How many of you are asked what you want for gifts, but know that if you tell family and friends camera gear or photography-related items that they may or may not get you the right thing?

Photography is very personal. We all have our favorite brands, our standard go-to items and what works for one photographer may not work for another. It’s kind of like buying someone a sweater. Will it fit? Is it the right size, color or style?

In order to keep from having to return items, it’s best to talk to the person you’re buying for. I know, so much for the element of surprise, but it’s better than purchasing the wrong thing.

New photographers

If the person you are buying for is new to photography and you don’t know much about photography yourself, ask them what their intentions are. Do they want to focus on one or two genres? Are they interested in portrait, landscape, architectural, real estate, travel or wedding photography? Maybe they just want to record their lives, day to day or travels?

Knowing this will help you determine what their needs might be. Asking them this may also help them get a better understanding of why they are interested in picking up a camera as well.

Experienced photographers

Maybe you’re trying to find a gift for a seasoned pro or someone who has been involved in photography as a hobby for many years. Likely, they’ll know exactly what they need or want. Ask them to give you a list of items and for the best place to buy. Again, photographers can be picky about their gear, what they are used to using and many are quite loyal to brands whether it’s lenses, cameras or software.

Hopefully, we are going to make buying for the photographer in your life a little bit easier for you. If you are the photographer who is receiving the gift and want to help out the gift buyer, send them this list. Maybe even print it and highlight what it is you want, with notes about specifics.

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Gifts for every photographer

  • Lens cloths: You can never have too many. They are convenient to have in every bag, the car, and coat pockets. Lens cloths are inexpensive and great stocking stuffers.
  • Memory cards: Everyone needs these. Check with the camera owner to find out what type of cards they use. SD (secure digital) or CF (compact flash).
  • Card reader: Once your photographer has filled up those memory cards they’ll want to upload the images to their computers. Using a card reader is one way to do this.
  • Backup solutions: An external hard drive or a subscription to cloud-based backup services such as Code42 (CrashPlan) or Backblaze.
  • LensPen Pro Kit: This set of lens cleaning pens is so easy to use and does a great job. Another item that warrants having a few of for every bag and pocket isn’t a bad idea.
  • Rocket Blaster: Another great item for cleaning lenses and cameras.
  • Extra batteries and charger: Having extra camera batteries on hand is never a bad idea. This also includes batteries for flashes and other accessories as well.
  • Monitor color calibration device: There are several types on the market.

Specifics

Now, let’s get into a bit more specific types of photography and what might make for great gifts.

Lenses

Buying a lens for someone is definitely something you should discuss with them or ask them for a copy of their lens wish list. Macro, wide-angle, prime lenses and telephoto lenses come in a wide variety of brands and quality.

You can also get them filters for the lenses they have. Maybe they’re looking into learning some long exposure photography. ND filters or graduated ND filters would be a great addition to their kit to help them with that.

Other types of filters can be good to spark some creativity with different colors or effects. If they photograph a lot of water, architecture or windows then they may like a polarizing filter, which can help cut down on unwanted reflections.

Software and apps

There are so many choices out there these days for post-processing software and apps. Find out what they are currently using if they are using anything yet and what their preferences are. Maybe they’ve locked into something already and you can extend their subscription. It could be they are looking at switching and getting a free year as a gift would give them the opportunity to try it out. Here are just a few options:

  • Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop Creative Cloud photography subscription: The Adobe photography plan allows you to only subscribe to Lightroom and Photoshop.
  • LuminarAI: A standalone photo editor fully powered by artificial intelligence. An easy way for starting out when learning post-processing.
  • Photoshop Elements: This is a good starting point for someone who would like to go a bit further with their photo creations.
  • Affinity Photo: This has multiple functions and capabilities when it comes to photo editing, for the professional as well as the beginner.
  • Capture One: They have a variety of versions to work with specific brands of camera or one that covers all major camera brands. Great for tethering.
  • Nik Collection: One of my favorite plugins, Nik works in addition to other post-processing software. It’s a great way to explore other options in editing.

There is also a myriad of phone apps for photographers: Remote triggers, tracking sunrise, sunset, the stars and all sorts of other useful and fun tools.

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Tripods and accessories

Tripods are another very personal item. They have to work for the person using them and range from heavy-duty types to light and easy to pack travel tripods. Talk to the person you’re purchasing for, see what their needs are.

Some other options and accessories are the Platypod, which is a great throw-in-your-bag option to stabilize the camera when you’re out and about. Gimbal heads are good for wildlife photographers. An L-bracket is also a nice addition that allows for easy change of camera orientation while on the tripod.

Lighting

In this category, it will depend on what type of photography the person is doing. Each genre has its own needs and some have specialized equipment. Here is a partial list of different lighting options.

  • Speedlight: Otherwise known as a camera flash unit.
  • Lightbox: Useful for product photography and the growing toy photography field.
  • Ring light/flash: Great for portraits and macro shots.
  • Lume Cube: A nice little light that can be used for many purposes.

Gear gifts that helps them do their job

  • CamRanger: Wireless tethering and camera control.
  • PocketWizards: Wireless control and synchronization of cameras, flash lighting and light meters. Be sure to get one that is compatible with their camera brand.
  • Remote shutter release: Wireless and cable versions available. For a mobile photographer, there are remote shutter apps that can be used.

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The gift of learning

  • Photo tours and workshops are an excellent way for photographers to learn and meet others who have similar interests.
  • Subscriptions or online learning sites like ThinkTAP Learn, KelbyOne, Creative Live and LinkedIn Learning.
  • There is no end to the number of books on photography.

Photo hosting sites

Subscription prices vary on some of these sites depending on the plan that is chosen.

  • Flickr is a great place to share images, post to groups, meet and interact with other photographers around the world.
  • SmugMug and Zenfolio are photo hosting sites that allow users to create galleries to share with clients, friends and family. Depending on the plan level they also offer prints and other items for people to purchase directly.

Miscellaneous gifts

These are just items that can come in handy to have in a camera bag.

  • A multitool like a Swiss Army knife or the SmallRig Multi-Tool.
  • Gaffer’s tape, paracord or something to use to tie back branches.
  • A small tool bag to carry everything in.
  • Rain sleeves for the camera because you never know when the weather will change.
  • Small clamps or even clothes pins are nice to have to hold flowers or clothing in place.

Gift cards

Gift cards are always the easy thing to buy when you’re really unsure of what someone needs or wants. Here are some ideas for gift cards that include places for the photographer in your life to buy gear, courses and prints.

Need more ideas?

Check out the complete Photofocus Holiday shopping guide for more ideas.

 

P.S. Thank you to the photography communities I reached out to for all of the suggestions.