Note: This post is about the idea of buying gifts for people with really specific hobbies. This is for people who actually Google: “Gifts for Photographers” and they go to some random website and learn that Coffee Lens Camera Mugs exist.
Every year there's another dozen blog posts written about what you should get your budding photographer friend/significant other/child for the holiday season. And I'm going to tell you something none of those places will tell you because then they won't be able to write a post every year. There's only 3 things you can get them that will actually help their photography.
1. Gift Cards
Getting a gift card to B&H or Adorama is smarter than buying them a rotating tripod for their iPhone for a few reasons. 1. It's a gift they have to spend somewhere specific which to some is important. 2. It shows you want them to make the decision for themselves. 3. You're helping them alleviate the cost of their expensive photography gear. Even an Amazon card is helpful.
Listen, I get it. You don't want to just give them money. You don't know where that money is going to go. If they're like me though, they'll spend it on studio space rentals or to travel to new locations for inspiration. Because that stuff is expensive. There’s many intangibles that come with photography that you can’t necessarily put in a gift card.
Education is one of them. Buying them a book on Astro Photography or a CreativeLive course on that subject sounds good, but what if they don’t like it? Giving them cash allows them to put that money into something that isn’t a physical product, but potentially something more beneficial. Also if CreativeLive does come out with some type of certificate program then that is a good gift for sure!
3. Something Not Photography Related
Now I know I sound crazy, but just because someone likes photography doesn't mean that's all they like. If you know anyone that's an equestrian, they'll tell you that all they get as gifts from people are horse-related. Anything patterned with a horse or has a horse on it, they own. Even if it's the weirdest thing. "Oh, I saw this monopoly game that is horse-themed so I got it for you!"
But just because you have a hobby, doesn't mean that's all you do. I don't always want to talk about photography. In fact I never do. One of the best gifts I ever got was not photography related, it was a slow cooker recipe book. You know what gift I keep getting? A coffee mug shaped like a Canon lens. I have 3 of them. I don’t drink coffee. And I don’t shoot Canon.
Here’s 5 ideas that are fantastic, cheap gift ideas that have nothing to do with photography. Just use one of these:
Something from Etsy. Seriously. Just go to Etsy and search anything. They like cats and drink coffee? Cat Mug. Are they quirky and like decorating their place? Here’s a perfect bathroom addition. All I’m saying it’s stupid easy to find a gift on Etsy. Just search “Something they like” + Household Item and you’ll find something unique.
A gift card to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts (because if they’re a photographer, they are probably caffeine addicts). I don’t personally drink coffee, but that’s always a great go-to for friends and family.
Tickets to something: Movies, Live Events, Sports. Whatever you think they’d like. People like experiences. One of the best things My brother and I ever did for my mother was we bought tickets to go see “Oh Hello” on Broadway. It was a fantastic show, we had possibly the worst seats, and I think it’s the thing she thinks most about when it comes to gifts we’ve given her.
A really cozy sweater. Because when in doubt, everyone loves comfy things. Especially when you’re editing all day. Seriously though, I bought my brother’s fiancé a sweater last year and it was just a thick, chunky house sweater and she loved it.
If you’re still having trouble, basically just listen to any podcast and get something from their sponsors. I seriously do this. Mother’s Day in my family is sponsored by Sherri’s Berries and Father’s Day is courtesy of Omaha Steaks. They’re much safer bets than buying a photographer a Lightroom keyboard.
I get it though. It's Christmas (or your holiday of choice) and you want to show you care. And some people see gift cards and money as lazy or like you don't care. But here’s the thing…
It's all about intent.
Getting me a gift card to Chili’s shows you don't care (especially since they added calorie counts to their menus). It’s just one of those things that seems like a work grab bag gift. And if you’re reading this, you’re looking for something more personal and less universal. Getting someone a gift card to B&H or money and putting it in a card that says something like "I know I'll never know what you want for your camera, so here's something to help you buy something useful." shows intent. It shows you care more than walking past the gift card rack at CVS. It’s also more useful than buying camera mode cuff links or an iPhone filter wheel.
At the end of the day, you shouldn’t buy someone a gift just because you have to buy them a gift. That’s not the point of gifts. A gift isn’t supposed to be some mandatory chore. They’re to show love and appreciation. And the size of the gift, the cost of the gift, that shouldn’t matter. What matters is that whatever you got the person was something you really think the recipient would appreciate.
It shouldn’t matter if you bought them a gift card to Dunkin’ Donuts or tickets to Hamilton. As long as you showed intent and that you tried more than just “oh it’s your birthday so I had to find something”. That’s seriously all that matters.
Photography is an incredibly personal thing. Whether it's a job or a hobby, only the photographer knows what gear they need or want. Even things like bags for your camera come down to personal preferences and the type of gear the person will need to bring with them. If you have no clue what they want, the best thing to do would be to help alleviate the cost of equipment or, better yet, just don’t get them anything related to it.
If you’re dead set on getting something photography related for your gift receiver, the best thing to do is just ask. I know that’s not the greatest thing, I agree, but once again it’s all down to intent. Showing your support for someone’s hobby is a very great thing to do and the best way to do it is by trying to support them with something they actually say they need, and not something you think they might want. Just say to them “Hey X, I know how interested you are in photography. Is there anything I can get you to help you for this holiday we are celebrating together?” It sounds dumb, but that’s much better than assuming they want a shirt that announces how much they love photography by saying “May Snap at Any Time”.