If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Variety may receive an affiliate commission.
From sound engineers and screenwriters to celebrity makeup artists and stylists, Variety’s new series “Ask an Insider,” will ask top professionals within the entertainment industry to share their must-have essentials, for work… and for play. In this installment, celebrity photographer Clifton Prescod, who’s worked for stars such as Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys, shares what should be on every photographer’s wish list this year.
Visual artists like photographers can be notoriously difficult to shop for, because when it comes to people with a professionally good eye: mediocrity simply won’t do. Not only do they have objectively good taste, but they’re likely to be extremely well-versed on all the products on the market, and picky about which devices and accessories make sense for their work.
So when it comes to finding gear the photographer in your life will actually like and use, an expert opinion is necessary. To help you find the perfect gift this year, Variety enlisted help from celebrity photographer Clifton Prescod, known for shooting the likes of Kanye West, Nick Cannon, Alicia Keys and Miley Cyrus among dozens of others.
Here, he shares the must-have essentials that he thinks every photographer should have on their wish list, from Sony’s brand new AI camera to Samsung’s impressively compact USB hard drive. And if these camera must-haves are good enough for Ye, you can be rest assured that the discerning lensman in your life won’t be disappointed this holiday season.
Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera
“Right now Sony is dominating the game with high performance mirrorless cameras. This mammoth 50 MP sensor, 30 frame per second, 8k video capturing beast is Sony’s flagship camera. You could literally use it for anything. Personally, I often use it when I’m shooting Key Art, like movie and TV artwork or advertisements. There is no substitute for the speed, quality and reliability that this camera offers. This camera is not cheap either. So I’d say it’s best for the professional photographer. But I know a lot of general tech consumers that must have the best so if this scratches your itch, go for it! Whether you’re blowing up the image for a billboard, making a family photo, capturing a beautiful landscape on a trip or capturing your child at their soccer game, this camera will meet (and exceed) your expectations.”
Sony 27-70 G Master Lens
Of course, if you take his advice on getting the Sony A1 you’ll need a lens. And when it comes to crisp images, the 24-70 is Prescod’s top recommendation.
“It’s literally the best bang for your buck as it’s one of the sharpest lenses on the market and also one of the quickest. I suggest using this lens because the communication between camera and lens on a Sony-to-Sony combination is extremely fast. The days of struggling to focus or waiting for the autofocus to lock in are over. This lens is great whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pro. I personally use it for taking portraits on the go and for shooting environments.”
BlackRapid Hybrid Breath Double Camera Strap
The professional photographers in the house know how important a good strap is. Prescod says he often carries two cameras while on the job, switching back and forth between different lenses to capture the moment quickly, so finding a safe way to harness both devices on the body is a must.
“The Black Rapid Double Breathe Harness is trusted among the most elite photographers in the television and film business,” he says, noting that he trusts almost any BlackRapid product. “Its lightweight, moisture-wicking, nylon, TPE Foam, and polyester blend helps photographers stay in the game while running around all day with heavy cameras at their side. The harness keeps the gear safely at your side with a double swivel locking carabiner system, so rest assured, the cameras aren’t going anywhere.”
Samsung T7 Solid State Drive
A hard drive isn’t the sexiest must-have essential in the photographer’s arsenal but any veteran knows it’s just as important as the camera itself.
“At 2 oz in weight and the length and the width of a credit card, this portable hard drive is everything. Gone are the days of lugging around clunky hard drives everywhere you go. It has 1000+ Mpbs read and write speeds so things that used to take hours to complete (in terms of backing up images or clearing space on your laptop) now takes a few minutes. Photographers, and pretty much anyone else that deals with data files, need quality, speed and security when it comes to tech. The Samsung T7 is the gadget that meets those demands industry-wide.”
Sony HVL F60-RM Wireless Radio Flash
“If you’re a photographer, at some point you’re going to end up in a situation where you are lacking light. The Sony HVL-F60RM Flash is the answer. I personally use it a lot when at award shows and parties.
My favorite feature is the Quick Shift Bounce Pivot feature that helps overcome unwanted shadows on subjects. Most flashes are stuck in one position and the head only tilts up and down so when taking an image in landscape orientation (left to right) and then switching to portrait orientation (up and down) the flash will often hang to the side and create a shadows. But Sony’s Pivot system addresses this by swinging 90 degrees in either the left or right directions.
In general, a flash is a must when owning a camera. Nothing is worse than an underexposed photo. Especially with the built-in TTL (through the lens) system, you can literally take a perfectly exposed photo every time.”