Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

It’s become a tradition here that as we approach Black Friday (the biggest shopping day of the year), we send out gift ideas for the photographers, writers, and travelers on your buying list this holiday season.

Today, I’ve asked professional photographer Shelly Perry to share her suggestions for photographers.

From lenses, camera straps, and tripods to fun and unique new gadgets, you’re sure to find something for everyone.

You’ll find Shelly’s picks below…

Happy Shopping.


Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

November 24, 2010
The Right Way to Travel

By Shelly Perry in Portland, OR

It’s that time of year again… time to roll out the Christmas wish-list.  And let’s not forget the “photo happy” person on your list, even if that person is you.

I’ve already started my holiday shopping, including a few items of the photography nature for myself, so go ahead and add your own name to your list… with a few of the gift ideas below.

If your photographer already has a DSLR (that is, a digital SLR camera), additional lenses are a great "next" purchase. Most people start with a nice mid-range lens, something around 28-135 mm. My workhorse lens is a 24-70mm, so it’s a little wide-angle and a little zoom (50mm is considered standard).

If the photographer you're buying for already has a mid-range lens, a telephoto lens (anything above the 50mm mid-range length) is a good addition.

Maximum length depends on the type of shooting a person does. For instance, a wildlife or sports shooter would want a longer (and possibly faster) lens than a portrait shooter (the mid-range lens is excellent for portraits).

You might also want to consider a wide-angle lens (anything less than mid-range), which is great for travel photography, as you can get more of the buildings and up-close scenery.

Lenses can range in price from around $100 up to several thousand dollars. For pro-level models, lenses are camera specific, so be sure to ask the salesperson for the correct lens to go with a specific camera.

You’ll find a lens buying guide on, here.


Every DSLR shooter will at some point need an external flash. External flashes are also camera-specific, so be sure to check again with the salesperson to get the right one. In general, an external flash will cost you a few hundred dollars ($200 to $500).

Another item to accompany a good flash is a flash bracket, which moves the flash up and away from the camera body itself, giving a nice angle of light.  Models vary wildly, but you should be able to get what you need for under $50. See some here:

A diffuser, which essentially softens harsh flash light, is another useful flash accessory.  Gary Fong makes a nice and relatively easy one called Light Sphere. The base model sells for $50, and an extra $10 gets you the newer model that collapses. If you like to travel light or space is an issue in your carry-on, it’s well worth the extra $10. He also has one for the pop-up flash on many cameras (like the Canon Rebel, Nikon D40, and many others) called the Puffer Diffuser, which goes for $22.  You’ll find it here:


Bags are one of those items that really has to fit the photographer. You have to consider what kind of equipment the photographer carries, the amount of gear, whether they are going to a party or across the country or working locally, etc.

Different situations may call for different bags. Every photographer needs at least one bag, and there are lots of options out there. Two popular names in bags are Lowepro and Think Tank.

Think Tank is a more robust bag for the traveler on your list, made by photographers, for photographers.  They have some sturdy bags for airline travel, one that will actually fit under the seat in front of you if need be, ensuring that you will never have to be separated from your gear, which even without the thought of bag fees, is a happy thing. They are not cheap bags, but the quality and the features that these bags provide make them worth it. Especially if you often travel with your camera, you might want to consider one (or two) of these: .

Lowepro has a bag called the Passport Sling which one of our attendees in Ecuador had. I loved the idea of this bag, since it can roll up small enough to stuff for travel and it’s also expandable with a zipper. Also it doesn't really look like a camera bag, which is a good thing. When I travel, I try to go incognito. I don’t want me or my gear sticking out like a sore thumb. I just ordered this bag for myself for $55:

Or maybe you would like a bag that’s really unique and individualized… I recently stumbled on a woman selling personally designed and handmade camera bags on ETSY. She uses interesting materials like leather or tapestry type material. These unique bags also look really functional as well. You can find them via her blog here: (She also has smaller items like straps and memory card cases.)

Expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $100 for a point-and-shoot bag and from $75 on up for a good DSLR bag. Some bags even have dedicated space for a laptop.


Extra batteries for camera and flash are always in demand and make a great stocking stuffer. Check which kind goes with the gear you're accessorizing.


Memory cards are another always-needed item and, lucky for us, the cost of memory just keeps coming down. I’ve had good luck with both Lexar and SanDisk.  Again, be sure to get the camera-specific memory. You can get a 16 GB card for under $100. Incredible when one of the 2 GB cards I still use in a pinch cost that much a few years ago.


Small, pocket-size, portable hard drives are especially good for the travel photographer. These minis can house a lot of photos or be a great backup on the run … You can get 500 GB for less than $80.

Or how about a tiny packed terabyte of storage for under $125? (You will need a laptop to get the photos on the drive.) This Iomega eGo has seen some good ratings:


Most, if not all, cameras come with a shoulder/neck strap. But this is one item you can upgrade substantially for a more comfortable one. I suggest a neoprene material, which helps to absorb and evenly distribute the weight of the camera. That's especially important if you're toting a larger camera and/or will be out for longer days.  Several styles and brands are available for around $15 to $30.


A popular little tripod for travel is a Gorilla Pod by Joby:

It’s lightweight, compact, flexible, and comes in three different sizes to accommodate everything from point-and-shoots to DSLR cameras. Be sure to get the latest greatest version for larger cameras or heaver lenses, since the earlier versions did not hold the weight very well.

An alternative to a traditional tripod for travel might be this new little gizmo called Puffin Pad. It’s a lightweight, space-saving camera rest (this is important for air travel when every bit counts). It looks like it might also fit well inside a camera bag:


There are a lot of printers on the market -- ranging from those that only do small 4 x 6 prints on the go, to large-format archival printers. Of course, the price range is extreme, from less than $90 for a 4 x 6 model to several thousand dollars for the best-quality large-format printers.

If your photographer already has a printer, consider buying more ink. Ink, like lenses, is brand and model-specific. So be sure to sneak a peek and know exactly what you're looking for, since often ink is not returnable.


The manufacturers release new software versions about every 16 months, so keeping up with the latest software technology can be a challenge. A gift of the latest, greatest release could be a big hit. But this can also take a big bite out of your holiday dollars.

Adobe Photoshop is the most popular program -- and will run you about $649. Adobe Lightroom is another option for photo editing – and, at $299, it’s half the cost of Photoshop.

Lightroom is something that you can buy as a companion to Photoshop, too, because Adobe produces the two programs and they work together.  You can save about $125 if you buy them together or save even more if you are a student.  (Students get great educational rates at Adobe -- so if you have one living in your house -- or are one yourself -- don't pass up this option.)

**FUN AND FUNKY (and all fairly easy on the pocketbook compared to many of the other things on this list):

Photojojo is my go-to place for some really playful, fun, and funky photography stuff. If you have someone who loves photography, you can’t go wrong here. You’re bound to find something that sparks their interest and ignites their creativity like these:

*Fisheye, Macro, and Wide Angle Camera Phone Lenses
I love taking pictures with my phone camera, not because they are great photos but simply the playful wonder of it … I think these little lenses could be a lot of fun:  

*The Camera Lens Mug
Speaks for itself, these look incredibly authentic, a must have for the photographer’s desk:

*DIY Pinhole Camera and Sunprint Kit
I had a sun print kit when I was a kid. I remember the mystery and curiosity it invoked:

* SLR Pinhole Lens
Pinhole photography can be challenging, but with digital instant preview it would be fun to try, to play around with it and see what masterpieces could be achieved:


Consider a book of great photos of a subject of interest, a location, or an artist. Or, for a person interested in post-processing their pictures in Photoshop or Lightroom, you can't miss with a subscription to NAPP magazine (National Association of Photoshop Professionals).

Your lucky photographer friend will get a year’s worth of magazines, online tutorials, and member product discounts. I’m pretty sure I make my subscription back every year with discounts alone. Get your subscription here:

The most important thing to bear in mind when shopping for others:

Along with the personal preferences, like brand loyalty, consider the type of camera the person uses (point-and-shoot v. digital SLR), as well as his or her experience level. Always ask the salesperson if you’re not sure whether an accessory is camera-specific or not.

Happy Shopping!

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]