Searching for the perfect gift for the photographer in your life? Look no further than the pages of The Photography of Modernist Cuisine for inspiration. Taking cues from some of our favorite photos in the book, we’ve put together a list of must-have gifts for the holiday season. Whether your loved one is new to the world of photography or a seasoned vet, we hope this gift guide will be an invaluable resource for you.
Our favorite cameras are professional DSLRs from Canon. These cameras are indispensable tools, even for passionate amateur photographers. And for those who are serious, it is worth investing in a high-quality DSLR camera body. The Canon EOS-1D X (5253B002, $6,799) has the ability to capture sharp, accurate, and high‑quality images. It is also incredibly water resistant and has a durable frame, making it useable in a variety of conditions.
In truth, lenses are almost always more crucial to the quality of the photo than the camera body. The Canon 24–105 mm f/4L zoom lens (0344B002, $1,149) is an all‑purpose, versatile lens that allows you to quickly shoot a range of frame widths. It’s a great option for situations in which you can only take one lens with you.
Believe it or not, a good monitor goes a long way when it comes to photography, which is why it makes a great gift. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a nice monitor that will display 99% Adobe RGB with 1.07 billion colors. That’s right, billions of beautiful colors with the bonus of smooth gradations. Try out Dell’s UltraSharp 24 in (U2412M, $267 and up) or 27 in (U2713H, $599 and up) PremierColor LED-lit Monitors.
To capture truly gorgeous macro shots, we recommend the Canon 100 mm f/2.8L macro lens (3554B002, $1,050). If you’re on a smaller budget, the non-L version (4657A006, $600) will provide you with similarly impressive results.
Improving image quality starts by improving a camera’s flash. Off-camera flashes allow photographers to create better lighting angles. The Canon Speedlite 600EX‑RT (5296B002, $549) or 430EX II (2805B002, $299) are great choices for any photographer using a Canon DSLR. The Canon Off-Camera Shoe Cord OC-E3 ($70) allows you to hold the flash up to 2 feet away from the camera and still maintain all E‑TTL II functionality; at $70, it’s a wise investment.
In food photography, mid-range laboratory microscopes are useful for imaging the cellular structure of plant tissue or details such as the fat-covered bubbles in whipped cream. Microscopy is a different art form from photography in many ways because the light-scattering properties of matter change at the microscopic scale. A good‑quality microscope typically comes equipped with five or more objective lenses, ranging in magnification from 10:1 to 100:1. We use the Nikon E800 microscope ($6,999) with Nikon CFI objective lenses; however the newest incarnation of the model is the Nikon Eclipse Ni-U (price varies depending on configuration).
Polarizing filters, like this Hoya 77 mm Evo Circular Polarizer ($89), help to enhance picture quality by blocking harmful reflected light. It can be used to reduce light reflections from glass and liquid surfaces or to improve color saturation. An example of this effect can be seen in this image from The Photography of Modernist Cuisine called “Kaleidoscopic Vitamin C,” where the use of a polarized filter helped create an explosion of colors.
High Speed Images
Remote triggers serve as the communication link between a camera and its flash. The trigger, which is usually mounted on the hot shoe, uses radio signals to synchronize flashes so that they fire at the exact moment when the shutter opens. We suggest the PocketWizard MultiMAX ($249 and up).
The Phantom V12.1 is something of a dream gift for any photographer (or director, for that matter). It’s akin to asking your parents for a pony for the holidays. Because our reflexes often aren’t quick enough to capture a fleeting moment of action, our studio uses high-speed video cameras like the Phantom V12.1, which can shoot up to a million frames per second. This allows us to capture moments that otherwise wouldn’t be seen by the naked eye.
Some of the contents of our cutaway shots were literally held together by pins and needles. Add sewing pins to your gift list; they’re an essential tool for capturing the momentary (and fleeting) precision of a cutaway. Sewing needles are easy to hide from view or remove during editing when they can’t be fully hidden.
For a serious photographer, color is incredibly important. To achieve truly brilliant colors like those in our vegetable garden cutaway, we used the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport ($89). By taking a picture with the ColorChecker in the frame, you can easily white-balance your images during post processing. This great tool also helps photographers create custom color profiles for individual scenarios.
On The Go
A pocket-sized tripod, like the GorillaPod ($14 and up), is an incredible gift for budding food photographers who like chronicling their meals and adventures on the go. When you don’t have much control over the lighting in your environment, a tripod can help eliminate some of the blur that you experience when taking photos in ambient lighting. Compact and portable, these small tripods connect to digital cameras of all sizes, even cell phones, making them an easy tool to carry around for impromptu shoots or to catch fleeting magical moments.
Another simple lighting gift for photographers is a portable reflector, like this 32″ Impact 5-in-1 Collapsible Disc ($38). Portable reflectors help diffuse tricky lighting in the field or in the studio. The disc itself helps soften lighting, and the removable slipcover can be used to reflect light for shadowing effects.