You don’t have to spring for a new camera to make the photographer in your life happy; there are plenty of accessories and other tools to help them make images. These are the best gifts for photographers at a variety of price points.
It’s not always easy to buy a gift for a photographer. We are, seemingly by definition, very persnickety people, especially when it comes to the tools we use to capture the world. And there are technical complications to boot. If your beau wants a new flash or lens, you have to make sure you buy the right one for the camera. For lenses, even knowing the brand doesn’t help, as many make cameras that take different sizes and types of lenses. It’s complicated!
But fear not. You don’t have to buy something that directly attaches to a camera. There are lots of tools and toys out there that will work with many camera systems, and other fun tools, accessories, and stocking stuffers. They’ll light up your shutterbug’s heart, whether it be Christmas morning or the first night of Hanukkah.
CamLabs Camera Lens Thermos
Photographers who specialize in landscape and wildlife images know one thing for sure—it’s all about the light. And the best light is right around sunrise. But to get those magic images of the sun peeking over the horizon, with your subject bathed in warm, golden light, you need to get yourself out of bed, pack the car with gear, and head to a location, while still leaving enough time to get set up before the sun gets too high in the sky. What’s the secret? Coffee. Coffee is the secret. A travel mug will facilitate caffeine consumption in transit, and what photographer won’t like one that looks just like a camera lens? Trust me, I get, on average, about one a year, and will never look down on a fun, but entirely practical gift. </ziffbin>
Fotyrig Hot Shoe Level
You wouldn’t think a level would be something you’d want to add to a camera—unless of course you often use ultra-wide angle lenses. Photographers pay a premium for wide lenses that minimize distortion, a must for accurately representing architecture in images and keeping horizons perfectly straight in landscape images. But the lenses only do their job if the camera is level to the ground. Adding a three-axis bubble level takes the guesswork out of framing up the perfect wide-angle shot. </ziffbin>
Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic
We’re picking the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic as our favorite instant camera gift this year. It looks great, uses a rechargeable battery, and the popular (and affordable) Instax Mini film format. Instant photography has made a big comeback over the past few years, so be sure to check out our top picks in the category if the Mini 90 doesn’t tickle your fancy.</ziffbin>
Lensbaby Sol 45
Lenses can be affordable or very expensive. The Lensbaby Sol 45 is in the former category at around $ 200, and is a good gift for photographers who have a more artistic bent. It draws images with a crisp area of focus at the center, which quickly gives way to blur. It also supports tilt adjustment and adjustable blades that swing in front of the lens to change the way background textures look. It’s a pure manual lens, so you can buy it for multiple types of cameras (just make sure you get the right one). If your photographer uses a Micro Four Thirds system, the same effects are available from the Lensbaby Sol 22, which is designed specifically for the system’s small sensor size.</ziffbin>
DJI Osmo Mobile 2
Happy with your smartphone’s camera for your travel needs? Don’t be too surprised—modern phone cameras are very, very good. The DJI Osmo Mobile 2 is a worthwhile accessory if you plan on capturing a lot of video—it delivers better stabilization than your phone’s optical image stabilization system. It also supports time-lapse and hyper-lapse, which can turn a long day of adventure into bite-sized video clips for Instagram.</ziffbin>
Moment New Macro
There are times when you simply don’t want to lug a camera around. Thankfully, modern smartphones are beyond adequate for capturing photos in many situations. But one area where they fall a bit short is in macro capture. The Moment New Macro is an add-on lens, available for many popular smartphones. It focuses very close to nab shots of the tiny details that we oft overlook. It does require you to buy a special phone case to mount it, so don’t forget to get one along with the lens.</ziffbin>
Big tripods, small tripods—every photographer needs a couple of tripods. I keep a big set of legs in my car, another folding one goes with me on trips, and I’ve always got a tabletop tripod handy for times when a larger set of sticks is impractical. There are lot of choices out there, from traditional rigid legs to a flexible design of Joby’s GorillaPod. The Platypod Max is different. It’s a flat plate, with adjustable screws to level it. It’s super portable, and can be used at locations where tripods are verboten or simply won’t fit. </ziffbin>
Think Tank Urban Approach 15
Camera bags are like tribbles—you start with one, and all of a sudden your closet is overflowing with bags of all shapes and sizes. My favorite backpack for light hikes is the Think Tank Urban Approach 15, which can hold a camera, a few lenses, a laptop, a bottle of water, and a small tripod too. It’s finished in basic black—not the most fashion-forward design, but serviceable and of high quality. </ziffbin>
If your photographer already has a good backpack and you’re looking for another type of bag, check out our buying guide.
BlackRapid Classic Retro RS4
The camera strap included with most SLRs and mirrorless cameras is junk. Typically it’s not long enough to wear across your body and has big, obnoxious branding and logos that turn you into a walking advertisement for Canon, Nikon, or brand of your choice. A replacement strap can go a long way to make a camera more comfortable to carry. I’m a fan of the BlackRapid series—the design crosses your body and stays in place, with the camera sliding along it. The Classic Retro RS4 is a good one to get, and affordable at around $ 60. </ziffbin>
DJI Mavic Air
Aerial photography used to require a helicopter or plane ride. Not anymore. Now you can buy a small quadcopter—a drone—and zip up in the air to capture stunning visuals. The DJI Mavic Air supports 4K video capture, Raw imaging, and can even capture aerial 360-degree imagery. At $ 799 it’s more of a gift for a spouse than an acquaintance, but one that is a lot of fun to use and will allow the photographer in your life to see the world from an entirely new perspective.</ziffbin>
Sony a7R III
You know those commercials where one spouse surprises another with a new fancy car on Christmas morning? Going hog wild and buying a high-end, full-frame camera is the closest you’ll get to doing something that big for your beloved shutterbug. The Sony a7R III is a high-resolution, high-speed monster—it shoots 42MP Raw images at a staggering 10fps, complete with subject tracking, and also supports 4K video capture. It’s expensive, $ 3,200, but can overcome almost any photographic hurdle.
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