A Portable Light for Every Photographer on your Holiday List

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Whether you are shooting family snapshots or chasing sharks in the ocean, lighting can make or break your photographs. No photographer ever complained of having too many lighting choices at their disposal and, with lights becoming smaller and lighter, there are nearly endless options to choose from. Here are some gift suggestions sure to brighten the holidays of your favorite photographer.

Everyday Photographers: On-Camera TTL Flash

If you are shopping for a photographer frustrated by the unflattering quality of light emanating from their camera’s pop-up flash, change their lives with an external flash. Even the small change in position of light source will automatically improve images. Adding the ability to tilt and bounce light opens up even more practical and creative possibilities. Consider choosing a model with through-the-lens (TTL) metering capabilities which automatically calculates correct exposures when needed. Note that if you go third-party, make sure that the model you choose is compatible with the TTL system of their camera. For ultimate control, there are many models now that include built-in wireless capabilities so they can position the flash wherever they want and trigger it remotely. Check out Bjorn Petersen’s excellent guide to on-camera flash for more information on this topic.

Brilia BB-110N Bare-Bulb TTL Flash
Brilia BB-110N Bare-Bulb TTL Flash

Event Photographers: Round-Head Flash

Round-head flashes have enjoyed a recent comeback, becoming increasingly popular among wedding and event photographers. Profoto’s A1 and A1X AirTTL lights, as well as Godox’s V1 flash, think outside of the conventional on-camera flash box, adopting the shape of studio strobes instead. The result is a more natural quality to the light and better falloff without sacrificing the portability of an on-camera light. Both Godox and Profoto also make accessories for further modifying and shaping the light of these flashes.

Profoto A1 AirTTL-C Studio Light
Profoto A1 AirTTL-C Studio Light

Portrait Photographers: Off-Camera Flash

Whether working in studio or on location, portrait photographers often need more light than an on-camera flash can provide. Upgrading to a battery-powered strobe maintains the portability of a flash while producing the power of a studio light. Make sure to accompany your light with a compatible radio transmitter (and receiver if it is not built in to your light). There are also a number of location lighting kits that include everything you need to get started working off-site.

Profoto B2 250 Air TTL Location Kit
Profoto B2 250 Air TTL Location Kit

Nature Photographers: Macro Lighting

Help the naturalist on your list get the most out of their macro lenses with a ring or twin light. Ring lights can produce nearly shadow-less lighting for even rendering. Twin lights are often adjustable, allowing the ability to achieve more dimension with subjects. Go with a flash if your photographer gravitates toward fast-moving or unpredictable subjects. An LED model is perfect for videographers.

Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite
Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite

Underwater Photographers: Underwater Lights

Working underwater poses unique lighting challenges for photographers and videographers. As a medium, water reflects light from its surface, reducing what can be used for creating images. Further complicating matters, it absorbs different wavelengths of light, affecting the color of images. Underwater strobes and continuous lights provide greater control over aqueous environments. To learn more about the intricacies of underwater lighting, check out Larry Cohen and Olga Torrey’s article here.

Ikelite DS160 Substrobe with NiMH Battery, Smart Charger with US Plug, and 1" Ball Mount
Ikelite DS160 Substrobe with NiMH Battery, Smart Charger with US Plug, and 1" Ball Mount

Vlogger: LED Ring Light

Shopping for an up-and-coming social media personality? LED ring lights, a longtime favorite of makeup artists, have become increasingly common light sources for selfies and videos posted online. Many even include mounts for cameras and/or smartphones, or come as complete kits, creating an all-in-one device for still and video applications.

Neewer LED Ring Light with Stand and Accessories Kit
Neewer LED Ring Light with Stand and Accessories Kit

What is your favorite kind of portable light? Add to our list in the Comments section, below!

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