The Reality-Check Gift Guide for Photographers

It’s the time of year when you’ll see lots of “Holiday Gift Guides for Photographers” floating around the internet[1].

I hope I don’t ruin the festivities by interjecting a slight reality check here with a couple notable facts that might spoil the parade of gift guides.

Photographer Gift Guide

  • Most of those gifts guides are being created not purely for fun, but because there’s decent money to be made with affiliate links to all of the products. Other photographers are be sponsored by a manufacturer and incentivized to promote certain brands.
  • Most photographers work in a certain style, with preferred types of gear, made by their preferred manufacturers. There are very few general gifts that all photographers are going to love. Some shoot digital, some film; some photograph landscapes, others people; many enjoy retro film items, some think film is dead. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll buy a gift that garners a sigh or an eyeroll (privately of course… since your friends are nice). You get the idea[2].

That said… here’s what I think is a better option for all:

A Realistic Gift Guide for Photographers

  • Ask them what they want. If you don’t want to ask directly, see if they have an Amazon wish list.
  • If you really have no idea but know them a bit, get them a generic-enough gift card that it could be used by any photographer. For example, for their favorite airline. Or for an outfit selling a broad range of products such as B&H Photo or Amazon[3].

I appreciate that you want to get something helpful for your photographer friend. I really do. But the less misfit gifts based on a misguided internet blog post… the better.


  1. I’ve published them in the past myself. Guilty as charged.  ↩

  2. Of course, if you really know the person well, feel free to buy them something appropriate – but if you know them that well, you probably don’t need to read someone else’s gift guide.  ↩

  3. If you really want affiliate links since I’m such a swell guy, well, here you go: B&H Photo / Amazon.com  ↩

Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers: 2011

As we approach the Christmas, Hannukah, and other holiday gift-giving season, I’ve compiled a list of a bunch of great gift ideas for photographers of all abilities.

Under $10 or so…

Under $30

  • iPhone 4 Lens Kit – a set of three lenses that attach to an Apple iPhone 4 to allow for some creative photography.
  • Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It – I’m a huge fan of Scott Kelby’s books and this one is a good set of material that covers the entire photographic process from setting up lighting, creating a portrait, and then retouching that image. Scott couples his knowledge with his humor to provide a lot of information on making a successful image.
  • Lighting Digital Field Guide – another book suggestion, this one by my friend Brian McLernon who dives into an overview of all things lighting, and then provides details on how to make the most of natural light, small flashes (such as speedlights), and studio lighting.
  • Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom – It seems the Gorillapod makes it onto gift lists each year, and it’s for good reason: it’s a great product. I love using my Gorillapod when I want some camera stability but don’t feel like carrying my big tripod. By attaching the Gorillapod to a fence post, tree brance, or setting it on my car, I can get the shot.

Under $100

  • Alcatraz Views, my new photo book documenting the history of Alcatraz. Yes, this is self-promotional but it’s a nice collection of images about an interesting place. The book will be available within a couple weeks.
  • Kata E-702 Large Digital SLR Camera Raincover – This will fit pretty much any DSLR and is a great item to have especially if one lives in a wet climate like where I usually shoot (Washington/Oregon). I have this item and I use it quite frequently this time of year…
  • LEGO Digital Camera – It’s a three megapixel digital camera made from Legos. Awesome, right? I have this one on my personal wish list.
  • Lowepro Classified 160 AW – My current go-to camera bag for most shoots around town (basically anytime I’m not taking my big roller bag). Rather than give you a couple sentences here, read my review of the Lowepro Classified 160 AW.
  • Topaz Adjust – one of a variety of great image editing options from Topaz Labs, the new version of Topaz Adjust can take just about any photo and give it a bunch of pop.
  • Westcott 5-in-1 Reflector Disc – reflectors are a great tool for a photographer working with either natural light or that created by flash. This versatile reflector offers a variety of surfaces to best reflect and diffuse the light for any situation.

Go Big or Go Home

  • Kelby Training – a year of great multimedia training is less than $200 and is appropriate for photographers of all skill levels.
  • Lytro Camera – a new camera that allows a photographer to adjust the focal point **after** the image has been captured. A great experimental device.
  • Want to *really* go all-out? Offer to pay for a workshop for a photographer. Regardless of their interest in a particular area of photography or their skill level, there are great workshops that would be a perfect fit.

Have a recommendation question? Contact me using one of the methods over to the right.

Some of the links above are affiliate links; if you click through and make a purchase I’ll receive a bit of beer money.