Fifteen practical gifts for your photographer friends
Let us help you do better than that camera-lens-shaped coffee mug.
Photographers can be notoriously difficult to shop for. We’re picky about our gear, tend to already own a lot of it, and the crucial pieces of our kits are prohibitively pricey. But there are plenty of practical gifts to get for the photographer in your life that isn’t a cheesy coffee mug shaped like a camera lens. (You’re photography-inclined loved ones probably has a few of these from holiday seasons of yore.)
We’ve handpicked gifts that are budget-friendly and that almost any photographer would find useful.
Every photographer needs a good tripod in their kit, and the Joby GorillaPod is a top-notch, compact option for anyone (though it’s particularly great for those dabbling in video). This compact ball-head tripod has legs that wrap around anything—tree branches! wire fences! ceiling beams!—and can be rotated 360 degrees. It’s made of anodized aluminum and can hold a camera that weighs up to 11 pounds.
Adding a shine of color with a gel—see how it looks here—is an easy way to enhance your flash photography or compensate for crummy lighting. The thin sheets of colored plastic fit any speedlight and have a clever band to keep them in place. The whole package includes 20 color options, all of which fit nicely into a secure carrying case, which will help keep your gear bag organized.
Photographers always need more storage options, but a hard drive is not as fun to purchase as a new lens or a set of gels. While a portable external drive might not be the sexiest of gifts, your photographer friend will be happy you got it for them. The Western Digital drives come in a variety of colors, boast a USB 3.0 port, and offer automatic backup. Don’t think you need something more sentimental; practical gifts rule.
Nikon’s D850 is an established powerhouse in the competitive world of high-resolution DSLRs. The camera allows photographers to capture fast action in 45.7 megapixels of brilliant resolution. With remarkable advancements across the board—sensor design, autofocus, dynamic range, sensitivity, speedlight control, battery life, shutter, and mirror drive mechanisms, Silent Photography in Live-View mode, focus shift capability and more—this remains quite possibly the most impressive, well-rounded DSLR yet.
Gaff tape is a magical product that can fix a variety of photography-related problems quickly. It can tape up camera logos, fix a broken strap, secure power cables, hang a lightweight backdrop—the list goes on and on. These mini rolls fit easily into an accessory bag, lens pouch, or pocket. And unlike duct tape, when you pull it off at the end of your shoot, you won’t leave behind a sticky residue.
Sony’s new memory cards are dustproof and waterproof to help protect the precious images stored inside. These cards have a new design that eliminates both the finicky lock switch and the fragile plastic ribs over the connectors, both of which have a tendency to break. They’re also the first SD card to use a totally sealed monolithic structure (conventional SD cards are made of three pieces) to help keep the data safe.
A flash won’t do you much good if it doesn’t have enough battery power to fire. Ripping through your bag to find your fresh batteries is stressful when you’re on a job. This nifty, compact battery holder from Think Tank helps alleviate that problem. It stores eight (the perfect number needed for a speedlight and a set of radio triggers like PocketWizards) and will keep you from losing track of pricy rechargeable batteries.
Adobe’s Creative Cloud is an integral part of many photographer’s professional lives. A year-long subscription to the service is a great way to save your photography-inclined loved ones some cash in the upcoming year. This package deal comes with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC, and 20 GB of cloud storage for image access anywhere.
Every photographer can benefit from a fresh burst of knowledge and inspiration. The Photographer’s Playbook offers 307 strange assignments and ideas to spark creativity and engage with their art in a new way. The book features anecdotes and ideas from photographers like John Baldessari, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Jim Goldberg, Susan Meiselas, Alec Soth, and Roger Ballen.
This lens pouch from Peak Design keeps a low profile and attaches to your belt loop, making it easy to access a second lens or a speedlight when out on a shoot. It’s padded to keep your glass safe and comes in three sizes to accommodate different pieces of gear.
The best camera is the one in your pocket, and for many people that means a smartphone. Help your loved one enhance their smartphone photography with this wide lens from Moment. This lens works with the brand’s phone case (sold separately) and offers an expanded view (about 0.63x magnification) for a fresh perspective of any scene. The lens comes with a cap and a microfiber bag to keep it safe when its not attached to your phone.
When it comes to editing, faster is always better, and this tiny drive is big on speed. This portable SSD has read speeds of up to 550MB/s, capacities up to 2TB, and an IP55 ruggedness rating (meaning it can handle a bit of moisture). It’s 0.35 inches thick and weighs just 0.086 pounds, so it’s a great way to quickly back up your files or transfer them to a client.
A leather camera strap is always in style, and this one from Heavy Leather an absolute favorite. The handmade strap is two-inches wide, making it super comfortable to wear on your shoulder or around your neck. Its sturdy quick-release clasps won’t give out and send your camera tumbling to the floor. It’s an excellent choice for shooters looking for something understated.
A simple, portable light shaping tool is an incredible way for photographers to enhance their flash photography. Gary Fong’s collapsible lightsphere gives photographers a soft omni-directional light. This modifier works with any large speedlight and collapses down to 1.5 inches, making it great for travel.
Fujifilm’s analog instant camera have been a hit with all types of photographers. The SQ6 in particular gives shooters the ability to shoot Instax square frames in a true analog format. The instant camera can shoot in double-exposure mode, macro mode, landscape mode, and selfie mode and comes with gels to add pops of colors to your film photos.