If you've been tasked with buying a Christmas gift for a photographer and have no idea what to get them, you've come to the right place. Chances are the person you're buying for either seems to have everything already, or you don't know a single thing about photography and have no idea what to buy for them — this is usually how every single photographer ends up receiving the dreaded lens coffee mug at some point in their life.
In this guide, we've rounded up some of the best equipment and accessories to buy a photographer, and we've split it up into sections for what to buy a beginner, intermediate and advanced user, then provided three different price tiers for each section.
You'll find an affordable sub-$20 option, which is great if you're looking for a cheap stocking filler or you're buying a Secret Santa gift and don't have much knowledge about cameras and photography. Then there's a sub-$100 price tier for great quality gifts that don't break the bank, and finally, a $100+ category for if you really want to splurge.
These gift ideas are primarily geared toward astrophotographers in particular, but many of them will also suit other styles of photography as well.
SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB Memory Card: $14.40 at Amazon
It can be confusing to know which type or capacity of memory card to buy since there are so many, but this SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB memory card will be perfect for a beginner. You don't have to worry about whether they already have one because photographers always want more memory cards, most (if not all) cameras will be compatible with it, and 64GB is a really good amount of storage for a beginner.
K&F Concept Light Pollution Filter: $39.99 - $79.99 at Amazon
Beginner astrophotographers may not always be able to travel to dark sky locations to get the best shots, so if they're confined to their balcony or backyard, a light pollution filter can be a great gift to cut out light pollution, eliminate color casts and produce crystal clear skies.
The K&F Concept filter is available in 52mm, 58mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm and 82mm. If you need a different size, we've found this Hoya Starscape Light Pollution filter available in 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm and 82mm.
Benro Slim Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod Kit: $164.95 at Amazon
An essential part of an astrophotographer's toolkit is a reliable tripod to hold the camera steady for those long exposures, and we think the Benro Slim Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod is one of the best tripods for beginners.
There's also an aluminum variant for $79.95, but we think it's worth stretching to the carbon fiber version if you can.
Beginner gift advice
It can be really fun and exciting being a beginner photographer discovering all the different styles of photography with a world of camera and lens options (not to mention all the accessories) at your feet, but it can also be a very expensive time because you need to invest in, well, everything — especially if you want to get into astrophotography specifically.
Beginner photographers usually only have one (typically more affordable) camera with one or maybe two accompanying lenses and not much else, so there's a whole host of helpful extras and accessories you could gift them to help them along with their photography journey. Or perhaps they've been using their smartphone and want to make the jump to a proper camera but don't want to spend too much — one of the best budget cameras or best beginner cameras would be a great place to start.
Understandably, you may not want to spend a lot on a gift for a beginner if they aren't sure whether photography will be a long-term hobby, so we've given various price options below to give you some choices depending on your budget. From memory cards, spare batteries, lens warmers, star filters and astronomy software to bags, tripods and astro-specific lenses, you're sure to find the perfect gift for any beginner astrophotographer.
If you want to spend a bit more, or if you're buying a gift for yourself (no judgment here!), this could be a great time to invest in one of the best lenses for astrophotography. The kit lenses that come with starter cameras are fine but usually don't have the large aperture or wide focal length required for dedicated astrophotography.
There are two routes you can take here: Prime lenses (fixed focal length) or Zoom lenses (variable focal length). Prime lenses are generally favored for astrophotography as they can let in a lot more light than a zoom lens can, but they're less versatile and can be more expensive than zoom lenses. A zoom lens can still produce great astro results though, and you can use it for other styles of photography as well.
If you're buying a lens as a gift, make sure it'll fit the recipient's camera, and look for a fixed or minimum focal length of 20mm or lower (14mm or 16mm are great), and an aperture of no more than f/2.8 — f/1.8 and f/1.4 are perfect for astro, but f/2.8 will still give great results.
COOWOO USB lens warmer: $18.99 at Amazon
An inexpensive yet extremely valuable accessory for astrophotographers, a lens warmer does exactly what it says...keeps your lens warm.
This COOWOO USB lens warmer has low, medium and high modes, and only takes 5 seconds to warm up — you can even use it to warm up drinks or your hands! It has a long 59-inch USB cable that can be plugged into a power bank, meaning you can set it on the ground instead of having to constantly hold the power source.
Anker PowerCore+ 26800: $57 at Amazon
One of the best power banks is a great gift idea for any type of photographer, not just those who focus on astrophotography.
This Anker PowerCore+ has a huge 26,800 mAh capacity which is fantastic for long charges — they claim it can charge most phones over 6 times so it's ideal for charging multiple devices at once, and it has relatively fast charging — around 6 hours to complete a full charge, which is decent considering its huge capacity. You will likely need to source additional cables for each device as it only has USB-A and Micro-USB ports, but these are relatively inexpensive.
Peak Design Travel Backpack 30-45L: $299.95 at Amazon
An intermediate-level photographer likely already has a decent camera and a good few lenses and is well on their way to growing their kit list and upgrading their current gear as their skills grow, so having a good bag to store and carry all their gear in is crucial.
We named it as the best multipurpose backpack in our best camera backpacks guide and we think it will be perfect for intermediate photographers with a good kit list and want a bag that will last for many years and photography adventures.
Intermediate gift advice
Intermediate users can be a bit more tricky to buy for (unless they've outright told you what bits they want to upgrade!), as they already have a bunch of gear and know how to use it to a reasonable degree, but buying the best of the best could well be overkill (and expensive). There's a fine line to balance, and we've provided some options below that can certainly work for anyone who wants to level up and take astrophotography more seriously, plus some ideas they may not have thought of if they're only just branching out into astrophotography.
Let's assume they've already got a camera, a lens or two and a tripod — what's next? It's likely they'll have made their way through all the entry-level gear and are now looking to invest in more specialized gear or better quality upgrades of what they already have. This is where some of the best accessories can come into their own, as they've already bought all the basics and can now start collecting extras to help advance their chosen photographic style.
If you want to spend a bit more or are buying a gift for yourself (again, no judgment!), perhaps it's time to level up by investing in one of the best cameras for astrophotography — we named the powerhouse Nikon Z8 as the best mirrorless camera overall for astrophotography.
While the focus for astrophotography is usually more on what the lens can do, it's still important to have a camera that can handle low light effectively. If you're buying a camera as a gift, you want to take the camera's ISO range into account, as well as the autofocus detection range and number of megapixels. Some cameras even have dedicated night modes, check out our best cameras for low light photography guide for some ideas.
Memory Card Holder: $9.99 at Amazon
Admittedly not the sexiest gift in the world, but keeping all your cards safe and protected in one place is a good idea. This holder can fit 12 regular SD cards and 24 micro-SD cards, is small enough to easily fit in their camera bag when out on shoots and it's waterproof and durable.
LaCie Rugged Mini 2TB External Hard Drive: $94.99 at Amazon
This external hard drive from LaCie is resistant to shock, drops of up to 4 feet, dust and water and works on both Mac and PC (and even some newer iPads). It even includes LaCie's Rescue Data Recovery Services with an industry-leading 95% success rate against unexpected data loss.
Benro Polaris Star Tracker: $999 at Amazon
We gave the Benro Polaris top marks and named it best overall in our best star trackers for astrophotography guide, and the only downside we could find for it is that it's very expensive. It's the star tracker to end all star trackers, so if the person you're buying for is deep into astrophotography and you have the budget for it, this is the best star tracker you can buy.
Advanced gift advice
Advanced users usually already have all the gear they need and then some, so it can be a nightmare buying a gift for an advanced photographer — what do you buy someone who has everything? Not to mention, the kind of gear advanced and professional users are investing in is usually on the more expensive end of the spectrum, which not everyone can afford to buy as a gift. Advanced users are more likely to be using some of the best cameras for astrophotography alongside the best star trackers and best lenses for astrophotography.
You may think you need to know a lot about cameras and photography when buying a gift for a user at this level, but this isn't always the case. We've listed some options below that are suitable for any and every type of advanced photographer, plus a 'best of the best' option to really knock their socks off.
If you want to spend a bit more or you're buying a gift for yourself (still no judgment!), why not consider attaching your camera to one of the best telescopes to really level up your astrophotography?
We named the Sky-Watcher Skymax 150 PRO as the best telescope for astrophotography as it covers a wide selection of celestial objects from planets to nebulas, has excellent optics and a high-quality build. It's lightweight enough to take with you to dark sky sites, and it's user-friendly and easy to accessorize. We think you can't go wrong with this telescope for astrophotography.
Christmas Gift Guide FAQ
What should I get a photographer for Christmas?
But here's a quick rundown of some ideas for a great Christmas gift for a photographer:
- Camera: Photographers usually already have a camera, unless they're complete beginners and have told you specifically which one they'd like, so most of the time you're off the hook here. Buying a camera is a very personal decision, so make sure you know exactly what they're looking for if you're looking to gift them one. Check out our best cameras for astrophotography guide to give you some ideas. Or if you're buying a 'first camera' for someone, you're sure to find something in our best beginner cameras guide.
- Lens: A lens is a great gift if you know what camera they have and whether there's a specific focal length they're missing in their lens lineup (or one they want to upgrade). If you're buying for someone who wants to take up astrophotography, the best lenses for astrophotography are prime lenses with a focal length of 20mm or lower, and an aperture of f/1.8 or f/1.4.
- Tripod: A tripod is a brilliant gift for an aspiring astrophotographer, and there are tons available that all do different things at different price levels. The best tripods are reliable, sturdy and lightweight to carry.
- Camera bag: One of the best camera backpacks can make a great gift if the person you're buying for is growing their kit list and not only needs somewhere safe to store their gear at home but something comfortable that can accommodate all their equipment when they're out in the field.
- Star tracker: Star trackers are primarily used by more serious astrophotographers, so it's a great gift idea if you know they focus on shooting the night sky. The best star trackers move your camera in line with the Earth's rotation to avoid capturing star trails, so it really opens you up to shooting those super long exposures to capture stunningly detailed shots.
- Storage: Photographers always appreciate storage! It's not the sexiest gift in the world, but it is incredibly useful. This can be in the form of memory cards and card holders, or even an external hard drive to back their images up on.
- Filters: Filters are a great gift for any photographer, but they all do different things. Astrophotographers will love a light pollution filter (especially if they live in urban areas), or you could also opt for some ND (Neutral Density) filters, a polarizer or some UV filters for more general photography.
You'll need to know the size of the filter thread of the lens they'll be using it on, so make a note of the lens they use so you can look on the manufacturer's website to find out the size of the filter thread (or look on the front of the lens, it'll have this symbol Ø with a number (eg Ø67) — that means the filter size is 67mm).
- Power bank: Another practical gift for a photographer, the best power banks can hold a lot of charge to help astrophotographers on a long night of shooting. Make sure you get one that has a large capacity, suitable ports and isn't too big and bulky to carry around.
- Headlamp: Another helpful inexpensive gift is one of the best headlamps. Astrophotographers need to be able to see what they're doing when out on a shoot, so having a hands-free headlamp is super useful. Make sure you get one that has a good battery life and has a red light to preserve night vision.
- Lens warmer: One accessory that's often overlooked is a lens warmer — particularly if your area gets very cold at night. A lens warmer can be plugged into a USB device (often a power bank) and has a few different heat settings to keep your lens (drinks, hands etc) toasty warm, and it'll help prevent permanent damage to the lens due to condensation.
- Camera strap: Most cameras come with straps, but you can buy some stylish and incredibly comfortable camera straps separately — this is a particularly good gift if they have a heavy setup and need a wide strap to prevent neckache.
- Spare batteries: A useful gift, sure, but not the most exciting one. This would definitely work as a stocking filler, just make sure you buy the right ones depending on their camera.
How does astrophotography gear differ from regular photography gear?
Photography is all about capturing light, and dedicated astrophotography equipment is designed specifically to let as much light in as it possibly can. The cameras need to have good noise handling, the lenses need to have a wide focal length and big aperture, and you may even want to invest in a star tracker to help counteract the movement of the Earth in long-exposure astrophotography. While you can get away with basic astrophotography with most photography gear, dedicated astrophotographers will want to invest in gear that will produce the best results.
Do I need to spend loads on a christmas gift for a photographer?
Not necessarily. Photography can be an expensive hobby and career, but there are certainly more affordable bits of kit out there that you don't need to be spending a huge amount on. While a photographer will certainly want to invest in their camera and lenses, you can still find affordable tripods, bags, power banks and other accessories that won't break the bank.
What if I don't know what camera setup they have?
This won't matter too much unless you're planning on buying them a camera, lens, spare batteries, lens filter or possibly a memory card. There are still plenty of options, such as a bag, tripod, strap, flashlight or hard drive that you can buy for them without knowing what camera they have. If in doubt, you can always try to bring it up in conversation and ask them what they have without giving away that it's for a gift.
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Kimberley Lane is a landscape & seascape photographer living in South Wales. Originally using photography as a way to cope with health issues, she aims to portray a feeling of calm and peace through her images. Her work has been featured in a number of national photography magazines.