is designed for one-camera shooters, so it’s a much more streamlined version of the venerable MoneyMaker.

The large, contoured shoulder strap offers you a comfortable carrying experience while the integrated stabilizer strap helps keep the shoulder pad in place. 

moneymaker solo3Image Credit: Brandon Burk

The included Belt Anchor adds further stability to the MoneyMaker Solo by keeping your camera locked into place not matter if you’re walking, stooping, kneeling down, or something in between.

Just pull the release tab on the Belt Anchor, and your camera is free so you can get the shots you need. A quick one-handed action engages the Belt Anchor again to lock your camera back in place.

With the ability to add lens pouches or a cell phone pouch, the MoneyMaker Solo might be small, but it’s got all the features and functionalities you’d expect from a Holdfast product! This commitment to crafting fine products is just one of the many reasons why Holdfast is on our list of the best of the best for 2018.

Kirk Enterprise Solutions

kirk 1

Kirk Enterprise Solutions makes our list of the Best of 2018 for one big reason - they make impeccable photography accessories.

When so many companies cut corners and offer consumers cut-rate products, it's a breath of fresh air to encounter products that are well-designed, easy to use, do what they're supposed to, and offer durability for the long-term.

Kirk has a wide range of products, from tripod and monopod heads to quick release plates and lens plates to flash brackets and rails for macro photography.

They also make some really, really good L-brackets...

kirk 2

The beauty of an L-bracket like the BL-D850 shown above is that you can quickly and easily release, turn, and remount your camera for both vertical and horizontal shots without having to flip the tripod head on its side.

Not only is this a faster, easier way to do things, but it also means you can retain your shooting position.

The L-bracket fits on the base of the camera without interfering with access to the battery or I/O ports, which only aids in its ease of use and functionality.

kirk 3

What I appreciate about my Kirk L-bracket is that it has anti-twist flanges, an Arca-Type compatible dovetail mount, and it doesn't interfere with a tilting LCD.

There's lines on each access to help me ensure the sensor is centered, and the one-piece design means strength and durability.

I've used this L-bracket in all sorts of conditions, and it's always performed beautifully.

That's what it's all about - crafting dependable products that help you and I take better photos.

That's why Kirk Enterprise Solutions is on our list!

The Vest Guy

vestguy1

For nearly three decades, Salt Lake City-based company The Vest Guy has been making the best photography vests on the market. 

Not only are their vests made in the USA, they’re also crafted to a military-grade level so they’re incredibly durable. They stand behind their products with a lifetime workmanship warranty which means you’ll have a vest that will serve you well for years and years to come. 

Pictured above and below is the Colorado Vest - just one of many photography vest model options available. 

vestguy2

Like The Vest Guy’s other vests, this rig was designed using hundreds of hours of professional photography experience in the field to ensure it’s of the utmost in functionality, durability, and comfort.

There’s an adjustable camera strap on the shoulder so you can keep your camera ready for those quick shots. There’s also cargo pockets on the lower part of the vest so your camera gear is right at your fingertips.

vestguy3

What sets this vest apart from others is the attention to detail regarding functionality.

For example, the dual cargo pockets have adjustable, removable interior dividers. You can use the cargo pocket to carry additional camera bodies or utilize the  pockets dividers to carry multiple smaller lens.

This vest even has dedicated pockets for lens filters!

And with small zippered pockets on the front of the filter pockets, you have space to keep things like spare memory cards, batteries, and cleaning cloths easily accessible.

vestguy4

Add in the fact that these vests have adjustable straps to accommodate year-round shooting attire, D-rings for carrying a flashlight, bug repellant, or other supplies, a hydration sleeve, heavy-duty zippers, and a carrying handle for easy transport, it’s a recipe for a top-of-the-line photography vest bound to set you apart. 

You can even customize the vest by adding padded shoulders, name tags, MOLLE pockets, and more.

If that level of craftsmanship and attention to detail doesn’t earn The Vest Guy a spot on our list of the Best of 2018, I don’t know what will!

DJI Mavic 2

mavic 2 pro

DJI's new Mavic 2 drone is one of the company's best yet, and that's saying a lot given the heritage of DJI's drones over the years.

The Mavic 2 - which comes in the Pro and Zoom versions - is a technology-packed and innovative drone that is certainly worthy of inclusion on this list of the Best of 2018.

Let's start with the Mavic 2 Pro...

This bad boy has a one-inch 20MP sensor in its Hasselblad camera. The lens has an aperture range of f/2.8-f/11, so you have all sorts of wiggle room when it comes to depth of field in your photos and videos.

mavic 2 zoom

The Mavic 2 Zoom, meanwhile, offers a bit more zoom range - thus the name - thanks to its 24-48mm lens. If you need more reach to capture distant subjects, this is the Mavic 2 for you.

Both drones fly at up to 44 mph, have a maximum flight time of over 30 minutes, and have all the obstacle-avoiding mechanisms you need to keep your drone safe.

Likewise, both the Pro and the Zoom are capable of shooting 4K video at up to 100MB per second.

When it comes to the best gear for photographers, increasingly, drones are on that list. If you're ready to step up your drone photography game, you might consider one of these top-shelf drones.

PolarPro Filters

polarpro

There's a lot to love about PolarPro filters, from their incredible lineup of filters for just about any kind of camera to their use of innovative techniques and materials that generate incredible products and superb results.

In fact, PolarPro crafts their Quartzline filters out of 99.9 percent fused quartz.

That means that these filters offer vastly improved optical clarity while also being more durable than traditional filters as well. What's not to like about that?

You can get these Quartzline filters in a variety of forms, too - UV, circular polarizer, neutral density - you name it! So no matter your need for filters for your camera, PolarPro has what you're looking for.

1530117925000 1418328

PolarPro doesn't just make filters for traditional cameras, either.

In fact, they make equally excellent filters for various DJI drones.

For example, their DJI Mavic Air Cinema Series Filter 3-Pack Vivid Collection gives drone pilots the capability of shooting beautiful cinematic videos with three different neutral density/polarizing filter combinations.

Their Shutter Collection for the DJI Mavic Air includes three neutral density filters that enable smooth video captures without changing the color profile of the footage that's taken.

31Nyi Jf9XL

But it isn't just the products themselves that earn PolarPro a spot on this list.

Instead, these guys have proven themselves to be dedicated to improving the industry with top-notch customer service, a lifetime warranty on their products, and a dedication to innovations that make taking great photos more likely.

In other words, PolarPro is at the top of their game so we can all be on the top of our game, too!

Learn more about PolarPro

Synology DiskStation DS918+

synology ds918 1

There's only one network attached storage system on our list, and for good reason.

The Synology DiskStation DS918+ is loaded for bear with features that makes securely storing your image and video files a breeze.

With four bays for hard disk or SSD drives, you can have up to 48 TB of storage space. It's a scalable system, too, so you can get even more storage with an optional external drive bay that gets you a total of up to 108TB of data storage. That's a lot of photos and videos!

This rig offers fast encrypted and sequential file transfers, is perfectly suited for storing and sharing Ultra HD media files, and can transcode up to two channels of 4K video simultaneously.

synology ds918 2

The DS918+ has a small form factor, so you can set it on your desk and it won't take up much space.

It's got a simple, elegant look, too, with a matte black finish.

Inside, the DS918+ is powered by an Intel Celeron J3455 quad-core processor that runs at 1.5GHz and can turbo boost to 2.3GHz when needed.

It's easy to set up as well, with Synology's user-friendly Disk Station Manager OS that allows you to get things squared away by using a network-connected computer or tablet.

All told, from unboxing the DS918 to plugging in your drives to booting it up and accessing the Disk Station Manager OS, you'll be in it for about 15 minutes.

Security, tons of features and options, fast performance, ease of use, small form factor...this NAS has it all!

Learn more about the Synology DiskStation DS918+

Athos Insurance Services

iStock 889031464

In a market in which many insurance companies seem to have lost the capacity for putting the customer first,Athos Insurance Services breaks the mold.

Not only is Athos known for its mantra of making every customer feel like the only customer, but they also offer a wide-range of coverages to meet just about any need that a photographer might have. 

Let’s just consider for a moment what Athos’ equipment policies cover…

Natural events like hail, floods, earthquakes, lightning, and windstorms are all covered. So too is accidental damage, damage from falling objects, damage from fire, smoke, or water, and damage that results from an explosion. 

athos

Beyond that, Athos’ equipment policy also offers coverage worldwide, including in transit or during shipping. Theft is covered, too, and replacement cost coverage is offered as well.

You can even get optional coverage for equipment that’s afloat or underwater!

In other words, if you’re looking for customizable and comprehensive insurance for your every need, Athos Insurance Services is who to call. 

Athos’ founder, Katherine Wong, specialized for many years in equipment and production insurance options, and now she’s leading the charge in digital insurance solutions. 

Athos provides quick and easy quotes, easy-to-purchase options, and quality covered to meet your needs, be that for equipment, home insurance, business liability, and various points in between.

It’s a true one-stop-shop for your insurance needs with an extensive online platform to deliver efficient services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s why we recommend them so highly for photographers that need insurance coverage!

Learn more about Athos Insurance Services

SnapPro

Ask any professional photographer what the toughest part of their job is, and I'd bet a healthy number would say "finding new leads."

After all, without leads, it's hard to develop your business, let alone sustain it...

But that's where SnapPro comes in.

SnapPro is a photography directory purpose-built to not only help photographers get leads but also help people find high-quality photographers in their area.

In that regard, it truly is a system that proves beneficial for both sides.

So, SnapPro is basically a database that lists its member photographers across the U.S. and Canada. People that need a photographer just jump on SnapPro, enter their location and the type of photographer they need, and voila - a list of matching photographers is provided.

You can even compare photographers side-by-side, that way you can determine which one is best for you.

SnapPro will then connect clients to their chosen photographer to learn more, get pricing details, and so forth. It couldn't be easier to find a photographer!

But for photographers, having something like SnapPro is a Godsend because it connects you with people that need a photographer in your area.

When business slows down, just turn to SnapPro to find gigs to fill in your schedule.

You can even use SnapPro to find side gigs - working as a second shooter at a wedding, for example.

Maybe best of all is the fact that you can join SnapPro for free in just a few seconds.

Once you join up, you can create a profile, upload a video to introduce yourself, create an image gallery to show off your work, and even publish articles and photography tips to help establish your expertise.

It really is a one-stop solution for photographers that need leads to generate new business!

V-Flat

vflat3

Creating gorgeous portraits is all about having control over the light. 

And while perfecting your lighting setup goes a long way in giving you the precise light you need for dramatic and impactful images, having the ability to fine-tune and control the lighting will help you take your portraits a step further.

You can do that easily with the easy-to-use V-Flats from V-Flat World.

vflat1

These V-Flats are just 40x40 inches when they’re folded up, and they’re super lightweight, so they are incredibly portable. 

In fact, you can slide them into the back of your car and take them from home to the studio to location shoots and points in between without any fuss.

The setup couldn’t be easier, either. As you can see in the video below, it’s a simple matter of unfolding the V-Flat, connecting the Velcro hinges together, and you’re ready to rock.

The white side of the V-Flat is ideal for bouncing light back onto the subject from a strobe for softer, more even light. Likewise, you can use the white side to bounce natural light back onto the subject for the same effect. 

The black side allows you to reduce bounced light, resulting in gorgeously dramatic photos with more shadow detail.

vflat2

Perhaps best of all, you can add V-Flats to your kit without breaking the bank. A single V-Flat is less than $200. Buying a set of two saves you even more money with a price of just $379.

Whether you work in a home studio, on location, or outdoors, you can now have greater control over portrait lighting with these innovative V-Flats from one of the best photography companies of 2018 - V-Flat World.

Acratech

IMG 8420 1

Over the years, Acratech has made a name for itself for crafting quality precision products from ball heads to L-brackets, quick-release clamps to panorama tripod heads.

But it isn't just the fact that they've designed simple, rugged, and effective gear that gets them on our Best of 2018 list...

Instead, in addition putting out quality, innovative products, I also love the fact that Acratech is a family-run business based in Pomona, California.

In fact, not only is the company based in Pomona, but every single Acratech product is proudly made there as well.

IMG 8449 1

Acratech uses only the finest materials, which means you get a product that is of top-quality workmanship that makes your job getting the shot much, much easier.

Their special edition red GP Ball Head shown above is just one example of their incredible attention to detail and their drive to craft photography accessories that help you get better photos.

I own a GP Ball Head (an original black version as well as the special edition red version), and I can attest to the strength and durability of this thing - I don't leave the house without it.

If that doesn't demonstrate just how good Acratech's products are, I don't know what will!

If you're in the market for a ball head, get an Acratech GP Ball Head in black or contact the company directly to order a special edition red GP Ball Head.

CanvasHQ

I've been a customer of CanvasHQ for a while now, and they certainly don't disappoint.

On the one hand, CanvasHQ crafts the best canvases I've ever hung on my walls - and that's saying something because I've tested canvases from dozens of companies over the years.

These guys use only high-grade materials, which means your photos look like a million bucks on a canvas that won't fade, bubble, or crack. The frames are made of kiln-dried wood so they won't bend or buckle, either.

Aside from the quality of their canvases, CanvasHQ makes this list of the Best of 2018 because they have outstanding customer service.

They're a small outfit, so they treat you like an old friend rather than another order number that needs to be fulfilled.

If you have a question, they'll answer promptly. If you need help, they'll stay with you until the issue is resolved.

Speaking of issues, if there's a problem with your canvas, you can send it back within 30 days to get a refund, or CanvasHQ will ship a replacement to you.

On top of all that, the CanvasHQ folks work quickly.

No one wants to wait for weeks on end to get their canvas, so the turnaround time of 48 hours and quick shipping after that means you can get your canvas in a matter of days, not weeks.

It's this combination of fast service, customer care, and quality products that makes CanvasHQ one of our favorites for 2018.

Start making your CanvasHQ canvas today.

Xennec

Xennec is a new company on the PhotographyTalk radar, but despite that, they’re already being featured on our Best of 2018 list.

Why?

Well, that’s simple…

In hands-on testing, their camera bags have not only proven to be of impeccable build quality but their functionality is off the charts, too.

Take their “smallest” bag, the Messenger 13 shown above. 

In it, I have my Nikon D850 with an L-bracket and a 14-24mm lens attached. I have a 24-70mm lens and a 70-200mm lens in the bag as well.

That’s a ton of gear in a messenger-style bag!

If you need to carry even more gear, Xennec’s DayPack 15 (shown above) and BackPack 15 (shown below) are monstrously large, with the former accommodating a camera with a lens attached, 3-4 additional lenses, camera accessories, a 15-inch laptop, and a 12-inch laptop. The latter ups the storage capacity even more with space for an additional 2-3 lenses.

What’s so great about these bags (aside from looking like a million bucks) is that they can carry all your gear and do so without feeling cumbersome. 

The Messenger 13, for example, feels light on your shoulder even when loaded for bear, and you still feel as though you can move quickly and navigate through crowds, be that on a busy city street or a wedding reception or whatever else you might be photographing. 

365f1aa3ceef549c412e4bf168790995 original

I’m a stickler for details, and Xennec certainly delivers on that front as well. 

They’ve incorporated things like innovative magnetic closures on the Messenger 13 for easy access, Twiz-lock zipper pulls for improved security on the DayPack 15 and BackPack 15, and waterproof zippers to keep your gear dry.

If you look at the stitching on these bags, you can tell that time and effort was put into the construction, which means that the bag will look good and perform well for the long-term. 

And that’s what’s so refreshing about Xennec - they have thoughtfully designed their products to be as functional as possible, dedicated themselves to high-quality construction, and developed innovative features like magnetic closures and hidden gear access panels that make using their bags easier while keeping your gear safer.

If that doesn’t land a company on a photography “best of the best” list, I don’t know what will!

Seriously, give Xennec a look and see what I mean about being the perfect blend of form, function, and price.

Argraph

41Dja4ur4L

One of the problems that many photographers face is figuring out what to do with all their old slides and negatives from decades ago.

Rather than letting them sit and rot in boxes in your attic, you can save them for perpetuity using Argraph's Pana-Vue Pana-Scan Portable Stand-Alone Combo Scanner.

What puts Argraph on this best of 2018 list is the fact that they have streamlined the process of turning analog memories into digital dreams.

This scanner is loaded for bear with features but it isn't complicated to use. That's a great combination!

Whether you've got photos, 35mm negatives, 110 or 126 Instamatic negatives, or 35mm slides, this scanner will digitize them all. 

41Yaa41TThL

Argraph has developed anti-glare technology that allows the scanner to scan photos without even removing the photos from the album. That's a great feature for fragile, old photographs.

What's more, if you can remove photos from albums, the Pana-Vue scanner will scan up to 4x6 prints into 14-megapixel digital files.

Perhaps best of all, it takes just a moment to scan and you don't even need a computer. This is a standalone device that allows you to scan and share your photos via email and social media. You can print your images, too!

Plus, if you want to view the images you've scanned, Argraph has made it easy to hook the scanner up to a TV.

There’s simply not an easier way to digitize old photos than with Argraph’s Pana-Vue Combo Scanner!

SHUTTERbag

One of the factors I take into account when deciding what companies I think are the best of the year is how innovative the company is.

And in terms of innovation, SHUTTERbag is at the top of my list.

This company has been changing the face of photography for eight years now, particularly for female photographers.

That's because SHUTTERbag specializes in creating functional, durable, and affordable camera bags for women.

As shown above, there are a variety of models for just about any female photographer.

If you're a mom on the go, the Girls Day Out bag (shown top left, above) is ideal because it has three separate compartments - one for your photography gear and two zippered compartments for anything from your tablet to diapers for your kid.

The Journey bag shown above is actually in my wife's closet as we speak - I bought it for her earlier this year.

The bag is a tote-style bag made of genuine leather. It has a breathable cotton lining that snuggles your gear and protects it from scuffs and scratches.

The bag also has a detachable strap with a slip-resistant shoulder pad that makes for a comfortable carrying experience whether you use it as a shoulder bag or a sling bag across your body.

What I like about it is that I can have my wife carry my Nikon D850 with a 70-200mm lens attached while I chase our son around. It's a great setup!

Beyond the beauty and functionality of these bags, there's just simply an incredible selection to choose from. No matter what you need big or small, SHUTTERbag has the bag for you!

Meural

The Meural Canvas is one of my favorite photography products of all time.

I think it's easy to understand why, too...

For starters, it looks like a normal, everyday framed photo or piece of art. The difference, of course, is that it's digitized, so you can load whatever images you want on it, just like opening a playlist on Spotify.

But more than that, the digital images displayed on this thing look incredibly real.

That's thanks to Meural's TrueArt technology that recreates the images with lifelike detail.

On top of that, the Meural Canvas automatically adjusts its display to accommodate vertical or horizontal hanging.

It has an ambient light sensor to adjust its brightness to the level of the lighting in the room,and the frame is made of FSC-certified American hardwood.

All of that means that you have a gorgeous product and one that's sustainably resourced, too.

Perhaps best of all is that you can control what's displayed on the Meural Canvas via their website, a mobile app, or by using hand gestures. It's like living in 3018, not 2018!

Meural Canvases are truly impressive and something that has totally changed photography. That's why they're on our Best of 2018 list!

Excire 

excire header excire search 1024x576

Excire is an up-and-coming company that I became familiar with this year, and I just have to sing its praises. 

For me, there isn’t much that I hate doing more than manually tagging my photos in Lightroom. That’s why there are thousands and thousands of images in my Lightroom catalogs that aren’t tagged at all. 

Until now… 

excire header product en

What’s so great about Excire’s products - Excire Search and Excire Search Pro - is that they utilize artificial intelligence to tag your Lightroom photos for you. 

Yeah...we’re living in the future, my friends! 

Excire Search has 125 common keywords that can be used for tagging your images, so every shot you have of a mountain or a bike or a dog will be organized and easily identified. 

Excire Search can obviously be used to search your images as well. Just use the plugin to find the images in your catalog that meet your criteria!

excire header contact en

Even better, Excire Search Pro offers over 500 keywords for tagging, so you have even more capability to organize and search your photos.

It includes a keyword transfer function, too, which means you can use Excire Search Pro on your existing catalogs. That means no more hunting around for the images you need, even if you have an enormous Lightroom catalog of tens of thousands of images. 

excire header home en

In addition to having a top-shelf, award-winning Lightroom plugin, the folks at Excire are dedicated to making a positive mark on the community. That’s why they take a small portion of the proceeds from Excire Search Pro sales and set it aside to fund non-profit organizations in the United States.

That fact alone is enough to land Excire on this list of the best of the best, but having an incredible Lightroom plugin that makes your life as a photographer SO much easier sure helps too!

National Photographic Adventures

National Photographic Adventures has been around for a good, long while, helmed by 40-year photography veteran Kevin Vandivier.

Kevin's award-winning photography, his down-home personality, and his commitment to helping others reach a higher level of success with their cameras are just a few reasons why his company is listed here as among the best of 2018.

I've had the pleasure of talking shop with Kevin on a number of occasions, and his love for photography is infectious.

He uses that passion to mentor his students to help them tell better stories with the photographs they take.

Each of Kevin's workshops includes one-on-one feedback, daily demonstrations of photography techniques, and shooting assignments that are designed to help each person grow as a photographer.

With locations all over the United States, these workshops give you a chance to learn and grow as a photographer in some of the most incredible places on earth - Grand Teton National Park, Glacier National Park, and Monument Valley among them.

Perhaps best of all, these adventures are limited to just seven people, so you're sure to get the most individual instruction possible.

No matter which adventure you choose, National Photographic Adventures is one of the best photography tour companies around!

Tripod Flags

tripodflags1

One of the criteria I use to determine if a company is truly one of the best of the year is their ability to think outside the box and provide products that truly help photographers build better businesses. 

Tripod Flags has certainly done that… 

Tripod Flags looked at one of the most useful (and visible) parts of a photographer’s kit - your tripod - and found an ideal place for photography branding.

Think about it - whether you’re shooting a wedding, a corporate event, working for a charity event, or something in between, your tripod is often front-and-center. Tripod Flags takes advantage of that prime real estate and turns your tripod into a miniature billboard with a heavy-duty canvas cover where you can place your business name and contact information for all to see.

tripodflags2

I often see wedding and event photographers wear shirts with their branding on them. And while that’s a good idea, it’s also expensive! Besides, when you’re holding your camera to your eye, who’s going to see your business name printed on your shirt?

Aside from being a great way to advertise your business, Tripod Flags also offer enhanced safety for your gear. The large, heavy-duty canvas cover is easy to see, so it can help guests avoid running into your gear as they enjoy themselves at the event. 

In other words, a custom-fit Tripod Flag pulls double duty. It’s an ideal way to promote your brand while also offering safety for your gear and for guests.

What’s not to like about that?!

Learn more about Tripod Flags

GDU

What impresses me the most about the GDU O2 drone is that you don't have to be a drone expert to fly this thing.

For beginner pilots, the GDU O2 is easy to use, highly portable, and its obstacle avoidance system helps keep it in the air and avoid crashes.

What's more, the vision positioning system gives the drone total flying stability whether you're piloting it indoors or out.

For more experienced pilots, the GDU O2 has a gesture recognition system for taking still images and videos, bust shooting mode for capturing action shots, slow-motion and time-lapse shooting modes, as well as a selfie mode.

On top of that, this drone has a three-axis stable video capture feature that enables beautifully smooth panning 4K videos.

GDU has incorporated multiple flight modes as well - fly in a circle around you, lift off like a rocket, or have the drone follow you around.

No matter which mode you're flying in, the drone has a return-to-home function so it will land in basically the same spot from which it took off.

Add in a smartphone app to control the drone, and you have the makings of one of the best photography products of 2018!

Vallerret Photography Gloves

I live in Southern California, so I don’t get many opportunities for winter photography - at least not the winter photography that involves the cold and snow. 

But I grew up in upstate New York, so it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with how the cold can adversely affect your ability to take a great shot.

Back then, digital cameras didn’t exist, let alone all the awesome camera accessories we have today.

One thing I wish I would’ve had back then was a pair of Vallerret Photography Gloves. I have some now, so I guess that’s all that matters!

In a word, these gloves are amazing.

Specifically designed for photographers, these gloves not only keep your hands warm but they allow you to maintain the ability to interact with your gear.

For example, their IPSOOT glove (shown above and below) has FlipTech finger caps that allow you to change camera settings and press buttons with your finger without having to remove the glove. The caps are even magnetic, so when they’re open, they stay out of your way. 

On top of that, the glove has an ergonomic fit that ensures it contours to your hand and doesn’t get in the way of camera control.

The palm of the IPSOOT glove has a non-slip covering, too, that way you can more easily grip your camera, even in the coldest of conditions.

Speaking of cold… 

Vallerret offers varying warmth levels for their gloves, so whether you’re in mild winter conditions, deep winter conditions, or somewhere in between, there’s a glove for you. 

The selection of gloves that Vallerret offers is pretty incredible, too.

If you don’t need the deep winter warmth of the IPSOOT glove, perhaps the Markhof Pro 2.0 glove (shown above and below) - which is designed for mid winter conditions and everyday use - is for you. 

The Markhof Pro 2.0 has many of the same innovative features as the IPSOOT - the Merino wool inner lining, the FlipTech finger caps, and the non-slip grip, among them. Both models even have a handy zippered pouch to keep a spare memory card handy.

If it isn’t obvious, Vallerret has thought of everything! 

They’ve got an extensive line of gloves, gloves for all types of wintery weather, gloves with innovative features that make photography easier to tackle in the winter, and these gloves look really, really good, too.

Beyond that, these gloves have proven their mettle in the harshest winter conditions in Alaska, Canada, Norway, and other countries that really test a photographer’s abilities - and the ability of their gear. 

It’s the combination of superb quality, tried-and-true real-world testing, and must-have features in a beautifully crafted package that got Vallerret on our Best of 2018 list!

Strabo Photo Tour Collection

Frank Lavelle

Since 2003, Strabo Photo Tour Collection has been leading enriching photography tours around the world that are designed by and for photographers. That's why they are the best of the best for 2018.

Strabo offers an incredible array of workshops and tours - more than 40, in fact - that take you to beautiful and enriching destinations the world over.

No matter if you love landscapes or architecture, portraits or wildlife, there is something for you!

In fact, if you're ready to get adventuring, you can head to Morocco - a land of breathtaking landscapes, friendly people, and tons of history - to build your photography skills in 2019.

Vik Iceland Ron Rosenstock image Ron Rosenstock

If Iceland is more your style, Strabo Photo Tours can accommodate you.

Join their yearly tours of this land of fire and ice and explore black sand beaches, beautiful glaciers, volcanic landscapes, and more.

Of course, there are many, many more locations to visit, including throughout Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, and North America as well.

Truly, Strabo has an amazing lineup of workshops, each of which is taught by a veteran photographer with years and years of practical experience.

That's what happens when you build a solid reputation as being a premier photo tour provider!



We Recommend


Top 10 Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000 - 2018 Edition

top gifts for photographers under 1000Image Credit: eclipse_images via iStock

Need gift ideas for photographers in your life?

Look no further!

We're in a bit of a golden age of photography, with cameras, lenses, and photography accessories that enable us to take better photos than ever before.

And it's no secret that a lot of photography gear is expensive...

But you might be surprised at what you can get with a budget of $1,000 or less.

Here's some of the best gifts for photographers for 2018.

Lensfinder

Let’s face it - photography gear can be expensive. Really expensive.

That’s a problem year-round, but when you’re holiday shopping and have tons of gifts to buy, it’s even more difficult to justify getting your loved one the $1,000 lens that they really want.

Fortunately, Lensfinder can help in more ways than one.

On the one hand, you can find great deals on pre-owned camera lenses at Lensfinder. 

That means that you can get a truly top-notch lens for the photographer in your life but do so without busting your budget. It’s a win-win!

On the other hand, if you have some old lenses that you don’t use anymore, you can list them for sale on Lensfinder. When the lens sells, you can use it for holiday spending money for the photographer in your life. 

Image Credit: xxmmxx via iStock

The best part? You can list your lenses for sale for free. 

There’s only a transaction fee (just 3.99%) when the lens sells (with a maximum fee of $500). If your lens doesn’t sell, there’s no charge at all!

And for peace of mind, the Lensfinder platform has advanced fraud filtering for both buyers and sellers as well as mediation services in the event that there’s a problem.

Payments are made and received via PayPal, so you can rest easy knowing that the transaction is safe and secure.

In other words, Lensfinder is the ideal solution for your holiday shopping needs. Either use it to find a loved one a killer lens or use it to sell old gear to pad your pockets for holiday spending!

Learn more about Lensfinder

Holdfast Roamographer

holdfast roamographer bag

With a $1,000 holiday budget, you can give the photographer on your list a gift that is impeccably designed, highly functional, and way under budget, too. 

The Holdfast Roamographer bag is one of the finest leather camera bags on the market. It offers gorgeous aesthetics with an American Bison leather exterior that’s beautiful and rugged at the same time.

Not only will this leather stand up to the elements and age with grace, but it’s also weather resistant so you can be sure the contents of the bag remain safe and dry.

holdfast moneymaker original 2

It’s a big bag and can carry lots of gear, but carrying it is a breeze with an adjustable shoulder strap with a shearling-lined shoulder pad for comfort.

Or, if you prefer, you can carry the Roamographer using the Holdfast MoneyMaker for even more functionality and comfort, as seen above.

holdfast roamographer interior

The inside of the bag must be mentioned as well. 

The removable camera insert means that no matter how much or how little gear your favorite photographer needs to carry, the Roamographer will help them keep it organized.

The padded insert has cubbies specifically for cameras, lenses, flashes, and other accessories, while there’s interior and exterior pockets for other goodies like a phone, car keys, and a tablet.

The insert is removable, too, so on weekends when they’re not on the job, the photographer on your list can use this as a weekend bag, too. 

That makes the Holdfast Roamographer a beautiful, functional, and multi-purpose bag!

Learn more about the Holdfast Roamographer

GDU O2 Drone

gdu 02

What’s so great about the GDU O2 drone is that it’s designed to be used by pilots of all experience levels. For beginners, it’s easy to use and extremely portable. The obstacle avoidance system will assist in preventing crashes, and the vision positioning system allows the drone to maintain complete stability whether flying indoors or out. That makes this the ideal drone with which to learn about flying. 

Beginners and more advanced pilots alike will appreciate the host of smart features that the O2 has. That includes gesture recognition for taking photos and videos, as well as burst shooting, time-lapse shooting, slow-motion shooting, and selfie mode. The three-axis stable video capture feature allows you to take gorgeous panning 4K videos as well. 

gdu 02 2 

There are multiple flight modes, too. Instruct the drone to fly in a circle around you, take off like a rocket, or follow you as you walk, hike, ride your bike, or otherwise move around. No matter which mode the O2 is flying in, it can use its return to home function to land in virtually the exact same spot from which it took off. 

The O2 also comes with a smartphone app to make using this drone even easier. Connect to your drone to see what it sees on your smartphone screen. You can also fly the drone with your phone. Add in built-in editing and sharing functions, and you have the makings of a total drone experience, from flying to taking photos and videos to editing and sharing your work quickly and easily online.

Learn more about the GDU O2 Drone

Meural

meural

If you’ve got someone on your holiday shopping list that has everything, the Meural Canvas is the ideal gift for them.

Looking a the same old painting or photograph over and over again is so 20th Century…

With a Meural Canvas, your loved one can view their favorite artwork from Meural’s curated library or upload their own images to enjoy. Whichever is the case, artwork is displayed instantly for them to enjoy. 

Better still, they can control their Meural Canvas via the web, the Meural App, or with gesture control. It’s the easiest way to enjoy art! 

meural canvas app

The Meural Canvas brings artwork to life by using TrueArt Technology, a proprietary blend of hardware, firmware, and software that renders images in beautiful detail and texture. To say that the Meural Canvas makes artwork look lifelike is an understatement!

This canvas looks great in any setting, too, with different sizes, frame types, and frame colors to suit any decor. It can even detect if it’s hanging on a vertical or horizontal plane, and will automatically adjust its display accordingly. There’s also a built-in light sensor so it will automatically increase or decrease the brightness of its display to suit the surroundings.

On top of all that, Meural gives 60 percent of its earnings to artists on their platform, so not only do they have an awesome product, but they also give back. It’s a win-win!

Learn more about the Meural Canvas

Canon M50

As mirrorless cameras continue to grow in popularity, it only makes sense that you consider giving your favorite photographer a mirrorless camera this year. 

Whether a photographer is a beginner and needs a new camera, an enthusiast that wants a capable mirrorless camera for everyday shooting, or a professional that wants to add a small mirrorless camera to their kit to serve as a second or third shooting option, the Canon M50 fits the bill.

The M50 is outfitted with a 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor that offers surprisingly good image quality at this price point.

This camera also offers Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS technology, which, among other things, offers superior focus tracking performance and a wider area of focus coverage when photographing moving subjects.

Additionally, the M50 features 99 autofocus points with most EF-M lenses while some EF-M lenses offer even more - 143 AF points, to be exact. Not only that, but the M50 sports excellent low-light autofocus capabilities, so even when shooting in less-than-ideal lighting, this camera’s autofocus system will perform well. 

This camera has plenty of features that make it easy to use, too.

The DIGIC 8 processor makes quick work of processing image data while the 1.04-million dot LCD is fully articulating for easier viewing when shooting in live view. It’s also touch-enabled for quick work of navigating the camera’s menu system. 

The 2.36-million dot OLED electronic viewfinder gives photographers a clear, crisp view of what they’re photographing while the built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth make sharing photos and connecting to other devices a breeze, too.

For video enthusiasts, the M50 offers HD video shooting at 1080/60p and 720/120p. You can also shoot in 4K UHD at 24p.

And if the photographer on your list already has Canon lenses, they can be used with the M50 with an adaptor. That means they don’t have to invest in new glass if they don’t want to, and simply use their EF and EF-S lenses.

All of those bells, whistles, and features make this a highly capable entry-level or enthusiast camera. If you want to give the gift of a more capable camera, the Canon M50 is it! 

Best of all, Paul’s Photo has this camera in stock and for a great price so you can give an awesome gift without busting your budget! 

Learn more about the Canon EOS M50

NiSi 100mm System V5-Pro Advance Filter Kit

51 8edg8aL. SL1001

There's a gear mantra to live by, and that's that the lens you use is more important than the camera.

Good glass can make or break your photos, and if you spend the money on good glass, you definitely want good filters in front of it.

That's why NiSi's 100mm System Advance Filter Kit is such a great gift idea for the photographer on your holiday shopping list.

This kit is loaded for bear and includes:

  • 1 x NiSi V5 PRO Holder includes 67mm 72mm 77mm Adaptor Rings+82mm Main Adapter+86mm Pro CPL
  • 1 x NiSi Glass 100x150mm Multi-coated Soft 0.9 (3-stop) +1 x Reverse 0.9 (3-stop) Graduated ND Filter
  • 1 x NiSi Glass 100x100mm Nano Multicoated Filter IR ND 0.9(3-Stop) Filter + 1 x IR ND 1.8 (6-Stop) Filter + 1 x IR ND 3.0 (10-Stop) Filter
  • 1 x NiSi All in One Case(can hold V5 or V5 PRO, adaptor rings and 8pcs filters at most)
  • 1 x V5 Lens Cap + 1 x Square Filter Cleaning Eraser + 1 x Cleaning Cloth+ 1 x Air blower

81hzLvNqWnL. SL1500

I can personally attest to this filter system as being one of the very best that I've ever owned.

The filters expand the creative abilities of your camera, allowing you to create gorgeous long exposures and manage difficult dynamic range while giving you the highest color and contrast fidelity with minimal aberrations.

Not only that, but the filters and filter holder are beautifully designed and made of high-quality, durable materials, so your favorite photographer can get the shots they want without worrying about whether their filters are going to make it back home.

Having lens filters is a must for landscape photographers. Get the landscape photographer on your shopping list the best filters money can buy!

Learn more about the Nisi 100mm System V5-Pro Advance Filter Kit 

Synology DiskStation DS1817+

61jVf5DbJLL. SL1500

Photographers can never have enough storage space for all their images and other files, which is why we're including the Synology DiskStation on our list.

This expandable storage device can store up to 60TB of data. Start small with 12TB and expand as your needs grow.

The unit has upgradable memory, a PCIe slot to install a 10GbE network card for lightning-fast data transmission, and remote access, so your favorite photographer can access their files from any device anywhere in the world.

61KFODZnGL. SL1500

Perhaps even better, this rig allows for backing up all computers, servers, and other devices, that way all data is backed up and safe from ransomware, viruses, hacking, and human errors.

The DiskStation can be backed up to a cloud service or offsite location as well, giving you yet another layer of data protection.

While this might be overkill for some photographers, for professionals that have tens of thousands of images and other files, the Synology DiskStation can be a God-send.

Learn more about the Synology DiskStation DS1817+

Pre-Owned Sony A6500 From MPB

sony a6500

I've been a Nikon shooter since the beginning, but a few years ago I picked up a Sony A6300 and have loved every minute of using it.

It's brother, the Sony A6500, is a fantastic camera as well, and can be found for under $1,000 if you buy pre-owned.

This mirrorless APS-C camera has a 24.2-megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor, a BIONZ X image processor, and an ISO range that extends to 51200.

It can shoot 4K video, has a continuous shooting speed of 11fps, and has 5-axis SteadyShot image stabilization, which helps minimize camera shake when working at slower shutter speeds.

sony a6500 back

Something I love about my Sony is how small and lightweight it is, and both of those factors apply in this situation as well.

This camera weighs just 16 ounces (without a lens attached), so you can easily take it for a day of shooting or on a long trip and never be in a situation in which you feel like your camera is drawing tons of attention.

What will draw attention, though, is the fact that this camera has an incredible 425-point phase-detection autofocus system that has 169 area contrast detection autofocus points.

What that means is that this camera performs unbelievably well when it comes to rapid and precise focusing.

If you have a photographer on your list that's been thinking about upgrading their camera, this is an ideal choice!

Learn more about the Sony A6500

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

71tFOBFWZL. SL1500

I have a number of Microsoft Surface products, and as an Apple guy, I was skeptical when I got my first Surface.

But I quickly found that my reservations were misplaced because the Surface lineup is fantastic from top to bottom.

I particularly like the Surface Pro 4 because I don't always need a full-blown laptop to get done what needs to get done.

Yet, the Surface pro could easily replace a laptop by adding the optional keyboard and relying on the devices excellent suite of hardware.

71P4RrVdUrL. SL1500

This particular model has a 128GB hard drive, 4GB of ram, and an Intel Core i5 processor.

While those specs aren't going to be enough to be a primary computer for a photographer, for daily tasks like posting on social media, doing billing, emailing clients, and so forth, this little Surface will be all you need.

I love the PixelSense touchscreen display, especially when I'm slumming it on the couch and catching up on work as I watch TV.

And when I need to be a little more precise than with my big, clumsy fingers, the Surface Pen is ideal for getting the job done.

If you want to give the gift of technology this holiday season, try giving a Surface Pro 4! They're even on sale at the moment, so you can snag one for well under $1,000.

Learn more about the Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Surui SR-3204

1531758446000 1420908

Sirui has been making excellent tripods for years now, but their latest SR-series tripods are likely the best they've ever made.

The Sirui SR-3204 is a four-section tripod that extends from just 4.7-inches above the ground to 59-inches.

And all that height compacts into just over 21-inches, that way you have the height you need without having a large, bulky tripod to carry around.

1531758361000 IMG 1027526

Better still, the SR-3204 can hold up to 55-pounds of gear, a three-position leg angle mechanism for quick deployment of the tripod, and easy-to-use twist leg locks that also facilitate quick setup.

This tripod also has an integrated bubble level, a flat top plate with 3/8-inch mounting screw, and an integrated 1/4-inch socket on the spider for adding accessories.

In other words, this is a capable, functional, and durable tripod that will last the photographer on your list for years and years to come!

Learn more about the Sirui SR-3204 tripod

Formatt-Hitech 100mm Firecrest Ultra Ken Kaminesky Signature Edition Master Filter Kit

1518544807000 IMG 944435

Yet another top gift idea for photographers is the Formatt-Hitech 100mm Firecrest Ultra Ken Kaminesky Signature Edition Master Filter Kit.

This kit comes with everything a photographer needs to capture gorgeous and breathtaking landscapes, cityscape, and long exposures, just to name a few.

Included in this bundle are several ND Filters (ND 0.9, 1.8, and 3.0), a graduated ND 0.6, a graduated ND 0.9, and an UltraSlim circular polarizer.

On top of that, the kit includes a 100mm filter holder and adapter and step-up rings, as well as filter pouches, a holder case, and a Ken kaminesky booklet.

1518544223000 1371544 

What sets these filters apart from the rest is the lap and polish technique that makes them perfectly flat with consistent filtering power to enhance images.

What's more, the Firecrest Ultra line of filters have incredible clarity as well as lower reflectivity than other filters.

This makes them a prime choice for photographers that wish to enhance their photos!

Learn more about the Formatt-Hitech 100mm Firecrest Ultra Ken Kaminesky Signature Edition Master Filter Kit 

Bonus Gift Idea: Formatt-Hitech 100mm Firecrest Ultra Elia Locardi Signature Edition Travel Filter Kit

formatt hitech fcuel100fch firecrest ultra elia locardi 1516039524000 1371543

If the photographer on your list is more of a travel photographer, then the Elia Locardi Signature Edition Travel Filter Kit by Formatt-Hitech is a great choice.

This kit includes a variety of filters and related gear that will make the task of travel photography easier and more productive.

That includes a Firecrest Ultra ND 1.2 filter, a Firecrest Ultra ND 3.0 filter, a Firecrest Ultra Graduated ND 0.9 filter, a Firecrest 82mm UltraSlim Circular Polarizing Filter, and a 100mm filter holder as well.

Additionally, the kit comes with adapter rings, step-up rings, filter pouches, a holder case, and a booklet from Elia Locardi to provide your favorite photographer with a few tips and inspiration for their photos.

1516041030000 IMG 929547

Like the Ken Kaminesky Kit describes earlier, this kit's filters are manufactured to the highest of specifications so photographers get the best possible results.

With unmatched clarity and sharpness, these filters won't get in the way of getting the shot, but will instead enhance photos with gorgeous detail.

Between the options of creating long exposures with the included ND filter, creating better-exposed images with the included graduated ND filter, and controlling glare, haze, and contrast with the included polarizing filter, this kit gives any photographer all the options they need to improve their photos.

Learn more about the Formatt-Hitech 100mm Firecrest Ultra Elia Locardi Signature Edition Travel Filter Kit

Promaster Unplugged TTL400

142067820 1

Shooting serious outdoor portraits requires that photographers have artificial lighting.

And while learning how to utilize artificial lighting can be tough, finding excellent lighting to give to a photographer this holiday is a breeze!

The Promaster Unplugged TTL400 is the ideal lighting solution for breathtaking outdoor portraits for a variety of reasons, not the least of which it's battery-operated, so your favorite photographer won't have to be bogged down by the availability of power.

142067820 2

This high-powered strobe light uses a camera's TTL system to create beautiful light that can be finely-tuned by photographers for a specific look.

This light offers TTL control with exposure compensation, multi-flash mode, high-speed sync, and manual mode, too.

There's 15 channels with 99 IDs, A, B, and C groups with ratio control, an audible alarm function, and FEB flash exposure bracketing mode as well.

In other words, the photographer on your list will have all the features and options they need to get the highest-quality outdoor portraits possible!

Just be sure to include the right trigger that correlates with the camera system being used, like Canon or Nikon, to complete this awesome gift idea!

Learn more about the Promaster Unplugged TTL400



We Recommend


Top 10 Last-Minute Gifts for Photographers

iStock 617354276 min 1

I know we've still got over a month until Christmas, but the clock is ticking to get awesome gifts for the photographers on your holiday shopping list.

The question is, what can you get them that will have that wow factor and totally knock their socks off?

Well, I've got quite a list for you...

And this isn't just some random collection of photography gifts, either. I have personal experience with every single item listed below.

Take it from me, if you need to shop for a photographer, there's something on this list that they will fall in love with!

DJI Mavic Pro

mavic pro 1 

If you’re pressed for time and trying to find ultimate gift for the photographer in your life, consider buying something truly impressive that will take their photography to new heights...literally!

The DJI Mavic Pro is a small but powerful personal drone that offers incredible portability and ease of use while giving you the ability to capture amazing photos at the same time.

Get a load of some of these features…

The Mavic Pro has 24 high-performance computing cores and an all-new OccuSync transmission system that gives it top-notch performance for greater distances. What I found most impressive about this feature is that you can enjoy full HD video streaming from up to 4.3 miles away!

And you don’t have to worry about flying into things, either, because the Mavic Pro has a FlightAutonomy system that detects obstacles up to 49 feet away. Fly with confidence up to 40 mph knowing the Mavic Pro will avoid anything in its path. That feature has saved me a few times!

mavic pro 2

FlightAutonomy isn’t just for obstacle avoidance, though. It also gives you the ability to land the drone in the exact spot from which it took off. The system also enables the drone to hover more precisely in varied environments, and keep the drone the same elevation above the ground, no matter the terrain.

Additionally, the Mavic Pro has a 4K camera that’s stabilized by a 3-axis mechanical gimbal, offering gorgeous, high-resolution photos and smooth-as-silk 4K video at 30fps.

The Mavic Pro has an improved battery life, too. Why fly for just 10 or 12 minutes when you can fly for 27?!

Another feature that I really appreciate is ActiveTrack. Using ActiveTrack, the Mavic Pro can follow the subject from a front or rear position (or circling them), fly alongside the subject as it moves, and even maintain its focus on the subject as it flies in for close-ups and out for wide shots. 

mavic pro 3

Perhaps most impressive, though, is Tripod Mode.

Sometimes, you need to fly your drone in tight quarters, such as indoors. In that case, flight movements need to be slow and precise. That’s where Tripod Mode comes in: it gives you pinpoint control so the drone can be moved with precision to ensure safe passage.

Clearly, the Mavic Pro is the perfect gift for photographers and videographers because it is loaded with incredible features that make taking photos and videos a breeze.

mavic pro 4

As a sidenote, DJI just released the Mavic Pro Platinum (shown above) that is 60% quieter and features a longer flight time of 30 minutes. If the photographer on your list wants something that extends their photographic capabilities even further, you might consider it!

Let’s face it, there are a ton of places where you can pick up one of these.  With that in mind, I am a bit picky, and recommend “Drone World” for whatever your drone needs are. That's mainly because these guys have insane customer service, and are the largest DJI authorized dealer with something like 5 years of drone experience and I want to say upwards of 10 years of web sales/service.

Coming from the high-powered automotive industry, I love modifications.  So when I found out these guys modify drones that got me excited. And when I say modify, they supercharge these things!  HA!  Now you're talking my language and scored some extra points!  Speaking of which, if you are like me, you should check out this beast:  DJI Mavic Pro MaXX Mod Kit.   

Before I talk about the next item on the last minute gift guide here is a quick link to the DJI Mavic Pro and alternatively here is the link to the DJI Mavic Pro Platinum.  

BumbleJax Acrylic Photo Block

DSC03070 min

I think one of the most pleasant surprises I've gotten this year is when I ordered a print of my son, and opted to get it as an acrylic photo block.

Now, I say that I was surprised because in the past, I ordered some not-so-great acrylic blocks that just looked like some mass-produced trinket.

I was determined not to make that same mistake again...

So, I hopped online and found BumbleJax, a Seattle-based company that creates acrylic blocks.

But they don't just make acrylic blocks - they handcraft them.

DSC03072 min

After reading a few hundred reviews saying how awesome these acrylic blocks were, I pulled the trigger and got the 8x6, one-inch-thick block shown above.

To say that I was blown away when this thing arrived at my house is a complete understatement.

Right out of the box, I could tell that this was not like the previous acrylic blocks I'd ordered from other places.

The diamond-polished acrylic looks like a million bucks. The depth it gives the photo is amazing!

DSC03071 min

The acrylic also enhances the colors and the contrast of the photo. That's due in part to the metallic photo paper BumbleJax used for the print, as well.

The other factor that makes these things look so fantastic is that BumbleJax face mounts the image onto the acrylic. That way the vibrancy of the colors can really shine through.

It looks so good, in fact, that my wife decided that she wanted the photo block for her desk at work! I wouldn't let her steal it, so she's getting one of her own for Christmas.

IMG 0408

Heck, I even ordered a second photo block from BumbleJax, this time a larger 15x10 version of one of my landscape photos.

Again, the quality certainly did not disappoint. The photo block really has a huge impact on my foyer.

One other thing I like about these photo blocks is that they can stand on their own on a table or desk or you can mount them on the wall.

In other words, this is the perfect gift idea for a photographer or a loved one that just wants an awesome photo to display in their home or office.

I suggest you visit BumbleJax to see all the different sizes and options they offer. You won't be disappointed!

Holdfast Sightseer Backpack

SBP NV 2 1024x1024Photo by Brandon Burk

Every year, I head up to New York City for the Photo Plus Expo.

And every year, I make it a point to visit the Holdfast booth because they make some of the best camera bags I've ever had the pleasure of using.

To say that Holdfast's craftsmanship is second-to-none is really the understatement of the century.

I mean, their products show how dedicated they are not just to aesthetics but to functionality as well.

SBP NV 3 1024x1024Photo by Brandon Burk

Their new Sightseer Backpack certainly fits the bill for an awesome gift for the photographer on your holiday list.

This thing will carry all the gear you could possibly need while still giving you easy access to your camera when quick shots are needed.

That's because it's the only backpack on earth that has an integrated slider for your camera. That means you can safely and securely carry your camera on the outside of the bag where you can grab it and shoot at a moment's notice.

Something else that blew me away about this bag is that it's completely expandable.

There's tons of pouches you can add to the outside of the bag for carrying anything from your mobile phone to extra lenses.

SBP NV 4 1024x1024Photo by Brandon Burk

So this bag impresses with its sheer capability to carry tons of stuff and for its ease of use.

But the combination of waxed canvas and leather on the exterior and Aztec flannel fleece on the interior just looks incredible.

The canvas and leather are waterproof, too, so it's not like they don't have a function in addition to their beautiful form. There's even waterproof zippers for those occasions when you're shooting in some really rough weather.

And since I enjoy landscape photography, I can't tell you how much I appreciate that this is a backpack. It sits well on your shoulders, stays put, and is comfortable to carry.

What's not to like about that?

When you're thinking about a last-minute gift for a photographer, trust me, they will LOVE a Holdfast Sightseer Backpack.

Holdfast Roamographer Bag

8 1024x1024

Another one of my absolute favorite photography accessories is the Holdfast Roamographer bag.

Like the Sightseer Backpack, the Roamographer is gorgeously crafted and truly looks like a piece of art. When you hold it and touch it, you can sense the hard work that went into designing the bag and building it to be something that lasts forever.

I can be hard on camera bags, that's for sure. But no matter what paces I put the Roamographer through, it's certainly up to the task.

6 0fda0569 b828 44f1 b243 c1cdd26dc9b6 1024x1024

There's actually two Roamographers - a large version for DSLR shooters and a small version for mirrorless shooters.

Either way, what you get is a bag that's purpose-built to help you get your gear from point A to point B safely and securely.

That starts with the removable camera inserts that hug your gear and keep it from clanking around inside the bag.

The key word here is "removable"...

That means that when I need the bag for a weekend trip that doesn't involve photography, I can just slide the insert out and I've got an awesome weekend bag that fits all the essentials for a couple of days away from the grind.

4 efbc787e 027f 4cb0 a3b7 32e8441540d1 1024x1024

But when I do need to carry my gear, this thing more than gets it done.

I love the fact that there's carrier straps on the exterior of the bag so I can easily carry my tripod.

The other thing I really appreciate about the Roamographer is the shoulder strap.

If you've ever carried a heavy bag with a flimsy strap, you know how uncomfortable that can be.

But with the Roamographer, my shoulders rejoice under the shearling-lined padding that make it a breeze to carry.

3 e896959f 04a2 4591 9b9e befc68f1a48b 1024x1024

And like the Sightseer Backpack, the Roamographer allows you to secure a small camera to the shoulder strap, that way you can fire off some quick shots without having to set your bag down to unpack your camera.

If it sounds like Holdfast thought of everything with this bag, they did...

Even the fussiest of photographers on your shopping list won't have a negative thing to say about this bag. If you need something that is sure to impress, give the gift of a Holdfast Roamographer bag this year.

DJI Spark

spark 1

Looking for the perfect gift for photographers and videographers on your list? Look no further than the DJI Spark.

This mini drone is ideal for a loved one who loves to fly but wants to avoid carrying a large aircraft everywhere they go. As someone that loves photography and trained as a commercial airline pilot, I can tell you that this is a fantastic gift for the photographer on your list!

Though the Spark is small, that doesn’t mean this mini drone is light on features…

In fact, Spark has all of DJI’s signature technologies, meaning you get a lot of bang for your buck.

spark 2

That includes a 12-megapixel camera, a mechanical 2-axis gimbal for clear, sharp images and smooth video, and UltraSmooth technology that reduces camera shake and rolling shutter effects. The f/2.6 25mm lens means you can get wide-angle shots, even if the lighting conditions are less than ideal.

Something that I find to be incredibly helpful is the fact that getting the drone airborne is easy too - Spark has FaceAware technology that allows it to take off from your hand by recognizing your face. Crazy, right?! And after takeoff, it hovers automatically, all within just a few seconds of being turned on.

But if you ask me, the best feature of the Spark are the intelligent flight modes:

  • QuickShot allows you to select from four cinematic shots (rocket, dronie, circle, and helix) to capture professional-looking video.
  • TapFly enables precision flying with just a tap on your phone screen. Simply indicate where you want the drone to fly by tapping your screen, and Spark will fly there while avoiding obstacles and maintaining a constant altitude. I cannot tell you how cool of a feature this is!
  • ActiveTrack recognizes objects and track them from the front, the back or the side.
  • PalmControl means pilots can maneuver Spark without a controller. Just make specific movements with your hand, and Spark will move accordingly.

As if that’s not impressive enough, consider this…

spark 3

Spark can fly over 31 mph and has a maximum flight time of 16 minutes. Additionally, you can see full HD video from the drone from up to 1.2 miles away, and with DJI’s FlightAutonomy system, pilots can fly knowing the drone will avoid obstacles on its own.

At $499, the DJI Spark is one heck of a buy this holiday season. If the photographer in your life wants to expand his or her creativity, there’s no better way to do so than with a drone!

As I mentioned earlier, if you're in the market for a DJI drone, follow my lead and head over to Drone World to find what you need. They've got upgraded kits available, and tons of other great accessories, too. Check out the DJI Spark and see what I mean when I say it's the ultimate gift for photographers!

band.it

band

Sometimes, the best gift for a photographer isn't the flashiest, but instead something that they will use each and every day to improve their ability to get the shots they want.

That's the category into which band.it falls...

This is a new company to me. I first encountered them at Photo Plus, and I was so impressed that I had to order the product right then and there.

I know when I'm in the zone and taking photo after photo, sometimes I struggle to find my zoom ring and focus ring as quickly as I'd like.

Well, band.it solves that problem.

The soft, elastomer band fits any lens, giving you a tactile clue as to where your focus ring or zoom ring is. That means no more fumbling around looking like an idiot like I used to do on occasion before putting this bad boy on my lens!

band 1

But band.it isn't just for helping you find the rings on the lens...

Instead, it helps you improve your grip on the lens. And that improved grip means you get sharper photos.

These little guys also help protect the delicate zoom and focus rings from damage.

It's about $200 to repair a lens ring (don't ask me how I know that...), but for just $25, you can protect the lens ring with a band.it.

And as if that's not enough to like, consider this - band.it also prevents lens creep. That means that if you're always on the hunt for a unique angle and you're shooting at a steep incline or decline, band.it will help keep your lens rings right where you want them, not where gravity wants to take them!

This is a fantastic stocking-stuffer idea for photographers. If I didn't already buy a band.it for myself, you can believe they'd be on my Christmas list this year!

Click Props

 

I'm not a for-hire photographer, but being that I'm a new dad, I love to take photos of my son, who's two-and-a-half.

We take selfies with each other every single day, and that collection of images is one of the most cherished things I have in this world.

But sometimes, I like to take more formal photos of my little guy, and that requires a little more effort than turning on the front-facing camera on my cell phone...

That's where Click Props has saved my bacon.

These guys put out incredible backdrops for portraits that give you the ability to take professional-looking images that look like they came straight out of a portrait studio.

That's because they craft their backdrops using 550gsm vinyl. That means you get a high-quality, durable backdrop that will stand the test of time and look great for years to come.

And if the photographer on your holiday list is like me and has a little kid to photograph, they'll appreciate the fact that these backdrops are super easy to clean!

You can hang their backdrops easily and with confidence as well. There's heavy-duty grommets every 12-inches, so you don't have to worry about rips or sagging.

There's a variety of sizes too, which any professional will appreciate, and more than 200 designs to fit your favorite photographer's style and aesthetic.

One more thing...

As a businessman, there's something else that I really like about Click Props...

In this industry, you get to know other companies pretty well, and let's just say that some of them focus on profits and not on actually helping their customers.

Click Props is certainly one of the good guys because they are with you at your side before, during, and after the sale.

Whenever I've had questions, they've had answers. And it's not the short "you're annoying me" sort of answers, either. They're genuine folks that truly want to help you take the best possible photos.

I can't even imagine how handy these backdrops would be for a professional portrait photographer. This holiday season, maybe you can help the photographer on your list find out by gifting them a Click Props backdrop!

Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 263AB100

263ab1

When it comes to photography gear, I think the most underappreciated part of a photographer's kit is a tripod.

Just like camera lenses aren't made alike, neither are tripods. By that, I mean that if you opt for something from the bargain basement, well, you're going to live to regret it.

That doesn't mean that you need to spend $500 on a tripod for the photographer on your holiday list, either.

I have a couple of Vanguard tripods, and I have to tell you - they're a perfect balance between top-quality construction, tons of features, and a great price.

Take the Alta Pro 2+ 263AB100 as an ideal example...

263ab2

You can set this thing up in just a few seconds, which is ideal for situations in which you need to get the shot sooner rather than later.

The quick setup is aided by easy-locking legs, each of which has an independent leg angle. In other words, it can be set up with one leg at 20-degrees, another at 40-degrees, and another at 60-degrees, if so needed. They can even open up to 80-degrees. That means there's no terrain too uneven for this tripod to handle.

Another feature that makes this such a great tripod is the Multi-Angle Center Column. As the name suggests, it can be positioned in a variety of angles on both the positive and negative spectrum. That means that you can get awesome low-angle shots for a more unique view of the subject.

This bad boy also has a quick release so you can quickly grab your camera, and with the included ball head and bubble levels, you're sure to frame up top-notch photos.

263ab3

The Alta Pro 2+ 263AB100 has another trick up its sleeve that I really like...

It's super lightweight, thanks to its aluminum alloy and magnesium construction, but it's also super strong.

It's rated to hold up to 15.5 pounds of gear, so when I'm out playing with my Nikon D850 and a big lens, I don't have to worry if the tripod has enough wherewithal to provide my gear with the stable base it needs.

And if your loved one wants awesome features like a canopy suspension loop for adding weight, all-weather grips, angled rubber feet, and more, well, this is the tripod they'll want! See for yourself why the Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 263AB100guard Alta Pro 2+ 263AB100 is such a top-notch tripod.

MrStarGuy Vixen Polarie Star Tracker Mount

polarie1

A few years ago, I decided to get into astrophotography, so I bought a star tracking device to help me get better shots of the night sky.

Now, I live in the Los Angeles area, so it's not like I can setup my gear in my backyard. Instead, I have to hoof it to the sticks to find a dark sky, so it's a huge investment of time.

The problem I ran into is that the star tracking devices I used in the past were just unbelievably complicated to use.

Not only did I feel like a moron for not being able to figure out how to use them, but I also never got the types of photos I imagined being able to get.

Fortunately, I found my saving grace - the Vixen Polarie Star Tracker Mount from MrStarGuy.

polarie1 1

I met the folks at MrStarGuy, and I have to say that I was beyond impressed.

Visiting their shop, you get the feeling of how dedicated the husband and wife team are to their craft. They seek to make sure that every customer feels like a friend and that they get what they need. I can attest to that fact!

It doesn't hurt that MrStarGuy has top-notch astrophotography gear, either.

Their Vixen Polarie is hands-down the best I've ever used.

I just attach it to my tripod, use the included compass to orient it to the north, and once I have it all set, it will track the motion of the stars for me. That means I can get clear, sharp photos of the night sky without any star trailing.

If your favorite photographer is looking for a tool that will make his or her astrophotography life a lot easier and more productive, there's no better gift than the Vixen Polarie Star Tracker Mount. See what I mean by visiting MrStarGuy!

Sound Shark

I've always been a still photographer, but once 4K video became a thing on DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, I started to dabble in videography.

The problem I encountered was this - the video quality was amazing, but the sound wasn't.

In fact, the sound was pretty terrible on my first videos on its own, but when you pair poor sound quality with amazing 4K video, the sound seems even worse!

I wanted an external microphone that would yield the kind of sound that a 4K video deserved, but I didn't want some huge apparatus, either.

I found exactly what I needed in Sound Shark by Klover Products.

The great thing about Sound Shark is its small form factor. As you can see, it just mounts to the hot-shoe of the camera, and you're good to go.

This thing puts all other microphones I've tried to shame. In fact, it will pick up voices in crystal clear quality from a good distance away. People in my videos sound like they're wearing a lapel mic, even if I'm five or six feet away.

Not only that, but Sound Shark helps eliminate unwanted background noise, so if there's action to the sides or behind your subject, you don't have to worry about it overwhelming the audio you actually want to record.

Sound Shark has been one of my favorite toys for grabbing videos of my wife and son. But if my endorsement isn't enough, think about this - Sound Shark is used to get audio of things like the Super Bowl, the World Series, and the NBA playoffs.

If it's good enough to get the audio of a LeBron slam dunk, it's definitely good enough for my home videos!

Have a look at Sound Shark and see what all it has to offer the photographer on your list.

Meural

meural

For my money, the most unique, eye-catching gift you can give a photographer this Christmas is the Meural Canvas.

What’s the Meural Canvas, you ask?

Well, in short, it’s a way to bring art to life.

Rather than viewing the same piece of art or photograph, Meural allows you to upload your own photos, create playlists, and sent art to your canvas instantly.

With TrueArt technology, the images are rendered in a way that makes them ultra-lifelike - when I first saw Meural in person, I felt like I could reach out and feel the texture of the brush strokes on the painting I was viewing. It’s that real!

And that’s just the start…

meural frames

Meural gives you three different frame options (Leonora Black and Wwhite, as well as Winslow in walnut) to customize the look of the canvas. The canvas has a light sensor to adjust to the lighting of your room, and you can hang it horizontally or vertically, only show images in the appropriate orientation.

It’s easy to control, too. You can change images via the Meural website, the Meural mobile app, and even with hand gestures.

meural app

The upgraded iOS app allows you to upload, crop, and add filters to images, and then immediately send to the canvas. You can even schedule your canvas to come on when you wake, turn off when you sleep, and to randomize artwork or schedule playlists for certain times of the day.

In a word, Meural is amazing. Talk about an awesome last-minute gift!



We Recommend