Summer Memories: June Milwaukee Instagram Meetup

In the craziness of going to Europe, having a staycation with friends, and then adopting Tommy, there are a few major events from the summer that I documented but never shared. I started to regain the energy and focus to spend more than a few minutes at a time editing photos when Tommy was about 2.5 months old. Now at almost five months old, I’m still going through photos and writing not very timely events posts. I’m still excited to share them with you.

As I mentioned when I shared my first summer 2017 meetup post, after several years of following Instagram meetup accounts, I made it to two meetups this summer. The second meetup was in Milwaukee, and I’m sharing those photos today.

Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers |

Welcome to my first holiday gift guide of 2016! I’m starting with a holiday gift guide for photographers. Next week, I’ll be sharing non-photography themed gift guides for her and for him. I’ve stayed away from the obvious camera bodies and lenses because most photographers shoot with specific brands (i.e. Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc.) and know what they want. I’ve also avoided most standard accessories, such as camera straps and flashes. You can see all of my general gear recommendations over here. Today I’m sharing a more fun selection of accessories that photographers may not purchase for themselves but will enjoy and other (mostly) practical photography related indulgences.

Artifact Uprising Wood Block + Prints...perfect holiday gift! |

Artifact Uprising’s Wood Block + Prints

Artifact Uprising offers a wide selection of really beautiful photography products including prints, cards, photo books, wall art, and calendars. If you haven’t browsed their site before, please check it out. The wood block + prints makes a great gift for family members and friends to display photos of loved ones and favorite memories. If you aren’t sure which prints to order for a gift, pick up a gift card.

Domke Protective Wrap

I inwardly cringe every time I see a camera stuffed haphazardly in a purse or diaper bag without any protection. I also completely understand that people don’t want to take their camera bags with them every time they want to shoot. (I’m the same way.) The Domke Protective Wrap is the perfect solution for on the go shooting. When you’re at the zoo or walking around Chicago on vacation, most likely you don’t need a ton of gear. Wrap up your camera body and 1-2 lenses and you’re good to go. The Domke is available in multiple sizes and colors.


Camera lenses and LCD displays get trashed quickly, with dust and fingerprints everywhere. The LensPen is simpler and more convenient to pull out and use for a quick cleanup than a lens cloth. It also gets into the small crevices more effectively. Keep it handy in a front bag pocket for easy access.

SanDisk Extreme 64GB Card

You can never have too much memory. You never know when you’ll run out of the house without a memory card in the camera or your memory card will decide to fail. Keeping an extra memory card or two in your bag ensures you’ll always have ample memory. SanDisk is a reputable brand, and the Extreme 64GB card is an ideal size for most photographers at a great price point. (And yes, I have covered this topic before. A couple times. It’s really important.)

Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan

I’m still a little wary about the transition to renting instead of owning software, but overall, it’s a positive switch. Yes, it does feel like Adobe owns a little bit of your soul. (A great endorsement in a gift guide, I know.) But you get automatic updates and other support, ensuring you always have up to date software, with basically no extra effort on your part. The Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan includes Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99/month. It’s a great gift option for photographers who are using outdated software or who haven’t taken the plunge and invested in professional software yet.

Canon DSLR Camera 24-105mm f/4 Lens Cup...such a fun gift item! |

Camera lens cups

The DSLR camera lens cups are just fun. Someone walks up to your desk and thinks you have a high-end camera lens sitting there…until you pick it up and start drinking coffee out of it. I’m linking a Canon 24-105mm lens cup because I’m a Canon girl, there are also Nikon cups available.

Professional photography website subscription

Professional photography portfolio websites, such as SmugMug and Zenfolio, enable photographers to create professional portfolios and make high-quality prints available for clients. They also allow for comprehensive personal and professional photo backup with folders and keywords so you can find photos again later with ease. Even if you’re not planning to take on clients or sell your prints, having a SmugMug or Zenfolio subscription is worthwhile. I love having another photo backup and frequently print photos for myself and to give as gifts.

A subscription to 500px is also a great gift for a photographer. You can create a 500px account for free, but there isn’t much you can do with the site unless you pay for it. They have three different subscription plans. The highest plan includes the previously mentioned Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan, which is pretty cool.

Canon AE-1 with kit 50mm f/1.8 lens...great photography holiday gift! |

Vintage Canon AE-1 or Pentax K1000 with film

The Canon AE-1 and Pentax K1000 are two of the most popular film SLR cameras ever made. As a result, there are still lots of working AE-1 and K1000 cameras floating around that you can pick up on eBay for less than $200. Regardless of your photography background and current skill level, shooting with a film SLR camera, especially a classic model like an AE-1 or K1000, is a really neat experience. You appreciate the simplicity and ease of use of the dial controls, and you take time to create each image, manually focusing the lens and carefully composing each shot. Both Amazon and B&H offer 35mm film. Consider Kodak Portra 400 (color film) or Kodak Tri-X 400TX (black and white film).

Fujifilm Instax Mini 70 - Instant Film much fun for weddings and family functions! |

FujiFilm Instax Mini Instant Film Camera

On a similar subject, if you love the idea of having tangible photos but aren’t in the market for an SLR film camera, a Fujifilm Instax Mini 70 Instant Film Camera is a great option. It’s really fun to attend a wedding or family holiday function and be able to snap photos of loved ones that you can give them right on the spot. It may seem silly when you can take photos on your smartphone, but there’s something different about having a photo you can put up immediately on the fridge or on your desk. Don’t forget to pick up some Instax film, too.

Alisa Burke's Snap Shot Live, a great gift for the photographer in your life. |

Alisa Burke’s Snap Shot Delight

I love to give experience gifts (i.e. local restaurant gift certificates, flex concert tickets, StubHub cash). Getting new gear is always fun, but learning a new feature of your current gear or taking on a new challenge can be just as, if not even more, rewarding. There are so many photography classes out there, many of which are affordable and convenient, aka local or online with a work-at-your-own-pace format. Alisa’s Snap Shot Delight falls into the latter category. In this class, Alisa shares her favorite tips, tricks, prompts, and more for using a camera as part of the creative process, which is applicable to virtually anyone in a creative field.

50 Do-Able DIY Photo Backdrops from via roseclearfield.com50 Do-Able DIY Photo Backdrops |

Photography backdrop

Photography backdrops can be a huge asset for almost every type of photography. From a product shoot for an Etsy shop to a studio session for a high school senior, the right backdrop will take your shot from average candid to polished and professional. Vinyl backdrops are fairly affordable and extremely versatile, durable, and portable. A few great Etsy shops that sell vinyl photography backdrops: InkAndElm, PrintSignsQuick, and MyBackdropShop. If you’re crafty, consider making a couple backdrops. There are numerous backdrop tutorials on Pinterest. (I’ve linked a great tutorials roundup above, too.) For photographers who do a lot of smaller shoots, a DIY lightbox is also a great option.

Tenba Photo/Laptop Messenger Bag...durable, versatile, and affordable. |

Photography bags

I know selecting a photography bag is a very personal decision. The two options I’m including here are the Timbuk2 Classic Messenger line (the top four listings under Messenger bags) and Tenba Messengers (check out both the DNA and Photo / Laptop lines). All three bag collections are lightweight and extremely versatile. If they don’t work as photo bags for the recipients, most likely the recipients would be able to find other uses for them.

Of course, I also have to mention the two bags I use right now: the ThinkTank CityWalker 20, which is my around town camera day bag, and the Lowepro Fastpack 250 DSLR Camera Backpack, which is my airplane carry-on and walk around bag on trips. I’ve been using the Lowepro backpack since late 2012 and am so happy with it as a travel bag. I’ve been using the CityWalker messenger since mid-2016. It’s a fantastic bag. In time, I’m confident I’ll figure out how to best use it to fit my specific photography needs. Both Lowepro and Thinktank are staple photography bag brands and have tons of other options if neither of these bags fits the bill for the photographers in your life.

Understanding Exposure, Fourth Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera by Bryan Peterson

Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

Photography book

For a new photographer who’s looking for a few technical resources, a how-to book, such as Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book or Pinch of Yum’s Tasty Food Photography, is a great choice. For a more seasoned photographer or someone who is simply looking for inspiration, the options are endless. artbook is a great resource for photography books. I’ve linked their new fall 2016 features. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Many photographers find inspiration from a wide range of imagery, which may not be what they shoot all the time. For example, a family photographer may love The Space Within: Inside Great Chicago Buildings and can learn a lot from the architectural compositions.

[Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. Using affiliate links to shop for photography gifts and any other products of your choosing is a simple way to support my blog without costing you anything extra. Thank you!]

What photography items are on your wish list this year?
Feel free to share links in the comments!

More gift guides!

Holiday Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for Her |

Holiday Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for Her

Holiday Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for Him |

Holiday Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for Him













Photography 101: Never Stop Learning

Photography 101: Never Stop Learning - Making an effort to learn new technical, composition, and editing techniques on a regular basis is key to staying current in the field and continuing to improve your skills as a photographer. |

This photo is one of my first attempts at back lighting a subject, a brand new skill for me.

When I published 5 Tips for Improving Your Photography back in July, Natasha mentioned in a comment that an additional tip should be to never stop learning. Her tip is so fabulous that I’m devoting an entire post to the topic. It is way too easy to stagnate in any field, creative or otherwise. If you don’t make a conscious effort to keep improving your skills, you’ll flatline. Over time, bad habits may creep in and you’ll even decline. Regardless of your skill level, it’s so important to keep learning everything you can about your field.

Keep an article open on your smartphone

You never know when you’ll find yourself with a few minutes to wait while you’re checking out at the grocery store or your kid is finishing soccer practice. Using these precious minutes to read about photography is a great way to work on your skills and stay current in the field without a lot of effort. Save articles on Pinterest to read as you have time and/or bookmark sites with regular photography blog posts or articles such as Fstoppers or PetaPixel.

Keep a couple ebooks on your Kindle or other eReader

Personally, I find it refreshing to mix up reading longer fiction and nonfiction with shorter photography ebooks. It’s easy to read a couple chapters here or there without losing your momentum because there is no overarching story. Last year I bought a photography Ultimate Bundles pack, which is going to keep me set for photography ebooks for quite a while. I checked out the bundle because it included Tasty Food Photography, which is a must read for any photographer, even if you never plan to photograph food. More recently I picked up the first and second books in David McKay’s new series, both of which are great. (Of course, you can also read my photography ebook, too. No pressure.)

Subscribe to a few favorite photography YouTube channels and/or podcasts

Subscribing to a YouTube channel or podcast is a simple way to support a content provider while keeping up on their latest releases. Currently, the only photography YouTube channel I follow closely is Photorec TV. I know that you’re probably already sick of me talking about Photorec here, but Toby is awesome and I love being part of his supportive community. I also recommend KelbyOne and Tony & Chelsea Northrup.  If you want to start listening to photography podcasts, check out this list from the Digital Photography School. There are also tons of stand-alone webinars and video photography resources such as this workshop from Shuttertalk.

Read your manual

DSLR and mirrorless cameras are extremely powerful. Most likely you don’t use quite a few of your camera’s functions. This could be a great opportunity to understand more about the light meter and how to use it or to learn back button focusing. If you don’t have a specific skill to work on or component of your camera  that you’d like to understand better, read your manual anyway. You never know when you’ll pick up a new tip or trick to improve your skills.

If you don’t want to read your camera manual, think about reading the manual for your flash or another piece of gear. Again, flashes and other DSLR and mirrorless accessories are powerful and often feature manual settings that can really transform your photography.

Experiment with new gear

New gear is a slippery slope. Getting new gear is always fun. It doesn’t necessarily make you a better photographer, even if it’s a high-quality piece of gear. However, it can get you out of a creative rut or force you to try a new technique. For example, maybe you’ve always wanted to work on your landscape photography but are lacking a wide angle lens. Or maybe you want to step up your portrait game but don’t own a high-end prime lens. Maybe it’s time to take the plunge.

Renting is a great way to experiment with new gear for a fraction of the cost of buying new gear. You can simply have the fun of playing with gear that’s way out of your price range or can try before you buy. Some sites, including both of the following sites, have opportunities to put rental charges toward future purchases. I’ve used BorrowLenses several times and been very happy with them. Their prices are competitive, and you can opt to ship your package to the local FedEx store right at checkout so you don’t have to worry about being at home to sign for a package. Lumoid is another great option.

Try a new editing technique

There are virtually limitless editing techniques and Lightroom and Photoshop tricks to learn. Search your favorite YouTube channel and watch a few videos you may have missed before, and do a general YouTube or Pinterest search for videos on a technique that’s always interested you but you’ve never attempted.

Seek out new photographers to follow on Instagram, Flickr, etc.

If you’ve grown tired of your current Instagram or Flickr feed or you just don’t feel like you’re learning much from the current mix of photos, add a few new accounts into the feed. One of my favorite ways to find new accounts to follow on Instagram is to check out the “following” tab under the favorites section to see the photos the accounts I follow are liking. The explore feature is another way to gain exposure to new accounts that may fit your interests.

Mix up your routine or find a new challenge for yourself

Virtually all of the previously mentioned suggestions will inspire you to mix up your routine or seek out a new challenge to help you keep learning new technical, composition, and editing techniques. If you don’t want to do something as involved as renting or buying new gear or learning a complex editing method, simply take a walk in a new area of town or challenge yourself to edit a whole set of photos in black and white. Look into opportunities to attend conferences and events, too. Connecting with other photographers may be just as inspiring as sitting through great presentations or visiting exhibition booths.

Do you have any tips to stay current in the photography field?
How do you keep learning new shooting and editing techniques?

More photography resources:

5 Tips to Improve Your Photography |

5 Tips for Improving Your Photography

Making the Transition From Auto Mode to Manual Mode |

Making the Transition from Auto Mode to Manual Mode

Top 10 Common Photography Mistakes to Avoid |

Top 10 Common Photography Mistakes to Avoid