Home Accessories A gift for a photographer: Ten ideas to delight someone (or yourself)

A gift for a photographer: Ten ideas to delight someone (or yourself)

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Canon AE-1 Program film SLR camera with Canon FD lens 35mm 1:12-8 , wrapped as a gift

Not another tie for Christmas — not even one with red dots. The festive season is drawing closer, and the gift question is becoming virulent. So, I thought I could share ten ideas for a gift for a photographer that will delight. As you, reading this, might belong more to the target group for the gift and less to the intended audience of this article, you might want to share it with your partner/relatives/friends…

Sure, presents are not what Christmas is all about. For Christians, it is a time of faith and hope; for others, a rest from the everyday grind, maybe close to friends and family. But still, many of us like the idea of giving a present to people who mean something to us on the occasion of Christmas. Maybe you find something in this article to buy for a fellow photographer… or to put onto your own wish list. 

Gift for a photographer, idea 1: Send someone back to the future

Heritage: Many photographers, I think, still have a camera from the analogue age somewhere. What about bringing back to life such an old treasure? A few rolls of film are a wonderful opportunity to try it again. Be it classic Tri-X or modern Ektar, you might stir a new old love in somebody. Some vouchers for a good lab should go with the films, otherwise the cost your gift causes for your friend will be higher than the material value of what you bought. 

If you want to extend the gift further, there are still very affordable film cameras around. From new disposable cameras with a Tri-X to modern classics such as a Pentax, Konica, Olympus… you name it. Or, if you think the presentee will make use of it, add a kit for home developing. There are nice offers around with mini-packages of chemicals from Ilford, for example.

Gift for a photographer, idea 2: Wetzlar visit

Experience: Why not give away a pilgrimage to the Holy Gr… errr, to Wetzlar. The Leica Welt has a lot to offer. The new Ernst Leitz Museum sports an interactive and very entertaining presentation about the roots of photography as well as an ambitious programme of changing exhibitions. You can also get a glimpse of the production facilities, and there are two Leica Stores onsite. They offer very nice weekend packages with accommodation and food in the Vienna House Ernst Leitz Hotel, which is part of the Leica Welt (unfortunately, there is not so much to be seen in the works on Friday afternoons). 

If you want to extend the gift, no problem; just add a voucher for one of the stores. Or add a guided tour of the old town of Wetzlar, a very beautiful place. For an even wider experience, throw in a trip to nearby Frankfurt, probably one of the most underrated cities in Germany. On the other hand, a trip to Wetzlar might be quite a gift for our overseas readers. But why not take a detour when you are travelling through Europe?

Gift for a photographer, idea 3: A victory over chaos

Order: Charger, mains cable, USB-C cable, lightning cable, headphones and maybe even some films in their containers: There are always some small parts you are carrying around when out and about for taking photos or while travelling. ThinkTank makes very nice, half-transparent pouches that perfectly serve to organize all the bits and pieces. I particularly like the elastic red cable ties, which really help to keep things in order (you can make more of them yourself with some elastic ribbon and a fastening device, usually called a cord lock). Several sizes are available, and I recommend cable management 10 V 2.0, the smallest option. 

If this is not enough, add some battery pouches for camera batteries or the AA cells for the flash. ThinkTank has some, but Paddy Ludolph, a well-known (and competent!) German photo blogger has battery pouches made from real leather and sells them in his online store. So, if you need something special to give away…

Gift for a photographer, idea 4: Good looks

Fashion: The aforementioned tie or socks with some fancy photography-related designs are bad ideas, hands down. But there are some very nice T-Shirts, some with more or less original messages, others with more subtle allusions to our favourite pastime. I like the one I got from a friend with a print on the back showing a camera leisurely hanging over my shoulder. Another nice one is a graphic representation of the Leica f-stop scale. 

Need another or additional photography-related yet fashionable gift idea? There are very attractive shoulder straps made from rope or leather, colourful or pain black, affordable or luxurious. I love my red one by Artisan&Artist, which is softer than most leather straps, and it consumes not too much space in my bag. Another fine supplier (and featured on my personal wishlist) is Rock&Roll Straps who offer a wide range of things; I personally like the plain black leather straps best. But even if you want to give away something more extravagant, Evris Papanikolas, Mr Rock n’ Roll himself, has great options for you.

Gift for a photographer, idea 5: Wellness for all kinds of gear

Cleanliness: Uhhm, now we are entering a slippery slope. Of course, every photographer keeps his or her gear at all times clean and tidy. No fingerprints on the lenses, no trace of the climber’s sweat on the camera, and no dust wherever. Well, a good lens and camera cleaning kit might be a good idea all the same. The one which is offered by fotologisch.com consists of an excellent brush, B+W cleaning fluid and a very good microfiber cloth. It’s not cheap for sure, so one or the other photographer might be a bit too stingy to buy it. All the better; it works as a gift! 

If such a cleaning kit seems a bit too prosaic for you, think about ways how to prevent your gear from getting too dirty right away. Leaving it in the drawer is no good idea for sure. But what about a good lens pouch such as the ones Paul Glendell manufactures with this small business, Classic Cases, in Scotland? Or probably a sturdy and beautiful Billingham or another quality bag? For a smaller budget, SpinnDesign, a successful Kickstarter project, offers a self-adhesive protective camera wrap, the smallest size being quite suitable for lenses. 

Gift for a photographer, idea 6: Help out in low light

Enlightenment: Photography means “writing with light”, as we all know. And sometimes, it is better to have some extra light. A fill-in flash works wonders, but a small mobile reflector can also be a big help. Unfold it and place it strategically, and you can avoid ugly shadows in faces, for example. There are reflectors with a white or golden surface. Gold obviously gives warmer light, but I would still go for the more versatile white. In some instances, you might want to ask somebody to lend you a hand with the reflector, but it is more useful as a tool than many think. 

And if there is still not enough light for a sharp image, if you want to capture a wide landscape or urban view, add a lightweight Gorillapod to your gift. While not adding light, it extends the photographer’s options in dim conditions by a considerable margin. And don’t be afraid; the Gorillapod is strong enough to carry any fairly compact camera up to a Leica M.

Gift for a photographer, idea 7: Keep important knowledge

Memory: It is rather out of fashion these days, but it is, in fact, very useful to this day: Making notes of the images you took (what did I shoot? when? with which setting?) and browsing through it when assessing the result. You can type or speak all this into your mobile phone, of course, but a small notebook is just nicer. It also serves many more purposes. I recommend either a puristic soft Moleskine cahier (they come in 3-packs) or one of the notebooks by Leuchtturm1917 (do not forget the pen loop!). The A6 size fits very nicely, even into small photo bags. 

And what about adding a beautiful pen or pencil? The legendary Rotring 600 series has just been reissued by a Japanese manufacturer, and the pens seem to be made up to the old standards. You can even choose one in Leica red. Alternatively, the forever young Lamy Safari series is excellent, very affordable and has already gained the status of a modern classic (it just might be a bit large for many notebooks’ pen loops). 

Gift for a photographer, idea 8: You pay the subscription fee

Technology: Taking photos is one thing — archiving and post-processing the other. Of all solutions I have tried, I stayed with Adobe Lightroom. It is incredibly powerful, and it really helps you to get the most out of your images. However, it has a price tag, and I know many photographers who strongly dislike the subscription-based model (I have no objections to it, however). You could save your friend or family member the pain of payment by giving them a Lightroom subscription. They will think of you every time when starting up the software, and you can even renew it on a yearly basis. So, things are settled for Christmas 2023, 2024…

If you want to add a little extra: For Adobe Lightroom newcomers, an introductory course can be helpful. There are many possibilities, from online training to individual tuition in a masterclass format. And almost any regular user will learn something new from a pro if the course has the right format. 

Gift for a photographer, idea 9: Pimp your camera haptics

Haptics: The more pleasure you get from holding your camera, the more pictures you will take, and the better the outcome will be. Haptics and ergonomics are generally underrated when choosing a camera. With Leica products, however, we are already quite spoilt in this respect. But you can always make improvements. I bought my first Thumbs Up thumb rest with the Leica Q (it was included in the second-hand offer), and I was immediately hooked. Leica have now discovered just how useful such a small device can be, and they have their own thumb rests, too. If you don’t know yet which camera your presentee uses, ask and get the right model, as they are all slightly different.

Just in case you want to add something, get an additional soft release button — if the camera of your gift recipient has a standard screw-in cable release connection (true for all Leica M models, Fujifilm X100, and most vintage film cameras). Please be aware that this accessory will do its job very well and that the presentee will end up with images she or he never shot just because the camera was somehow released inside the bag.

Gift for a photographer, idea 10: Defend freedom

Compassion: Most of us practice photography as a hobby. When we use our gear professionally, we can normally do so with freedom. Many photographers are less lucky. They are persecuted or threatened because they are bringing to light what others are trying to hide. In many countries, even in Europe, press freedom is under threat. Taking photos can be dangerous and end in harassment or imprisonment. Organizations such as Reporters Without Borders or Amnesty International give support to (photo)journalists in danger and thus fight for the freedom of the press and human rights. A donation in the name of the gift recipient shows compassion (not the worst to take out of the meaning of Christmas).

What photography-related gifts will you make – or do you hope for (apart from the occasional Noctilux)? Do you have secret tips for seemingly useless gimmicks that will turn out to be almost indispensable? Or have you received items that may have been meant to be a kind courtesy but that were actually rather embarrassing? And do you want to amend or counter the above list? The comments section is yours.

31 COMMENTS

  1. Hello JP. Another suggestion or two. A print in a beautiful frame (perhaps even the recipients own print !) Or a photobook like the Unseen Saul Leiter.

    • Dear Gireesh, excellent idea. Probably it was just too obvious but I should have mentioned prints, framed prints, photobooks and so on. However, most photographers I know would be more interested to have their own images showcased and not mine. Which is of course because they are better photographers… JP

  2. Nice selection, JP. I have just sent Mike and yourself a Leica ad from Christmas 1925 shown a young woman receiving ‘Eine Leica’ as a Christmas present. Leuchtturm is an odd company. They recently told a friend of mine that they could not deliver one of their products to him because he was in Ireland. They could if he was in the UK, but both Ireland and Germany are in the EU. My friend has managed to get the item which he wanted by some means, but he is still somewhat bemused.

    I agree with the suggestion by Gireesh that the best present is a print, preferably framed. That is what photography is all about. It could be one of your own or one of the recipients or by a famous photographer or, better still, by some emerging young photographer. Photography is still in many ways a ‘Cinderella Art’ and a lot of people who have paintings on the walls of their house would never dream of putting a photograph on their walls, unless it was one showing relatives.

    William

    • The historic ad is great, William, thanks for sending it. I thought it would be nothing short of decadent to propose “Eine Leica” as a Christmas present. But a print by a young photographer, that’s a wonderful and at the same very reasonable idea, it supports a young artist and can be very personal and unique. – Sorry to read that it’s hard to get Leuchtturm notebooks in Ireland. Maybe the market there is simply to small for them? JP

      • For William and JP

        I am almost certain I found a stationery shop near the hotel in Dublin which had Leuchtturm and other well-known brands, plus pens such as Lamy. I think it was on the road leading around the university grounds, to the left. Hope I don’t send you on a wild goose chase, though…

  3. Hello JP. Thank you for a very clever article covering areas from, fashion to compassion. How about giving a gift of a one-to-one tuition session with an expert photographer such as yourself?
    Chris

    • Not everyone, Chris, would consider this a gift in my case. But in general, the idea is great. An invitation for a photo walk, maybe with a special vintage camera, and some material, can be great fun for both parties.. JP

  4. As conscious and systematic as usual from JP. Thanks for the reading.
    The right way to hold your camera is the one your T-shirt shows, although most people do it wrong resting on chest or belly.
    My contribution to your present list is: let your camera at home from time to time. That lets your mind free for seeing with your own eyes, and can be a good way to improve routined shooting. A real present sometimes.

    • I agree with your last point, George, but sometimes you just have to have your camera. I have, in a book, a handwritten exhortation from author and playwright Samuel Beckett to the Irish photographer, John Minihan, not to bring his camera with him when he came to see him in Paris. However, Minihan ignored what Beckett had said and took his camera with him and obtained a now legendary picture of Beckett sitting in a Paris cafe.

      The other piece of advice I would give is to ‘look behind you’ like the famous line in a children’s Christmas pantomime. Sometimes when you think you have got the photo of a lifetime, if you look behind you will see a better image. I did this once with a reflection of a cathedral in a window behind me in Siena and then I sat down and watched someone else imitating me and then another person came along and imitated them and so on. The smartphone is a great back up, of course, if you leave your camera behind you, but I agree with your ‘freeing the mind for seeing’ concept.

      William

      • Well, maybe Becket didn’t like to be portrayed, …
        Thanks for your feedback and advice. Perhaps I have Becket’s portrait somewhere in my mind, but not much about Minihan; I’ll have a look.
        I love reflections, remembering those Friedlander selfies on store windows. In some occasion I got one of my shots in Paris looking behind, towards L’arc de Triomphe.
        To be conceptual, photography isn’t only about what’s in the frame, also about what is not. Important to have the behind in mind. And good to let the camera to rest in some occasions.
        This was taken in Paris too

        http://ga.jigsy.com/files/images/4d5465c9-de0c-43da-8db4-53e070b22714.jpg

    • Fully agree, George, taking some time off is always helpful, even for photography. I must admit that I have the most vivid memories of the few travels I made without a camera. But, on the other hand, I have no photos of these moments. As to the way of carrying your camera: I agree, but it only wirks if you are not using a backpack or similar. And that’s the case in most times I am out and about. JP

    • Thanks, Alistair, for making us aware of this. I never encountered such problems, but I can imagine some negative effects of a soft release button. My criticism is, however, more the phenomenon that your camera is being unintentinally released while sitting in a tight bag. But the one and the other have a strong connection for sure. So, readers, be advised: You buy at your own risk 🙂 JP

      • Leica was selling button releases for a time, but I’m not sure they are still current. And Tim Isaac at Match Technical (he of the Thumbs Up) makes a big range of bugs which Leica users have been buying for years. I seem to remember discussing with him the length of the thread some years ago. He’s an expert and would advise if you are worried about damage to the camera.

        https://theclassiccamera.com/product-category/match-technical/soft-releases/

        • I purchased a Leica soft release not all that long ago and love it. I have also owned a number of match technical soft releases and loved them. However, one does need to pick the correct stem length for your camera.

  5. Hi Joerg-Peter, Thanks for the great list of ideas! Who doesn’t love a listicle article? Two of your suggestions in particular struck a chord with me – a thumb grip for my Q2 and a small notebook/pen that would fit in my camera bag. I stumbled across a Leica store when visiting Porto a few months ago, and tried out the screw-in Leica grip accessory on their Q2. I have been wondering about purchasing one (or adding it to my list for Santa…) but the thumb grip looks like a neater, less obtrusive way to strengthen my grasp of the camera – I even saw one in red! I think a bright red moleskin notebook and black retractible pencil will now be rounding out the list too… Thanks again for the suggestions! Keith

    • I have the screw in grip for my Q2 which makes the camera just a little taller, heavier and more bulky but improves handling a lot, particularly with a cuff strap. When the camera is slung over my shoulder on a longer strap, I’ll usually take it off for the lower profile. Anyway, my point finally, last night I tried it on my M11, no idea why. Other than being a little short at one end, it’s a made to measure, perfect fit. Well that was a surprise. Two for the price of one… Just saying 🙂 Hmmm

      • Very good point for buying an M11 if you already have the grip. Makes it much more economical 🙂

    • Dear Keith, thanks for your kind feedback. I can really, really, recommend a thumb grip for all Leicas I have worked with so far. Among them is also the Q (first model, a wonderful camera to this day). The only thing you need to have in mind is that your hot shoe is blocked. And if it’s a gift you must know the exact camera model of your gift recipient course (or, the other way round, you ought to be precise when writing your wish list for Santa). JP

      • I am also a fan of thumb grips and have one permanently attached to my Q2. I draw the line at the SL thumb grip. Apart from being hideously expensive, it sticks out and prods the belly if you are inexperienced enough to carry your camera that was (tip of the hat to George Appletree for reinforcing that argument.

        However, I do not use a thumb grip on the M11 because I occasionally need to use the Visoflex. It is too much trouble to keep unscrewing the thumb red (it’s Match Technical’s version with the securing screw). I rely instead on the mini grip built into the camera.

  6. Some of the most well-received gifts that I’ve given are carefully curated, meaningful photos, nicely framed. Another one I did last year was gift to my brother-in-law who had owned this beautiful house in Edinburgh for the last 20 years. With homes now in Europe, he has finally left the UK permanently so the house went up for sale. I was able to visit his home with my wife, and photograph it, still fully furnished from top to bottom including all the pictures and things made by his late mother. I created a photo book filled with over 80 photos of his home. He was fairly lost for words over that. A job well done I thought.

    For me, reading the above, I really like the idea of a selection of films. That’s a great idea and something I’d quite like to receive. It would force me out of my comfort zone and give me something new to explore. I might suggest an ‘Analogue Wonderland’ selection box to my wife and I’ll let you know how I get on.

    • The house project sounds great, Röd, this is a really unique gift. Well done indeed, and I am sure your borther-in-law will always treasure this book. By the way, it shows one of the promises of photography: It can freeze a moment that would otherwise be lost. So your gift is something far beyond my humble suggestions above and I hope it encourages the readers to think if they can use their talent to make such a unique present. If it’s not a house, it might be a photo book from a travel experience long a go, a relaxed portrait session, the abovementioned photo walk… there are many ideas indeed! JP

  7. Jorg-Peter, thank you for an entertaining read but switching to xmas grinch mode I’d to make a plea for the planet and suggest that we all think before we buy anymore “stuff” even xmas “stuff”.
    I am coming to the tail end of a huge house clearance prior to moving to a much smaller home. The amount of stuff my late wife and I had accumulated was sad. And we are not talking about hoarding here-just collecting.
    The amount of photographic gear I had was not funny. I gave local Macfilos contributor, Wayne Gerlach, boxes of gear I just wanted to move out of my life. I had so much wasteful stuff-lens cleaning brushes, mini tripods, filters, bags ,camera cases, cameras etc, etc, etc. Even a Leica projector.

    The whole exercise has made me become a committed avoider of waste. I know I won’t save the planet on my own but my children will be grateful when they manage to clear out my house in one day after I have fallen off the twig.

    So may I suggest that if you really do feel that you have to give a photographic xmas present either adopt Jorg-Peter’s suggestion and recycle a preowned camera-or give a photography book.

    Books bring enjoyment and they can be passed on or recycled. They don’t end up as land fill.
    Two books affordable books I would recommend are Byways-photographs by Roger A Deakins-a real joy and for the travel photographer Hanoi Streets 1985 to 2015 by William E Crawford. Both are very recent books and are readily available.
    You may even want to ask Santa if he could would find one of them for you to enjoy.

    • Oh yes, John, I can fully understand you.

      I was left with almost 20.000 slides from my father, probably you remember the digitalizing project I reported about here. And all the stuff that remains after a long period of pursuing something with dedication can be saddening indeed. In so far, I fully understand your avoid waste mission. And that’s also the reason why I suggested some gifts of a more symbolic value or things that are used up over time.

      Photography books are and excellent idea as well, and you can find many wonderful titles on the second hand market, there are big platform for trading them. So, it’s a book that is already granted a second lease of life. And maybe, they will be recycled one day without ending in a paper mill but in the hands of the next photographer.

      All the best for you, I hope you have all the strength (and support) you need for what you are going through at the moment.

      Jörg-Peter

  8. Hello JP, That’s a fine gifts selection – especially the reflector which can be so useful. Another extremely useful gadget especially for photographers using ‘L’ brackets, ARCA plates, flash brackets and any other accessory secured with fasteners, is the small folding Novoflex Multi-Tool comprising a set of 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 mm hex keys plus cross slot screwdriver, PH1 head screwdriver and a T25 TORX driver. Mine has ‘saved the day’ on several occasions and it’s a bargain at less than €20.

    • Wow, another cool idea. By now, there are at least 20 options. That’s what I like so much about Macfilos: The community and our discussions here! JP

  9. Thanks Jörg-Peter for your list. You may add a subscription to LFI magazine, Christmas comes 8 times a year

    • Another great one, Jean. The magazine in often a joy to look at. And if you want to avoid the paper consumption and so on, there is also a beautiful digital version. Probaly it also works will in connection with a one-year LSI membership? The presentee will get even more to read and to look at then. JP

      • I think slight slip of the finger…confusion here between LFI magazine and the LSI which published another excellent magazine called Viewfinder. In fact, it is worth joining the LSI for the magazine alone — ably edited by Bill Rosauer.

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