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Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Instax Mini 9 at Amazon
“Fun casual little gifts that won’t break the bank and will sure to make any photographer smile.”
Best Lens: Canon EF 50mm Lens at Amazon
“Heralded by travel photographers as some of the best all-around lenses for a wide array of pictures.”
Best Carrying Case: Evecase Camera Backpack at Amazon
“This is like the Swiss Army knife of camera bags.”
Best for Travel Photographers: MeFOTO Travel Tripod at Amazon
“It’s easy to strap to your pack and be on your way.”
Best for Shooting in Quiet Settings: Camera Muzzle at Amazon
“For the photographer looking to remain on the sidelines without disturbing their subjects.”
Best for Smartphone Photographers: AMIR Lens Kit at Amazon
“This kit is one of the most popular ways to supplement the lens on your phone.”
Best for Printing Photos: A Gift Card to Shutterfly at Amazon
“One of the leading ways to turn your photos into cool take-home prints.”
“This photography reference book has become a modern classic for the medium.”
Best for Cleaning: Microfiber Lens Cleaning Cloths at Amazon
“The 6″ x 7″ cloths are super soft and 100 percent safe for cleaning any delicate glassware.”
Best Camcorder: DJI OSMO Pocket at Amazon
“Packed with tons of features for both amateur and professional photographers.”
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Instax Mini 9
Instax cameras are to DSLRs like ukuleles are to guitars. They’re fun casual little gifts that won’t break the bank and will sure to make any photographer smile. Rather than bust out the full camera at a party or casual get together, your photographer will be busting this thing out to pass around the party and pepper the gathering with fun little instantly developed pictures. The Mini 9 is possibly the company’s most popular model because of it’s super lightweight, its full set of features (1/60 sec shutter speed, close-up shooting range of 35cm to 50cm and LED flash) and its ease of use (you basically just point, shoot and let it develop). You aren’t going to impress the gearhead side of the photographer, but you’ll definitely be gifting their creative side – which is really why they got into the craft in the first place, right?
Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best instant cameras.
Best Lens: Canon EF 50mm Lens
50mm lenses are heralded by travel photographers as some of the best all-around lenses for a wide array of pictures. This one is your best bet for your photographer, provided they shoot on Canon (which tends to have a larger set of the market share). Other than the 50mm focal point, this lens has an aperture of f/1.8, as well as a smooth-action stepping motor that quiets the shutter and allows for quicker, smoother focused pictures.
Best Carrying Case: Evecase Camera Backpack
This Evecase pack is made of water-resistant canvas with closed cell dense foam for shock protection. It also comes with a separate rain cover in case of unforeseen weather. In terms of storage, this is like the Swiss Army knife of camera bags. That foam we mentioned up there encases a full lens and body compartment (up to five lenses), and the top portion of the bag is where you’d keep the rest of your belongings – cables, small items, a laptop in the dedicated laptop sleeve, notebooks, etc. And at 15 x 12.5 x 7 inches, you better believe this gift recipient won’t be disappointed in the storage capacity.
Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best camera cases and bags.
Best for Travel Photographers: MeFOTO Travel Tripod
Chances are, the photographer you’re buying gifts for already has a tripod, but what makes the MeFOTO Travel Tripod special is just how light and mobile it can be. It’s made of aluminum and weighs just 3.6 pounds, so it’s easy to strap to your pack and be on your way. But it’s also a super full-featured tripod: There’s full 360-degree mobility for seamless panoramic photos, there’s a bubble level to make sure you’re on an even surface and there’s even a spring-and-hook system directly underneath the center pole that allows you to hang excess weight on the tripod for additional stability.
Best for Shooting in Quiet Settings: Camera Muzzle
Speaking of quiet shutters, any camera is going to have some shutter noise. That’s a problem when you’re photographing in a quiet environment like a play or a church ceremony. The Camera Muzzle is a super unique product, albeit a little bulky. It surrounds the entire camera body with a foam and cloth jacket that squelches noise while also including a large LCD screen viewing window and tripod access. It’s a great gift for the photographer looking to remain on the sidelines without disturbing their subjects.
Best for Smartphone Photographers: AMIR Smartphone Lens Kit
Even photographers don’t always want to lug around their bulky DSLRs, and most modern smartphones take truly high definition pictures and videos unto themselves. The missing link for a phone is the limitation of the phone’s lens (and the space in the phone for accommodating a lens). This kit is one of the most popular ways to supplement the lens on your phone. It’s a three-in-one set that includes a clip-on fisheye lens, macro lens and 0.4x super wide angle lens – basically the ultimate trio for any artistic endeavor. They’re all made of high grade glass and employ a quick, simple clip-on system, meaning they’ll work with almost any smartphone you have.
Find out more about how professional photographers use Instagram and their smartphones for work.
Best for Printing Photos: A Gift Card to Shutterfly
Shutterfly is one of the leading ways to turn your photos into cool take-home prints in the form of photobooks, framed posters and more. Most photography gifts can be challenging because you aren’t 100 percent sure the exact technology the person wants, but a Shutterfly gift certificate can work for anyone, because you’re giving them the gift to send their proudest photos off to be beautifully printed in tangible form. Who knows, maybe they’ll even give you a book of their photos with that gift card.
Best Book: The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum
This photography reference book has become a modern classic for the medium. It was originally published in 1994 and this addition is updated to incorporate new technologies. But the true value here is the informative and accessible way in which renowned photographer Bruce Barnbaum breaks down his artistic visions and shows you how to translate different techniques directly to execution on film or digital. It also includes almost 200 beautiful photos (in color and black and white) showing off the final results, so it doubles as a coffee table book as well as professional development.
Best for Cleaning: Microfiber Lens Cleaning Cloths
Microfiber cloths are a camera owner’s best friends. This six-pack has earned the coveted full fire star rating on Amazon, and for good reason. The 6’ x 7’ cloths are super soft and 100 percent safe for cleaning any delicate glassware. They work great on lenses because they absorb dust and moisture to ensure there are no micro scratches. The pack comes with five black and one gray, so you can keep track of more specific uses for each. They’re also machine washable.
Best Camcorder: DJI OSMO Pocket
The DJI OSMO Pocket is a tiny handheld video camera packed with tons of features for both amateur and professional photographers. At 1.4 x 1.1 x 4.8 inches and 0.25 pounds, the compact OSMO Pocket can easily be slipped into a camera bag (or pocket) to take on the go.
The OSMO Pocket also has a suite of stabilization features. The camera’s three-axis gimble allows for smooth video even if you’re moving around and it can shoot in 4k with a frame rate of up to 60 fps and 100 Mbps. For still photos, the camera comes with a 1/2.3 inch sensor with an 80-degree field of view lens and an f/2.0 aperture. That’ll let you shoot 12-megapixel still photos in either JPG or DNG raw formats. The microSD card can store up to 256GB of photos and video.
The camera also comes with what DJI says is a new algorithm for person- and object-tracking. Turning on the Activetrack feature lets you tap on an object and keep it in the frame even if it moves around. It can also do the same thing with a person in Selfie Mode, which tracks faces and enables people to stay in the center of the shot. This especially will come in handy for any type of vlogging.
Also check out our picks for the best camera accessories.
How We Tested
We bought a top-rated gift for photographers and our reviewers tested it for five hours. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using this gift, from its price to its skill level. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
What to Look for in a Gift for a Photographer
Price range – Any photographer knows that it can be an expensive hobby. From cameras and lenses to tripods and editing software, you can end up spending a lot to take the perfect shot. But there are also plenty of accessories that fall into a reasonable price range and still provide incredible value. You can buy stocking stuffers as inexpensive as $10 or decide to splurge on a fancy lens or camera bag.
Skill level – Are you buying for a budding photographer or a professional? A person’s skill level will dictate what you should buy them. A hobbyist, for example, might appreciate a smartphone lens, while someone more practiced might enjoy a specific piece of equipment to complement their existing gear.
Compatibility – Perhaps most importantly, make sure that whatever you’re buying is compatible with the equipment the photographer already has. Lenses, especially, are designed for specific brands, so a Nikon lens will do little good for someone with a Canon camera.
Test Results: Instax Mini 9 (Best Overall)
Easy to use
Takes beautiful pictures
Great for parties
Selfie camera isn’t effective
Recommended settings aren’t always best
“This camera is easy to use and comes in several gorgeous and fun colors,” declared one of our testers. One reviewer also thought its “great-quality pictures” were “the perfect way to capture memories from a party or event.” On the other hand, according to one reviewer, the camera’s seflie mirror was “a cool idea in theory” but wasn’t effective at helping to frame selfies. Also, its recommended light settings weren’t always as accurate in natural light, according to one tester: “I didn’t always agree with its choice,” she explained, “but indoors and in low light, the flash works perfectly and the pictures are clear.”