Welcome to the Click Magazine annual roundup of the best products in photography. Here are 100 products we think are pretty amazing — gear, services and innovations that made it so fun and fulfilling to be a photographer in 2017.
Our all-female team of photo editors, instructors and mentors have compiled this ultimate list of our favorite favorites — cameras, lenses, lighting, editing tools, apps, delicious photo display, and so much more. These are both the very best (and required) photo essentials as well as the drool-worthy indulgences photographers will use to create and showcase their creative vision in the coming year.
Looking for great gift ideas for a photography lover? Click’s 100 Best Products of the Year will spread goodwill, fill stockings and thrill any photographer in your life. Trust us on this one — we know what photographers love!
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV digital SLR, $3,299
Where to start? “The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV does not disappoint!” says Kendra. The 30.4-megapixel CMOS sensor, huge ISO range, and long feature list are all impressive, but for Kendra, the upgraded AF system flipped the script with super-fast accuracy even in very low lighting.
Fujifilm GFX 50S Medium Format Camera, $6,499.95
Whoa, Nelly! The first in Fujifilm’s medium-format GF series, the GFX 50S has a wonderfully retro look housing an entirely new system and the brand’s new ‘G’ lens mount for FUJINON GF lenses. It’s 51.4-megapixel sensor equates to about 1.7x the surface area of full-frame cameras, giving you a nice amount of compositional real estate. The weather resistant design means you can laugh at a splash or a drizzle, and an array of dedicated accessories lets you construct a system that meets your specific needs. Top all that off with its X-Processer Pro brain for faster processing speeds and impressive color reproduction.
Zeiss Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens, $1,348
One of Catherine’s go-to lenses for filmmaking, this zoom gives her versatility in tight spaces by allowing her to shoot wide without having to back too far away from her subject. What else makes it a fave? “The lens also creates the most beautiful and detailed landscape shots while shooting at the 16mm focal length, especially on the beach at sunset,” she says, adding that she finds the sharpness unmatched.
Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens, $1,199
“I am not sure how I survived before using the Tamron 24-70,” says Mickie. We’re not sure it’s that drastic, but well, a great lens will definitely make you sing. What Mickie loves most? Versatility. She can go from wide, environmental compositions and then zoom in for a portrait in seconds. Bokeh and flare are the icing on the cake.
Fujifilm Instax Cameras, Price Varies
Oh, the nostalgia of instant prints! And the fun! The Instax line of cameras give you instant, tangible gratification, and have so many uses (we’ve even seen Instax prints as business cards). Models come with built-in flash and a range of fun exposure modes for kicks (like Bulb, Selfie and Double, depending on the model). Bonus: Film is easy to find.
Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM EF Pancake Lens, $179.99
Can a lens be adorbs? We think so, and so does Sally Ann Field. “It is the perfect lens for my travels, whether in my hometown or elsewhere,” she says. (She even named it: “Morty, the Shorty Forty.”) Inexpensive and tiny, this lens lightens the load for day trips, vacations, TSA lines, and helps her go unnoticed when she’s out and about.
GoPro Hero6 Black, $499
Waterproof down to 33 feet and nearly indestructible, you have no reason not to take the GoPro Hero6 with you everywhere. Mount it for POV shots, use voice command to stop and start shooting, and stay out late with its night modes. Afterward, transfer footage to the app and edit on the fly. It’s freedom in a tiny black case!
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens, $1,299
Billed as a workhorse for high-megapixel DSLRs, the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art lens offers a constant aperture of f/2.8 across the zoom range. Optical Stabilization helps keep camera shake in check, and the thoughtful design of its elements results in delightful circular bokeh. Pack this lens when you need versatility but want to travel light.
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens, $1,299
When you want high resolution and beautiful bokeh for truly definitive images, this updated version of Tamron’s 70-200mm zoom classic definitely delivers. Improved optical design practically eliminates aberrations throughout the zoom range, while improved image stabilization (up to five stops) increases low light shooting options. Definitely a worthy contender if you’ve been eyeing a telephoto zoom.
Lensbaby Velvet 85, $499.95
Marcie says, “I am obsessed with the way this lens renders light, and the beautiful texture it adds to my photos.” Add a lustrous glow to portraits at wider apertures, or close it down to get a crisper image. And then there’s the bokeh. Is “bokehlicious” a word? It should be.
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens, $1,849
“This is hands-down the best lens I have ever owned,” says April, adding that she can’t beat the color, clarity or accuracy. High-speed AF and a circular aperture create a shallow depth of field, with a minimum focusing distance as close as 3.2 feet! Other benefits? It’s small and unobtrusive, great when you’re trying to keep a low profile.
Nikon PC-E FX NIKKOR 24mm f/3.5D ED Fixed Zoom Tilt-Shift Lens, $2,196.95
Sarah says she found her soulmate in this lens, which she credits with enabling her “biggest failures and most powerful successes.” Endlessly adjustable optics mean limitless opportunities to create something truly yours. Sarah uses it to “marry wide-angle storytelling with dreamy surrealism.” A marriage made in photographic heaven.
M.ZUIKO Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens, $1,200
Olympus shooters, you’ve got a new lens coming your way! Available late November, the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO is the equivalent of a 90mm lens, and is dust, splash and freeze proof (down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit—brrrr!). Featuring Olympus’ Z Coating Nano technology to reduce flare and ghosting, the 45mm is also touted as producing a “feathered bokeh” at shallower depths of field.
Pentax 645N Medium-Format SLR Camera, price varies
Long a favorite of film photographers, the Pentax 645N has wooed countless devotees with its ample frame size and dependable performance. Ever since it came into her hands one summer, Megan has been completely in love. “My go-to lens is the Takumar 105mm f/2.4, adapted from the Pentax 67,” she says. “The bokeh shot wide-open is sublime.”
Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro lens, $2,199
One of three new Canon tilt-shifts released this Fall, the TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro is touted as having improved image quality over previous models (such as a SubWaveLength coating to reduce ghosting and flare), as well as other usability enhancements like a larger tilt range and the ability to lock the lens in a zero-tilt position (prevents unintended tilting). If you’ve been eyeing a tilt-shift for creative lens play, this little darling deserves a closer look.
Sony a7R III 42.4MP Full-frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera, $3,198
There are so many fab techie bells and whistles on the a7R III–a full 35mm frame image sensor, 42.4 megapixels, eye-tracking AF, increased processing speeds–we could go on and on. The newest kid on Sony’s Alpha block, the a7R III also boasts lightning-fast shooting and focus speeds, 4K high-res HDR video, and a super crisp EVF with amazing detail. And that eye-tracking AF we mentioned? Never lose focus on a moving subject again, even wild animals and children, and even in backlighting. Really.
Nikon D850 DSLR, $3,299.95
“Gahhh, the Nikon D850 camera is my new favorite,” says Rachel. “It incorporates everything I love about my Nikon cameras with such amazing tones and colors!” Claims to fame include the lowest ISO (64) of any DSLR, 4K Ultra HD video recording, and 45.7 megapixels of resolution, among a bounty of other temptations.
Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master Lens, $2,198
In a word? Swoon-worthy. “The bokeh is so creamy and smooth, it made this prime-lens girl do a double-take,” says Caroline, who adds it’s her go-to lens for just about everything. What else blows her away? Excellent sharpness from edge to edge.
Leica M7 TTL .72 Rangefinder Camera, $4,550
Who doesn’t love a classic? The Leica M7 gives you all the nostalgic goodness of the 1954 M3, but with modern improvements like the electronically-controlled, rubberized cloth shutter that’s ridiculously quiet and the well-designed viewfinder settings display. For the purists, the M7 features 1/60 and 1/125-second shutter speeds in all-mechanical operation mode for battery-less operation. New features include auto film recognition for DX coding and aperture-priority autoexposure.
Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens, $1,399
Love dreamy portraits at longer focal lengths with deliciously beautiful bokeh? Take a look at the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens – fast and sharp where you want it, marvelously soft where you need it. Long a prime of choice for portrait photographers, the 135mm focal length gives you a lot of options. The splash and dust-proof design means you can shoot in drizzle with no fear.
Moment Photo Case with New Wide Lens, $23.99 Case, $99.99 Lens
You know you rely on your camera phone A LOT of the time for Instagram and Facebook snaps. So up your game with a jaw-dropping wide angle lens. We can see so many uses for this: stunning architecture, landscapes, group shots…anytime you want to get more (up to 2x more) in the frame. The new Wide Lens mounts to the Photo Case with a secure twist and lock design that’s fumble-proof.
Contax 645 Medium-format Camera, Used–Prices vary
An oldie, but a goodie, the Contax 645 has been prized by wedding and portrait photographers since its inception, and is still proudly carried and outfitted with digital backs. Discontinued in 2005, the 645’s modular system encompasses removable backs (120 and 220 for film), prisms, waist-level viewfinders, lenses and a vertical grip that takes AA batteries. Coupled with the legendary Carl Zeiss 80mm f/2 Planar lens, the 645 captures beautiful images and wins big points for its ergonomic design.
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens, $1,095.95
With Nikon’s VR II Image Stabilization, this is Kristen’s go-to lens for landscapes. “It is wide and sharp, and I’m in love with it!” she says. Fairly compact, it’s also a great choice for travel and wide enough for taking in large vistas, be they urban, pastoral or otherwise.
Fujifilm X100F 24.3MP APS-C Digital Camera, $1,299
Michelle says the X100F’s “amazing autofocus and wonderful IQ” make it her “favorite walk-around camera out there, period.” She even trusts it to stand-in for her “real” camera in a pinch. It looks and feels like an old-school film camera, and its ACROS film simulation mode completes the spell.
Not quite ready to fork over the big bucks for a new lens, or just want to try something fun? Rent! “I recently needed a creative push,” says Jan, who wasn’t ready to fully commit. “I picked out a lens to rent online and it arrived within two days of placing my order.” Rentals include everything you need for the return process, including the box and packing tape! Easy-peasy.
Profoto A1, $995
Proof that very good things do come in small packages, the pocket-sized A1 delivers bright, continuous light with naturally-smooth falloff thanks to its round head. Easy to pack, Michelle says the A1 “completely changed the way I travel and work with my light on location.”
Tether Tools’ Case Air Wireless Tethering System, $159.99
Julie says the Case Air tethering system is perfect for everything from food photography to portraiture. She can instantly check focus, adjust settings and even trigger the shutter from her smartphone or laptop – particularly useful when her camera is on a tripod or mounted over a tabletop. “I just downloaded the app, connected to the Case Air Wi-Fi and immediately could see what my camera was shooting,” she says. Compatible with iOS, Android, Windows and Mac.
Vanguard’s VEO 2 235CB Tripod, $199.99
“I hate to admit it, but I am hard on my gear,” says Caroline. Fortunately, these carbon-fiber sticks rise to the challenge. Of particular note is the “intuitive and responsive design,” which lets Caroline “mindlessly adjust the height or use the ball head without even looking most of the time.” It’s also very light weight at just 2.63 pounds, which is especially great for Caroline, who says she practically never leaves home without one.
Arsenal, $175 (pre-order)
This new launch has already raised over $2.5 million on Kickstarter, and is expected to ship to early backers in January 2018. Why do they call it the “smart camera assistant?” Arsenal will give you complete wireless control of your camera from up to 100 feet away, allowing you to adjust exposure, see a live preview, fire the shutter, and so much more, all from your smartphone. Even better, it’s tiny! We’re sold.
Westcott Solix LED Light Compact Kit, $450
This compact powerhouse delivers daylight-balanced 5,600K continuous light at an output of 2100 lux at 3.3’ in a very travel-worthy package. Zipped up in its padded carrying case, the Solix LED comes with removable barn doors and a frosted diffusion cap, which mount quickly via a magnetic ring. The rotatable speed ring accepts softboxes and octaboxes up to 4.5 pounds, so you can integrate it with your other accessories.
ExpoDisc 2.0 White Balance Filter, $49
If you haven’t discovered the ExpoDisc white balance filter yet, you are SO in for a treat! Place the disc in front of your lens and follow your camera’s custom white balance procedure, and voilà! You’ll get the right white balance every time. No software, no apps. The disc comes in 77mm and 82mm sizes, but you can still use the disc with smaller lenses simply by holding it in place. As a bonus, you can also use it for 18% incident exposure metering and for dust mapping your sensor.
DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter, $945
“I love this drone!” says Michelle, who finds uses from video for family projects to educational videos for Click Photo School classes. Easy to fly manually or in one of its program modes, the Phantom 4 uses GPS technology for auto takeoff and return, captures 4K Ultra HD video, and uses an impressive stabilization system to eliminate unwanted camera movement.
Edelkrone Wing Camera Slider, Starts at $249
This ingenious little device smoothly glides your camera for flawless moves in your videos without the necessity for more cumbersome rails. It folds up into a compact shape that’s easily stashed in a gear bag. The Wing comes in three sizes to accommodate everything from smartphones on up to much heavier cameras and lenses. Genius!
SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro CompactFlash Memory Card, $79
Fast shooting demands a fast memory card, and the SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro offers up to 160MB per second data reads and 150MB per second write speeds. Supports both 4K cinema and HD video, in addition to RAW and JPEG file formats. Don’t get bogged down by slow memory cards again!
Pulse Bluetooth Remote from Alpine Labs, $119
Put your smartphone to work (even more) for you with a wireless camera trigger. What Amy loves? “It’s tiny, sleek, and easy to use. An app on your phone gives you total control, and offers up a helpful thumbnail of the final image to boot.
Zacuto Z-Finder Pro DSLR Viewfinder, $295
Literally easy on the eyes, Zacuto’s Z-Finder Pro DSLR viewfinder provide 2.5x magnification so you can manually adjust focus without eyestrain. Models mount to either 3” or 3.2” LCD screens, with a rubber eye-cup to prevent light leakage. A no-brainer for those of us who don’t see 20/20, and a must-have for video shooters.
Profoto Collapsible Reflector in Black/White, $85 and $128
About as simple and easy as it gets when it comes to reflectors, this reflector belongs in every gal’s gear bag. Bounce or diffuse sunlight out in the field or use it to control flash anywhere – it’s a cinch to stash when you’re on the go. Two handles help your assistant keep her grip in windy conditions. Choose Medium (80cm) or Large (120cm) sizes.
Foldio Pop-up Studio Light, Starting at $75
Shut-up! This little 15-inch pop-up studio has built-in LEDs, white walls and included light diffusers? Then folds down flat? Amazing. We can see so many uses for the Foldio, from food photography to wedding rings to gosh, even your kid’s latest Lego creation. The kit includes black, gray and white backdrops, and you can also make your own with any paper or fabric. There’s also a Foldio360 version, with a turntable for creating 360-degree videos.
Lumy App, $3.99
Take the guesswork out of finding the Golden Hour with this ingenious little app. Through your iPhone or iPad, Lumy tracks the best morning and evening magic hours for catching that beautiful golden light. As a bonus, it also reports the current weather conditions and the sun’s current position so you know just what to expect.
Westcott Flex 2×2 Daylight Mat, $1,999.90
“It’s truly like having a window at my disposal any time of day,” says Caroline, who particularly appreciates it during her dark winters. “You can even bend it into shapes to wrap light!” Minimal heat and low power draw, even after hours of shooting, and no pesky green or magenta spikes – what’s not to love?
Bay Photo’s Curved MetalPrints, starting at $12.95
An elegant update to the minimalist look, these curved metal prints can stand on their own, literally. Kristen finds them a perfect choice for showcasing her landscape work. “The glossy finish brings out the colors and details, creating a 3D viewing experience.” Available in sizes from 4×6 to 12×18 inches, with a variety of sheens and corner treatments, and a choice of convex or concave curves.
WHCC’s Foil Pressed Cards, starting at $24.35 for 25 cards
Who doesn’t love something shiny? The quality of the foil press and color blew Danielle away. “Even when I use images shot in extreme low light conditions, these cards still print beautifully without losing any detail,” she says. Choose from a gallery of templates and six paper stocks, and save time with WHCC’s drag and drop online ordering tool.
Color Inc Pro Lab
From wood mounts to old-fashioned wallets and just about everything in between (even client gallery hosting), Celeste says Color Inc. is her go-to lab. “Their color is amazing, fast production time and the quality is fantastic!” she says. Plus, a 100% lifetime guarantee on everything they touch is unbeatable.
MILK Books, price varies
Sure to charm all the would-be makers out there, MILK books are handmade gems. Available in a gorgeous selection of fabrics, papers and binding styles, these albums are archival quality and papers are sustainably sourced. An optional presentation box oozes elegance with a textured Italian paper liner and silk lift-out ribbon. Though we live in an Instagram world, a beautifully-printed book is still a joy to hold.
Miller’s White Frame, price varies
This frame is like your favorite white, classic button-up shirt – it looks good with everything! Clean lines and minimalist style make your images pop with gallery panache, whether they’re black-and-white or color. Available in 20 sizes from 4×6 to 30×20 inches, these frames match just about any décor and taste.
Fracture Glass Prints, starting at $15
If you’ve been looking for the next cool thing in printing, these glass prints pack a lot of wow. Fracture prints your images directly to UV-safe glass, which they magically seal to a rigid backing with a built-in hanger for mounting on a screw (which they nicely include!). The end result is vivid, bright color and a chic display. Handmade in Gainesville, Fla., every Fracture comes with a “Happiness Guarantee” and a lifetime warranty.
Anthropologie Zinc or Brass Wall Hanger, $28 – $38
O.M.G. These super simple hangers come in small, medium or large, and are a fun Boho way to display prints. Gravity keeps the print taut, and the minimalist design makes it easy to switch out images as the mood strikes (or when you need new inspiration hanging around your desk).
Xrite i1Display Pro, $279
For those who want to go deep into the nitty-gritty of monitor calibration, the i1Display Pro gives you as little or as much control as you like. Basic mode uses wizards to quickly guide you through, while an Advanced mode lets you dive right in to the tweakiest controls (such as a PANTONE spot color option). It also works with any display type – LED, Plasma, RG Phosphor, OLED, Wide Gamut – and is spectrally-calibrated, meaning it’s upgradeable for future technologies.
BenQ 27-Inch Adobe RGB Color Management Monitor, $599
Looking for a little luxury to make your editing life a little easier? Outfit your workspace with the BenQ Color Management Monitor, and you’ll always have perfectly accurate color reproduction, including greater ranges of blue and green shades. Low blue light mode reduces eye fatigue, and an included hood shades out environmental lighting.
Datacolor Spyder5PRO Display Calibration System, $189
Your editing time is precious, so you need a fast monitor calibration tool that’s also pinky-promise trustworthy. Elise couldn’t believe how simple and quickly she performed her first calibration. “Everything you need is in the box and ready to go,” she says. “In less than half an hour you can start editing!” Compatible with both laptop and desktop displays, the Spyder5PRO offers before-and-after comparisons and a room-light sensor to continually measure any changes in ambient lighting.
Garden Collection Presets for Lightroom, $65
Oh, we’re gushing! This collection of garden-themed presets is what modern portraitists crave. Twelve color presets work magic on light and shadow, skin tones and harmonious color palettes. Eleven light overlays are stackable, giving you ultimate control over the existing directional light and letting you play with shadow and highlight to tug the viewer’s eye right where you want it.
Wacom Intuos Pro Pen and Tablet, $199.95 (small)
Once you pick up a Wacom pen, you’ll wonder why you ever used a mouse. Available in small, medium and large sizes depending on your needs, the newest generation of tablets works wirelessly with PC, Mac and even mobile devices, and features 2,048 levels of pen pressure sensitivity. “An absolute must-have to save wrists and sanity,” says Nina.
Jessica Drossin Illumination Instant Overlay Actions, $40
“I love everything Jessica Drossin creates, and this set is no exception,” says Rachel. One click adds a touch of extra light or enhances tone, speeding up your workflow. “It is so easy to change the orientation, color, intensity, etc.,” she says. Free video and PDF tutorials are available through the website to get you up to speed quickly.
Filmborn App, $2.99
If you love the look of film but need the convenience of your iPhone, Filmborn may be the app of your dreams. A selection of “true-to-film” presets based on Mastin Labs’ proprietary color science gets you remarkably close to the real thing, with side-by-side comparisons, white balance and exposure adjustment tools. In-app content on film history and how-to’s help you up your actual film game too.
GNARBOX, $299.99 for 128GB
When you’re hiking miles away from civilization and you need to dump your memory cards, you’ll be glad you clipped the GNARBOX to your pack. This little drive is so much more than a drive! It has its own Wi-Fi hotspot so you can dump your images or footage, connect to the app, and then edit and share your images instantly (even 4K and RAW files). USB3, microSD and SD ports connect to most cameras, or an additional external SSD/HD if you need more space. Available in 128GB and 256GB capacities.
LaCie Mini Rugged External Hard Drives, $199.99 ( for 1TB)
After a couple of external hard drive failures, Kristen says an Apple employee pointed her toward the LaCie Rugged drives, “and they have worked out so much better for me.” Water, drop, and shock resistant, these orange lifesavers stand out with fast Thunderbolt speeds, optional SSD compatibility, and come with a three-year data recovery service.
“Strong is the New Pretty,” by Kate T. Parker, $20.40 Hardcover
Rosie the Riveter meets Wonder Woman meets modern portraiture. We can’t get enough of Kate’s powerful images of girls doing what girls do, which is so not about trying to be pretty. Flip through this gorgeous collection of 175 photographs the next time you need a little pick me up.
ESV Single Column Journaling Bible, $123.49
Easy to stash in a camera bag for quiet moments between sessions or on the road, this journaling bible is a beautiful and tough spiritual companion. “I have spent time each day writing out my favorite verses in the margins,” says Lacey, who anticipates filling out more to hand down to her sons. Ruled lines in extra-wide margins provide ample room for notes, musings, and inspirational thoughts.
Sennheiser HD 598 SR Open Back Headphones, $170
Earbuds have their uses, but headphones take things to the next level – particularly through a long afternoon of editing! With a padded headband and soft, velour-covered ear pads are so much more comfortable than a tiny little speaker jammed in your ear. Compatible with virtually every audio device from phones to computers, these headphones also come with a second microphone-enabled cable so you can even take calls.
“Chasing Light” by Amanda Lucidon, $21, and “Obama: An Intimate Portrait” by Pete Souza, $29
Ever dream of making it to the White House? (But maybe without the weight of the world on your shoulders?) These beautiful books showcase the work of two White House photographers and give a behind-the-scenes look at two national icons. Grab a cup of tea and pore over hundreds of humanizing moments that range the emotional scale from gravity to levity.
A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live (Revell, 2013), $8 (paperback)
Author Emily Freeman leads readers through inspirational and thought-provoking passages to help you zero in on what unique qualities you can offer to the world. Sort through the noise of daily life and find your motivation to be your best self. This is one that you’ll want to read and re-read. “This book was so encouraging to read,” says April. “It’s time to break it out and read it again.”
MindFi App, Free
Break free from the Facebook-Instagram-Twitter focus challenges with MindFi, a simple little app that helps you re-gain your mental focus so you can stay on task. Through routine-based coaching, MindFi helps you meditate with your eyes open, in small chunks of three to five minutes while you’re commuting or eating or just taking a quick coffee break. It’s all about taking back control.
Glimmer Strings by Pier 1 Imports, price varies
Tiny, sparkly, adjustable, and battery operated twinkle lights? What’s not to love? Fun and easy to tuck just about anywhere, we can see these in a fairyland backdrop or even twining across your desk to brighten dark winter days. Gina loves that they “fit nicely across a set table runner, along a staircase, in a decorative vase, or strung through a headboard.” Choose from a variety of colors and themed styles like faux boxwood, berries, or jingle bells. There’s even a remote control for high-up strands!
Headspace Meditation App, free or subscription-based
Stressed and about to have a melt-down? There’s an app for that. Too worried about a session to sleep? There’s an app for that too. Headspace offers themed meditation sessions when you have ample time, and shorter “bite-sized” options for when you’re in the thick of things. “It’s changed my life,” says Elena. Try it out for free, and level-up to a paid subscription if it’s working for you.
When you’re feeling creatively stuck in the mud, April finds a good cookbook can shake things up. Not only does it tap into a different side of your creativity, but, hello – you get to EAT the fruits of your labor! “My favorites are ‘Molly on the Range,’ ‘The Dude Diet,’ ‘Thug Kitchen,’ and ‘Keepers,’” says April.
The Color Blast Kit, $35
Who’s ready to get a little messy? YOU are! Three squeeze bottles of bright blue, pink and yellow powder will be game-changing on your next creative session. Create colorful fogs behind your subject or go full frontal and let their movement create billowy clouds. Easy cleanup with soap and water.
Camera Coats Camera Scarf Strap, $25
How does Amanda love thee, oh scarf strap? Let us count the ways! “It’s super soft and stretchy, so it doesn’t hurt my neck,” she says. Plus, you can wear it around the neck or as a cross-body, which is a must during Amanda’s newborn and kids sessions. What else? It’s made here in the U.S.A. and it comes in so many great colors and patterns (and it’s so affordable you can have more than one!).
f-stop Guru UL Backpack, $169
Hiking, mountain biking, or city-trekking, you need a backpack that works as hard as you. Gina likes that the Guru UL has room for a laptop and change of clothes as well as her camera, lens and tripod. Internal camera units fit inside provide protection for gear and slip out quickly for transition to her bike saddlepacks. “I could not live without this backpack!” she says.
Nena & Co. Bag, Prices Vary
“I’m slightly obsessed with these bags,” says Kristin. “They are beautifully handmade and purchases make a difference in other women’s lives.” The company works with three fair-trade co-ops to source fabrics, and built a team of 60+ Guatemalan seamstresses, leather craftsmen/women and weavers. Bags range from backpacks and carry-alls to clutches and totes.
The ONA Leather Capri Camera Bag, $359
Kellie says it was “love at first sight,” when she found this bag. Big enough to hold two lenses, a full-frame camera, plus her wallet, keys and phone, the ONA is also shoulder-friendly and relatively compact. “Equal parts practical and beautiful,” says Kellie. “I am plotting ways to have this made in every color of the rainbow!”
Peak Design Capture Camera Clip, $59.95
When your shoot takes you off the beaten path, this system keeps your camera safely clipped on the front strap of your backpack or even a belt. “I don’t have to worry about it bumping into rocks as I climb, or not being able to reach it quickly if I put it in my pack,” says Michelle. Since the clip holds the camera rigidly next to your body, you have complete freedom of movement.
Lowepro Slingshot Edge 150 AW, $79.99
A low-profile, cross-body bag that clings snugly but holds what you need? A traveler’s dream! Though made for mirrorless camera systems, Megan finds room for her Nikon D750 and attached 24-70mm lens, with still more room to toss in another small lens and some accessories. “It’s the most wearable travel bag solution that I have found so far,” she says.
Make switching between purses, diaper bags, and camera bags a cinch with these zipper pouches in various sizes. Clear, PVC-reinforced mesh is sturdy and keeps contents easily identifiable – invaluable when you’re in a hurry. “I love how durable they are,” says Melissa. “I use one for diapers, one for snacks and one as a first aid/beauty kit.” Sold in packs of three, with one each of large, medium and small sizes.
Holdfast Gear MoneyMaker Harness, $230
Only have two hands? No problem. This leather harness keeps two cameras at the ready, and prevents shoulder and back strain with its rear criss-cross pattern that distributes the weight evenly. “The best money I have spent on gear this year, hands down,” says Alice. “It makes shooting with two bodies a breeze, which is so important for weddings.”
Girls Day Out by SHUTTERbag, $299
Pockets, compartments, and supple leather, oh my! This bag has a spot for everything – phone, wallet, keys, snacks…oh, and generous room for your camera and lenses, of course. It’s the camera bag that doesn’t look like a camera bag, so you can breeze from your session to happy hour without looking like a gearhead. Now you have no excuses for leaving your camera behind!
Zoe Camera Strap by Capturing Couture, $39
Ditch that scratchy camera strap and put this super-soft jersey scarf strap around your neck, and you’ll wonder why anyone would bother with anything else. Adjustable straps let you extend it to 40-inches in length, meaning you can wear it across the body – so much easier when shooting kids and newborns. It’s also cozy and warm when the weather turns cooler.
Solly Baby Wrap, $65
Keeping your littlest assistant happy is key when you need to keep moving and grooving. These wraps will get you through baby’s first year (or up to 25 lbs.), and are lightweight, easy to don and made from sustainable materials. “This thing is so soft and comfortable,” says Jamie, “and a lifesaver when I need my hands but the baby needs me!”
Hitcase PRO Waterproof iPhone Case, $99.99
Waterproof, shockproof, mountable, and minimalist in design, these cases can take a lickin’. Jen keeps it on her iPhone 24/7, and loves how the interchangeable lenses allow her to break the bounds of her built-in lens. It’s so trustworthy, that Jen’s youngest son uses the optional chest strap to video the family mountain biking and skiing.
Agree.com, starting at $13/mo.
Meet Chloe’s new BFF! “I am able to make personalized contracts from start to finish in five minutes now,” she says. This digital assistant lets you customize contracts, send them off to clients for signing on the digital dotted line via their smartphones, and keeps you up to date on the entire process through notifications. “Streamlined business for the win!” cheers Chloe.
PhotoSync App, $2.99
Hey, busy lady – simplify your life with this wireless transfer and backup app that lets you move photos and videos between your camera, iOS or Android phone, and your computer with a swipe of your finger. Also compatible with NAS and cloud storage, PhotoSync safely transfers files so you can free up space on your phone, and can handle RAW files. Set it to autotransfer and save even more time!
Pottery Barn Antique Zinc Wall Organization System, $39.50 – $199
Staying organized is a prerequisite for efficiency. And we all crave efficiency! The Antique Zinc Collection from Pottery Barn is your 24/7 personal assistant. Industrial-styled modular components help you keep track of studio or office essentials, like that busy packaging station that’s always a creeping mess. Design your perfect combination and organize away!
Happy Planner, Price varies
Yeah, your phone can tell you what to do all day long, but there’s something so much more rewarding about writing things down in a book. The Happy Planner gives you the advantage of the long view, with year-at-a-glance pages and available monthly or weekly layouts. Filled with artwork to keep your creative juices going, these planners also come in an array of smile-inducing covers and in three sizes. C’mon, get happy!
HoneyBook, Plans start at $40 monthly
Is managing your clients spiraling out of control? HoneyBook to the rescue! This digital subscription service streamlines your business workflow from initial client inquiries up until the final invoice gets paid (it even syncs up with QuickBooks Online!). Notifications remind you when a proposal is signed or a payment is made, and you can quickly track each client’s status on your laptop or smartphone.
Planoly, Free for basic, Plans start at $7 / month
Instagram making you Insta-tired? Get help from Planoly (Click & Co. did!), which helps you plan and schedule your posts, and even arrange the look of your Instagram feed with drag and drop so you can curate everything. Analytics help you get to know your audience without being overwhelming. Get your feet wet with the free plan, which allows 30 uploads per month.
Amazon Echo, $99.99
If you were skeptical about the Echo in its infancy, it’s time to recognize the power of the virtual assistant. The sky is the limit on what you can get it to do for you (“Alexa, we’re almost out of coffee!”), but Jennifer’s favorite feature is still voice control over her music library. “As a bonus, she tells jokes to our kids, helps manage our grocery list, and even places simple Amazon orders for us,” she says.
Amazon Basics Nylon Braided Lightning Cable in Rose Gold, $11
Goodbye, boring old white cables! Hello rose gold beauty! Available in lengths of three or six feet, this nylon braided cable is Apple MFi certified for compliance with your Apple devices, and the USB connector plugs right into your wall charger or computer.
Play funky beats in one room and soothing sounds to edit by in another, or wirelessly stream one playlist all through the house or studio. “I cannot say enough about this,” says Monica, “it is so convenient to be able to turn it on and off from my phone or computer.” Expand at your leisure with additional speakers, and add voice control with Alexa compatibility.
neuLASH Lash Enhancing Serum
Your eyes work hard (hello, optical viewfinder), so they deserve a little love. Even after just one month of use, Alice saw longer and fuller eyelashes. “It actually works!” she says. Carefully apply in small amounts to your upper lashline daily and watch the results. Have thinning brows? Alice says neuBROW filled in hers nicely as well.
Rifle Paper Co Personalized Stationery, $85 and up
Leave a lasting impression with this gorgeous custom stationery from Rifle Paper Co. From thank you notes to session reminders, these darling cards are much more memorable than an email. With 21 different styles, you’re sure to find one you (and your clients!) will love.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Contouring Palette, $40
These contour kits are super handy for touching up a client pre-session or even YOU for a selfie. Three palettes cover the full range of skin tones and create a flawless matte finish. Sculpt and define features from eyes to cheekbones to the nose and jawline. Each palette has six refillable shades, three each for highlighting and contouring.
Sterling Silver Camera Necklace, $30
Ok, this won’t help you take better pictures or beef up your client list, but it will make you smile! A little black stone adds a touch of sparkle to the tiny sterling silver camera pendant, with an adjustable 16-17.5-inch sterling silver chain. Give one to your photo bestie, or leave some not-so-subtle hints for your secret Santa!
Sanuk Vee K Shawn Chukka Boots, $26.99 to $69.97
Already smitten with her Sanuk flip-flops, Jennifer says this low-top lace-up is just about the next best thing for working year-round in Chicago. “I’m in love,” she says. “They look super cute with skinny jeans or baby boot cuts, but I’m still walking on yoga mats. Win-win.” Soft-washed canvas comes in six easy-to-pair colors.
Stay Focused Tee, $28
Throw on this soft, long-bodied tee next time you’re slogging through editing or running errands and people will know what you are all about. The deep charcoal gray goes with everything, and flatters every skin tone. Comes in unisex sizing so pay close attention to the size chart when ordering.
LIFX Smart Bulb, $59.99
Smart light bulbs just might be one of the best time-savers you haven’t tried yet. Compatible with Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant, the bulbs adjust to over 16 million colors. “I can voice command lights on and off,” says Jennifer, “and, photographers take note, adjust the warmth and brightness through my phone.” Another plus? Her kids like the crazy colors on holidays.
Sorel Women’s Caribou Boot, price varies with style
Back off, cold, messy days! With cozy, soft fleece on the inside, and tough, rugged leather and rubber on the outside, Meg says her Sorels are “perfect for harsh weather and chasing after my little fellas.” Bonus feature: the inner fleece liner is removable for those warmer wet days!
Wave Spray by Ouai, $26
We are so crushing on this magic little potion. A couple of sprays gives you effortless-looking beachy waves, and goes on your hair weightlessly. Rice protein provides the right amount of hold to keep locks natural and light. Spritz it on before you head off to a session, or use it mid-shoot to change up your client’s looks. And, if you really love it, Ouai offers a subscription service so replenishments automatically arrive at your door.
Vintage Camera Pillow Covers, $22
Oh so huggable! These adorbs pillow covers let you snuggle up with a vintage Leica (that’s not weird, right?). Available in three styles, the covers fit any 18×18-inch pillow insert (not included) with a zipper closure for easy removal when they need a quick wash.
Read that latest bestseller? Oh right, you don’t have time. Wondering how she ever got along before discovering Audible, Amy says “listening to books during editing marathons or while driving the kids to their sports makes me actually look forward to routine, time-consuming tasks.” Amy suggests Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours as an “outstanding” title to start with.
Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20, $36
Natural portraits call for natural-looking makeup, not caked-on foundation that can crack and look fake. This tinted moisturizer enhances beautiful skin with a healthy glow. Six colors cover a wide range of skin tones from fair to dark, offering just enough tint to even out tone with the protection of SPF 20 to block UVA/UVB rays. Buildable coverage lets you go heavier in some areas without overdoing it.