The ULTIMATE Pro-Photographer's Holiday Gift Guide

Hi, I'm David! I do a lot of things, but my favorite thing to do is create photos. I made this post just in time for the holidays so that you can shop for your favorite photographer and get them the PERFECT gift. These are all recommendations made by a working professional in the industry, so you can't go wrong... enjoy, and happy holidays! 


This is more than just a gear layout... in this blog post, I'm going to give you insight on EVERY tool I use as a professional photographer, including the cameras and lenses I shoot with, the live streaming options I use, the tripods, clamps, and holders I utilize, the software I use to edit, the websites I use to host my content and work with clients, and much, much more.
 


Here's a list of EVERYTHING I'll cover for you in this post: 

1. The Gear I Shoot With (lenses, cameras, tripods) 
2. The BEST Camera Bags I've Ever Owned
3. How I Light My Images (Natural and Flash) 
4. How I Live Broadcast and VLOG
5. What I Use for Battery Backup
6. Creative Support Products (Like backdrops and fog machines!)
7. Websites and Programs I Use

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If you don't already know me, my name is David Talley. I'm a professional photographer and entrepreneur, and I'm passionate about helping others succeed while innovating in the visual imaging sphere, from education to physical products and services. I wrote this post to be helpful to you if you're shopping for yourself or a photographer this holiday season. All reviews are unbiased and not endorsed by the companies selling them - just pure, hard, love for the products and services I've listed below.

Let's get into it... I've always believed that the best camera that exists is the one that is with you. As cliché as the adage is, I've consistently found massive truth in the saying... I've only owned 1 camera model in my professional career, and just a handful of lenses, tripods, bags, and other accessories that have helped me achieve my vision and grow an audience of over 250,000 loyal supporters and community members.


1. Gear I Shoot With:


 

Pro-boy - Canon 5d Mark III: I've had this camera since the day I started actively pursuing a profession in photography. When I launched my business officially in 2015, I continued to use this camera. It's travelled over 200,000 miles around the world so far with me, and it's just as strong as ever. Cheaper than picking up the 5D Mark IV, and keeping almost ALL of the same improvements, it's a key player for more serious DSLR shooters.


Backup body - Canon 6D: A full frame powerhouse in its own right, the output of this full-frame DSLR packs a huge punch in quality that rivals pro-level cams. Pair that up with a winning lightweight, small-frame body and you've got the ultimate low-priced, full-frame DSLR.


 


Sigma 50mm 1.4 DX EG HSM: My go-to lens. An absolute tank, perfect sharpness throughout, and a company with great customer support. I use this lens frequently in my fine art work and education businesses. The Canon 50mm 1.4 alternative broke on me because it was plastic, merely sitting in my carry-on luggage flying from Amsterdam to Detroit. This Sigma lens is metal, and will stand up to the potential bumps along the way for the frivolous photographer.


 

Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art: I use this lens for landscape-oriented shots, portraits, and families, couples, or events. Insane lens. Perfect focus. Main shooter for our wedding and portrait business. Basically, go buy it now if you don't already own it. (and check out some sample images here).
 


 

Yongnuo 35mm 2.0 AF: This is a cheap drop-in alternative to the Sigma version of the 35mm.... surprisingly capable, sharp, and beautiful... all at a price point less than 90% the cost of the Sigma lens. A complete favorite (and hidden gem) of mine. 


 

Vanguard Abeo Pro: This is my tank tripod from my friends at Vanguard that I use in intense weather, crazy wind, and any difficult or demanding situation. It's a bit on the larger side and comes with it's own carrying case, and with the pistol grip, it looks like a futuristic gun... so much so, that I was actually stopped at airport customs on my way to China to be tested for Gun Shot Residue... whoops! You can see this tripod in action on this project I did with Flickr.com. (click to follow link)


 

Vanguard VEO 235AB: My travel tripod by Vanguard - a seamless blend of size, portability, strength, and ease-of-use.  I use this tripod 90% of the time. This VEO tripod traveled 40,000 miles around the world with me, in a complete circle to and from Portland, OR, USA, where I spend half of my time. The tripod has also travelled to that exact same height upwards in the sky 23 times in the last three months. It fit in to every bag I brought (except my passport purse, which, come on - so cute), and is so easy to store in overhead luggage bins - even AirAsia, if any of you know the woes.... (read the review of this tripod here!)


This Gear in Action:


Want to know what kind of imagery can be made with this gear? I created all of the images you see in the carousel above with only the gear listed! And, for most of the images, I only used the 50mm lens. 


2. The Best Camera Bags I've Ever Owned:


 

The Vanguard Havana 48: This insane piece of engineering dreamed up by my friend Tom in Japan for Vanguard's Havana line is a perfect combination of stylish, rugged, functional, and durable. I've taken this bag around the world, dragged it through sand, mud, thunder storms, I've flown with it at 40,000 feet and trekked with it on my commute to the coffee shop. Vanguard just released this bag to the public and it's an insane piece of gear. 

Using the Havana 48 in Norway

Using the Havana 48 in Norway

Me with the Havana 48 in Portland


The Vanguard Havana 38 Messenger Bag: Same bag family as above, and a perfect carry-on companion to the amazing Havana 48, or a great alternative if you prefer meesenger bags. This is my daily carry to coffee shops for meetings and work. 

Me with the Havana 38 in Oak Glen, CA


 

The Vanguard VEO Travel Bag: A lighter fare for the world-traveling photographer, I've put this bag through the paces. For 3 months, I travelled 7 countries across 4 continents to see if this bag would hold up to the test of time and elements. With Airplane Carry-on friendly features, a built-in laptop sleeve, and day-pack convertability, this bag is a daily go-to for me. I wrote about this bag and the VEO tripod line in this blog post. (click link to follow)

In Kiama, NSW, Australia with the VEO 

In Kiama, NSW, Australia with the VEO 


3. How I Light My Images:


Below is my go-to lighting kit. I use some or all of this gear for every shoot, and I've only used "professional" strobes a handful of times. Want to see this gear in action? Click here to read my post on "How to get in to Studio Lighting WITHOUT Spending Thousands of Dollars..." [It's definitely worth the read.]

 

24x36 Inch 5-in-1 Reflector and Boom Arm Reflector Stand: This is my third arm. I love shooting natural light, but I often work with just myself and my model on personal projects. That's where this handy setup comes in. The boom arm holds the reflector at any angle so that I can consistently get perfect lighting and reflection without having to rig my reflector to a tree with string (which I've done many, many times...) It's the details that matter, and this setup makes sure I get those details. 


 

CowboyStudio Aluminum Adjustable Light Stand with Case: This is my go-to lighting stand and I own about 3 or 4 of them. It's sturdy, practical, and travel-worthy. The height is adjustable to 9 feet, and it closes down to just 28 inches long when folded. It also supports up to 7 POUNDS of gear on top, making it the perfect candidate for what it supports... the flash!


 

Yongnuo YN 560 IV: I've never owned a strobe, and because of this speed light, I don't know if I ever will. Yongnuo has a focus on creating affordable flash units for photographers looking to break in to the world of studio lighting. I think they're doing an awesome job - their flash units are everything I look for in a speed light: lightweight, well-designed, have TTL with an infrared lamp, have multiple zoom and firing modes, have wireless connectivity, and most importantly, they are AFFORDABLE as HECK! These babies go everywhere with me, and they light 100% of the studio images you see in my portfolio.


 

Softbox: This is the secret-sauce ingredient to this kit. Lightweight, majorly-packable, and giving you the same look as a 6-foot octabox, this softbox modifier from Neewer is the key gear piece that improved the entire look and feel of my images. I remember how stunned (and scared) I was the first time I used it, not knowing what to expect. Now, I use it to light literally 100% of my photos that use studio lighting. I take this to workshops, on airplanes, and even used it for my last book cover job, which was a $2,000 contract. This piece of gear will change everything for you, just like it did for me. 


 

Camera Triggers: Without a trigger on top of your camera, you won't be able to make your camera talk to your flash without a cord, unless it has wireless connectivity. Pick up a pair of these guys from Yongnuo and you'll be set for years... and hundreds of feet. Literally. I once tested the range on the flash triggers and was able to walk 200 feet away on the other side of a wall and still fire the flash, which I could see lighting up the room from the studio door. You'll probably need these, so don't skip 'em. 


I created this image with this lighting setup. 


4. How I LIVE Broadcast and Vlog:

I use each of these products and to better connect with my audience. Have you ever seen me broadcast live video on my Facebook page? This is how I make it happen.


 

Coldshoe Camera iPhone Mount: I use this to mount my iPhone to the top of my camera for vlogging, Behind-the Scenes video, live broadcasting, iPhone flash mounting, selfies and more.


 

Mevo Live Broadcasting Camera: 9 camera angles in one camera, controlled by your phone. Perfect for live broadcasting photoshoots and workshops. 


 

Canon ELPH 110 HS: This is my vlogging camera that I take with me world-wide. It's seen 40,000 feet, massive mountains, vast oceans, and my own face...  many, many times. If you're looking to get in to vlogging or cinematography on a huge budget, this is my number one recommendation. You can only find this baby used, but it's worth the hunt. I paid $170 for mine. 


 

GorillaPod: A bendy, sturdy-enough-for-a-DSLR tripod. What more is there to say? This thing is literally perfect and a must-have. Mount it to anything and you instantly have the best and most creative perspectives for cinema or stills. 


5. My Affordable Portable Power Solutions:

Each of these products allow me to power my shoots, vlogging, and live broadcasting. I consistently rely on these products for both large-scale and spur-of-the-moment productions


Anker Portable Battery: For keeping my constantly low-powered iPhone running during live streaming and BTS videos. Small (like a lipstick tube) and goes with me everywhere, around the world, carry-on safe. 



Wasabi Car Camera Charger + Wasabi Canon Batteries: Do yourself a favor and do NOT pay the extra $70 for extra camera batteries. Even if you're not on Canon, Wasabi is a much better alternative at a fraction of the price. The batteries charge faster and last longer than the Canon alternative. Also, with this charger, you can charge your camera batteries on the go while drive A lifesaver for forgetful people like me.  


6. Creative Support Products:

This gear is all of the stuff I use on a regular basis to support my creative endeavors - tools, backdrops, stands, etc. Each of these products and resources help me to create the conceptual aspect of my photos - adding to them the mystery, intrigue, and beauty you see behind every image. I wouldn't be able to create without these things!


 

Seamlessphoto Emily Soto Backdrop (10x20): Emily Soto designed this bluish-gray backdrop for my friends at Seamless. This product is amazing and I use it for a variety of shoots. The texture is my favorite part! 

Get this backdrop here: http://bit.ly/2ggk4e6

Using this tripod with Kristina Srzich in Sydney.


Seamlessphoto Backdrop Stands: Durable and spring loaded from the guys in Dublin. This is what holds up my backdrop: http://bit.ly/2f7hVVV


Atmosphere Aerosol (fog in a CAN!!!): YES, you read that correctly. My friends, Joe and Kathleen in Tennessee have an amazing product out right now called 'Atmosphere Aerosol." It's an insanely easy way to bring an entire foggy morning with you on a Photoshoot. I keep a can in the car and a can in my bag at ALL times, and constantly use this for Photoshoots. Use the code TALLEY20 at check out for a special discount :-)

Learn more and get it here: www.atmosphereaerosol.com

at Using Atmosphere Aerosol to create light rays

at Using Atmosphere Aerosol to create light rays

Fog + clouds with Atmosphere Aerosol at our studio

Fog + clouds with Atmosphere Aerosol at our studio

 
 

 

Swiss Utilikey: This is a utility knife that folds in to the shape of a key. You'd never know the difference! I use this small tool on set all the time for quick fixes, as a screwdriver, and more.


 


Paracord: I keep it in my bag 24/7. From holding things together to suspending props in mid-air from tree branches, tying my suitcases together for the airport and making cool bracelets, this stuff does it all. 


7. Websites and Programs I Use:

This is a collection of some of the services I use to create, host, and share my content with clients and community worldwide.


Dropbox.com: for storage and client file handling and delivery.

Squarespace.com: for website hosting and blogging. An incredible, robust, and versatile platform that I have been using for years.

Mailchimp.com: I use this for my weekly e-mail list! Very versatile, user-friendly and beautifully outfitted with fantastic template.
  
Adobe.com: Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop CC, and Lightroom CC: Content creation. Adobe is by far the best platform available. 


I'm on a mission to show that the light will always pierce through the darkness.