Great gift ideas for photographers

Updates for 2019 holiday season

One of our joys of travel is photography. Photos let us relive travel memories repeatedly with the same enthusiasm of seeing something new for the first time. So we’re giddy when Santa or one of the elves drops a new photography gadget down the chimney. Especially if that gadget is designed for travel photography. Here are a few of our favorite new things that may inspire a photo gift for yourself or someone on your list. We have more ideas in “Best gifts to make travel more fun, comfy and safe.”

Olloclip iPhone lens set

Many travelers have abandoned their camera, relying instead on phones to capture the magic of travel destinations. I get it. I am shocked with the ease newer phones deliver limited focus, vibration reduction and HDR (high dynamic range) exposure – techniques once the magic of just a few serious photographers. But phones still suffer when it comes to optics. All offer digital zoom, which is just cropping a standard view, so image detail suffers quickly. A few phones offer a 2X telephone lens that helps.

Here’s a gift idea that will excite the travel photographer considering the switch to phone – Olloclip Lens Set. This gives your phone’s built-in camera the ability to shoot wide-angle, fish-eye, macro and telephoto. The set is light and easy to pack. There are kits out there with higher rated optics, but we like the ease with which these attach and think it’s a great way to get started. You can buy these from Apple, but you may find a better deal at Amazon.

Lowepro Toploader camera bag

I often travel without a camera bag, preferring to have my camera always ready on my neck or shoulder. But there are other times when a camera bag is essential: protection from rain; protection from getting bashed on rocks and trees when hiking (I’m clumpsy), or when I wish to carry more than one lens. Traditional camera bags are big, bulky boxes that are dreadful to lug for a day on the go. I fell in love with the Lowepro Toploader for travel after much searching and many returns. Wear it one of four ways: shoulder, chest, waist or holster style. The bag opens from the top and your camera is ready to grab and shoot. If you get caught in the rain, simply deploy the built-in rain cover. Bag sizes vary to accommodate different camera and lens configurations. I’ve got the 50 AW II model that holds a DLSR camera with 28-300 zoom – plus I can squeeze a raincoat and second lens under the camera.

Joby GorillaPod flexible tripod

Whether your goal is taking better selfies or capturing the northern lights, a tripod is necessary. We are minimalist travelers and for years refused a tripod because of weight and bulk. And we lost some great photos for our stubbornness. The Joby GorillaPod is small enough to take anywhere and strong enough to hold larger cameras with telephoto lenses. It can be used free-standing or flexed like Gumby to cling to trees, railings or anything sturdy. There are several models to accommodate any type of camera or phone. When not in use as a tripod and you’ve got time to kill at the airport, it’s also fun to play with.

Polarizer filter

Why a polarizer filter? Glad you asked. Remember the first time someone said, “look through these” and handed you their expensive polarized sunglasses? You were blown away with the enhanced color, lack of reflection and deep blue skies. A polarizer filter does the same magic for your pictures. If you’ve been wondering why your landscape photos lack the wow factor the pros get, this is likely the reason. Filters are available for any type of camera, including smart phones. Polarizing filters operate best when the sun is at a right angle, so results will vary. Rotate the filter to see changes in sky, reflections and color saturation, then snap away when the image appears just how you wish. I shoot with the Hoya brand filter on our DSLR lens. It’s middle of the road in price and quality. I have not tried a polarizer for my iPhone, but hear the results are good.

Memory cards and external hard drives

Disclaimer: I’m freaky about having multiple copies of my photos. Freaky. This is especially troublesome when traveling without a computer to back up my camera cards at night. On those occasions, the first things I do upon returning home is plug the camera cards into the computer for archival first on the hard drive, and then to Google Photos (our recommendation for online archiving). External hard drives are a back up to the back up. They are so cheap ($59 for a Toshiba 2 TB on Amazon today) that we purchase a new one each year just for photo archival. This paranoia has paid off times when I accidently overwrote an original image or accidentally deleted a file. If you or someone on your list does not back up to an external drive this is a great gift. Camera memory cards are another. I shoot on 3-4 different cards during a trip in case the camera gets damaged, dropped in the lake or left behind somewhere. I would be heartbroken if a thief made off with my camera containing an entire trip of travel photos. The camera I could replace. The photos I could not. By rotating cards the hope is I would still have the majority. I prefer the Lexar brand.

Disclaimer: If you purchase products from the links on this page, we receive a small commission. This helps offset the cost of producing the blog, and allows Wandering Rose Travels to donate to charities who support affordable housing, public lands and veterans. Prices were correct at the time of writing, but are subject to change.

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