Our Photography Courses Blog - photography gifts

What to ask Santa for Christmas

Posted in photography gifts on December 13th, 2013 by Phil – Comments Off

Its that time of year when we need to think about what we want for Christmas, and assuming you don’t want to come on a photography course, have some one to one photography tuition or on-line mentoring, how else can you improve your photography on a reasonable budget?

1.  Buy a 50mm f1.8 lens.  Without doubt, the most bangs for your buck – from about £80-£120 you get an aperture about 10 times as big as the one on the kit lens. This means you can photograph in 10 times less light, or 10 times more quickly, or just get a lovely blurry background. On most crop sensor cameras the 50 mm lens gives a 75 or 80 mm true perspective, don’t worry about this it’s just a really useful length  for portraits!   See why you need one here.

2.   Buy a 35mm f1 .8 lens. We are less enamoured with this lens, because it gives a slightly wider and more boring perspective than a 50mm on a crop sensor camera. Still a great lens for similar money. You could try putting your kit lens in 35mm  and pretending it’s stuck there.  You may find it a really useful lens and it has all the light gathering ability of the 50mm for similar amounts of money.

3.  Buy a flashgun.   You need something that allows you to turn around and bounce light off the ceiling and bounce off the wall. Some small flashguns don’t allow you to turn the head or only allow it to point straight up (like the Nikon SB – 400), this is less useful. Apart from that, it also needs to be able to communicate with your camera using TTL metering – your local friendly camera shop can advise on this. If you do anything with flash other than just chuck a bit of fill flash into your pictures you could do with a flashgun. Less than £100.

4.   Buy a wide-angle lens.   If you take a lot of landscape photographs you may be frustrated that your lens isn’t wide enough. The crop sensor of your camera has given you a bit of extra zoom which you don’t actually want when you’re trying to do landscapes.  See why you need one here.  even the Tamron or Sigma lenses are more than £300, but are well worth it if you like this kind of thing.

 5. Buy a longer short telephoto.   If you take a lot of people pictures – friends and family, babies – basically people that you know, you will be shooting at about 50 mm indicated on your lens. On a kit lens of 18 to 55 this means that you are zoomed all the way in if your children run down the garden you need to buy a longer lens. Many people have two lens kits with an 18 to 55 and 55 to 200 mm lens. We find it is much more useful to use a 18 to 105 or 18 to 135 lens, putting this useful people length in the middle of the zoom range rather than right at the end. These lenses are also relatively inexpensive, as they are kit lenses for some of the more expensive cameras, usually around £190. It will mean that you can basically do everything with one lens apart from wide-angle landscapes and long-distance safari stalking! A lot of lens for the money.


It is very easy in photography to buy equipment you don’t need or is massively over specified for what you need. Having a more expensive lens – a 50 mm F1 .4 at three times the price for example will not necessarily give you better pictures.   Even the most wealthy photographer has a limited budget, and if you spend it on the wrong thing you don’t have the money to buy the right thing.


In the boastful Jeremy Clarkson world of amateur photography, you need to be careful!


Merry Christmas from everyone at Photography Made Simple




Photography Gift

Posted in photography gifts on September 24th, 2013 by Phil – Comments Off

It’s hard to find a photography gift for someone when you’re not into photography. Assuming the recipient has decent camera body, lenses come in a bewildering variety of sizes and budgets and buying the wrong one is easy.

We have taught nearly 4,000 customers now, and we’ve seen some terrible purchasing decisions in our time. All photographers are different and all photography is different. It’s horses for courses.

Recently Ben came to mac in Birmingham, with an ancient bridge camera. It’s the kind of camera that has very limited range, both in zoom and in aperture. The low ISO limit also meant that the camera could not manage in dim light of a British day, even in the Summer.

Ben had a very limited budget, and we talked through the kind of camera that would be most suitable – his interest is in glossy looking macro-style photography – this sort of thing on long walks. We always recommend a 50mm f1.8 lens for this – it’s a fantastic lens and very inexpensive.

photography gifts


Ben got onto ebay and bought a D100 Nikon for £41, a 50mm f1.8 for £21 and a Nikon 35-80mm for (get this) £4.99!  It’s a great start to photography – a real camera (D100 bodies were £1000 new), and lenses that can be used in future on a newer body.  All on a robust camera body that can take the knocks of real life.  One of the problems with new, high spec inexpensive cameras is that they are not robust enough for modern life.  So Ben has a camera ready to go for under £100.

The best photography gifts are tailored to the individual photographer, and with our experience we are able to advise people of all levels of experience and equipment.  We can get people out of a creative rut, or help them to see the possibilities of the equipment they already have.

Anyone can spend money on photography, but the best photography gifts change your way of seeing as well as exploring the capabilities of your own equipment.

Our photography gift certificates can be used for a group course, individual photography tuition, or on-line photography mentoring.  It’s a very cost-efficient way of improving the photography and enjoyment of your friends and family.