Amid a difficult year, people around the world have found ways to “treat themselves” without spending a fortune, from planning “staycations” to practicing #SelfCareSundays. Photography often gets a bad rap for being expensive, with the best camera bodies and lenses easily costing several thousand bucks. But with “back-to-school” shopping season in full swing, we wanted to do a quick roundup of more affordable items to consider for your wish list as we head into fall.
We’ve included a bit of everything in this self-gifting guide, from handy accessories and travel kits to more experimental tools to bring your creative photography to the next level. You’ll also find fine art prints to hang on your walls for everyday inspiration and presets designed to make your photos pop off the screen. Along the way, we hope you’ll discover a few surprises as well.
Lomography Light Painter ($9.90)
You can practice your light-painting skills with any light source, from glow sticks to flashlights, but this accessory from Lomography gives you more flexibility. It has eight variations and a range of colors you can mix-and-match or combine for more creative shots.
Preset Packages by Lauren Naylor ($7.00-$10.00)
The photographer and creative director Lauren Naylor has a few unique preset packages, perfect for artists with a nostalgic and dreamy sensibility. The 70s Baby/True Blue bundle ($7.00) brings out those vintage vibes and cool tones, while the B&W Essentials ($10.00) helps you achieve the contrast and grain of classic black and white film.
Photodom Eco Tote Bag ($10)
This organic cotton bag is perfect for the sustainably-minded photographer looking to cut down on single-use plastics. Photodom has multiple designs available—while the iconic “Thank You” bag-inspired “Shoot Film” tote is currently sold out, you can grab an “Introverted but willing to discuss photography” design for just $10. With eight states having introduced plastic bag bans thus far, you can use this tote for your grocery shopping, school books, and more.
ANDYCINE Photographic Prism ($11.00)
Prism photography has become enormously popular in recent years, thanks in large part to pioneers like 19TONES, who coined the term “Prismagraphy.” There are tons of prisms on the market these days, but this one is simple and lightweight. You can use it to create eye-catching rainbow effects in-camera before graduating to more elaborate prism experiments.
Sensei Optics Care and Cleaning Kit ($19.95)
This cleaning kit from Sensei includes everything you’ll need to keep your lens dust- and fingerprint-free: cleaning spray, lens tissues, an air blower, and brushes. It all comes in a mesh travel case that you can pack right in your camera bag.
Holga Lens for Canon DSLR Camera ($19.99)
We included the iconic Holga camera further down this list, but if you want to mimic the look of a toy camera while using your DSLR, here’s another option. This 60mm lens was created to produce “Holga-esque” images with that dreamy, lo-fi aesthetic, soft focus, and vignetting, right in-camera.
PULUZ 20cm Lightbox ($22.53)
Foldable and portable, this lightbox is perfect for at-home product shoots, whether you plan to photograph jewelry or toys. It has a built-in LED light and six backgrounds you can use to create soft, even lighting.
Lowepro GearUp Wrap ($22.99)
This portable and streamlined organizer is ideal for photographers on the move. Use it to keep your cords, USB chargers, cables, and battery ready to go, all in one place.
Selens 5-in-1 Portable Reflector ($23.98)
With grips for easy handling, this reflector includes five surfaces: a silver cover, a gold cover for warm light, a white cover, a black cover, and a translucent panel/diffuser. It’s compact and foldable, so you can bring it on location for outdoor shoots.
Preset Packages by Tomas Havel ($29)
The epic landscape and travel photographer Tomas Havel created these preset bundles to help other artists enhance their images through adjustments to color, light, and texture. Selections at the $29 price point include a Golden Hour collection, an Autumn Colors collection, a Winter Wonderland collection for those cold and icy vibes, a Tropical collection for oceans and beaches, and tons more. Keep in mind that Tomas currently has eight preset packages available in total; you can get them all for a special price of $79.
Urth UV Filter Plus+ ($30)
This professional Ultraviolet filter by Urth protects your lens from water and oil, while also making your photos sharper in hazy weather. As a bonus, Urth plants five trees for every item sold.
Prints by Hayden Scott ($30)
500px Ambassador Hayden Scott, who’s captured unforgettable views of classic American cities and landscapes, including our national parks, offers prints starting at just $30 for the 5×7 size. The prints are made with Kodak Professional Endura Premier Lustre paper with an archival life of 100-plus years.
The Creative Photography Cookbook by Dina Belenko ($39)
This eBook, created by 500px Ambassador Dina Belenko, takes a fresh approach to the photo tutorial with 31 “recipes” for surreal and gravity-defying still lives. She’ll show you step-by-step how to use effects like steam, fire, and splashes to bring your at-home photo shoots to the next level. All the setups are surprisingly simple, and you can bring them to life using basic gear.
Think Tank Emergency Rain Cover ($39.75)
This cover from Think Tank protects your gear from both dust and rain, while also allowing you to easily view your LCD and adjust your controls. It’s simple, easy-to-use, and affordable, making it the perfect choice for the traveling photographer. If you get unlucky and find yourself in a downpour on location, you’re covered.
Holga 120N Plastic Camera (39.99)
This classic toy camera might not be ideal for technically “perfect” or hi-fi photos, but it’s great for quirky, quick shots with cool effects, from light leaks to vignettes. Grab your 120 roll film, and have fun shooting your surroundings, without getting bogged down by camera settings (there are only two aperture settings: sunny and shade).
Manfrotto Mini Tripod (39.99)
This tripod works with most smartphones; you can use it as a stabilizer for photos and a grip for videos. It combines durability, portability, and intuitive design for anyone shooting on the go.
The Ultimate Lens Hood (ULH) ($41.29)
Launched via Kickstarter in 2018, the ULH is a silicone lens hood designed to eliminate glare and reflections, especially when shooting through glass. It’s the ideal companion for the cityscape photographer, as it makes shooting at observation decks or through windows seamless and easy.
Lensball Pro ($44)
The Lensball is a sphere made out of lens-grade K9 crystal, designed specifically for photographers. You can shoot through it for an ultra-wide field of view similar to what you’d expect from a fisheye lens. They come in multiple sizes, but the 80mm is a good place to start, weighing in at 1.45 lbs.
Prints by Ryan Longnecker ($45)
Hold onto the last bit of summer with a print by 500px Ambassador Ryan Longnecker, whose beachside photos capture the carefree spirit of California. His artworks come in a range of formats, materials, and sizes, but you can grab an 8×10 print for $45.
Photoflex FirstStudio® LiteIgloo ($48.95)
Photoflex made this lighting enclosure for online auction and catalog photos, so you can use it for a more polished look across all your high-key product and still life work. You have several options when it comes to light sources, as the enclosure works well with sunlight, strobes, and tungsten.
Peak Design Camera Cube ($49.95)
This camera cube by Peak Design will work seamlessly with any of Peak Design’s popular Travel Bags, protecting your gear while keeping it organized and accessible at all times. It’s customizable, so you can tailor it to your gear, whether you’re toting a bulky DSLR setup or traveling light.
ProMaster 67mm Circular Polarizer (49.95)
A go-to for landscape photographers, polarizers work to eliminate unwanted reflections and boost the saturation and contrast of your colors. ProMaster has several options to choose from, including 43mm ($31.95), 67mm ($49.95), 82mm ($99.95), and lots more.
Moment Fisheye 15mm Lens ($49.99)
This mobile lens from Moment offers a 170-degree field of view for that unmistakable fisheye look, without the black rings or corners around the edges. Ideal for tight spaces and close subjects, this particular lens works best with 2018 phones and earlier.
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