photo by Baramyou0708 via iStock
When it comes to buying holiday gifts for people, I always try to start early. Like way early, which is why I’m already thinking about gift ideas even though it’s still August as I’m writing this.
Part of the reason why I like to start early is because often you can find deals way ahead of time - like the upcoming Labor Day holiday.
Besides, no one wants to be nervously watching the mail in the days leading up to Christmas, hoping that the last-minute gift you got for a loved one arrives on time.
With all that said, here’s some of my favorite gift ideas for photographers that’ll set you back less than $250.
Gifts for Photographers Under $250: CanvasHQ Print
If you’re like me, sometimes finding the perfect gift for certain loved ones is a long, drawn-out process that causes tons of stress, and often you still don’t get something that totally blows them away.
I think a lot of photographers fall into this category. We have specific likes, and many of us already have most of what we want or need gear-wise, and what we don’t have is usually too expensive to put on a Christmas wish-list anyway.
But for all those hard-to-shop-for photographers on your 2019 holiday shopping list, I have the perfect solution - a large-format canvas print.
Think about it…
A canvas print is the gift that keeps on giving.
Not only can you immortalize one of your favorite images from your favorite photographer, but you also give them a means to showcase their work in a format that’s drop-dead gorgeous.
I have tons of canvases in my home, the vast majority of which are from CanvasHQ.
Now, I know what you’re thinking - canvas is old school.
Sure, maybe it is, but I’m telling you that these canvas prints from CanvasHQ are mind-bogglingly beautiful. In fact, they go head-to-head with any metal or acrylic print I have in my home.
The attention to detail is just amazing, and the materials they use are top-of-the-line. We’re talking archival-grade canvas, commercial-grade inks that are water and UV resistant, and kiln-dried pine frames to keep everything straight and true.
I love the personality that the canvas texture gives my images. That’s true whether it’s a portrait of my son or a landscape photo.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the customer service you get with CanvasHQ.
These guys are committed to getting it right, so if something doesn’t go as planned, you won’t be hung out to dry.
If you have questions, they’ll answer them. If you have a problem, they’ll fix it. If you need assistance with uploading your photo or even picking the best finishes for your canvas, they’ve got your back.
In the video above, I explain why I highly recommend a CanvasHQ canvas print as the ideal gift for the photographer on your holiday shopping list.
Start shopping for your favorite photographer today on CanvasHQ!
Gifts for Photographers Under $250: Marumi 100x150mm Magnetic Graduated ND Filter
The benefit a graduated ND filter gives your favorite photographer is that it allows them to control the dynamic range in a scene.
That is, with the darkened area on top of the filter, it tones down the brightness of the sky while leaving the foreground untouched, the result of which is a better-exposed image without any blown-out highlights or deep shadows.
The hard edge on the filter above is perfect for landscapes in which there is a definite horizon, like taking a photo looking out at the ocean.
But you can also give a soft-edge filter, which has a much more gradual transition from dark to light. This is a better option for landscapes in which the horizon line isn’t very clear.
There’s even a reverse graduated ND, which is darkest in the middle - an ideal option for taking breathtaking sunrise or sunset photos.
What makes these Marumi 100x150MM Graduated ND filters so special is that they attach to the Marumi M100 filter holder with magnets.
This quick and easy on and off helps streamline the process of using these filters in the field, that way the photographer on your holiday shopping list spends more time actually taking photos and less time messing with their gear.
These filters are made with high-definition Schott B270 glass and have a double-sided coating to ensure minimal reflections. These filters also have anti-static, anti-scratch, water repellant, and oil repellent features.
Available in 2-stop, 3-stop, and 4-stop versions, as well as hard and soft-edge versions, you can give the gift of improved photos this year by giving a Marumi Magnetic Graduated ND!
Gifts for Photographers Under $250: Holdfast Camera Swagg Camera Harness
I’ve been a Holdfast customer for years and years, and I have one of their impeccable MoneyMaker leather dual camera straps.
But not everyone wants a leather camera strap, and for those folks, the Camera Swagg is the ideal solution.
Offering the same functionality as the leather version, the Camera Swagg dual camera harness enables photographers to carry two cameras right at their fingertips.
Made of 100 percent high-grade cotton canvas, this harness is both durable and comfortable. The wide straps sit nicely on your shoulder without digging in, and the harness feels quite light as well.
You’ll find the same reliable stainless steel hardware on the Camera Swagg as you do on leather MoneyMakers. That includes anchored D-rings and safety straps that connect to the camera’s side lug mount, which together ensure you have a rock-solid system for carrying your gear safely.
Add in supreme functionality and a price well below the $250 mark, and you have the makings of the ideal gift for photographers this holiday season!
Gifts for Photographers Under $250: LitraTorch LitraPro
Great photos need great light, and fortunately you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to give the photographer on your list an excellent light source for their photo and video work.
Sure, the LitraTorch LitraPro is a tiny light that weighs just 6 ounces and is 2.75 x 2 x 1.2 inches in size, but that doesn’t mean it can’t put out a great deal of light.
In fact, this little guy has 60 ultra-bright LEDs that put out up to 1200 lumens of light. That’s a lot!
And it isn’t just the sheer brightness of the light it produces that impresses.
Instead, this light puts out crisp, clear, flicker-free light that any photographer would appreciate. Users can also adjust the color temperature from 3000K to 6000K to customize the light output to the specific needs of each photoshoot.
Add in a 70-degree beam angle, a maximum of 10 hours of operating time, and MIL-SPEC 810 construction that makes it virtually indestructible, and you have a photography gift that will keep on giving for years and years!
Gifts for Photographers Under $250: Luminar 3, Luminar 4, and Aurora HDR Bundle
If you’re looking for a gift that will really impress the photographer in your life, look no further than this bundle of awesomeness from the folks at Skylum.
Not only can you give the gift of Luminar 3 - an incredible, multi-award-winning editor that makes processing images a veritable breeze - but you can also give the gift of the upcoming Luminar 4, which is poised to take photo editing to another level later this year. And on top of that, Skylum throws in their award-winning Aurora HDR software for making quick, beautiful, precise edits to HDR images.
Let’s unpack all that in a little more detail…
Luminar 3 offers cutting-edge tools that speed up the process of editing photos whether the photographer on your shopping list uses a Mac or a PC.
You get tools like the AI Sky Enhancer, which uses artificial intelligence to detect the sky in the photo and automatically enhance it based on its colors and texture.
What’s more, the Sky Enhancer does this whether the area of sky is bright, dark, big, or small, and the adjustments made can be easily manipulated by a single slider.
Luminar 3 also sports the supercharged Accent AI 2.0 filter, which makes about a dozen adjustments to the image instantly.
Again, this filter is manipulated by a single slider, so changing things like the exposure, color, tone, and other basic elements is done quickly and easily.
As you can see above, the Accent AI 2.0 filter can automatically detect people in the shot and apply its changes in a way that renders beautifully realistic results.
Add in dozens of Looks to give your photos artistic flair, many different filters that can do everything from sharpen the image to add sun rays, and an easy-to-use Library where you can view, sort, and rate your photos, and you begin to see why Luminar 3 is so widely regarded.
But if you think those tools sound amazing, Luminar 4 kicks it up a notch with some exciting new features that will expand post-processing abilities even further.
In the video above, you can see two new tools in action - the AI Skin Enhancer and the Portrait Enhancer.
When you think about what makes editing portraits such a long, drawn out process, it’s all the small manipulations you have to make, like removing blemishes and dark circles, enhancing eyebrows and lips, and whitening teeth.
But in Luminar 4, those detail-oriented processes are handled by AI, and you can fine-tune the results with individual sliders for incredible results.
Luminar 4 also introduces AI Structure and AI Sky Replacement.
As shown above, AI Structure boosts details only where needed using content-aware tools, that way people in the photos aren’t overprocessed but objects like clouds and buildings are beautifully detailed. See what I mean in the video above.
Likewise, AI Sky Replacement gives photographers the power to change the sky in one click. So, if you shot a beautiful landscape, but the sky isn’t all that great, you can easily pick a new sky to give the shot the look and mood you want. Not only that, but Luminar 4 will relight the entire photo to the original image and the new sky match.
The AI Sky Replacement tool also uses intelligent selection algorithms to remove artifacts, hard edges, and halos. And with the ability to fine-tune foreground contrast and brightness, you can create epic landscape shots in short order.
As if all that isn’t enough, this bundle also includes Aurora HDR.
There’s a reason why the top HDR photographers in the world use Aurora HDR…
Its AI-powered Quantum HDR Engine gives you the highest-quality bracket merging with no artifacts, no halos, and no chromatic aberration.
With more than 20 HDR tools, including color toning, dodge and burn, creative LUT mapping, and more, photographers can create flawless HDR images in seconds.
Like Luminar 3 and 4, Aurora HDR has a vast selection of Looks that with one click will take your photos from blah to beautiful. With more than 80 professionally-crafted Looks, you have the power to create top-notch images in a matter of seconds.
Aurora HDR also works magic with single photos, enabling you to bring out beautiful details and dynamic range, even when you don’t have bracketed exposures to work with.
Truly, this is the ultimate holiday gift for any photographer - the power to make fast, beautiful, and precise edits whether the images are portraits, landscapes, architecture or something in between!
See all the possibilities your favorite photographer can explore by visiting the Skylum website. Additionally, you can order the Luminar 3, Luminar 4, and Aurora HDR Bundle, or if Luminar 3 and Luminar 4 is more your style, you can order that bundle instead.
Gifts for Photographers Under $250: PilotFly AtomCube RX1 RGBCW LED Video Light
Having a high-quality light for photography and videography is a must, and the PilotFly AtomCube certainly delivers on multiple fronts.
For starters, this light is small enough to fit in your pocket, yet offers 1800 lux luminance at 0.5 meters. It’s completely dimmable from 0-100 percent, offers 360-degree full color, and has an adjustable color temperature from 2500-8500K so you can tune the light to your specific needs.
Add in cold white and warm white light, and you have the makings of a light that offers you precise colors and high CRI as well.
You can even mount multiple lights together using a Magic Cube to expand the effect. Nice!
The AtomCube comes with Bluetooth mesh technology that allows you to control up to 255 lights all at once. Whether you’re a portrait photographer, a videographer, or something in between, that kind of flexibility is an enormous asset to have.
Speaking of assets, the color tone and brightness between units is highly consistent, especially when mounting multiple units together. Because the lights are calibrated, you don’t have to worry about inconsistent lighting when you use more than one light at a time.
No matter if you’re using one AtomCube light or dozens, you can control them with the accompanying app. It’s an incredibly convenient way to control your lighting right at your fingertips, especially when you’re multitasking.
The intuitive interface of the app makes it easy to make precise adjustments. Likewise, you can connect lights, create groups of lights, and control brightness and color temperature, all with a few taps of your phone’s screen.
This light is durable, functional, has available accessories to advance the experience even further, and offers a variety of features that make lighting for photos and videos a breeze. It’s a key light in your pocket! That makes it a great gift for the photographer on your holiday shopping list!
Gifts for Photographers Under $250: HEX Ranger Clamshell DSLR Backpack
I met the guys behind HEX just last week, and I have to say that not only was I impressed by their operation in downtown Los Angeles, but I was also impressed with them.
They have a passion for what they do, and it shows in the products they design and create.
I actually brought a HEX Ranger DSLR Sling Bag home after seeing it firsthand. Talk about a camera bag!
But if the photographer on your list needs to carry more gear than I do, the Ranger Clamshell DSLR backpack is a prime choice.
With a capacity of 21 liters, this bag can hold a ton of gear - a DSLR with lens attached, a couple more lenses, a laptop, a drone, and accessories, in fact!
The clamshell design makes it easy to see your gear, retrieve it, and put it away. And with fully customizable inserts, you can make the bag work for you no matter what arrangement of gear you need.
The all-important comfort factor is off the charts, too. It has ergonomic shoulder straps that hug your shoulders and fit perfectly. The air mesh construction will keep your shoulders and back cool as well.
Additionally, HEX included a custom molded and foam padded back panel, that way even when you’re carrying a heavy load, you’ll still be comfortable.
With tripod straps on the bottom, side straps for attaching more gear, a hidden rain cover, a water bottle pocket, and tons of other handy features, this is a bag that the photographer on your list will love, without a doubt
Gifts for Photographers Under $250: A Pre-Owned Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 Lens
Ask just about any photographer what their first lens purchase was, and they'll say a Nifty Fifty. That makes it the ideal gift idea for photographers this holiday season!
There's a lot to love about 50mm lenses, too...
For starters, it's a great focal length for learning all kinds of photography, from landscapes to portraits and everything in between.
That also makes it an incredibly versatile lens.
In fact, put a 50mm lens on your camera, and you can shoot all day long without ever needing a different focal length. They're even great for shooting video!
You can find 50mm lenses with large apertures, too, like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM shown above.
At f/1.4, photographers can more readily shoot in low-light conditions without having to push the ISO too high, which helps reduce digital noise.
Having a large aperture like that is also beneficial for gathering tons of light, that way a faster shutter speed can be used. It's also helpful for blurring the background in portraits to get a more professional-looking shot.
Another benefit of a 50mm lens is that they force you to think more creatively about how you frame up your shots.
That is, since 50mm lenses have a constant focal length of 50mm, there's no zoom to rely on for getting close-up or wider shots.
By using a 50mm lens and "zooming with your feet," becoming a master of composition can be an easier task because you're forced to physically move further away or closer to the subject.
Of course, the biggest benefit of 50mm lenses is the price. These lenses are well-priced so you can bestow a great little lens with tons of functionality and versatility upon your favorite photographer without busting your budget.
That sounds like a win-win deal to me!
Best Gifts for Photographers Under $250: Wandrd DUO Daypack
Not every photography adventure requires a gigantic bag…
Instead, a daypack works for most of us most of the time, and one of the best upcoming daypacks you can get your hands on is the Wandrd DUO Daypack.
This bag is packed with innovative features that will make the photographer on your holiday shopping list smile from ear to ear.
There’s dual side access panels for quickly and easily grabbing gear and a radical “infinite zip” system allows for access to items in the top or side of the bag, or you can simply unfurl the front panel completely for unfettered access.
Speaking of in the bag, this thing is an organizational dream with pockets, pouches, and cubbies for days.
Photographers can keep their camera body in the Pop Camera Cube, slide a flash into one of the many pockets on the inside back of the bag, and have tons of room left for everything from lenses to flash cards to car keys. There’s even a tablet sleeve and a laptop sleeve that can accommodate most 15-inch laptops.
On the outside of the bag, you’ll find a water bottle pocket, quick-access pockets, and four attachment points for Wandrd Accessory Straps, which enables you to carry a tripod on the outside of the bag.
Started on Kickstarter where it raised over $650,000, the DUO daypack is the ideal gift for on-the-go photographers that need a single bag that takes them from work to play and points in between.
Wandrd really has thought of everything with this bag, which is why it would make the perfect holiday gift for the photographer in your life!
Gifts for Photographers Under $250: EF to E-Mount Lens Adapter
If the photographer you're shopping for used to be a Canon shooter and now has a Sony camera, you can give them this handy adapter that allows them to use their old EF and EF-S lenses on a Sony E-mount camera, like the a6300, a6400, a6500, a9 or a7, among many others.
This adapter has both autofocus function and aperture control, as well as a handy USB port for firmware updates.
You can switch between phase and contrast autofocus modes, and there's EXIF signal transmitting and IS functionality too.
There's simply no easier and more functional way to pair Canon lenses with a Sony E-mount camera!
Gifts for Photographers Under $250: Syrp Genie Mini II
I’ve used Syrp’s time-lapse gear for years now, and when they released the Genie Mini II, I was skeptical that it could be much better than the original Genie that I’d been using. I was wrong.
The updates to the Genie Mini II are mostly under the hood, but they are significant.
For example, Syrp added the functionality to control two Genie Minis at the same time from a new companion app. That enables photographers to create beautiful pan-tilt motion in their videos at the touch of a button.
Syrp also incorporated keyframing functionalities, so you can set up to 10 keyframes all the while panning at different speeds and in different directions. Nice!
There are other goodies too: a time-lapse compiler that allows you to process video directly on your device and share to social networks; autoexposure ramping to create day-to-night time-lapses; and camera control that allows you to control your camera from your phone.
If you’re shopping for someone that’s at all interested in creating epic videos, this is the gift for them!
Gifts for Photographers Under $250: Aputure AL-MW Mini LED
The beauty of the Aputure AL-MW is that it offers you superb light in a tiny package.
In fact, that tiny package is about as bulletproof as you can get, too. It’s rugged, well-constructed, and waterproof, so it can go just about anywhere the photographer on your holiday shopping list needs it to go!
But don’t let its small size fool you - this thing puts out some serious light…
With 6000 lux output, this is about all the light you need, and yet it can fit in your pocket. If the photographer you’re shopping for is like me, having highly portable gear is a must.
Beyond that, the Aputure AL-MW has excellent color fidelity and has a rating of 95+ for CRI and TLCI.
Add in a gel holder with CTO and CTB filters, a battery that’ll give you up to 24 hours of runtime, and pre-programmed lighting effects, and you can see why this little light is worth its weight in gold!
Gifts for Photographers Under $250: Syrp Super Dark Variable ND Filter
If the photographer on your list loves to shoot long exposures, then a variable ND filter is a perfect gift idea.
Variable ND filters are like having a complete ND filter kit, but in an all-in-one unit.
The Syrp Super Dark Variable ND filter gives photographers between 5 and 10 stops of filtering power so they can get just the right amount of light for their long exposure creations.
This filter is available in tons of popular sizes, too, from 52mm to 82mm, so you can find the precise size your favorite photographer needs.
And since it’s made of high-quality Japanese glass, the results you get are exceptionally good - clear, precise, and color-neutral, just like it should be when using an ND filter!