As a relative newbie to the world of photography, I know just how intimidating it can be to purchase useful gifts for an aspiring photographer, especially when your own photography experience is limited to taking snapshots on a smartphone. So if you have to buy a gift for the shutterbug in your life, I have some ideas that might be able to help you out.
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Most of my gift ideas here are aimed at newer, starting photographers with an interest in processed digital photography. But if the shutterbug in your life just loves taking snapshots with friends and getting a printed photo right away, instant cameras have come back in a really big way. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 is one of the best ones out there right now. Frankly, I’m thinking about buying one myself. These things are really cool.
If your budding photographer is looking to up their game, a better camera is an obvious next step. Maria and I use Canon cameras. Currently, we use the EOS Rebel T6i, but if you’re looking for something less expensive, we think the next-best option is the Canon EOS Rebel T6. If your photographer prefers Nikon cameras, the Nikon D3400 is comparable. You can buy new from many online retailers like Amazon, or you could check eBay to see about a used camera (eBay is a great place to buy all kinds of used camera gear).
If you have a limited budget and can’t quite decide which camera body is the best choice, we recommend purchasing the cheaper Canon EOS Rebel T6 and investing the money you save into a 40mm camera lens. A lot of magic lies in a great camera lens.
Another easy target gift for newer photographers: lenses. Most cameras come with an 18mm-55mm adjustable zoom lens, which is a decent lens. But to get some nicer shots straight out of the camera, it really helps to have other options. For about 98% of our photos, Maria and I use one of three “prime” (non-zoomable) lenses: a 24mm lens, a 40mm lens, and a 50mm lens (Nikon 28mm, 40mm, and 50mm, if you need Nikon instead).
Our first “fancy” lens was a Cannon 50mm lens, which is often called the “thrifty fifty” in camera circles. This little lens packs a big punch for an amazingly low price tag and it’s a great starter lens for a photographer that’s ready to look past the standard lens that comes with most cameras.
The 50mm lens is a great starter lens, but we invested in a 40mm lens a while back and this is the lens that truly has Maria’s heart! The 40mm costs a bit more than the 50mm, but is still a great bargain in the world of camera lenses (which can easily cost thousands of dollars.) We love it because it has less of a zoomed-in effect than the 50mm and is great for taking portraits -- especially baby photos!
Outside of camera bodies and lenses, there are a ton of other useful accessories that make life for a photographer easier: tripods for shooting portraits or when you need stability, faster and bigger SD cards for storing more photos in the camera, a “hotshoe” flash is a big improvement over the on-camera flash, an external hard drive for storing backups of all the photos you take, reflectors to reduce shadows, a microphone if you are capturing video. I know this seems like a lot, but these are just some of the basics that almost all photographers need.
Camera Bags and Straps
If you’d like to pick up a gift with some more personal flair and style (cameras and their accessories are usually way more about function than style), you do have a couple options. For a simple touch, you can get a new camera strap. Maria uses a Fotostrap camera strap and I think they’re great. They look really nice, are very durable and come in tons of colors.
Another more stylish gift you can grab is a camera bag. Maria loves her Jo Totes bag (the one linked here is on her wishlist to replace her current Jo Totes bag, which is in pretty rough shape), mostly because it doesn’t even look like a camera bag. Most people assume it’s her purse. And I have an Ona Bag, which I adore. My model is the Union Street messenger bag, which has room for my camera, accessories and my laptop. It really makes traveling a lot simpler to have only one bag. The Bowery is a scaled-down version of Union Street which does not have room for a laptop, but is just as stylish.
Software and Services
One last item that would go over great: a gift subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Suite, which includes Photoshop and Lightroom. Photoshop you may have heard of: it is the premier photo editing software on the market. Lightroom is a little less-well known, but more important, in my opinion. Lightroom organizes all your photos and lets you do some light editing. Maria does the vast majority of our photo editing in Lightroom. Having a program with those functions is key for photographers in managing and processing a large amount of photos.
Click any of the items in the image to start shopping!
1. Canon EOS Rebel t6i camera | 2. Neewer Hotshoe Flash | 3. Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan for one year | 4. Canon 40mm lens | 5. Canon 50mm lens | 6. Canon 24mm lens | 7. Rode Microphone for video | 8. Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 | 9. Reflectors | 10. Jo Totes Gracie camera bag | 11. Tripod | 12. Fotostrap camera strap | 13. Ona Union Street camera/laptop bag | 14. Seagate 2 TB external hard drive | 15. SanDisk SD cards
What We’re Gifting
With all of these recommendations, you may wonder what’s at the top of our own gift-giving list this holiday season. The 40mm Canon lens! We already purchased one for a family gift. Besides that, Maria is really, really hoping to find a Jo Totes Gracie camera bag under the tree this year.
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Hopefully those ideas give you a leg up in finding a gift for the shutterbug in your life. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments and we will do our best to help you out. Happy shopping!