Every year as Christmas time approaches it seems we get an influx of emails asking what camera to buy or other gift ideas for family/friends who love photography. We truly love helping others find the perfect gift for their loved ones and to better serve everyone we thought we’d put together a gift guide in one place!
For all of those who asked what camera you should buy your son, girlfriend, grandma, or spouse we put together a quick cheat sheet for the best cameras, accessories, and inspiration for the aspiring photographers in your life.
(If you’re searching for a gift for a more experienced photographer you might want to check out our photography gear post for ideas!)
Gift suggestions are broken out below by categories (and cameras by budget). Happy gifting!
Questions to consider when looking for a camera…
Because everyone will have a different reason they’re looking for a new camera, it’s best to start with asking a couple basic questions to make sure you find a camera that bests suits your specific needs. Take inventory of what you hope to use the camera for by asking yourself questions like…
- What do I plan on using this camera for most often (capturing daily life, photographing your kids, landscapes, travel, starting a video blog, etc)?
- Do I care about the weight/size of the camera? (Do I want something that can easily fit in my backpack or carry-on when traveling? Do I like having a camera that feels larger and allows me to change lenses?)
- Because of how I plan to use the camera, what features are important to me (quick focus, ability to change lenses, video capabilities, full frame sensor, ability to shoot in RAW, etc)?
- What is my budget?
Cameras under $500
Cameras over $2,000
If you’re looking for professional quality cameras or lenses, check out the post about our photography gear.
The Bowery bag by Ona (great smaller bag for your camera and a couple basic accessories)
The Brixton bag by Ona (slightly larger bag to carry an extra lens or personal items along with your camera)
Peak Design Everyday Backpack (this bag is great if you’re traveling with gear, whether that’s hiking at a nearby trail or walking the streets of a new city)
The perfect read when you need a little push.
Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking
One of our favorite books for facing our fears and learning to express the truest version of our art by way of knowing ourselves – as artists, a spouses, a parents, and fellow humans.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:
“We carry real and imagined critics with us constantly — a veritable babble of voices, some remembered, some prophesied, and each eager to comment on all we do. Beyond that, even society’s general notions about artmaking confront the artist with paralyzing contradictions. As an artist you’re expected to make each successive piece uniquely new and different — yet reassuringly familiar when set alongside your earlier work. You’re expected to make art that’s intimately (perhaps even painfully) personal — yet alluring and easily grasped by an audience that has likely never known you personally.” (page 37-38)
The Artist’s Way
This book is such a great, classic resource for helping reignite your creative spark and tap into who you are as a unique creative individual. She teaches practical tools like making space every morning (with what she calls “morning pages”) for all of those random thoughts and ideas that steal your energy, how to incorporate and “artist date” into your week, and overall… she guides you through how to feel more focused and confident in your own creativity. The book is designed as a 12-week “program” to rediscover the inner creativity that exists in all of us — not just those who would call theirselves artists.
Picture Perfect Posing: Practicing the Art of Posing for Photographers and Models
Need help figuring out what to do with hands, how to guide people, or simply how to make people feel like the best version of their self? This book is such a great resource for understanding the basic principles of posing so that you can think less about posing and more about how to make whoever is in front of your lens feel more comfortable and confident in their own skin.
Inspiring Photo Books for the Art Lover on your list
Vivian Maier: Street Photographer
If you haven’t heard of Vivian Maier, do yourself a favor and google the video about her. Essentially, she was a nanny back in the day who carried her camera around with her everyday–documenting the world around her, creating captivating self-portraits, and exploring her craft. The kicker to the story… her work wasn’t discovered until years after she passed away.
Magnum Contact Sheets
I got Brad this book last year for Christmas and it was a HUGE hit. Super inspirational book full of tons of images from some of the worlds most renowned photographers. One of the biggest reasons this book has been so impactful for us is because it not only shows you the best images…but it shows you all of their outtakes, the images that didn’t make the cut. I think the reason we gravitated towards this book so much is that it helps you see the true “behind the scenes” process of being an artist. Not every single thing you’ll ever create will be your best work, but that’s ok. In fact, we believe we grow as artists and humans be embracing the imperfect and learning from it. (note: There is some nudity in this book, so it would probably not be the best gift idea for young audiences)
Road to Seeing by Dan Winters
“I now find peace in the realization that millions of potential masterpieces happen each moment the world over and go unphotographed.”
If you’re someone who enjoys hearing an artist’s thought process or the heart behind a body of work, this book will be a great addition to your collection! This book contains one of the more diverse ranges of subject matter on this list. Everything from photo essays, everyday objects, raw human experience, celebrity portraits, and inspiration from other photographers collide in Dan Winter’s “Road to Seeing.”
Instax Wide Camera
This makes a great gift for anyone who appreciates instant, tangible images! We document everything from daily life, to milestones, to travel on this camera. We have several little boxes around our home with hundreds of prints from over the years. It’s so fun to reminisce on various memories and experiences together. And now that our son is mobile we have to store them up high because he loves to look through them too (aka, crinkling them to hear the noise). Although he’s more interested in the texture and sound of the photos right now, we can’t wait until the stories we share with him from our sweet little collection of memories :)
Moment Lens Wide or Moment Lens Zoom
These handy little lenses (made with cinema quality glass) attach to the camera on your phone to allow you to create stunning images using nothing other than your phone!
A note from Moment Lens about when to use each lens…
When to use the WIDE lens…
- Landscapes: Fit in the full grandeur of that jaw-dropping mountain scene.
- Travel: Get the whole scene while exploring new places.
- Architecture / Real Estate: Capture a wider view of interiors or the full height of a skyscraper.
- People: Take group photos with twice as many people. Never worry about your kids running out of the picture.
- Video: Add context to any scene while combating the cropping that happens on mobile videos.
When to use the ZOOM lens…
- Portraits: The natural drop off and 60mm focal length is ideal for shooting people.
- Dramatic Landscapes: Focus on the details with tightly cropped landscapes that blur on the edges.
- Travel: Capture your new surroundings from afar without the pixelation of digital zoom.
- Sports: Capture the action from the stands. No digital zoom needed.
Instax Smartphone Printer
A fun an easy way to have tangible images of your favorite moments! Think mini “polaroid” prints from your phone!
“Out of the box” gift ideas (subscription based programs for productivity/storage)
Dropbox (get 500mb of bonus space by using this link!)
A weekend getaway (Gift card for Airbnb << get $40 of travel credit using this link if you’re new to Airbnb)
disclaimer: while we do receive a very small referral fee should you choose to purchase any of the items from the links, 100% of these thoughts and opinions are our own. these are products we actually believe in and this post was written first and foremost to help serve the photo community.