Smart gear for new photographers

If you're wondering what to get a newly-initiated shutterbug for the holidays, we have you covered with these handy gadgets, books, and cameras.

Wireless photo transfers

Taking a lot of photos as a budding photographer is hardly a challenge, but for busy snappers, actually getting around to offloading those images can take a long time. Eye-Fi’s line of memory cards offer a seamless and convenient way of giving your images a home outside of the camera. The memory cards have built-in Wi-Fi capability, making it possible for cameras to upload photos directly to your Mac, or to photo-sharing sites like Flickr or Picasa. Some of the Eye-Fi cards can also connect to iOS devices, so your photos will load onto your iPhone or iPad right after you shoot.

Eye-Fi; $50-$100

Sleek card reader

Every photographer needs a trusty card reader to get their images onto a computer for viewing, editing, and sharing. Moshi’s USB-powered Cardette Ultra card reader features a sleek aluminum body to match your Mac. But this little device goes beyond looks—the Cardette Ultra offers speedy uploads and supports almost all existing memory cards, from standard SD and SDHC cards to all Memory Stick series. MacBook Air owners will also appreciate that the Cardette Ultra comes with two USB ports, so you actually get an extra port when the device is plugged in.

Moshi; $35

Steady, flexible shots

Joby’s GorillaPod tripods are portable and incredibly flexible—the perfect gear for new photographers who are interested in taking low-light or action shots. GorillaPod’s signature tripod legs can bend in every direction and grip to almost any surface, whether you’re shooting on your dining room tabletop or from the Yosemite mountaintops. (If you’re looking for a more traditional option, check out our advice on buying a tripod.)

Joby; $20-$100

Stylish and useful bags

With all that photography gear—from camera to lenses, batteries, and more—you’ll need a place to keep it all safe, and carry around in style. For light, day-to-day use, Photojojo offers some cute, compact options. To store more lenses and peripherals, Epiphanie bags offers fashionable, feminine choices while protecting your gear. For more gender-neutral choices, you can’t go wrong with the super sturdy options from Think Tank.

Top Middle: Photojojo, The Camera Day Pack, $60

Bottom Left: Think Tank, Retrospective 20, $168

Bottom Right: Ephiphanie, Belle bag, $156

Photography guide books

Learning how to compose a shot, pick the right shutter speed or f-stop, and make the most of available lighting takes practice, but words of professional advice never hurt. The Complete Digital Photography is an excellent guide that explains everything from how a camera works to post-production tips and how-to’s—and in a very easy-to-understand manner perfect for newbie photographers or film photographers transitioning to digital. Digital Photography School also offers a great line of books covering basic skills to specific types of photography: We like Captivating Color and Transcending Travel in particular.

Complete Digital Photography (by Ben Long), $28

Digital Photography School, $20

Lenspen cleaning tool

Nothing mars a great shot like dirt, dust, and other debris that inevitably settles on your camera lens. But keeping your lenses dust-free is a challenge. The Lenspen is a device that provides a dust brush at one end and a cleaning wiper on the other to get rid of smudges and spots. It's great for both DSLR and point and shoot lenses.

LensPen, $8

Books for inspiration

Creative vision can be spontaneous, but often it evolves from studying the work of past masters. While we recommend some of these photographers—Diane Arbus, Galen Rowell, Vivian Maier, Dorothea Lange, William Eggleston, and the great Ansel Adams—for the pure pleasure of leafing through their images, there's also lessons beginners can learn from their point of view, composition, lighting, and subject matter. There is abundant material on each of these photographers, so we offer the above titles merely as a reference point. Do you have a favorite book from which you derive photographic inspiration? Let us know in the comments.

Master photo tricks

Sometimes all you need to do is get out there and start shooting. If natural street action is your scene, you might gather some tips from famed New York Times On the Street photographer, Bill Cunningham. Cunningham has had 30-plus years to perfect his art of capturing the history of New York fashion from the ground up and this fun video chronicles his singular approach to street shooting. The video, Bill Cunningham New York is playing in select theaters around the country and can be viewed via Netflix streaming. It's also available for purchase through Zeitgeist Films.

Zeitgeist Films, $30

Starter DSLRs

DSLR novices aim to take their photographic skills to the next level, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to choose the best starter camera—if it's too complex it may be too intimidating and hard to learn. The Canon Rebel T3 and the Olympus E-PL-2 strike an easy balance between features and interface that will ease new DSLR shooters into capturing great images. The T3 offers solid, easy-to-use basic features and piles on a whole lot of extras to enhance image quality and performance. For a different take, consider the Olympus E-PL2, a micro four-thirds cam with a newly retooled body and lens kit. It sports many high-end features, including image stabilization and wireless flash control. But it's lightweight and compact.

Canon Rebel T3, $550

Olympus E-PL-2 $600

Point and shoot mood

So you want something light and unobtrusive for peeling off a few random shots. Check out the Nikon Coolpix P300. It's fast, fun, and takes great pictures. It doesn’t do raw format or manual focus, but it's convenient and compact to carry with you all the time. The Casio Exilim EX-ZR100 distinguishes itself with overall versatility, high-speed shooting modes, moderate price, superb battery life, and long-zoom lens. It's another great choice for casual snap-shooters.

Nikon Coolpiix P300, $280

Casio Exilim EX-ZR100, $300

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