While teaching classes or at photography events, I seem to be recommending a lot of the same things over and over. The following items have been used by me personally, or someone I trust has recommended them to me. Disclaimer – These are Amazon Affiliate links, so anything you buy after clicking on them puts a few pennies in my pocket.
The Adobe Photoshop CC Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby.
Scott Kelby has surrounded himself with top talent for years, and because of this he has been able to release some great books on image editing. Both his Lightroom and Photoshop books are highly recommended.
If you just want a little quick reference card for Photoshop, Beezix makes great Quick Reference guides.
If you want to get the absolute best color balance for your images, you need a color reference. The Color Checker Passport is a great tool for getting your color perfect.
While not as precise, an inexpensive gray card will get you good results as well.
Once you have a color reference for your images, you need to make sure you are working on a properly calibrated monitor. I have used the Datacolor Spyder for years and I’ve found it very easy to use.
I have a bagful of Nikon SB-900 flashes. They are great lightsources and have done a great job for me for years. I was a little skeptical when I decided to buy the Amazon Basics flash, but I’ve been pretty impressed. True, they won’t give you the performance of a high end flash like the new Nikon SB-5000, but you could LITERALLY buy 20 of the Amazon flashes for the price of one SB-5000. If you need a basic flash without all the bells and whistles, this is for you. It has a built in slave, can accept a trigger, and has tilt/swivel functionality. Buy one… seriously.
But If you really want to buy the Nikon SB-5000, who am I to stop you?
I haven’t used the professional Canon flashes, but I’m sure they work fine.. probably. Buy one and find out.
While I shoot Nikon DSLRs, when it comes to point and shoots for travel, I’ve found the Canons to be much better. They can shoot raw, have a manual mode, and they have a hot shoe for a speedlight or radio trigger. I’ve been very happy with the images I’ve gotten out of my HS60SX. Plus, it has a 1350mm optical zoom!
I haven’t used the Flashpoint XPLOR myself, but some very talented photographer friends of mine can’t think of enough good things to say about them. I’m sure I will be buying a couple eventually. The link is for a kit with a Canon transmitter, but other transmitters are available as well.
When you take a college level photography course, or are studying for the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) Certified Professional Photographer certification, this is the book to use. It isn’t just a picture book with lots of nice images to look at (though the photography in it is great), it is a textbook on photography, all aspects of photography. From the math on how depth of field works, to how to use a meter, digital editing, color theory.. its all here.
Every photographer needs a reflector, even if they don’t think they do… pretty much any 5-in-1 reflector will do.
..and if you shoot with Off Camera Flash, you need a good umbrella. I prefer Wescott shoot-through, but there are dozens of brands available.