10 Affordable Gift Ideas for Photographers

by Sarah Chaput de Saintonge

With the holidays already here and most of our 2020 budgets already spent on stocked up toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and delivery box subscriptions, spending money on holiday gifts might sound financially exhausting.

Plus, if you're buying for the photographer in your life, it can be really hard to find good quality photography-related gifts that aren't ridiculously pricey.

That's why I'm here!

Below are ten versatile gifts for photographers (in no particular order) that are under $75 (or flexible!) that I'm going to arbitrarily claim are loved by photographers everywhere, but that are also 100% personally loved and vetted by me.

1. Cushy Padded Gear Wrap -- $14

These are dirt cheap, moderately ugly, but incredibly awesome and useful for any photographer who might just want to throw their camera (with a lens!) into whatever bag they’re carrying! This little, padded “camera envelope” keeps a camera+lens safe and protected without the bulk of camera-bag-like inserts, because it can be wrapped tightly to the size of the gear!

2. Collapsible 5'x7' White/Black Reversible Background -- $70

Whether the photographer in your life likes to shoot food, jewelry, people, or anything in between, this super portable but actually kind of huge pop-up background is only $70 and a great option for blocking clutter and cleaning up the background of any photo! And it folds up to only a couple feet in diameter -- just like a reflector. (Although I will warn you that folding it up take a lot of practice and you'll probably be pretty bad at it for a while. I'm STILL really bad at it and I've owned it for years.)

3. Gift Certificate to a Photo Printing Company

Modern photographers are notorious for forgetting to ever print their own photographs. This is silly! Photographers can grow and learn from their own work by experiencing their own creations in the tangible world. Purchasing a gift certificate to a quality print shop is a great way to remind them that their own work is valuable and deserves to be seen. Check out our good friend and RMSP Instructor Marcy James' fine art online print shop Paper & Ink Studio or the online printing giant Artifact Uprising for two fantastic high-quality printing options.

4. Mastin Labs (Editing Presets) Gift Certificate

Photographers legitimately spend half their time editing their images, so getting them credit to buy some really awesome editing presets can help them streamline their editing workflow and make their images look amazing with one click! We love Mastin Labs because their film-emulation presets always make images look crisp and gorgeous.

5. Lensbaby Omni Filter System -- $80

This amazing new system from our friends over at Lensbaby is a game changer for creative photogs! The multi-part system features a few different tiny prisms and pieces of glass that will reflect and refract light to create super interesting effects in images! Check out the examples on their website and you'll see what we mean. I can't think of a photographer who wouldn't have fun playing with these! But also just a heads up that there are two filter sizes for this base kit, so if you aren't 100% sure what lens your friend might try to use it with, get them a gift receipt so they can exchange it if needed! (This is $20 off for the holidays right now! -- Normally $100)

6. Gift Certificate to a Local Coffee Shop

I think it's pretty universal that photographers LOVE to edit images and work on business stuff at coffee shops. It's just like an average Monday for photographers. So even while our current pandemic lifestyles may not permit this kind of thing at the moment, I guarantee you we're all going through the same coffee shop withdrawals. Buy your person a gift card to their favorite local coffee shop so that they can indulge their socially-acceptable loitering habit as soon as things are normal again. PLUS, your purchase will help a local business stick it out through a tough year! Win win!

7. Instax Camera (or film for it if they already have one) -- $69

Everyone loves tiny, instant photo prints. It's a universal love language. If your photographer doesn't already own an Instax camera, buy them one! They encourage simple creativity without all the stress of too many buttons. And if they already have one of these great little cameras, buy them more film! It's a cute gift, and it's really fun, too.

8. Extra Battery For Their Camera -- $50 to $100

This is a great gift if -- and only if -- you know exactly what brand and model of camera they own. If you do, splurge on a real, brand-new battery. Camera batteries are truly precious items, and usually about $50 to $100, so many photographers wish they had more but just don't justify buying extras! Make their day and help them be more prepared for shoots with an extra battery on hand. Just make sure it's actually the name-brand battery made by the camera brand they own and the model that is super specific to their exact camera. So go sneak a quick photo of their camera while they're not looking so you can look up the correct battery to buy!

9. RMSP Gift Certificates

This article would not be complete without a shameless plug for you to buy a gift certificate in any amount for your person to take an RMSP class. Most of our Online Courses are $100 or less, and we teach a variety of topics in these classes. Every course has a live teaching component that ensures each student can ask their questions directly to the instructor in real time and that they still get to learn in the signature RMSP style: with community. AND OF COURSE, gift certificates can be applied toward our Summer Intensive or Professional Intensive programs, too.

10. Zeiss Lens Wipes -- $6

These little single-use wipes are MAGIC and only cost $6!! A box of 60 will probably last them like a year, so don't go crazy and buy them five boxes just because they're so cheap. They'd be a little overwhelmed. Instead, buy them one box and get ready for them to still look at you like you just gave them a bar of gold because these things are actually SO useful.

Things not to buy for a photographer:

While I'm at it, let's go ahead and discuss some things that you should definitely NOT buy for your photographer. We want them to actually USE what you buy for them, so steer clear of some of these common gift items that really probably won't get much use.

    1. Cheesy shirts that have aperture blades on them
      2. Camera keychains and plushie toys
        3. "Lens Pens" for "cleaning" lenses (they dry up really fast)
          4. Adobe software subscriptions (great idea, but you can't transfer them)
            5. The current how-to-be-a-photographer book at Costco (buy them an RMSP class instead for some specialized instruction!)

          Things to let them pick out themselves:

          There are also some things that photographers just REALLY need to pick out themselves, like the things on the list below. Many of these things are expensive, too, so you want to make sure they really love what you want to buy them. Seriously, you are amazing if you're wanting to purchase your photographer one of these things, but unless you are also a photographer yourself and you know exactly what they want/need, just buy them a gift certificate to B&H so they can pick it out themselves!

            1. Camera straps
              2. Camera bags
                3. Hard drives
                  4. Memory cards
                    5. Tripods
                      6. Lenses
                        7. Cameras!
                      Click here to buy a B&H gift card!

                      I hope that this information was useful for you, and that your gifts are a big hit with the photographer in your life.

                      Happy Holidays and happy shopping!

                      ABOUT THE AUTHOR

                      Sarah Chaput de Saintonge

                      Sarah Chaput de Saintonge directs Rocky Mountain School of Photography with her husband, Forest. She has a BA in photojournalism and enjoys experimenting with many kinds of photography, but her primary interest is portraiture. She attended RMSP's Career Training program in 2011, ran a business in consumer portraiture for a while, then started working as an instructor and teaching assistant. She successfully completed one 365 project (take a photo a day for a year) and once made it to 155 consecutive days of making self portraits. She is now documenting ten years of her life with a daily photo of a person, place, or thing. She loves people, image editing, composition, film, her cats, and Forest.