Photography Blog


Gifts for Photography Lovers -- the Random Awesome Stuff List

It has been a few months since I last updated this space, but it's time to fix that. How about I throw out some gift ideas for the photography lover in your life? These are all things that are suitable for ANY photography lover -- not just those who own DSLRs.

That right there is Photo-Opoly, a fun little Monopoly knock-off that makes use of your photos. It's available from lots of sellers on Amazon, but watch the shipping charges.

Fancy gadget time! It doesn't get much gadgetier than a watch that has a built-in camera. You'll also need to get a micro SD card to go with it, but still. FUN!

This would be a fun gift for grandma, your parents, or anyone who finds digital photos to be fun. It's like a digital frame, but it's an ornament for the tree.

If you know someone who takes Instagram and their iPhone 5 or 5s camera very seriously, you can help them step up their game with this little kit. It contains a tripod and a lens extensions that will help them zoom in closer and better than you can with any app. It's also available for an iPhone 4.

If the photography lover in your life is a beginner who aspires to get better, this book is a great one. It's full of great tips.

This book is for the DSLR lover in your life. It's a bit more advanced, but not crazy complicated. As a huge bonus, it comes with 6 hours of video training. You just scan the QR code on the book to get access to the videos.

This is seriously my new favorite photography-related t-shirt. It comes in a zillion colors and lets the wearer proudly gloat "I SHOOT IN MANUAL, BITCHES." I love it.

Another little thing I love is this USB drive that happens to be shaped like an awesome little Canon DSLR. Me likey.

I have posted this one before, but it's still awesome. It's a mug shaped like a camera lens. FUN!


If that isn't enough ideas for you, feel free to peruse some suggestions I've made in past years. Here are a few of those posts:

Gifts for Photography Lovers--the Under $25 version

Gifts for Photography Lovers--the Under $100 version

Gifts for Photography Lovers--the Lens Edition


Sparklers and Glow Sticks in Photography

This is an older post, but 'tis the season and all of that. I thought I would re-run it because now is the time to start getting ready for long exposure photography. Ready, set, go!


With the 4th of July falling on a Thursday this year, there are going to be an unusual number of opportunities to practice long exposure photography. Official firework displays are definitely more spread out than usual, plus there will be opportunities to play with sparklers in your own backyard. Time for some fun!

The steps below apply to any sort of long exposure photography that is used to capture a light source. It could be fireworks, sparklers, or even a glow stick. Real talk: glow sticks are easier to work with. They don't burn out, so you test and retest and shoot and shoot again until you get the effect you want.


Step 1: Forget auto mode. It won't work. Instead, switch to manual mode.

Step 2: That goes for your focus as well. Auto focus just won't work when you're trying to do long exposure photography. Sparklers and fireworks move too much and it's too dark for auto focus to do a good job of tracking. Set your focus manually and don't stress about it. It won't have to be precise in order to get the job done.


Step 3: Drag out that tripod or find a level surface at the right height to put your camera on. You're going to need to leave the shutter open for longer than you can possibly stand perfectly still. On the topic of equipment, a remote is helpful in this instance. It's not required, but it is helpful.

Step 4: Set your ISO relatively low. I know that normally if you're shooting at night, you want a higher ISO. Not this time. You are going to use ISO to control how much of your background is visible. A higher ISO will make it possible to see the person behind the sparkler or glow stick, the entire city, or whatever. A lower ISO will help you get a solid black background. Important note: you can prevent overexposing the image with the ISO.

(If I had used a lower ISO and a higher aperture, you wouldn't be able to see the trees in the background. Neither way is right or wrong ... it's a personal preference.)

Step 5: Set your aperture somewhere between f/4.0 and f/7.0. You are going to have to fire some test shots to see where you need to be based on your conditions. Aperture is also responsible for helping you make the background disappear an appropriate amount.

Step 6: Set your shutter speed to a slow setting. How low depends on what you're trying to capture. One second is plenty long for some fireworks, while I had to bump all the way to 5 seconds to do some sparkler writing. I like to time out what I'm planning to draw with the sparklers and glow sticks before I actually take the shot. It's never an exact science, but it saves me some time to draw an "F" in the air without the sparkler before I set the shutter speed. That way I know how fast it needs to be before I have fire shooting all over the place.

I'd like to tell you exact numbers for steps 4-6, but it will depend on what you have going on around you. Fire off some test shots, thank the lords of digital photography that you can delete the duds, and adjust as needed.

There's more about writing with sparklers and fireworks photography over here.