Photographers aren’t always easy people to shop for, and it doesn’t help that most “photo gift guides” are generic copy-pastes from Amazon written by non-photographers. My hope is that this guide is a bit different. Below, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite gifts for photographers in 2020. The products below are arranged by price – under $20, under $50, under $100, and over $100. I’ve used almost all these items myself and strongly recommend them. The ones I haven’t are on my own wish list :)
Note that Photography Life is not associated with any of these products. If you purchase an item through our links below, we may receive a small commission from Amazon or B&H, but not from the product manufacturers themselves.
Apps – The Photographer’s Ephemeris and PhotoPills (each $9.99)
An easy, unexpected gift for photographers who already have all the equipment in the world is a smartphone app. There are so many available – and many of the best ones aren’t free – so the one(s) you should get depend on the person you’re giving to. One of the best is The Photographer’s Ephemeris ($9.99), ideal for landscape photographers who want to plan their shot. There’s also PhotoPills ($9.99) which has several different tools, including a Milky Way tracker and timelapse calculator. Highly recommended.
Raya 5-in-1 Reflector Disc – $19.95
A reflector is one of the easiest ways to add great light to a portrait photo. This 32″ version from Raya is $20, and it has five different panels you can use for different levels of reflection or other effects. There are a number of similar products on the market (the one I have is a slightly larger version from Raya), and they pretty much all work great, so be on the lookout for a good deal. Anyone who shoots portraits should have a pop-up reflector in their bag.
Ruggard Rain Cover – $7.50
In rainy environments, especially when you’re standing in front of a tripod for long periods of time, it’s essential that you keep your camera dry. One gift I recommend for this purpose is the Ruggard Rain Cover. It comes in two varieties for different lens sizes – 8 inch and 18 inch. (For wildlife photography with extreme telephotos, I’d get the 18 inch; otherwise, the 8 inch packs smaller – though the 18 inch is actually a hair cheaper at $6.75). There are also specialized versions for covering an on-camera flash if necessary.
Vello Mini Softbox – $7.50
A must-have for portrait photographers (and others) is a flash diffuser. At the upper end of the spectrum are large softboxes and umbrellas, but those can be unwieldy and usually stay in the studio. For quicker field work, a smaller flash diffuser is ideal. The Vello Mini Softbox is just $7.50. It fits most flash heads, aside from built-in pop-up flashes. I use mine for macro photography.
Injinji Liner Crew Toesocks – $10
If the photographer in your life does a lot of hiking in search of the perfect landscape, point them to the insane Injinji toe sock liners. I’ll be the first to admit that they look creepy, but I’ll also be the first to say that I have never once gotten a blister while wearing these sock liners (in tandem with a pair of Darn Tough wool hiking socks). This held true even during a nine-day hike in Iceland with two 17+ mile days (27 km). Once you go toe, you won’t go back.
Memory Card Case – $19.99
For photographers with more than one SD card, it’s important to use an organization system to avoid them slipping around in your bag. A good memory card wallet is the trick. Personally, I use one from Ruggard, but it’s not available any longer – the Pelican 0915 seems equally good, and it sells for $19.99. It holds up to 12 SD cards, well more than most photographers need. A lot of photographers have something similar already, but if you’re buying a gift for someone who doesn’t, this should be at the top of your list.
Titanium Spork with Bottle Opener – $11.99
Shopping for a hardcore outdoor photographer and hiker? If they’re already used to eating boil-in-the-bag meals, get them a spork with a built-in bottle opener. It’s not to open bottles (well, it does that too) – it’s to hook the spork on the boil-in-the-bag so it doesn’t fall in. It sounds like a small thing, but when you’re miles away from civilization, the small things matter. Get a couple of freeze-dried meals as an associated gift, and you’ll be a hero.
Delta 1 Microfiber Cloth – $12.95
I’ve used a ton of microfiber cloths over the years, and chances are that you (or the photographers you’re shopping for) have, too. The Delta 1 stands out because it’s way more absorbent than any other. It’s essentially a mix between a towel and a regular lens cloth – and for photography in rainy areas, it’s a lifesaver. I’ve used mine in Olympic National Park, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and many other places where rain and waterfalls soak through a regular lens cloth before long.
Watson 4-Hour Charger and Rechargeable AA Batteries – $17.95
Studio photographers chew up AA batteries rapidly, so a fast charger and set of rechargeables is essential. The Watson 4-Hour Charger comes with four AAs. Also consider getting a separate AA pack caddy to transport them more easily.
FastRawViewer – $14.99
If you’re open to giving a software package as a gift, this is one I highly recommend. FastRawViewer is a huge timesaver for culling through large batches of images at a time. It normally sells for $19.99, but is currently on sale for $14.99 (though either way it’s a good value). For wedding, event, and sports photographers (among others), it makes a big difference. Also see our review.
The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum – $35.99
Just over a third of The Art of Photography is about film photography and printing techniques – yet it’s still my top recommendation for digital photographers. This is the best book on photography I have ever read, and only a few other books are even close behind.
It’s all down to the way Bruce Barnbaum explains composition. It’s a tricky, often vague topic, but he manages to pin it down to more concrete detail than anyone out there, and not with simple generalizations like the rule of thirds, either. If you want to give a gift that really helps a photographer improve their creative skills, this is the way to go.
Most of the other items on this list are pieces of equipment or photography software, but, to me, this is what is the most important. Get it at Amazon for $35.99 or at your local bookstore.
Mountain Light by Galen Rowell – Prices Vary
I just read Mountain Light for the first time this year, and I absolutely loved it. For landscape photographers, Galen Rowell’s photos will be a big inspiration, and his behind-the-scenes philosophy and process offer a lot of good points to think about. This book is out of print, but you can find used copies available in various conditions from $6.50 to about $40. Here’s the book’s page on Amazon.
Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiters – $30.15 to $45
For hiking, a good pair of gaiters is essential if you want to keep your feet dry. I made a big mistake on my first trip to Iceland by leaving these at home for a snowy hike, and my feet emerged at the end as a sopping mess. I brought this pair – the Rocky Mountain High Gaiters – next time and found them to perform admirably. Men’s and women’s sell for $30.15 and $45 respectively, at least at the time of publication (Men’s are on sale at the moment, and usually cost $40).
Rogue Gels Universal Lighting Kit – $29.95
With flash photography, the color of your flash generally should complement the color of ambient light, or your results won’t look right. Often, the best way to make this happen is to use colored gels in front of your flash, and the ones from Rogue Gels are great options for the price. I’ve used this set for ages, including the color correction filters indoors and the more unusual colors for interesting effects.
Ravpower USB Camera Battery Charger – $23 to $38
One of the best deals in the photography world is the RavPower camera battery USB charger. On one hand, charging camera batteries via USB is a big deal, and not possible with the native charger for most cameras. Alongside that, this charger ships with two spare batteries for the camera in question, at perhaps the lowest prices on the market for such a thing. Highly recommended. Check Amazon for the one that goes with your camera/the camera of whoever you’re getting a gift for.
Maglite XL200 Flashlight – $33.24
An under-appreciated part of a photographer’s kit, especially for landscape photography, is a good flashlight. Photographers generally want a light with both a wide beam and a narrow beam, as well as variable brightness. I’ve tried several, and my favorite so far has been the Maglite XL200.
3 Legged Thing Universal L-Bracket – $49.99
Shooting vertical photos from a tripod can be very annoying without an L-bracket. This 3 Legged Thing version – compatible with most tripod heads and nearly every camera – solves that problem at a very reasonable price. You’ll want to double check that your tripod head (or that of the photographer you’re shopping for) is “Arca Swiss” type, but most are.
Lumenzia – $39
In the world of photography software, one of the best products is Greg Benz’s Lumenzia plugin for Photoshop. This tool makes luminosity masking – essentially, a better way to blend bracketed exposures compared to HDR – all but seamless. I highly recommend it for landscape photographers and anyone who shoots in high-contrast environments from a tripod.
CampCo Photo Vest – $45.35
Photographers always have their hands full with things like filters, lens caps, batteries, memory cards, and so on. Photography vests may be a bit of a cliché, but they make a ton of sense for certain uses. One of the best (and not too crazy looking) is CampCo’s “Humvee” vest. It has 21 pockets and comes in any size you could need.
Starry Landscape Stacker – $39
Another sub-$50 software option I highly recommend is Starry Landscape Stacker. If you want to take high-quality Milky Way photos, one of the best ways to get beyond your camera’s normal image quality limits is to stack a series of photos to reduce image noise. It does such a good job that it’s totally feasible to use an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera with an ordinary 18-55mm lens and capture insanely detailed Milky Way images. Because of it, I’ve fully replaced my heavy f/2.8 wide-angle zoom with a much lighter f/4 lens. Note that Starry Landscape Stacker is Mac-only (for PC users, I recommend Sequator, which is free).
Rode VideoMicro Shotgun Mic – $59
Even stills-based photographers are shooting a lot of video these days. One of the problems, however, is that the built-in microphone is awful on almost every camera. An inexpensive alternative with much better sound quality is Rode’s VideoMicro shotgun mic. This microphone is as simple as it gets; it attaches to your camera’s hotshoe, has zero external controls, and runs with the camera’s on-board power. For $59, it’s an excellent gift and something I highly recommend. (Higher quality shotgun mics exist at a variety of prices, depending on your budget, but this one is more than good enough for most uses.)
Manfrotto Monopod – $49 to $95 (and more for specialized monopods)
Many people who shoot sports and wildlife photos find that holding their camera is a weary task after a long enough period of time. The same goes for video shooters. A monopod is the perfect solution, and even a relatively cheap option – something in the $50-100 range – will do a great job. There are so many options on the market right now that it may be difficult to choose the best one to give as a gift. A company I recommend based on past experience is Manfrotto. Compare their monopod options here.
Angler Port-a-Cube Light Tent – $65
Anyone who wants to do quick product photos on the go, even for taking pictures of gear they’re selling on eBay, would be thrilled to get a portable studio to help them do it easily. The Angler Port-a-Cube has a built-in LED light at the top, and it’s 17″ across (43 cm), so it works even with relatively large objects. There are other models on the market with more features for more money, but this is a great price for a high-quality portable studio.
Sony noise cancelling headphones – $88
For travel photographers, especially those who need to fly to a location from time to time, one of the best gifts you can give is a good pair of noise cancelling headphones. They make any flight more enjoyable. I put this in the sub-$100 category, but the reality is that you can buy noise cancelling headphones at any price from $30 to hundreds of dollars. I use a pair from Sennheiser that has been discontinued; this pair from Sony looks very similar, and it’s currently on a huge discount for $88 (normally $198). However, with the high number of options on the market today, you certainly have choices if your budget is different.
B+W Kasseman Polarizing Filter – $79.95 to 99.95 for standard sizes
Today, the only brand and type of polarizing filter I would buy is the B+W Kaesemann line. I already have several, and they’ve never let me down. These are incredibly waterproof and high-image-quality filters, with practically no flare or reduced contrast whatsoever. The tradeoff is that they’re expensive – $80 to $100 depending on the size of your lens’s filter ring. If you’re buying this as a gift for someone else, make sure you know how large the filter threads are on all their lenses. Buy the B+W Kaesemann with a filter size that matches the largest threads of all your lenses.
Datacolor SpyderLensCal Autofocus Calibrator – $60.59
If you’re giving a gift to a photographer with a DSLR (rather than a mirrorless or compact camera), there’s a good chance that they have not yet calibrated their lenses for maximum autofocus accuracy. Although it’s possible to calibrate autofocus using some DIY methods, a tool like Datacolor’s SpyderLensCal makes the process much easier. Our article on lens calibration explains more about the process.
X-Rite ColorChecker Passport – $89.99
This is a bit of a special case item, but for portrait and advertising photographers who want consistent color, the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport checker is a very useful tool for dealing with tricky lighting conditions. You can use the ColorChecker to create a custom color profile for your camera, or simply to find the right white balance for a scene.
1TB External Hard Drive Backup – $74.99
Every photographer should have a good backup system. It’s rule one. The ideal backup system includes a copy of every photo in at least three locations, one of which is offsite. So, a single 1TB drive probably won’t be enough for your needs/the photographer you’re giving a gift to. But I’m recommending one anyway because it’s an important part of a good backup system. There are tons on the market, but consider getting the LaCie 1TB Rugged Drive for $75, which is more protected against bumps and falls than others on the market.
DxO Nik Software – $149
One of the best photography software add-ons today is the Nik collection, found at Nik’s website here. This is one of the only third-party software options I use frequently, and it’s a must-have for any photographer who enjoys the post-processing side of things. In the past, each piece of the Nik collection sold for more than $100. Now that DxO bought the company, all seven combined are $149.
Loupedeck for Lightroom – $139
A clever way to get around the mouse-based interface in Adobe Lightroom is to use the Loupedeck. It’s not something I recommend when prices get too high, but currently it’s on a discount of $139. Loupedeck is essentially a second keyboard – it has specific sliders and dials that correspond with settings in Lightroom, making it easier to edit your photos (especially smaller edits). If the photographer you know finds the mouse uncomfortable, or you just want to give them a fun gift to make the editing process smoother, it’s definitely something I recommend. However, note that the version I’ve linked to is specific to Adobe Lightroom; Loupedeck does make other keyboards for various software options.
Gregory Baltoro 65 Liter Backpack – $194.95 to $299.95 (depending on color and sizing)
I’ve tried a lot of backpacks over the years, and the best, by far, is the Gregory Baltoro 65. This pack is legendary in hiking circles, and it doesn’t disappoint in the field; I used it on the longest trek of my life and returned liking it more than almost any other piece of equipment I brought along. I use mine with an insert for photo equipment from Shimoda. If you’re searching for a gift for a traveling photographer, and they don’t yet have a large pack for longer hikes, this one is the ticket. It’s also an incredible value, with some colors (i.e. Navy Blue) less than $200 regardless of whether you select a pack for small, medium, or large body size.
Godox Flash and Trigger – $156
Every flash photographer, sooner or later, needs a way to trigger a flash off-camera. It’s simply the best way to get good light. My recommendation is to get the Godox TT685N flash and trigger, which works flawlessly on practically any camera out there. (Make sure you pick the right camera brand for compatibility if you’re buying as a gift for someone else.) It’s $156 for the set, or $179 for the more advanced trigger.
DJI Osmo Mobile 3 – $139
The first time I saw footage from an iPhone and the DJI Osmo 3 stabilized gimbal, I was amazed at the cinematic appearance – far more than I had expected from a phone. That’s because high-quality video has a tremendous amount to do with camera movement, and the Osmo does a great job of stabilizing your camera (phone). The Photography Life team used this on our trip to Jordan in the back of a pickup truck on a bumpy road, and the results were remarkably smooth. Highly recommended.
Sky-Watcher Motorized Star Tracker – $246.06
One of the coolest gadgets I’ve tried this year, and an amazing deal at its current price of $246, is the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer tracker. Put it on your existing tripod and ballhead exactly as-is, point it at the North Star (or equivalent in the Southern Hemisphere), and sit back. You’ll end up with crazy sharp photos at night of any celestial object you like, even with a telephoto.
IPS monitor – $189.95 and up
Photographers should edit their photos on an IPS monitor (see here for why). The one you choose depends on budget and other requirements, but they range from relatively cheap to quite expensive. Our budget pick is the Dell S2715H 27″ monitor, for $190. For a wide-gamut IPS monitor that can display more colors (99% of Adobe RGB), we recommend the BenQ SW240 for $315. If 4K resolution is a priority, and wide color gamut (99% Adobe RGB) is not, we recommend the LG 27UD58-B for $250 (with current discounts).
If the photographer on your list doesn’t yet have an IPS monitor, one of these will be a huge boost to their post-processing capabilities.
Pixelstick Light Painting Tool – $349
One of the more clever photography products to come out of Kickstarter is the Pixelstick, a giant LED stick that lets you paint massive patterns of light over a scene for fascinating effects. Unfortunately, this is one of the few gift ideas in this list that I have not tried myself – but for genres of photography like advertising and even weddings, this is about as cool as it gets. More info here.
X-Rite i1Display Pro Color Calibration/Profiling System – $239.95
Along the same line as an IPS monitor, photographers need to know that they’re editing colors accurately in post-production. The best way to do that is to use a device like the X-Rite i1Display to calibrate and profile a monitor for accurate color. This one is a bit more expensive than other options on the market, but we’ve found it to be the most consistent and accurate available at this price range.
A note to photographers who don’t have a device like this: you’re hurting yourself in the long run, because the colors you’re editing could be wildly inaccurate. Chances are good you’ll need to re-edit many of your photos from scratch.
There’s no shortage of gifts for the photographer in your life (or yourself), and these just scratch the surface. There’s also the classic gifts – a photography shirt or camera lens mug – if you don’t like the items on this list. Same goes for a B&H gift card, always a favorite of mine :)
Hopefully, the ideas above provided some inspiration for your gift lists! If you have any questions about these recommendations or any gift suggestions of your own, please feel free to leave a comment below so other readers hear about it.