Ready or not, the holiday season is upon us. The snow is flying (for some of us) and Santa Claus is making his list and checking it twice. If you've been nice, perhaps you'll find some photography goodies under the tree or in your stocking on Christmas morning. Maybe you are reading this and need some gift ideas for a photographer friend or family member. Or, perhaps you could buy something for yourself and stealthily slip it into your stocking on Christmas Eve. Quiet as a mouse.
This list of gift ideas is for things that all photographers will find useful and be happy to have in their camera bag. In fact, some of these things are on my own wish list. This list is primarily non-brand and non-camera specific, just to keep it simple. In most cases, these gifts are less than $100. Whether you are shopping for yourself or someone else, any of these will make this season more festive. At least much more so than an annual membership to a jelly of the month club.
It doesn't sound very exciting, but what photographer wouldn't like to have some gaffers tape around. It's the photographer's version of duct tape, but doesn't leave behind the sticky residue. It has tons of uses, such as holding a light modifier in place, managing cables, or a makeshift field repair. I keep some on one of the legs of my tripod and tear off a piece when I need it. Better to have it and not need it than the alternative.
Keep Hands and Feet Toasty Warm
If you live in a cold climate and find it difficult to keep your hands and feet warm, then these warmers can be a life-saver. Staying comfortable is important while out shooting. Check out some tips for cold weather photography in this article. These are easy to carry with you and can extend shooting time, even as the temperatures plummet. Putting one of these in each pocket are great for warming up hands as well as keeping extra batteries warm and ready for use. As an added bonus, you can use a rubber band to attach one of these to a lens to prevent buildup of dew during the humid summer months or frost in the winter.
For any photographer who stays out shooting after dark, a lens warmer like this one is a must-have. These keep the lens warm and prevents condensation on the glass, which ruins shots. It doesn't take up much space in the camera bag, but a portable charger is needed for power via a USB connection (see below).
I have one of these Anker PowerCore 20100 mAh portable chargers, and not sure what I did without it. These are so handy to have around when you don't have a power outlet available. They can charge phones, tablets, or other devices multiple times. Never be stuck out without a way to power your device. It also is used to provide power for the aforementioned lens warmer. There are smaller chargers at lower prices as well.
Microfiber cleaning cloths are a necessity for photographers, especially those who spend a lot of time outdoors. These work great for wiping down the camera, LCD screen, or delicately drying moisture off the lens element. They take up very little space and are inexpensive, and make great stocking stuffers.
For those times that the camera and lens need a little more cleaning attention, these lens wipes really work wonders. A box of 400 will last a while. Use these to clean the camera, LCD screen, lens body, lens glass (make sure to get the grit off first), or pretty much any other device with an LCD screen. I always carry a few in my camera bag, just in case.
Giottos Rocket Blower
This isn't something I generally carry around all the time, but it comes in handy for cleaning camera and lenses. The Giottos Rocket Air Blaster is used to blow dust and grit off the lens element before wiping it down. It also works well to blow particles out of the camera body before cleaning the sensor. As a bonus, take this along if it is snowing and use it to blast snow off your gear before placing it back in the camera bag.
There are many choices in gloves, but I like ones that are designed specifically with photographers in mind. It is important to keep hands and fingers warm, but also important to have the ability to control the camera. I'm partial to Vallerret photography gloves, and they have a few options depending on how cold it is where you live. Check out the Vallerret website (photographygloves.com) for more info.
Snow and Ice Cleats
For the outdoor photographer who ventures out into the snow- and ice-covered landscape, these cleats will provide some additional traction for safer trekking. They can be thrown into a camera bag and quickly clamp onto your existing shoes or boots.
After the sun goes down, the outdoor photographer needs some illumination to aid in navigating the terrain. A headlamp is the way to go. It's easy to carry along, easy to put on, and keeps hands free to do other things. Hands-free is especially nice while adjusting camera settings. I've been using a Black Diamond Spot for a couple of years and love it. This headlamp has adjustable light levels and also a red light option, which is good to preserve night vision. I would be happy to receive another one of these for the holidays.
Lume Cube Air
While we're on the subject of lights, let's talk about the Lume Cube Air. This sits atop my wish list right now (just in case anyone is wondering what to get for me). These little cubes can be used on- or off-camera to provide lighting for a variety of situations. They are waterproof, have multiple brightness adjustment levels, can be controlled wirelessly using bluetooth and a smartphone app, and are rechargeable. Heck, I could probably use more than one of these little gadgets!
All photographers need a tripod. Sometimes carrying a full-size (or even travel-size) tripod isn't all that appealing. Enter the Platypod Ultra. Add a small ballhead to this kit and you have a very capable, and extremely portable, tripod solution. The Ultra is for smaller DSLRs or mirrorless cameras with small to medium range lenses. Platypod makes other models for bigger camera and lens combinations.
Gerber Suspension Multi-tool
For those who want to be prepared for anything, a multi-tool is a must. This Gerber Suspension multi-tool is for those “you just never know” moments. It has 12 tools, but is still relatively small and light. Did I mention that one of the tools is a bottle opener? Hey, you never know!
First Aid Kit
Preparedness is key. Heading out into the outdoors can be risky business, especially long hikes far away from civilization. It's good to be prepared and have what is needed. Most photographers aren't going to ask for something like this, but you can be pro-active. A first aid kit can provide a little extra insurance against those little cuts, scrapes, insect bites, and other boo-boos that happen.
Smartphone Tripod Mount
Even photographers use their smartphones to take pictures now and then. There are times it would be nice to mount the phone to a tripod. This is one of the many options for doing just that. Throw in this bluetooth controlled smartphone shutter release for added flexibility and convenience.
A mini, collapsible reflector like this one is a nice tool to have in the camera bag. These work well to provide a little portable shade from the harsh sun when photographing small objects. They can also be used as a small wind block or background for macro photography. They are small, light, and inexpensive. Those three qualities are rarely found together in photography gear.
Flash Gel Kit
Gels are fun to play with for photographers who use flash. These are used to correct color in images when using flash in a mixed-lighting environment. Or, just to make images that are more creative and fun. The Rogue kit is the one that I've used for several years now.
Landscape photographers typically use a variety of filters for more creative control of their images. Figuring out a way to carry these filters and keep them organized and protected is important. This inexpensive filter case is a great way to do that.
Peak Design Capture Camera Clip
Carrying a camera on hikes can be cumbersome. The strap that comes with the camera is generally not a great solution, as the camera swings back and forth, banging into you as you hike. The Peak Design Capture Camera Clip is a great little solution to this problem. It clips onto the strap of a backpack and provides a stable base for any camera. The camera fits snugly into the clip and doesn't bang around while hiking.
LED Light Panel
Good quality light is a primary component of good images. For product photography, macro photography, or light painting, and dimmable LED light panel such as this one from Neewer is a great tool to have. It is powered by 6 AA batteries, but also comes with an adaptor for other battery options. There is also a diffusion panel included. I have one of these and it works as advertised.
This is a super compact, super inexpensive ($4.99) item that most photographers will find a use for. The Carson LumiLoupe is great to check focus on the back of the camera's LCD, especially when doing astrophotography.
Photographers can never have enough memory cards. They are what hold our valuable images, and it's important to keep plenty of them on hand. Eventually, they do go bad and it becomes necessary to replace them before that happens. Since SD cards are becoming the more common memory media of choice, I'll stick to those for this list. I use mostly SanDisk SD cards, and 64 GB is a good size.
Education should never stop, and books are still a thing. There are way too many to pick just one, but most photographers would love to have a good book or two. Google and Amazon are your friend for finding some books that are popular.
Sticking with the topic of photography education, a workshop is a gift that truly keeps on giving. My first photography workshop was instrumental in helping me improve and truly realize my passion for photography. Any photographer can benefit from a good workshop experience. There are many to choose from, in many different genres of photography. Rick Sammon and Nick Page come to mind for landscape photography workshops. They are at the top of their game and will provide a top-notch photography workshop experience. A little over the $100 limit, but it's worth every penny.
When you just don't know or can't decide what to buy, gift cards are a ‘can't miss' stocking stuffer. Adorama, B&H, your local photography store, to name just a few, will do just fine.
So, there you have it. A list of 25 stocking stuffer ideas for photographers. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Let me know in the comments what is on your wish list. Maybe Santa will read this, too!