16 actually useful gift ideas for photographers

The reason why I’ve decided to write this post about gift ideas for photographers is simple – I got angry. Not like grizzly bear angry but you know – a bit poked. As Christmas is getting closer, suddenly tons of Pinterest pins titled like “Amazing gift ideas for photographers” are being smashed right into my face. And most of them are actually quite ridiculous.

I mean, yes – a USB stick in shape of camera is quite funny and the plastic-ky mug that looks like a long lens must have been an ice-breaker in the office 5 years ago. But is that really what photographers want? I feel like these lists are done rather hastily, searching through the internet for the most “funny” or “surprising” items made in China. Sorry, China. And seriously – who really wants to carry already very heavy camera equipment in a 2 kg heavy messenger bag made of leather? On one shoulder?

So I sat down and started thinking – what is it that photographers would really appreciate to find under the Christmas tree? And the result is my own carefully curated list. From a photographer to photographers!

I also took into consideration the fact, that we are quite strange creatures – don’t forget that the worst gift you could give to a photographer is an actual camera, lens or filter (unless they selected them themselves!). Because choosing these is a loooong agonizing process that we all love. Remember the episode of Big Bang Theory when Sheldon was so disappointed to receive a new computer as a gift? Well, it is the same thing in the photography world. Camera and lenses are sacred. šŸ™‚

Anyway – here we go, 16 gift ideas that are actually useful:

1. Lens cloths or a cleaning set

You’d be surprised how many people don’t carry any kind of cleaning set. I used to be one of them. But it really is important, as I wrote about in my post about 5 cheap things you must have as a photographer. With cleaning cloths, you can never make a mistake!

2. Remote shutter release

This is a gift that will make any photographer using a tripod a happy photographer. Remote shutter is great for taking photos without actually touching the camera, so it minimizes the shake and improves the sharpness.

There are basically two types – a cable release or a wireless (infrared). I personally use the wireless one because it is soooo tiny, light and I can use it straight away without attaching anything to the camera. But it only has one function – to take the image. Remote shutter release with cable can do much more – like shooting a sequence. It’s also more precise as you don’t have to aim on camera’s sensor like in the case of the infrared one. One or the other, both wil be a great value!

Before purchasing, make sure the remote shutter releas is compatible with the camera of your beloved photographer.

3. Adobe Lightroom subscription

Alright, you’ve been seeing the ads for Lightroom around on my website. But “What on earth is it?”, you may ask. Lightroom is a fantastic product by Adobe, which has become kind of a standard for photo editing. It is very intuitive to use, the benefits of the software are undeniable and the prices are very reasonable (around 10 USD per month). So there are really no more reasons for downloading some shady illegal versions. As a bonus, Adobe Lightroom comes together with Adobe Photoshop which really is a fantastic value for the money!

Check it out here:

Here’s a small example of how Lightroom can not only improve the images but if shot in RAW format – actually save them.

overexposed image
BEFORE – completely overexposed, no detail in the sky

image drastically improved in Lightroom shows why this software is a great gift idea for travel photographers
AFTER – the RAW format in combination with
one or two easy Lightroom tweaks saved the image

4. L-Plate

I wrote about it so many times, that the effect might start to wear off. A universal L-plate is the perfect gift idea for a photographer who does not yet own one. Just check out first, if your gift recipient likes to use a tripod. If not, you may want to choose something else from this list!

5. Minitripod

Having a minitripod is generally a great gift idea for travel addicted photographers. Sometimes, you simply don’t want to carry around a big heavy tripod or drag attention in cities. Because, let’s face it – a good sturdy tripod does look a bit like a Kalashnikov. But this cute little thing? You can just leave it in your bag and always have it with you! Plus, you can also buy an adapter for a smartphone to get your selfies on another level!

6. External hard drive

Photography is an expensive hobby. Not only in terms of money but also in terms of drive space. If your photography friend uses Lightroom, the chances are that he or she shoots in the RAW format. Now, the RAW files are huuuuuge! Mine are about 30 MB each. Panoramic photos have hundreds of MBs! So one of the best things you can give to photographer is simply space! It’s almost a poetic gift. šŸ™‚

Personally, I am a happy user of the WD 4TB external drive which I can clutter with RAW files without concerns. Though, you might want to consider something a bit more rugged for the hardcore outdoor lovers out there. The brand you’ll looking for is LaCie. And finally – there is also new kid on the outdoor external drive playground – SanDisk. Less space for significantly more money but the absence of moving parts inside the thing sounds very appealing to any photographer.

7. Rode VideoMicro microphone

This gift is rather meant for photographers who like to take videos too. The built-in microphone on cameras is pretty much always terrible which is why it is nice to have an external mic. This one is simply great – it is relatively cheap, easy to use, small, light and the audio quality is great. A must-have for vloggers.

8. Motorized Panoramic Time Lapse Tripod Head

Again – this one is meant for video creators. A motorized panoramic head enables you to add this little something, something special to your videos!

9. Gloves with touchscreen fingers

Everyone who’s done some landscape photography knows that mornings can get really cold, even in summer. I love having some thin gloves with me on location, so I can tweak my camera to get the perfect settings for my image and not having my fingers frozen at the same time. Since modern cameras usually come with a touchscreen these days, touchscreen fingers are super useful!

10. Extra camera battery

I know, I am repeating myself. But! I’d always be happy to get an extra camera battery as a gift! One important tip – before purchasing, check what camera your beloved person uses as the batteries differ depending on brand and type!

These, for example, are for higher-end Canons:

11. Good headlamp

Every sunrise- and sunsethunter will be delighted to find a high-quality headlamp under the Christmas tree. Hiking in darkness can be very tricky so it is a great investment. Petzl is a French brand which is around since 1975 so they really know what they’re doing!

12. Vintage Camera

Because vintage cameras simply look amazing and would be such an original gift! The functional ones may be the spark to discovering the beauty of classic non-digital photography. And those that are not functional will make for a beautiful unique decoration in every photographer’s office.

Looking for a unique present for a photographer? Maybe a vintage camera will do!

13. Quality Camera Bag

OK, a camera bag as a gift might be a thin-ice area. However, if you do have an idea what kind of and how much equipment your phototgraphy-loving friend uses, this might be the hit of the next Christmas! LowePro is a well-respected brand in the sharp-elbows world of camera bag manufacturers and the ProTactic model is excellent and very durable.

There are two sizes available (350 and 450). This ProTactic 450 is the bigger one:

14. Book about photography

Another great gift idea – every good photographer knows that he or she is not good enough and that we should never stop learning. And there is no better way of doing that than reading a book! You might think everything is online nowadays (which is kind of true) but spending some time offline with a nice book and a cup of tea…what a treat! Furthermore, no photograph is complete until it’s printed on paper, so that’s another reason to buy one.

Naturally, there are tons of books on the topic of travel and landscape photography or photography in general out there. I chose two books for this overview – How to Create Stunning Digital Photography by Tony and Chelsea Northrup and National Geographic’s Stunning Photographs. The first book is maybe not the most eye-pleasing piece of literature but holy moly, what an extensive guide to general photography! The second book is by Nat Geo. Full stop. šŸ™‚

The price point of both books is around 20 USD but if you don’t want to spend any cash at all, there is still plenty of free ebooks about travel photography available online! One of them right here. Print it out in color and add as a bonus to your gift. šŸ™‚

15. Calendar from his/her favorite photographer

So you think it does not make any sense to get ‘your’ photographer a calendar made by another photographer? Well, you may want to reconsider! I personally enjoy looking at other photographers’ photography – not to copy from them or compare myself with them but to learn from them. To see how they work with light and composition, maybe for location inspiration too (btw. this goes for prints, too šŸ˜‰). Since calendars are only have 12 slots (unless you’re on Mars, then you have 22 of course), they usually feature the best of the best from the past year!

There are plenty of talented people out there but I’m going to list my favorite three with their 2019 calendars:

Thomas Heaton – if you like not only great vistas but also some rather intimate landscape photography, Thomas is your man
Nigel Danson – Nigel likes to wait for amazing light and weather conditions, his 2019 calendar is simply epic
Morten Hilmer – Danish man, wildlife photographer through and through who will not hesitate to warm up his frozen MacBook using a bonfire, just to check how his image turned out

Calendar of his/her favorite photographer is another great gift!
Nigel’s 2019 calendar. Credits: Nigel Danson

16. GPS Watch or a GPS receiver

My last useful gift idea for travel photographers is a GPS watch or a classic receiver. Now, it is very pricey. But if your loved person spends a lot of time exploring new places, it may also be priceless as getting lost will never happen again with these gadgets. Also, even if you won’t go with one of the brands I suggest, make sure you choose a well-established manufacturer you can rely on in the wild!


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