Love At First Sight or a Valentine's Day Gift Guide for a Photographer you love

"Love At First Sight"  - that was the name of my first published article. It was a 4 page story showcasing my photography and which was also written by me in 2012 for my dear Italian friend's (Hi, Emanuele!:) magazine called Image In Progress (and to be more specific, in its 3rd issue, which is already sold out long time ago), and which, I think, is one of the most interesting & high quality international industry projects out there and I highly recommend it. To make a story short, it was about my unconditional love for photography and the beginning of it, my personal development as an artist and my thoughts about my back then future goals regarding my photography in general. Now we are living in 2020 and I'm still deeply in love with it, as you can probably see from my fearless decision to continue working on my own Lounge & Lifestyle magazine project (despite the lack of time and all of the problems slowing down the process along the way), which was created solely for a purpose of giving me a new possibility to find another way to express myself and its heart and core are mainly based on the idea of beautiful visual storytelling, and it gave me a chance to share my lifestyle, professional and personal opinions and my world with you, while using both text and my photography to achieve that. And no matter how busy I am, my goal is to constantly grow and invest myself in all of my projects with all my heart, because I really love what I do - it just makes me truly happy. I cannot imagine myself without doing at least something related to photography, as famous Richard Avedon quote says, hence there is no way to quit, and hearing positive feedback about my 1st printed L&L issue makes my heart melt and willing to continue. 
Photo courtesy: Soile Ukkonen

..And while today we celebrate a Valentine's day on February 14th and people will soon start to declare their love and send greetings, gifts and flowers to their loved ones and communicate with a lot of hearts all day long, which I think is very lovely and beautiful, reminding ourselves of that obvious fact, that all we need is love, I will probably too watch "Love Actually" in the evening and then keep falling in love with my creative profession all over and over again and hence it's the only topic I can imagine talking about even today. This reminded me of another article I wanted to write for another photography related blog several years ago, but which never actually got published there. It was about choosing gifts to photography lovers, put in as a short gift guide/list of things, that could save your time, if you happen to be married or are dating somebody, who is obsessed with this profession, or if you're single, but still wanted to treat yourself right, even if your Valentine got lost on its way. And though this list of ideas and things might be partially common to you, it could work as a tip of how to enrich your basic photographer routine as well. Since I had a throwback on this topic and wanted to cover it in my blog in anyway, I will now share my ideas hoping that they could be relevant to some of you out there. So let's start! Here are some of my gift ideas for you on the Valentine's Day (and/or any other day too no matter the holiday):

1. Photography book. Very banal, I know. However, if you know that your loved one is searching for some specific book, or loves someone's work (or is shooting in a certain style and there are other masters in that field that he or she really admires), finding a book of this artist's work could be a great surprise and will surely make your partner very happy, especially if they love and collect books in anyway. And you could also go even further and buy a signed photography book, which is a great collecting item and there is much bigger worth in a signature, if it does contain a personal message by the artist himself - the artist, whose work they really love.

2. A Gift card. To your local shop, where they sell photogaphy gear, or to an online store - it all depends on how he or she prefers to do their photography shopping. It is a perfect gift solution, if you don't really know what your partner wants or is in need of, and you're afraid to buy things by yourself, but still want it to be something useful to them. Rest assured that there are plenty of things that need to have a renewal and there are many things your love would definitely want to buy, if only there was a budget for it. The only thing to decide would be a gift card sum and the actual place where to get one for them.

3. Photography workshop seat. This one is great, especially if you know what style (and most importantly - what great photographers are shooting in that style) your loved one really likes and would love to attend in a format of a masterclass, and even better if you possibly know who they would like to really learn from. But it could be a little bit tricky to arrange the exact appropriate dates in our busy schedules or to know, whether this master photographer will be coming somewhere near during a needed time span, or if there are other masters of similar type offering this kind of opportunities in the nearest future, so you would need to do more research on it. This gift works really great, if all pieces fall together as planned and you will find a perfect workshop close to where you are with a theme relevant to a needed shooting style, and because good ones are usually very pricey and booked in just a few days, there's bigger chance that your partner won't be planning to book themselves in without you knowing about it and discussing the higher price they would need to invest. Professional photography workshops are a great inspiration source and provide relevant shooting experience, so if you are lucky and managed to do it right, your gift will be obviously remembered for a longer time.

4. A mix of 2 and 3, which is a voucher to an online webinar. This works even better, if you know they are not much into travelling and find it more productive and pleasing to watch lectures and workshops in their office or home at any wanted time, while enjoying the information provided and making notes without engaging in a live situation with anyone. There are other benefits of this, such as huge variety of possible choices of speakers, themes, shooting styles and the internet and your budget are your only limit in this. I highly recommend to take a look at the classes produced and sold by CreativeLive - I have watched and even bought some of them myself and they are of a very good quality. This is a good investment in anyway, because it is fun, educating and is all about the things we love +you can re-watch the class at any time you want and the price is not too high including the joy and the future benefits of professional learning, which should be continuous and nonstop.

5. Photography gear. This one is limited only by your imagination and your overall budget, but it works great as a real time investment into supporting your loved one's passion and photography career - it can be anything your significant other might want or need - from camera lenses to professional lights and stands, to computers and photo editing software - there are so many things we must have in order to produce even better and professional results. You just need to know more specifically about what they need and want, so you won't make any mistakes, and I'd advice you to play it safe and rather ask them beforehand. But even then, if you have bought something from your local shop, you could possibly negotiate about the replacing options after the deal, whether the product was not exactly the one they could really work with - just remember to save the receipt in such potential case.
6. A paid ticket for a trip. Well, this is not necessarily a photography related gift, but it is serving this same purpose and idea of getting more experience and career development with your small investment in it, because there are certain "dream" places we would all want to go to to shoot at, even if we never shoot street photography and outdoors. Besides that it could be a lot of fun and memorable for both of you, if you go there together, it is also essential to remember that we get most of our energy and stay inspired when we're observing beautiful things and are capturing important moments both with our eyes and the lens, therefore even the small vacations could put a productive start to a new visually powerful story or a new shooting style and even become a material of personal exhibition later on. It is also very romantic, because what could be better than booking a trip on a special day, which is dedicated to the only thing that matters - to a beautiful feeling of love?

7. Collection of classic movies and/or old fashion magazines or educative books about photography and/or specific genre of it (e.g. fashion, photojournalism, portraiture, wildlife shots etc.). The history of our passion is very important to us and we all develop while looking at what was done before and analyze our works based on some principles found within photography as truly important basics of composition and shadows & lights. With this you cannot fail, because no matter the topic, it is always interesting to look through the Masters art and trying to figure out how they did it and inspire ourselves to try even more. What is also good about this idea or gift, is that often these movies and books are produced as very beautiful artistic compositions themselves and work as great examples of what is called true art, which will feed our creative souls and inspire our visions, so look for the quality and timeless execution - something, that never goes out of fashion, like Newton or Avedon.

8. Photography print. Same as numbers 1 and 7, it could be a beautiful addition to your partner's collection - especially, if they do collect original and limited edition prints, but I have to warn you and say, that it's a dangerous hobby. Besides they are not always very easy to find, their cost can vary greatly too, so it's up to you, whether you want to get involved and start hunting (and eventually also paying for it). But as I said before and will probably keep saying, there's nothing more beautiful than a printed original photograph - they have a soul and are a real proof that we indeed can really stop time and quite often in a very and sometimes powerful beautiful way. Owning original photographs developed by someone, whose work you adore, is like owning that beautiful moment forever. Knowing that there is a limited number of same signed photography prints also makes it your biggest artistic treasure.

9. A photoshoot. This can be controversial. Because not so many of us enjoy to be in front of the camera (and the struggle is real - hence this is why I usually take my own photographs) and we might not even have any pictures of us taken others than from many years go and we mostly focus on our own work, so it can possible ruin your surprise. However, for those, who are ok with it and can't really take their own photographs by themselves and could enjoy a professional photoshoot, it could be a refreshing day to get their portraits done - if not for a joy only, these photos could later be used for promotional purposes. Just make sure to choose the photographer they like or are being friends with (=feeling comfortable with), so the photos will turn to be of the type they want. If you could get a master photographer they like to shoot them, even better, thoughit could cost a lot more, but having a portrait done by someone whose work and ethics they value could give them moments of happiness that will last for many years to come - the same goal that all of us, photographers are seeking to achieve.

10. Photography website. This one is great especially for the ones, who have no website, but are badly in need of it. It's always great to outsource such a task to somebody else, while giving our full focus on what we do best - meaning our photography, and maybe that's why so often even really good professional photographers cannot even start to working on their website simply because of lack of time. And while we all are supposed to know which photos look good when being put together in a portfolio, wrong execution can ruin it and it can take years until we find someone, who will truly understand our vision and how we want to present it. Building a website as a gift can miss that target easily as well, because not everybody is familiar with our preferences and is capable of knowing which work to showcase to show only the best, but as a genuine attempt to assist and make a start by investing in it makes it worthy - especially, if your partner isn't very good with all this website building technology. Good thing about it is also that website can be edited many times and it could be wise to notificate that what you are presenting is just a draft. You could also think about purchasing a domain name instead of building the website, but I would advice to think twice about it, as it can be easily a mismatch in the name or they're not ready for it just yet. Either way, you know the situation better than me and when taken seriously, professionally done photography website could save lots of their time struggling with it and it makes a great gift you can even make by yourself, if you have time, visual eye and technical skills for coding. If you don't have the knowledge, please, get advice from professionals in that field, but one thing to remember is that it is not ideal to start building a website for a professional on a free subdomain. You want something, that will highlight their expertise and free subdomain with third party ads is not the way to do it.

11. Subscription to a magazine, editing software or a photography related blog. It is a mix of many things - all depending on what you choose to decide, but the main thing is that your partner can enjoy something really valuable to them for a specific amount of time (the most perfect solution would be to buy a  subscription for a year or so) without worrying about any future payments, and, if you know it is what they love, you will probably make them very happy. It can be a fashion magazine they sometimes buy, but never ordered continuosly because of the price, but you know they will read it, or it can be a blog with tips they would like to follow and read as well, but never really moved further onto a subscription plan to get a full access to it. And here is where you could help, as it can basically be anything which needs a small investment in exchange of more information and possibility to enjoy it. Just think about what they already read and use - there's a good chance they would happily continue, if only they had enough money for it.

12. A portfolio review. It is only good for those, who are either aspiring photographers or are willing to receive a critique (because not many photographers really want it, even though they might actually need it, haha:), but it can be tricky to really know it up front, whether the jurors of such fair or event will have enough competence and any further impact on your photographer's work and will be able to help to develop it even more. It is also often very pricey and sometimes far away located in bigger cities, and could also be uncomfortable to attend, if your lover happens to be introvert, but in some occasions (and especially if you know they will enjoy it) it can bring not only important feedback on their project or work they are struggling to develop and give them the right direction, but also some new connections and answers on questions about what to do with their future work and which path to proceed. And no one would probably attend and pay for these events otherwise, if they weren't useful.

13. Custom made gift. This one is up to you and your imagination only and could be a lot of fun too. You can either order it or try to make it by yourself. It can be anything photography related and/or covered with your partner's work, if they trust you enough and allow you to have an access to it and their digital files to be sent to the lab to create some unique personalized products (but I would probably recommend to do something simplier with using text etc. e.g. with cheerful words rather than using their professional photos without their consent even for a beautiful gift because of copyright infridgement and them potentially getting really upset with it), like mugs and portfolio book cases - you just need to know what they prefer. What is good about these type of gifts, even if they're not looking flawless, is that you actually put your heart in the making of them and because they are custom made it also means they're unique. And some of the options don't even require to spend a large sum of money on making them.

14. Last, but not least. Your support, genuine care and real love. This probably doesn't need an explanation, but this is indeed the best possible gift you can ever give. Go tell your partner that you love them right away and don't wait just for a February 14th, because God only knows what we are capable of, when are truly valued and cared by someone who is important to us and when we are constantly feeling their love. Tell them you love their work too and show them your support in it, because if you are dating a photographer, you probably already know how much our passion really means to us and that we are ready to give us all 100% and work hard without any breaks if needed just in sake of getting one beautifully executed photo. And when we know that our loved ones are fully supporting our visions, we become 10 time more of that person we are, who is inspired and never afraid to try something new. As photographers (and other artists and also freelancers and entrepreneurs) there is a lot of self doubt going on constantly in our minds, just because we are working on something often very personal and we need someone to be there for us, when the times are getting hard. Showing love and attention, when we need it the most surely is the best gift someone can get. 

And so now I'm off to my very much earned little lunch break, so I wish you all a very romantic evening. ..And if you don't have a Valentine today and feel a bit lost and alone, go tell yourself you love you too, because you are beautiful that way and there is no one like you in this world. And if you are lucky and get to share this occasion with someone you love, please, enjoy it, and if you're not, you can always rely on photography to share your vision and dreams with millions of other people, and that only will always keep you connected to them, because photography is truly powerful, serious and magical. And magic can't really happen without true LOVE. ♥ Warm wishes and Happy Valentine's Day to all of you! And have a great Friday and weekend! — Always yours, Veronica Lounge / Photographer and Editor of Lounge & Lifestyle

Veronica Lounge

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