If you have photographers on your gift list, you can count yourself lucky. Photographers are actually remarkably easy to shop for, and I don’t mean just for people who have bottomless budgets. Yes, lenses and DSLR accessories are outside of the means for the average Christmas shopper, but lenses and DSLR accessories also aren’t the only option for those photography-loving friends and family members. There are a ton of budget and semi-budget gift ideas for photographers, too—and some of them may even end up on your own wish-list.
Gifts over $75
A Photo Drone ($50 to $150)
Until recently, aerial photography has been all but out of reach for most hobby photographers. Sure, you grab a shot or two off the wing every time you fly commercially, or maybe you are lucky enough to have a friend who is a private pilot and can take you up for some real aerial stuff. But the average photographer doesn’t really have the option to go up and shoot aerial pictures whenever the mood strikes—until now!
You’ve probably heard a lot about drones/amazon but you may not have considered how you might be able to use one for your own photographic pursuits. Responsible drone ownership doesn’t have to be obnoxious, and you can actually purchase a fairly inexpensive drone to use to shoot aerial photos of your own home or backyard, or your friends and family. These photo drones make great gifts for your photographer friends, too, and can be had for anywhere from around $50 to $150 (there are much more expensive models, too, but those are for enthusiasts so I’ve left them off this list).
Amazon LinkSyma X5SW Explorers2 2.4G 4CH 6-Axis Gyro RC Headless Quadcopter
Polaroid ZIP Mobile Printer w/ZINK Zero Ink Printing Technology ($130)
If the photographer on your Christmas list isn’t into the idea of going full retro with an instant film camera (see gifts under $75 for details), she can still get the same results with this handy little mobile printer. The Polaroid Zip prints 2x3 images on smudge-proof, sticky-back no-ink paper. That’s right, no need to buy expensive ink cartridges because the color is built right into the paper.
The Zip has a rechargeable battery that is ready to go in just 1 1/2 hours, and it can print up to 25 pictures before it needs another charge. And best of all, it’s small—at just .9 x 4.7 x 0.9 inches and weighing 6.6 ounces, it’s easy to stash in your camera bag or purse for printing on the go.
The Polaroid Cube & Cube+ ($100 to $150)
Who needs a bulky GoPro when you can stick this little 2x2x2 inch cube right in your pocket? It has a built-in magnet and can be attached securely to any metal surface, where it will record high-quality 1440p HD video.
The cube is available in two versions: the Polaroid Cube or the Cube+. The Cube+ also includes mobile syncing so you don’t have to wait to share your videos with the world, and you can use your phone as a remote or a viewfinder. Add a mount (you can get a tripod, a bike mount or a waterproof kit) to use your Cube or Cube+ like a super-portable rugged sport camera.
Gifts Under $75
Fujifilm Instax mini 8 Instant Film Camera ($68)
Retro has never been cooler, and you can really jump on the cool wagon with one of these—a mini instant camera that’s kind of like the Polaroid camera your mom had when you were little, only way, way cooler.
The Fujifilm Instax produces credit-card sized prints using readily-available Fujifilm Instax Instant Film. It has a built-in flash and a minimum focusing distance of two feet, which is pretty good for this type of camera. It uses two AA batteries and comes in a bunch of fun colors, like “raspberry” and “grape.” If the photographer on your list already has a collection of digital cameras, this camera is a really fun way to get him thinking a little differently about his photography.
Nova Off-camera Wireless Flash for iPhone ($59)
If you’ve ever tried to use your iPhone’s built in flash, you are probably really good at the internal groan—the one you do when you realize that the only way to capture a moment is to settle for sub-par lighting. And you also know that turning off the flash isn’t a great idea either, because your iPhone’s small image sensor produces really, really noisy images in low light. If you or a loved one depend on your iPhone for some (or all) of your photographs, there’s finally a great lowlight solution that’s just as portable as your phone is.
The Nova off-camera wireless flash provides soft, natural-illumination via 40 points of diffused light. It’s smaller than your phone is, and its slim design makes it easy to carry around—you could even keep it in your wallet.
Lollipod – Ultra Light Multi Device Tripod / Lightstand ($59)
Just about everyone hates their tripod. You may gasp in horror that I would dare say such a thing, but deep down inside you know I’m right. Tripods are awkward to carry around and set up and they can be heavy and bulky. If I had to guess, I’d say a good one in eight tripod owners hardly ever use them.
Enter the Lollipod — this is the tripod for people who never use their tripods. It’s built like a light stand, which means it has a long stalk for you to mount your phone or small camera on (note that you’ll need an adapter to use this with your phone), and three legs that unfold at the bottom. The Lollipod is flexible, sturdy and compact—but it’s really made for phones and compact cameras, so don’t get one for your favorite DSLR owner.
Gifts under $50
LightSwitch Speedlight Case and Modifier ($33)
Does the sheer weight of your camera bag ever interfere with your photography? I know I tend to leave my bag at home almost as much as I take it with me, because sometimes I just don’t want to carry around all that bulk.
Here’s something you can do to cut back on the bulk in your camera bag—get a LumoPro LightSwitch Speedlight Case and combine your flash case with your flash modifiers. This clever unit protects your flash while you’re on the go, and then disassembles for use as a flash modifier. It has a white reflective surface to soften the light, and can also be used to bounce or direct light. You won’t ever waste time trying to hack a flash modifier again, because you’ll always have one with you.
Triggertrap Mobile ($37)
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I’m always advising you to use a remote release any time you mount your camera on a tripod. Just in case you’ve been putting off that one important purchase (or you know someone else who always uses his camera’s self-timer instead of a remote release), here’s one really cool way to remotely release your shutter. The Triggertrap converts your phone (iOS or Android) into a remote release, and when combined with the Triggertrap app, you get added features such as a face-detection sensor, a motion sensor, a vibration sensor and GPS.
Unfortunately you do still have to remember to bring the cable, which is one of the reasons why I personally default to using that self-timer, but if you can remember to stash it in your bag this is almost certainly going to be the smartest remote release you’ll ever own.
Gifts Under $25
Pring's Photographer's Miscellany: Stories, Techniques, Tips & Trivia ($11)
This is not really a “how to” manual so much as it is a “how to be the coolest photographer around” manual. You’ll find plenty of quirky photography tips in here but you’ll also find interesting facts and trivia, stories and history. I know it’s a cliché to say something is “the perfect gift for that [fill in the blank] who has everything,” but this really the perfect gift for that photographer who has everything. And what’s more, at less than $12 it’s in almost anyone’s budget.
A Little Bit O' 8-Bit ($18)
Once again, this year is all about retro, and what could be more retro than 8-bit? This fun set of five photography-themed decals can be used to decorate anything, from your laptop to your wall to your car. They’re removable, so you don’t have to worry about regrets or about sticky residue.
Bigger Picture Cards ($15)
Everyone gets photographer’s block, except maybe for people who aren’t photographers. Sometimes we just need a little inspiration, and maybe we’re not anywhere near Flickr. What to do? Just stash this deck of inspiration in your camera bag and then pick a card for a fun task or a new photography technique. And you’re not stuck with just doing a single task, either—for an even greater flash of brilliance, combine multiple cards for a unique challenge.
These cards are great for shooting with friends—set up photography challenges or use them as fodder for photographic scavenger hunts. There are a ton of fun possibilities—all you need is this deck and a little creative thinking.
Easy Macro Cell Lens Band ($15)
So here’s the thing about those smartphone lenses that you always see on photography gift lists this time of year—to use most of them, you have to take off your impact-resistant, highly decorative or just plain difficult-to-remove phone case. For me, this is such a royal pain that I just don’t bother with smartphone lenses.
But this lens is different—you attach it with an extremely simple yet high-tech device … wait for it … a rubber band. That’s right! No more fiddling with your case whenever you want to add a lens—this one will stretch to fit. And the macro lens attached to it is pretty cool, too. It lets you take super-close photos with surprisingly sharp details.
If I know you—and I think I do—you’ve probably put a couple of these items on your wish list, too. In fact I hope at least some of you will forward the whole list to friends and family, because let’s face it, this is some pretty cool stuff. So I’ll just finish up by saying “Happy Holidays, Happy Shopping” and may you enjoy both giving and receiving this holiday season.
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