Photographers aren’t easy people to shop for… and it doesn’t help that most “gift guides” online are generic, copy-paste articles written by non-photographers. Today, I want to fix that problem with a list of genuinely useful photography gifts for the photographer in your life. You won’t find any lens mugs or t-shirts here! (Not that I’m complaining about mine :)
Simply put, as the editor in chief of Photography Life, a massive amount of camera gear has passed through my hands. Only a few of the best pieces of equipment have stood out. The 35 gift ideas below are what made the cut after extensive testing, and I personally recommend every single piece of equipment in this article as a professional photographer.
To make things easier, I’ve arranged the gifts below by budget: under $20, under $50, under $100, and over $100. As a disclaimer, I bought all of this photography equipment with my own money. I don’t have a relationship with any of these companies, and the links below are just generic affiliate links to Amazon and B&H. I hope you find this list useful, and please let me know at the end of the article if you have any questions!
1. Vello Mini Softbox
For any portrait photographer or macro photographer, a diffuser is a must-have piece of equipment. Big diffusers have their place (mostly in the studio), but for less than $10, a smaller flash diffuser makes a fantastic gift! The Vello Mini Softbox is just $7.50. It fits most flash heads, but note that it doesn’t work with a camera’s built-in pop-up flash. An even more portable option is the Angler flash diffuser for $8.99, which is compatible with pop-up flashes as well as flash heads. I use both of these all the time for my macro photography.
2. 8×10 Photography Portfolio for 48 prints
This one is more than just a great gift for a photographer… it’s actually one of my favorite purchases that I’ve ever made, period. It’s a humble 8×10″-sized portfolio that holds up to 48 prints and costs a mere $10. What makes it so great? Simply put, it lets photographers display their work the way God intended – as a print rather than on a tiny smartphone screen. Also, remember that you can get 8×10 prints made for less than a dollar apiece. For an amazing gift to the photographer in your life, get this portfolio and then pay to fill it up with their work.
3. Raya 5-in-1 Reflector Disc
A reflector is one of the easiest ways to add great light to portrait or studio photos. This 32″ version from Raya is $20, and it has five different panels that you can use for different levels of reflection or other effects. There are a number of similar products on the market, 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, and it never hurts to have more than one.
4. Apps – The Photographer’s Ephemeris, PhotoPills, etc.
An easy, unexpected gift for photographers who already have all the equipment in the world is a smartphone app. One of the best is The Photographer’s Ephemeris, ideal for landscape photographers who want to plan their shot. There’s also PhotoPills, which has several different tools, including a Milky Way tracker and timelapse calculator. (In practical terms, here’s a guide I found that explains how to send an app as a gift on iPhone. Android users may need to send a gift card instead.)
5. Ruggard Rain Cover
In rainy environments, especially when you’re standing in front of a tripod for long periods of time, it’s best that you keep your camera dry. One gift I highly recommend for this purpose is the Ruggard Rain Cover. It comes in two varieties for different lens sizes – 8 inch and 18 inch. (For most lenses, the 8 inch is best; only get the 18 inch for supertelephoto lenses.) There are also specialized versions for covering an on-camera flash.
6. Injinji Liner Crew Toesocks
If the photographer in your life does a lot of hiking in search of the perfect landscape, point them to the off-beat 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 trek that I took in Iceland with two 17+ mile days (27 km).
7. Photography Multi-Tool
I recently got a Leofoto tripod that included a great multi-tool. Then I realized the tool was also available on its own! It combines three hex key sizes, a flat coin-style driver, a bottle opener, and a carabiner clip into a slim package and only costs $13. You don’t need a Leofoto tripod to find it useful – it works for practically any tripod.
8. Delta 1 Microfiber Cloth
I’ve used a ton of microfiber cloths over the years, and chances are that you have, too (or the photographer you’re shopping for has). 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 make traditional lens cloths useless.
9. Watson 4-Hour Charger and Rechargeable AA Batteries
Studio photographers and videographers chew up AA batteries rapidly, so a fast charger and set of rechargeables is essential. The Watson 4-Hour Charger comes with four rechargeable AAs. Also consider getting a separate AA pack caddy to transport them more easily. This has been a huge help while I film Photography Life’s YouTube videos or just take product photos of the gear I’m reviewing.
10. Titanium Spork with Bottle Opener
Are you shopping for a hardcore outdoor photographer and hiker? If they’re already used to eating boil-in-the-bag meals on long backpacking trips, 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. For extra points, get a couple of freeze-dried meals as a related gift :)
11. The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum
Just over a third of The Art of Photography is about film photography and printing techniques – and despite that, it’s still my top book recommendation for digital photographers. This is the best book on photography I have ever read, and only a few others are even close.
It’s all down to the way Bruce Barnbaum explains composition. Composition is a tricky, often vague topic, but Barnbaum manages to pin it down to more concrete detail than you’ll usually see, and not with simple generalizations like the rule of thirds. 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 really the most important. If you’re giving it as a gift, you may want to keep the receipt, only because it’s a popular book that your gift recipient may already have. (I assure you they won’t return it for any other reason; it’s just too good.)
12. Rode VideoMicro Shotgun Mic
Even stills-based photographers are shooting a lot of video these days. One of the problems, however, is that the built-in microphone on almost every camera is awful. 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 $42, 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 plenty for most uses.)
13. Fenix LD12 LED Flashlight
An under-appreciated part of a photographer’s kit, especially for landscape photography, is a good flashlight. The water-resistant Coast G55 is my choice today. You can twist the head to go from a narrow spotlight to an ultra-wide beam, and there are three different brightness levels to choose from – all of which are essential features to me, both for Milky Way photography and for getting to and from my location for sunrise and sunset photos.
14. Smallrig Vlog Tripod
Don’t let the name deceive you – you don’t have to be into vlogging to appreciate a small and flexible tripod! The Smallrig VK-19 has twistable foam legs that let it attache to railings, trees, light stands, and similar. While it won’t be supporting heavy camera rigs, I’ve made extensive use of these mini tripods for iPhone videography – and simply to hold lights – while I’m filming our YouTube videos outdoors. They’re extremely useful.
15. Mountain Light by Galen Rowell
I just read Mountain Light for the first time this year, and I don’t know why I waited so long – I absolutely loved it. For landscape photographers, Galen Rowell’s photos will be a big inspiration, and his behind-the-scenes philosophy is some of the best explanation of landscape photography that I’ve ever seen. This book is out of print, but you can usually find used copies available in good condition under $50. Here’s the book’s page on Amazon.
16. Rogue Gels Universal Lighting Kit
In flash photography, the color of your flash generally should complement the color of ambient light, or your results will look really jarring. This often requires you to use color 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 – both the color correction filters (perfect for normal flash photography) and the more unusual color filters for interesting effects, like the icicle photo below.
17. Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiters
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 boots emerged at the end sopping wet. The next time I went on a hike through the snow, I brought this pair along and found them to perform admirably. Men’s and women’s both sold for $45 last time I checked.
18. A Long Power Strip
An extended length power strip can be a surprisingly useful piece of equipment. Most photographers have a lot of different devices to charge at any given time – phones, laptops, lights, cameras, drones, rechargeable AAs, lights, and so on. A lot of power strips don’t space the outlets far apart, which limits how useful they actually are. This one, at 48 inches long, doesn’t have that problem! It has surge protection and plenty of space, so multiple devices can easily be charged at once. Best of all, due to the strange shape, it will be impossible for your gift recipient to guess what’s under the wrapping paper :)
19. Visual Echoes Flash Extender
One of the challenges of wildlife photography is that you can’t control the light. But with a flash extender like the Visual Echoes FX3, you can add subtle fill-light to brighten the shadows on distant birds and other animals. It’s a good way to make your wildlife photos pop a bit more, without overwhelming the photo. Just make sure not to use flash extenders at night, especially with birds like owls that are sensitive to light.
20. Angler Port-a-Cube Light Tent
Anyone who wants to do quick product photos, even for taking pictures of gear they’re selling on eBay, would be thrilled to get a portable studio. The Angler Port-a-Cube has a built-in LED light at the top, and it’s 17″ across (43 cm), so it still works 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.
21. Noise cancelling headphones
For travel photographers – especially those who tend to take a lot of flights – one of the best gifts you can give is a good pair of noise cancelling headphones or earbuds. I put this gift idea in the sub-$100 category, but the reality is that you can buy noise cancelling headphones at any price from about $30 to hundreds of dollars. The full page at B&H (which I sorted from low to high prices) will give you a sense of the popular options and where to start. I use Apple AirPod Pros, but those cost more than $100, and there are plenty of cheaper options that still make a massive difference!
22. Manfrotto Element Monopod
For sports photography, wildlife photography, and videography, a monopod is an absolute must-have. It takes the full weight of a camera without slowing you down in the field like a tripod does. Even a relatively cheap option – something in the $50-100 range – will do a great job. There are a ton of good monopods out there, but my favorite for the price is easily the video version of the Manfrotto Element MII. (The non-video version is a bit cheaper and just as good, but it doesn’t have the tripod-style feet at the bottom.)
23. Datacolor SpyderLensCal Autofocus Calibrator
There’s a good chance that the photographer in your life hasn’t yet taken the time to calibrate their lenses for maximum autofocus accuracy. Although it’s possible to calibrate autofocus using some DIY methods, I find that Datacolor’s SpyderLensCal tool makes the process much easier. Our article on lens calibration explains more about the steps involved, but it’s really quite easy to do.
24. Anker 347 Portable Charger 40K
There are hundreds of battery bank products out there, but I’ve been very impressed by the consistent quality of Anker’s lineup. Anker’s 347 Power Bank is hefty, but with a capacity of 40,000 mAh, it can charge an iPhone about eight times, or a MacBook Air twice. 30W USB-C output and a total of 4 USB ports makes this a really versatile option.
25. 1TB External Hard Drive Backup
Every photographer should have a good backup system. To me, it’s rule one of photography. While traveling, I highly recommend LaCie’s 1TB Rugged Drive, which is more protected against bumps and falls than others. This model has the better USB-C standard and, no joke, can survive being driven over by a car. I’ve had mine for years without issue. Although the 1TB option is $80, it’s also offered up to 5TB at surprisingly little additional cost.
26. Zhiyun M40 Pocket Light
While most photographers will have their own preferred lighting setup, almost anyone can use a powerful fill-light. The Zhiyun M40 is 40 watts of white light, with an adjustable color temperature and great build quality. Unlike lesser fill-lights, which drain quickly or ramp down due to heat, the Zhiyun uses a combination of USB-C PD circuitry and active (but quiet) fan cooling to maintain the brightness for the entire life of the battery. It’s great for live-streaming, video work, or as a fill-light in studio.
27. X-Rite ColorChecker Passport
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. I use mine for video work in the studio, and for testing cameras for our reviews at Photography Life! Beyond that, you can use the ColorChecker to create a custom color profile for your camera, which is an advanced but worthwhile process for photographers who want the most accurate color.
28. Smallrig Wireless Microphone
A shotgun mic, like the Rode VideoMicro that I mentioned previously, is a great upgrade over the stock microphone on your phone or camera. But the next step up is a wireless lavalier. I’ve been really impressed by the value and sound quality of Smallrig’s Forevala system at $199, and I use it in some of our YouTube videos as a backup mic kit.
29. Gregory Baltoro 65 Liter Backpack
I’ve tried a lot of backpacks over the years. Too many backpacks… my closet is full of them. But the best, by far, is the Gregory Baltoro 65. This pack is legendary in hiking circles, and it doesn’t disappoint for landscape photography. For photography, you’ll want to combine it with an insert like the Wandrd Camera Cube for easy storage of cameras and lenses. If the photographer in your life does any amount of hiking and is still using a generic camera backpack, get this yesterday! It beats any “photography backpack” for comfort and storage capacity by a country mile.
30. Godox Flash and Trigger
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 $129 for the flash, while the XPro trigger is available separately for $69
31. DJI Osmo Mobile 6
The first time I saw footage from an iPhone and the DJI Osmo 6 stabilized gimbal, I was amazed at the cinematic appearance – far more than I ever expected you could get from a phone. It turns out that “high quality video” is about camera stability more than almost anything else! The Osmo is great for that. I’ve even used it on a bumpy road in the back of a pickup truck (driving through the stunning Wadi Rum on our yearly workshop to Jordan), and the results were remarkably smooth. Highly recommended. If you’re looking for a cheaper option, previous generations are still available, like the Osmo 4 SE at $99.
32. Sky-Watcher Motorized Star Tracker
One of the coolest photography gadgets I’ve ever used is the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer tracker. At $270, it’s a bit more expensive than some items on this list, but it really opens up new possibilities for astrophotography. Put it on your existing tripod and ballhead exactly as-is, point it at the North Star (or equivalent area in the Southern Hemisphere), and sit back. You’ll end up with tack-sharp photos at night, even with a telephoto lens.
33. DJI Mini 2
Drones are an extremely useful addition to any photographer’s kit, and they’ve come a long way since the early models. DJI’s Mini 3, at $469, isn’t cheap, but it’s a great entry into the world of drones. It weighs less than 250 grams, which helps a lot when it comes to registration and rule-compliance. Unlike cheap, toy drones, the Mini 2 is perfectly stable, and the camera is great for filming in daylight conditions. Pricier models have bigger camera sensors, but the Mini 3 is enough for most situations. I tend to recommend it for videography more than photography, but it takes solid photos, too (similar in quality to a phone).
34. Datacolor SpyderX Pro
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 Datacolor SpyderX Pro to calibrate and profile a monitor for accurate color. This particular device is well-priced at $150, and I’ve found it to be truly indispensable. Photographers who don’t have a color calibration device are basically flying blind when editing their photos.
35. Leofoto Carbon Fiber Tripod and Ballhead
If the photographer in your life is still using an aluminum tripod, or doesn’t have a tripod at all, consider splurging on a set of carbon fiber legs. One of the best on the market, especially for the price, is the Leofoto LS-324C and LH-30 ballhead, at $399 (sometimes on sale for less). The build quality is excellent, and the value compared to other high-end carbon fiber tripods is almost unreal.
You can probably see that there’s no shortage of useful gifts in the photography world! The ideas above are some of the best combinations of value, uniqueness, and usefulness that you’ll find today. Hopefully this provided you with some good inspiration for your gift lists.
Feel free to ask me in the comments section below if you have any questions about this gear! I’ll do my best to answer every comment below.